It was such a great feeling knowing that 90% of the people I invited to participate as “victims” for the teaching test portion of the Orlando RKC showed up – but what I didn’t know is that many of them stuck around to watch the grueling conclusion… the dreaded oft-talked-about-in-hushed-tones GRAD WORKOUT. This workout must be completed in order to become an RKC – even if you pass the initial testing, the teaching test, the form tests etc etc, a whole lot hinges on this final Grad Workout – each one is different, each one is designed by a different high ranking RKC – but you can always be certain: it WILL BE TOUGH. Not to mention you are totally and completely mentally and physically worn out by this point. At least I was. Started approaching a mildly delirious state (this seems to happen to me at extremely strenuous events – the best cure (for me at least) is – don’t laugh – eating about 1/2 a bar of Green&Black’s 85% cacao and a whole lot of water*). It was in my head that I simply absolutely positively was not allowed to fail. Prepared to use everything, the only way that I was going to NOT complete the grad workout would have been if my body had physically failed, at which point I would be found face down somewhere on the field. I could tell that was not actually going to happen (as I have gone close to that edge before in harsher heat and managed to pull back in time), but mentally – I was honestly concerned about the Grad Workout. FYI this is probably not the “healthiest” attitude to have, but again, life circumstances going on which will be hinted at in a future article (working title “using something heavy to dig yourself out of a hole”). The other problem was simply that the Grad Workout signaled the beginning of the end of the RKC Workshop and I wasn’t ready to go home just yet. “Home” wasn’t a friendly place at that time and here I was, for the past 3 days getting nothing but the most top quality instruction, support and opportunities for new friendships with incredibly accomplished and positive people. …Would have gladly slept outside in a tent for at least 6 months or more to keep that going. Some of my local friends, who knew how much the RKC meant to me, and how had I had been working towards it for over a year stuck around (I didn’t know this at the time) in the top of the bleachers to watch the Grad Workout.
We were able to use the kettlebells from the teaching test to do the workout – the teaching assistants had made some arrangements with the kettlebells, while we waited. A large group of us stood talking in the shade of a scoreboard, mostly about how we hoped we would pass, and how great the workshop had been so far. My mood had begun to shift into that weird place of “grim resolve”, my body had been pushed a good bit and I was nervous about how well I would be able to manage the fatigue while maintaining form etc. Even though I had weighed in under 123.5lbs and gotten into the smallest weight class, sometimes I would still be given the heavier kettlebells because of my strength, so I wasn’t too sure how much was left in some regards. (This theme would continue at the RKCII, on Team Whitley – he saw that I could press the 24Kg during the Iron Maiden Challenge and didn’t take it easy on me. But who shows up to the RKC or RKCII looking for an easy time? Certainly NOT ME.) Amanda Salas of DragonDoor.TV fame came by and started interviewing us all – I snapped out of “grim resolve” thankfully and managed to get a few words out about humor and stress, then promptly forgot about this until hearing a friend mention months later that the Orlando RKC recap video was up on the Dragon Door site (panicked a little while hoping I didn’t look like an idiot!).
Portions of the grad workout are fuzzy in my head, I know we walked the length of the field a few times, did a LOT of swings, a LOT of squats in some brutally well designed complexes. These were performed together as a group as well as some very long planks. Sometimes there’s a soundtrack in my head that I use to time things and it had long since kicked in. We were in a circle for most of the workout with the Team Leaders and Teaching assistants in the center watching us, or walking around the edge. Likewise, Pavel and the Master RKCs present were circulating. They gave cues and corrections on our form to keep us on track. While we were in planks, I could almost literally feel them walking by as we were trying our hardest to maintain the position. I heard a woman’s voice after a while, and even though she’s petite like me, when Andrea Du Cane, the Kettlebell Goddess herself, walked by and gave me some pointers (full tension!!) on my plank and then remained there watching me, I could have sworn her shadow weighed about 3,000lbs. If anyone from my intensive small group class is reading this, now you know the origin of the ominous “do you feel my HEAVY SHADOW?!?!?” catch phrase. Sweat and sunscreen were running in my eyes and off the tip of my nose and chin. As it dried I could feel crystals forming my my face. Glad I drink a lot of water all the time. Then just like that… the workout was over. We had survived! I looked around and noticed that there was a pretty good number of people at the top of the bleachers and wondered who they were, then they started waving – and I could just begin to pick out faces… I knew them all. Sweat or sunscreen or tears or who knows what combination of all three began to stream down my face – glad I had those trusty sunglasses…
Still a little dazed I helped to carry kettlebells back to the pavilion, grabbed more water and snacks (all about the snacks). It was then that I realized that my friends who didn’t know each other had all gathered together at the same spot to watch the workout, slowly figuring out that they all had a common friend. Though by now, most of them had that concerned look on their faces. Which was appropriate as my face was probably an unusual shade of red. I was surprised anyone would want to get near me considering the serious amount of sweat/grunge/driedsweat but here they were – and some even brought some graduation presents – which I wanted to wait to open until the verdict was given for all our teams.
The leaders of each team were huddled around, checking over notes and making the tough decisions of who would and would not pass. It was hard to wait – in my “it’s never a done deal until its over, take nothing for granted” world, this was a total cliffhanger, and there was a lot hanging in the balance, I had put everything into this, almost literally. The hope was that getting this certification would be the turning point for me, a new career path, and ultimately a way out of the situation at home. Seemed like my team was taking forever – they began to call us over, one by one – giving each person verbal feedback and our exit packet folder. I was one of the last people to be called over, but it was worth the wait as they had VERY GOOD NEWS for me! I had passed! I WAS NOW AN RKC!!! It didn’t quite hit me fully until I told my team and friends. We took a great group picture! Back in the pavillion I was so proud to get my picture taken with Pavel himself and with my coach Tim Shuman. Standing around I realized… the shuttle back to the hotel was leaving soon – and even though I didn’t want to leave, I had to. Jogging the last of the way with some of my newly minted RKC pals, we barely made the bus – and the ride seemed all too short back to the hotel this time, there were too many goodbyes to say all at once, I wished there had been more time at the pavilion and at the hotel.
My bags were already at the front desk since I checked out before we left for the lecture that morning, and I waited for my roommate to pick me up. Unfortunately on the phone it sounded like he was in another foul mood. His car pulled up to the front doors and I quickly put everything in the trunk. As he aggressively weaved through traffic all the old panic come back for a second, but I squashed it. I had been on the top of the world for 3 days, in the company of so many amazing and positive people. Unable to contain myself and while thinking back on the day and talking a little about the workshop, I started to sniffle. He saw this and in a mocking voice said “you’re going to cry now?” I shut up, put the sunglasses on, bit my lip and closed my eyes. Feeling the car surge and lurch through traffic, I focused on remembering details of the weekend, all the inspiring new friends, the love of local friends and the hope of a much brighter future ahead. I started gathering even more resolve, and the courage necessary to make more changes and start building a life that I wanted to live.