THE MASTERS LEAGUE – a competition for oldies who don’t act like they’re old
This past weekend I was privileged enough to be a member of the NSW Masters League State of Origin Team. I say “privileged” because I was able to immerse myself into an environment that was hugely positive and inspirational. I got to witness first-hand the spirit and drive of a group of people who refuse to let age define them (by normal society’s standards); who refuse to lay down and let life pass them by; and who are still pushing their limits and improving daily.
When I watch 60+ year old men and women throwing 60/40kg overhead, and repping out toes to bar like it’s nothing unusual, I can’t help but be motivated to continue my own journey of progression and look forward to the years ahead.
Leading up to the comp I was feeling physically very unprepared. A 6 week trip to Africa only a month ago meant there was a very valuable 6 weeks of training that was absent from my regime. For me, that’s a huge deal. Coupled with very poor nutrition over that period, and things weren’t looking good at all.
When I returned to training I had lost my momentum (not my motivation), I had lost weight (insert “muscle”, insert “strength”), and my cardio was at an all time low. Somehow I had picked up some breathing issues overseas which meant I had a return of “exercise induced asthma” (yes, it’s a thing) which I had not had for years. In a nutshell, I was feeling very undercooked.
But hey, I wasn’t going to pass on the opportunity to be a part of the NSW Team so I remained committed. I did what I could to try to regain my pre-Africa fitness knowing that come comp time, so much of what I was going to do would come down to my mental strength just as much as physical strength.
So here’s a run down of how the two days of competition unfolded for me.
I hooked with my mate and fellow team member Gary “Stav, the Greek God, the People’s Athlete” Stavrakis. He and I had gone head to head many times before and we had become friends over the years. I knew I was in good hands. What I/we didn’t know was who the two girls in our team were. “Do you know who Jen Harley is?” “No”. “What about Sylivia Atkinson?” “Nope”. I know, not a great start to a two day, gruelling competition where knowing your team mates intimately (in a training sense) is pretty damn important.
But our NSW Team briefing, comprised of athletes representing 4 person mixed teams in age groups (35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50+ and 60+) and categories (Soldier, Warrior, Hero), provided the opportunity to meet our two female team members. Jen Harley and Sylvia Atkinson were both weapons. I had seen them compete before but until then, I had never actually met them.
During the NSW team briefing we talked about the 5 workouts we would have to do, what standards were required, and how the following days would unfold. Then we split off into our individual teams to get to know each other and talk strategy. It quickly became apparent that we had a pretty rock solid team with a fair bit of competition experience amongst us. Day one of competition involved two team workouts, and day two of the competition involved 3 individual workouts. We quickly talked strategy for the team workouts – where our strengths were, what our weaknesses were, who wanted to do what – it was pretty easy and everyone was happy.
Our first workout was a 12 min Indian File AMRAP of 10 Toes to Bar and 15 Kettlebells Swings 24/16kg, with a 30m run between the two stations. Bonus reps could be accumulated by any non-working member performing Pistols (one person at a time). Jen and I, who are fairly proficient at Pistols, decided to knock out as many Pistols as possible while we weren’t working and this dictated the order we went in – Me, Stav, Jen, Sylvia.
When the WOD kicked off I ran to the rig and punched out 10 unbroken Toes to Bar. During this time Jen started on her Pistols. After the Toes to Bar, I ran back and Stav took off. I picked up the Kettlebell and did 15 straight then dumped it and pumped out 18 Pistols. Great, I could rest. Nope! By the time I finished the Pistols, Sylvia had finished her toes to bar and it was my turn to run again to the rig to start it all over. There wasn’t any rest which was not what we had anticipated. Things were moving pretty fast!
I don’t know what our final rep score was but I did about 5 rounds of Toes to Bar (3 rounds were unbroken, 4 and 5 were broken up). All of my Kettlebell Swings were unbroken. And my Pistols looked something like 18-12-8-10-6. There may have been an extra round. I honestly can’t remember.
I had actually performed an extra 8 reps of Toes to Bar over the course of the workout because my Judge was “No repping” me. He didn’t tell me why, but I can say with absolute honesty that every single one of my reps had my toes hitting the bar as per standards. Many people would have asked “why?”, some would have stopped, and a few would have gotten angry and argued with the Judge. I didn’t bat an eyelid, I just kept repping them out until he told me I was good. From a spectator’s point of view it would have just looked like I really loved toes to bar and wanted to do extra reps for the hell of it.
When I spoke to my team after the WOD, they all had a similar experience with the Judge – getting “No repped” but not knowing why. It is what it is. These Judges are volunteers. They are not getting paid. It happens. We moved on and were happy with our performance.
WOD 2 was a cardio buffet where we had to work in male/female pairs in an Indian File fashion through a 300m Run (together), 40 Burpees (20 each), 700m Row (shared), 40 Burpees (20 each), 200m Swim (each).
We decided we’d get our two fastest runners to start so Jen and Stav kicked off proceedings and headed out on their run. Once they finished their 40 Burpees, then Sylvia and I were able to run. Jen and Stav broke up their burpees in sets of 5. Sylvia and I did sets of 10. Sylvia was fast….very fast. I barely caught my breath before I had to Burpee again. After that, we moved onto the Rower. Sylvia indicated she was not a great Rower so I did 500m and she did 200m. I was blowing pretty hard by this stage. As soon as Sylvia finished her 200m, it was back into the 40 Burpees (sets of 10 again). We stayed consistently fast. While Sylvia was doing her final set of Burpees, I started stripping off for the swim. I kicked off my shoes and socks, ripped off my shorts (I was wearing compression shorts underneath), and then took off at a sprint when she finished, towards the pool (about 50m away).
I was really breathing hard but I was super pumped to get into the pool to try to finish the 200m before the 10 min timecap was reached. It was about 8 mins at that stage. Stav and Jen were already working through their laps.
Now leading up to this event we had spoken to other teams who had already done it, and EVERYONE said that the swim sucked! It didn’t matter if you were a seasoned swimmer or not. All of the work done beforehand meant that you were about to embark on a 200m swim with immense oxygen deficit and fatigue – legs and shoulders.
But as I was running to the pool, I had adrenaline pumping through my body. I used to be a really good swimmer……when I was in high school……about 30 years ago. In the short time it took to get to the pool I had the plan laid out in my head – take the biggest running jump possible and dive into the pool to maximise the distance covered without swimming, and then flow straight into Freestyle and get to the end. Well I did my big jump and dive (did anyone catch that on video?), and torpedoed underwater and then broke the surface. Boom! Straight into Freestyle. I reckon I got out about 4 strokes before my brain realised what my body already knew – I have no air in my lungs, I can’t breathe, and my legs and shoulders are full of lactic acid. Damn! Plan out the window. I transitioned to breaststroke.
The next 2 minutes went by very quick and I managed to get out 100m – the slowest 100m swim I have ever done. It was stuttered with a few Freestyle strokes, a heap of Breaststroke, a failed attempt to walk (it was too deep and I sunk to the bottom), and a lot of big gulps of precious oxygen.
When the WOD was over I dragged myself out of the pool and laid on my back, gasping for air with my triceps on fire (I don’t know why, but they felt the same way your legs feel when you get off the Assault Bike).
I hooked up with my team and we reflected on the past ten minutes of horribleness. We did alright and passed a few of the other teams who were ahead of us at the start.
Day one was over and we were happy. We had been at the venue since 3pm and none of us had eaten any dinner. When we got away, it was 10.30pm. Stav and I were starving, and with little open at that time, and accompanied by a desire to eat quick and then go to sleep, we did the unimaginable………..Maccas drive-thru. It wasn’t ideal but we just needed to eat……and then sleep so that we could be up at 6am for Day 2.
To be continued………
-AB (the artist formerly known as “the people’s warrior”)
WORKOUT OF THE DAY
A. 120 sec (that’s 2 mins) Deadhang
***Drop and do 5 Sit-ups if you come off before 2 mins, then continue.
B. 15 min EMOM (every 5 mins)
15 Push Press 40/30kg
C. 15 min EMOM (every 3 mins)
5 Front Squats @ 70% of 1RM
10 Strict Pull-ups