The French Throwdown 2016

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It’s very hard to write a full account of my weekend at the French Throwdown without writing a short novel. There were so many moments, so many memories and too many stories to tell. So I decided to select just three moments and elaborate on those. To begin with here is some background to set the scene for you all.

The French Throwdown is one of the largest competitions that takes place in Paris every year at the INSEP in Paris. INSEP is the National Institute of Sport and Physical Education and is located on the outskirts of Paris. An education centre/playground for sports enthusiasts, fully equipped with an Olympic sized swimming pool, indoor and outdoor track, weights areas, gymnastics area and a velodrome. Two teams from Perpetua qualified: Perpetua Red (consisting of myself, Rosie McKenzie, Dan O’Connor and Ben Sawyer) and Perpetua Outlaws (Lee Drabble, Michael & Erin Blevins and Aoife Burke). Lee Philips also competed as a master (yes, Lee Philips is a Master!!). On 17th June we took the Eurostar over to Paris for a fun packed weekend of fitness, laughs and banter. And of course…partying!

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The competition was spread over 2 days, with 3 WODs on Saturday, 2 on Sunday plus the finals. The WODs were varied – including running, swimming, Olympic lifts, gymnastics, the dreaded assault bike and much more. It really tested everyone’s skills. We were a bit disappointed with the team programming which was the individual WODs bunched together for teams. So the team members just did what the individuals did, but one after the other. There was no actual ‘team’ element in the workouts. Having said that we still enjoyed it all and managed to do well.

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My first story is called ‘blue’. Dan O’Connor I think you know where this is going? The first event on Saturday was called The Hourglass. Each person in the team had to complete a 400m run, 20 pull-ups, 10 C2B pull-ups, 5 bar muscle ups and a 400m run. The order was male, female, male, female. Running has never really been our strength but the gymnastics we were all pretty confident with. Dan was out first. I knew he was a fast runner having seen him run a 400m sprint at Strength in Depth last year, one event we shall never be allowed to forget as he constantly reminds us how he beat regionals athlete Kristin Holte to the finish line. Dan set off at a fast pace. I remember thinking if he sticks close to Michael Blevins then he will be ok as I knew Michael was a strong runner. Dan sped ahead and I thought maybe he had gone out too hard. He finished his first run then jumped on the rig and did his 35 reps unbroken. Jumped down and continued to run his second 400m sprint at near the same pace as his first, much to my amazement. As he sprinted towards the finish line in 3rd place to tag me in he was as white as a ghost and his lips well, they were blue! I set off on my run which felt better than expected. My gymnastics set went ok, with a little struggle on the bar muscle ups but I was happy enough. Ben was up next. As he ran off Dan was lying flat on the floor, still white “Lex. I don’t feel right. I am still not recovered”. His lips had just started to turn a mixture between pink and blue. Rosie finished off our set and we sprinted to the finish line. We came in 20th place, just beating the cut off time and also just beating the Outlaws. Not the best start, but with a few events to go we weren’t too disheartened. By the end of the WOD Dan’s lips were pink again.

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The second story I will call ‘squat’. This one is focusing more on the Outlaws team. One event in particular that sticks in my mind was the Snatch event. For two reasons. First because Perpetua Outlaws managed to miss their heat but were given the opportunity to go at the end of all the heats. So they had to do the entire WOD in front of all the judges, including the head judge, media and the entire stadium. So pressure was on! Second reason was Drabs. Or Drabs’s mobility. Now just to set the scene, they really did have every eye on them and competing gets to us at the best of times, but now there was added pressure. The WOD was: in 8 mins each team member must find a 1RM squat snatch. SQUAT being the word we will focus on here. The girls stepped up first and I was super impressed. Both hitting 60 comfortably. They both sat under 65 but failed to either hold the bar or stand it up. One call was pretty unfair on Aoife from the head judge who of course had his eyes glued to the girls. What else was he going to do for the next 8 minutes?! Any other heats to judge? Nope, just this one! Drabs was up next. And next. And the next lift and the next and probably the next. Drabs can power snatch all day long and I have seen him hit 90kg before on a squat snatch. But today just wasn’t his day. He attempted rep after rep after rep at 80kg, then down dropped to 70kg. Each time the head judge no repped him for depth in his squat. At a loss as to what he could do, he stepped back and let Blevins take his turn. He ripped 100kg off the floor in one fine lift. Drabs then tried again. Finally he hit 70kg and sat at the bottom of the his squat for what seemed like minutes, checking with all 5 judges that had now joined them that they were all happy with his depth. The crowd cheered so loud and a huge round of applause echoed through the stadium. We were all so happy. Drabs I think was just relieved. Not a moment the comp team will let Drabs forget for a while I think. But give him his due he did well under the circumstances and I applaud him for not giving up as many I am sure would have done.

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The last story is called ‘special moments’, because we all had a few over the weekend. Rosie McKenzie excelled all weekend for her grit and determination. I have so much respect for Rosie who is a masters athlete even though looking at her you would never guess this. Rosie never complained once. She has a shoulder injury that is not fully fixed but she battled through some gruelling WODs never once letting us down. The woman is a machine. Ben Sawyer for his collection of half useless, half interesting, but all extremely random pearls of wisdom. Ben hasn’t been able to train with the team as much recently due to work commitments, but was still able to really pull it together for everyone and gave a class A performance in all the WODs. Drabs and his endless banter. I don’t think I have laughed as hard as I did that weekend in a long time. Drabs took a lot of stick for his mobility issues but still managed to pull out some strong performances and make a joke of it all. Dan for his blue lips. I will never forget those! But also his patience with me in the last workout where we had to perform 36 synchro ring muscle ups and back squats. Having only just come back to volume on my gymnastics I was worried about this event but Dan just followed me on every move and kept at my pace which I know wasn’t an easy task. Michael Blevins for seeming to be in two places at once, doing two of the same workouts in one day and still managing to stand at the end of the second day. Yes, he competed as both team and individual. That takes some strength & endurance as well as mental toughness! Erin for her outfits. She asked me a few days before the event “do you think I could wear this swim suit Lex?” I said yes, but it is likely to get some air time. Well she wore that swim suit and she rocked it! (And it got some air time). She impressed me with her awesome performance on the 1RM snatch, especially with the pressure that was on her. Lee Philips for managing to attract every single camera lens during his workouts. I still struggle to believe that man is a master but apparently his birth certificate says so… Last but not least Aoife and her ‘Aoife-isms’. She entertained us all at the after party, but don’t worry Aoife I will keep those stories within the group. But her finest moment was her confidently announcing to the whole team that she had had a good day so far and hadn’t managed to do anything stupid. She then walked into a lamppost. It’s hard for me to pick my moment, but I did return to London with the nickname ‘Jack Hammer’. Dan can elaborate on that one if you’re curious.

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I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to be part of Team Perpetua. These guys and girls (and not just the ones at the French Throwdown, but the whole team) dedicate so much of their own time and money to proudly fly the Perpetua colours at competitions. They work hard in the gym and always support each other and the rest of the gym when and where they can. All the competitions are self-funded by those who compete. They all have such dedication and passion for the sport. We are on the road to Regionals next year, with that as our main goal. We continue to grow stronger both mentally and physically as a team. If you are interested in following or supporting the team with any of their comps, please keep in touch on Perpetua Nation Facebook page where we try to post regularly. Without the support of you guys at the gym, we wouldn’t be here, thank you for that.

Perpetua Red and Perpetua Outlaws finished 7th & 18th respectively, behind some regionals & sponsored teams. Lee Philips finished 15th and Michael Blevins 28th. Until next time Paris. We will be back for more in 2017! I may even give the individuals a go.

Coach Lexi

Also a shout out to Coach Jamie from our sister gym Perpetua Dublin who finished with an amazing 1st place spot.  His Coach – Head Coach Andy from Perpetua Dublin does the programming for both Dublin and London gyms so we are very proud of the result!


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