April 26, 2003. Vassily Jirov vs James Toney for the IBF (and unoffical best) Cruiserweight Championship. This is one of my all-time favorite fights. Jirov wasn't a great fighter but he was a rugged motherfucker who would savagely tear into an opponents body, ignoring punches, pain and fatigue until his opponent was stopped. It seemed like a bad match-up for Toney, one of the greatest (but chronically underachieving) counterpunchers of all-time. His career-long lack of desire to stay in shape made him seem like a sitting duck against such a physically-stiff, bodily challenge that Jirov presented.
Toney started well, looking like his old self: not getting hit much, throwing lots of good countershots, and getting the better of the early, 90+ punches-per-round onslaught that Jirov brought to the table. Towards the middle rounds, things started to turn for Jirov. It looked like his balls-out body assault was going to get the best of Toney. Then, in the Championship rounds, Jirov started to wear down and Toney managed to pick up the pace, get a 12th round knock-down, and win the fight.
While Toney managed to get his weight down to 190 lbs for the first time in what seemed like ages, it probably wasn't conditioning that carried Toney through. He was visually exhausted by the end of the fight. He simply accepted the pain and fatigue, blocked it out the best he could, and fought on.
A challenge was issued to me by one Andy Patterson on Rosstraining (who I affectionately refer to as, "the fucker") to take part in a sort of brutal holiday aka Demolition Day aka one hard-core, hard-ass conditioning routine decided on by him and another hard-ass. This year's challenge: Magic 200... four rounds of Ross Enemait's Magic 50. Although I didn't know how to do a single-arm snatch, I accepted the challenge in early March and got started on training promptly. That consisted of morning workouts of M50, gradually working my way up to M100. Once I got up to 100, I did my best to get my M100 time down as little as possible.
I started out using my 35 lbs kettlebell. Eventually, I started doing this routine on my new Ironmaster KB. At this point, I alternated between doing the routine with 40 lbs of weight for 80-100 reps or loading the 'bell all the way up to it's max and doing M50-70. I settled on using 45 lbs, shaving my M100 time down to 20 minutes consistently. I figured that if I could do that with relative ease, I could do the full 200 with a modest break in the middle.
Demolition Day arrived. The week's events weren't complimentary. I threw my back out and needed 90 minutes of sports-massage to fix it. I had to go and pick up the lumber, decking, and 13 bags of concrete to build a 12x24' deck on my house. I guess that qualifies as not quite ideal conditions.
Cry me a river, right? FUCK THAT! I was going to do this thing! I was curious as to how I'd hold up and I exercised a bit of caution: I decided to go with 40 lbs on the KB.
After all, pain was the point of Demolition Day. Nobody makes up a challenge like this and puts a name like that on it without expecting everyone who does it to suffer terribly while trying to finish it off! That's the whole point: to wear yourself out and continue to push onward. Physical challenges are usually mental challenges too.
I accepted the brutality of the task, cutting my rest in between circuits to just 15 deep breaths (I don't have a clock with a second hand downstairs) and a two minute break at the midway point. Yeah, I had a few breaks longer than that (my wife also interrupted me at 90. I had some camera problems). I managed to finish DD, 2010 in 47minutes.
Sure, I did a couple of things to ease the process a little. I intentionally ate some high-gylcemic fruits (dates and bananas) prior to DD and I had some coconut water (naturally high in electrolytes. Nature's Gatorade!) in between breaks along with water. Yeah, I increased the conditioning work in my training in the past few months. In the end, it's every bit in the head as it is in the body. Any physical challenge has a mental component. Nobody goes into a challenge in the best shape and under the best circumstances. James Toney was stuck at boxing-standards-old 34 years old, away from his natural 160-168lbs weight classes, and after taking almost 70 lbs of fat off his body over the course of two years to fight the Cruiserweight title (which, if you're not a boxing fan, it's the Gobi Desert and witness protection of boxing's weight classes rolled into one.) away from a human meat-grinder. Still, he did it.
Never underestimate the value of mental toughness. Ever. Take the pain and accept it as a necessary evil to get what you want. Every once in a while, a challenge like this is a good way of driving that point home.