The Vernon Classic

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” -Zig Ziglar

“I’d rather attempt to do something great and fail than to attempt to do nothing and succeed.” -Robert H. Schuller

Yesterday, the day of competition, was a very long day, and today I feel like I was run over by a big truck. I am not sure that I have even truly decompressed or processed the competition enough to write this blog post, but I want to get it done.

My day began even earlier than I had expected, because I was wide awake by 3:30 and could not fall back to sleep. I don’t think it was nerves but most likely my body just stuck on my work schedule routine. We were a little slower to leave the house than I would have liked, but we arrived at the venue with enough time for me to put on my singlet, socks and shoes and do a few warm-up stretches before the technical meeting. Lifting began shortly after 8:00.

I was in the first of three flights. The order of lifting is determined by the weight on the bar, so the lightest attempt goes first and the heaviest last. In my previous competitions, I have generally been closer to the beginning of the flight, but I was pleased to see my name a few notches down in the order for the squat. As my first attempt was being announced, I also took a small measure of pleasure in hearing the announcer say that my lift was the first 200+ pound squat of the day! Those are two little details, so minute really, but I like little details.

My first squat was 92.5kg/203.9 lbs. It was easy and good. After that lift, my coach questioned me on whether or not I had failed to wait for the command to rack the bar. His question made me question myself. Obviously the judges had passed my lift, and I have never failed to wait for a command before; however, even though I had just done the lift a mere minute or two earlier, I could not for the life of me remember if I had even heard the rack command! My second attempt was 100kg/220.5 lbs. This was a successful lift, although it was a bit slower and tougher than it should have been. I’m really not sure why it felt tougher. It could be I was trying to make sure I was deep enough at the bottom or the bar might not have been in the right position on my back. The knurling on the bar was super grippy! I’m used to giving a little shimmy with my back against the bar as I am setting up, but the knurling prevented any such movement. It could just be a result of the weight cut. Then, my coach and I had to decide what to attempt for my final squat. We had some options, but we decided to be conservative since my main focus was the deadlift. The third attempt was 105kg/231.5 lbs…another slow and somewhat grindy yet successful lift. I just so happened to break my own National Record with that attempt, although I didn’t expect it to last for more than a few minutes.

As of a few weeks ago, there were three other women entered in my age/weight class, which meant that I would have actual competition. One of those women must have withdrawn at some point before yesterday, which left me thinking that I had two competitors to consider in the back of my mind. One of those two was before me in every round of squats, but the other woman was after me, meaning she was squatting more than I was and would surpass my new record on her final attempt. It wasn’t until after my squats when I went to chat with my friends and family that I discovered that the second woman was actually in the next higher weight class. The squat record was mine! It may not be the best weight I have ever squatted, but I am happy with it.

After waiting for the next two flights to do their squats, it was time for the bench press. My first attempt was 52.5kg/115.7 lbs. As I lay down on the bench and reached my hands to grab the bar, I had a moment of panic. I suddenly realized that I had no idea where to place my hands! There can be differences between bars in terms of where the knurling begins and ends and the markings on the bar. The bars used in competitions always seem to be different from what I tend to use in training and even between competitions. Honestly, I know this from experience and should not have been blindsided by it, but it completely slipped my mind. I took a grip that I felt was about right for me, but I may well have been mistaken. Lesson learned-I need to know my grip based on different landmarks than what I have been using! I made my lift anyway. The second attempt was 57.5kg/126.8 lbs, and it was also good. My final attempt was 60kg/132.3 lbs. This wasn’t the heaviest that I have ever benched, but I hit a sticking point and couldn’t muscle my way out of it. I got up from the bench feeling pissed off with myself, but I shook it off quickly. Oh well!

More waiting as the next two flights did their bench presses. Really, a powerlifting competition is a whole lot of waiting and a wee bit of lifting! 😉 During this time, there was a ‘changing of the guards’, as one of my friends had to leave and another friend, my coach’s wife, arrived with their three girls. I love those girls, and I loved their hugs, the cookies they brought me, and their excitement for me!

Finally it was time for the deadlifts. This was what I had been waiting for and focused on for months. My warm-ups felt really good and easy, and my technique felt good. I was ready to go with my ‘Believe Achieve’ socks. When I submitted my opening attempts at the weigh-in Friday night, my first deadlift was supposed to be 112.5kg/248 lbs. Prior to the start of your flight, you have a window of opportunity to change your opening attempt, and Michael felt that we should change mine in order to broaden our options with the following attempts. So my first attempt was 117.5kg/259 lbs, and it was good. For my second attempt, we decided on 130kg/286.6 lbs. It felt a little slow and heavy off of the floor; however, once the bar reached my knees, the bar flew up. This then presented Michael and I with a decision. Where to go next?  I really wanted a shot at the World Record, but should I go with a more conservative third attempt, leaving the World record for a possible fourth attempt or take the leap now and take the risk of leaving pounds on the platform?

Remember when I said that I was keeping my competitors in the back of my mind? My biggest goals for this competition involved the deadlift. I wanted to hit a 300 pound deadlift, and I wanted to try for the World record. I told myself that winning my age/weight class wasn’t the goal and that I would be okay with not winning. But who am I kidding? I never want to lose. I am usually a gracious loser, but I always want to win. I appreciate the fact that my coach knew that I wouldn’t be happy with losing, and so we played smart with my attempts. My third deadlift attempt was 137.5kg/303.1 lbs, and this was where the nervous energy began to stir. This attempt would be the heaviest weight I had ever attempted, and it was super special. It would be more than 300 pounds, which meant that it would be more than two times my body weight! I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many women my age who can lift double their body weight. As I waited for my name to be called, I allowed that nervous energy to build and to swirl. I wanted it and craved it, knowing it would only work in my favour. I tuned out the bustle around me, focused inward and listened only to my coach’s encouragement. The announcer called my name, Michael slapped my back, and I stepped out onto the platform. I pulled. Once again it was a little slow and heavy off the floor, but it got a bit faster past the knees. Michael has commented before that I have yet to truly grind out a deadlift on the platform. I’m not sure if he would say that this one was grindy, but I would say that it was the closest I have come to it…at least off the floor.

So, I decided to take the special fourth attempt to try for the World record. The record is 145kg/319.7 lbs, and my attempt was 145.5kg/320.7 lbs. Although I was still excited and wound up for this attempt, I have to admit that the level of nervous energy just wasn’t quite as high as it was for the third attempt. I managed to lift the bar off the floor but couldn’t get it to my knees. I am fairly confident that I would have been able to finish the lift had I reached my knees, but I am not disappointed by the failure at all. Although I really wanted to break that record, I cannot be sad or frustrated or disappointed. I had the opportunity, and that is all I could really ask for and I wouldn’t have changed my previous attempts one bit. In hindsight though, I think my third attempt was the big one, both physically and emotionally. It was double body weight, it was more than 300 pounds, and it was my first and only PR of the entire competition!

Back to my competitor. I really didn’t see any of her lifts. With my focus on doing my own thing and all the people crowded around the edges, I was unable to see what was on the platform during my flights. But I could see her results on the monitor in the warm-up area! I knew that I had beaten her with my squat and she had bettered me on the bench press. She was also slightly heavier with her deadlifts but not by much. Before the deadlifts, I had a 10 kilogram lead on her. See, she wasn’t too far back in my mind. Although her third deadlift was better than mine, it wasn’t enough to beat my total, which meant I won the age/weight class and broke the National record for total. I didn’t even realize that I had that second record until this morning! My total was 300kg/661.4 lbs, which is only 5 kilograms shy of my own personal record, and I didn’t even do maximal attempts for squat and bench.

By the time the awards had been given out, it was after 4:00. It was a very long day but a good one. The venue was amazing, and, as always, the judges and volunteers were great. The competitors were awesome, and so were the spectators. I loved my little cheering section. Those little girls have some big voices! Before one of my deadlifts, either the second or third, Michael even asked me if his girls were distracting me and if he should tell them to be quiet. Yes, I could hear them shouting, “Go Ang!” No, it was not distracting me. I could hear them, but at the same time I could tune it all out and focus only on what I was doing. The biggest distraction for me would be to make eye contact with someone in the crowd, which is why I do not look at the crowd. I really don’t even look at the judge right in front of me.

One thing I enjoy about powerlifting is the sense of community. When I walked into the venue for the weigh-in Friday night, I was warmly greeted by two of the judges who had come all the way from Calgary. One had been a judge at my very first competition almost two years ago. We talked a bit last night, and he remembered that competition and the fact that one of my shoulders was all taped up. He also commented on the improvement he’s seen in me since then. The other judge was at last year’s competition, and he greeted me with a hearty hug. One of the young women competing remembered me from my first competition in which she was also a competitor. Even in the washroom before leaving to head home yesterday, an older woman turned as she was entering a stall, saw me and her face lit up with a smile. She greeted me by name, congratulated me and asked how I was doing. I answered her question with a puzzled look on my face, so she said her first name and “Rick.” Rick is one of my brothers-in-law, and he goes to the local GoodLife gym. There were a few GoodLife members competing, so she was obviously there to cheer someone on. But really, I have no idea who she is! I love powerlifting! It seems like the perfect sport for an introvert like me. I have the ability to socialize as much or as little as I might be comfortable with at any given moment, and nobody really seems to notice or care. There are moments to socialize and moments to focus on your own thing. I may be terrified to speak publicly before a crowd, but I am perfectly at ease in a singlet on the platform in front of a crowd.

Today I am sore. My lower back is super sore, but this is so very normal for me following a competition. My quads are sore and so are my calves, although I’m not sure if the calves are sore from powerlifting or a bit of running/jumping play later last night. And I am tired. I was awake at 3:00 this morning for no reason at all. I tried to take a nap this afternoon, but I probably only sort of slept for 10 minutes out of the 2 hours I was in bed. The only reason I stayed in bed for that long was that it was so much more comfortable than lying on the living room floor. Hopefully I will sleep better tonight.

It has taken more than two hours to write this blog post, and I am sure that I have missed details that I wanted to include. My brain is a little foggy today, which is likely why I haven’t adequately decompressed. I am so glad that I took tomorrow off work, but I am looking forward to getting back to the gym. However, I am now relieved that I will only be training twice this week due to a couple of grad activities for my daughter. The busyness never seems to end. My powerlifting Provincials are only 41 days away.

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