Westerns Wind-Up

I have been thinking about this blog post since I finished competing at Westerns yesterday afternoon. What can I say? How can I possibly put it all into words without forgetting something? Decompressing from a competition seems to be a process that spans a few days up to a week or two, so I guess I just need to flow with the moment and let misplaced details make their appearance when the time is right.

We were on the road for Kamloops by 7:30 yesterday morning. I am sure that the drive typically takes at least 2 hours, but we arrived by 9:00. That didn’t bother me…I’d rather be early and take the time to settle myself and get comfortable with the venue. This time I also had to familiarize my daughter with the venue and process, as she was acting as my coach for the day. I checked in at the proper time, got my rack heights (different yet again!), got my equipment checked (including a peek at my underwear), and weighed in at a comfortable 70.3 kilograms (had to be 72 kg or under). Watched some of the bench only competition, ate some food and then made my way to the warm-up area.

Since I was without my real coach, I wanted to make my life as simple as possible for warm-ups, as in I didn’t want to have to think more than absolutely necessary, so I came with a written list of what weights & reps I would do for my warm-ups, in kilograms knowing that the plates would all be in metric. Abby did a good job at figuring out which plates we needed to add to reach my desired weight, although she wasn’t as capable at changing the big plates. For each lift, I think the warm-ups went rather well. I was in the second of 2 flights with, I think, 12 lifters in each flight, so the competition moved smoothly and quickly. On average, I think I had roughly 30 minutes to warm-up for each lift, which seemed to be perfect. There wasn’t a lot of waiting, and I didn’t need to put too much thought into the timing of my last warm-up attempt.

I had known for about a month that I would have competition in my class…a woman from Saskatchewan. A few days ago, I was looking over the flight lists I received via email and was shocked to see another woman in my age/weight class that I hadn’t noticed before. That threw me into a little bit of a panic mentally for a moment, but then I decided/remembered that I can’t control anything. I can only go out there and do my best. I was surprised though that I hadn’t noticed a third woman in our class before, but a later look at the flights on the website showed this third woman in a different weight class. I wouldn’t know until right before competition started whether or not I had to compete against one or two, but I tried not to think about it too much. As it turned out, the third woman was in a different weight class. I was temporarily relieved, then I saw that my real competition had an opening squat higher than mine and I started to fret a little. Abby reminded me that I just had to be the best Angela Thompson. Besides, I knew that my opening attempts would be/should be easy and conservative.

My first squat was 97.5kg (214.9 lbs), and it was super easy and fast. As I stood waiting for the command to rack the bar, I could hear the spotter behind me make a comment about that being lightning fast! He made a similar comment to me directly as I walked off the platform. I knew that squat was good and fast, but it was a confidence boost to have the spotter comment on it like that. I came to the competition with my attempts basically all planned out with the option to make little adjustments. For my second squat I was either going to attempt 105 or 107.5kg. Since the first one felt so easy, I chose to go with 107.5kg (237 lbs). There was a slight sticking point, but it was still a decently strong and easy lift, which made me feel very good about attempting to break my own Provincial record on my third attempt. (I hadn’t forgotten about my competition, even though I wasn’t truly watching what she was doing. I did realize that she had failed on her first two attempts. While I wasn’t taking any pleasure in her failure, I did know that my squat would be higher than hers and I couldn’t worry about anything else beyond that. It took the pressure off of me, I guess, at least in a small way. There was still a lot of internal pressure to make my lifts, to reach my goals, to do well.) But about that third attempt…115kg (253.5 lbs). I’ve never squatted that much weight before, so I was expecting the bar to feel very heavy when I unracked it, yet it didn’t. Again, there was a very slight stick, but I pushed through it strongly and made a successful lift that looked and felt easier than my second attempt! I broke my own Provincial record and set a new personal record!

The bench press was up next. My first attempt was 52.5 kg (115.7 lbs) and was good. The second attempt was 57.5 (126.8 lbs) and was good. I felt good about attempting 62.5kg (137.8 lbs), which would be a new personal record and Provincial record, but I just couldn’t get it. That was frustrating and disappointing. I haven’t hit a PR bench press single since last October, and that weight has not always been kind to me since then. Someday my bench press will make progress, but it just wasn’t to be this time.

Deadlifts are always the final lift of the competition. My opening attempt was 120kg (264.6 lbs), and it was super fast and easy. My deadlift attempts for Westerns were the same as my attempts at Provincials in June. I rarely even hit a single at 265 in the gym, and it always feels difficult in training. Yesterday, that opening weight felt like it belonged in the warm-up! Second attempt was 130kg (286.6 lbs). At Provincials, that felt a little tough, but it felt light and easy at Westerns. My final attempt was 140kg (308.6 lbs), a potential new personal record and Provincial record. This was the attempt I missed at Provincials and the one that I most wanted here at Westerns. It was a good lift! In fact, it felt easy. And that successful attempt would also give me a finishing total of 312.5kg (688.94 lbs), which breaks my own personal record and Provincial record for total!

As it turned out, my competitor bombed out with her squats and was out of the competition. That was disappointing. It was good to meet her though.

So, I “won” my age/weight class, went 8/9 on my attempts, set a few personal records and broke 3 Provincial records, and I did it without my real coach! When I learned that my coach wasn’t going to be there with me, I wasn’t sure how I could possibly have a successful meet without him. It took me a few weeks to get out of that funk, but even then I was still apprehensive about it. Having my daughter help me was a last resort kind of thing, but it actually turned out quite well. She did what I needed her to do most: chalk my back, apply baby powder to my thighs, slap my back, gave me high-fives, told me I’ve got this, helped figure out my warm-up weights, held onto my attempt cards & phone, and nagged me to eat. She even threatened to text Michael in an attempt to get me to eat when I didn’t feel like eating. Ha! While she may not have been able to give me practical advice in terms of my technique on the platform, she did a great job. Thankfully, my real coach was in frequent contact via text, offering me encouragement & praise, advice and reminders to eat! 😉

All in all, it was a very good competition, and I am stoked about what I was able to do. This was the most official, biggest stage of my little powerlifting career, and I’m happy that I was able to go out and do well. Even though I fell short of my goal for the bench press, I can’t be too disappointed because the rest of my meet went better than I could have anticipated. Although I wanted those PRs in squat and deadlift, I didn’t expect them to come easily. I believed I was capable of the deadlift, but I expected it to be a grinder. I wasn’t so confident about the squat. Both lifts were much easier than I could have imagined, and I am so stoked about that when I consider that this was my third competition in roughly a 3 month span. I knew that this season of competitions would not be ideal in terms of spacing training and recovery, but I was prepared to endure for the sake of the opportunity to compete on this big stage in order to have the option to go after bigger goals. Despite the stress and strain of 3 competitions in 3 months, I think I’ve held up well, certainly better than expected. In all honesty, the past 3 months have been crammed full of all manner of emotional situations, both positive and negative. At times I felt as if the emotional stressors were overwhelming, and my ability to focus on my competitions felt compromised; however, one thing I have learned over the past few years is that I am strong inside and out. No matter how out of control life feels in the day-to-day, I am able to focus on what is necessary in those moments it is most required. I can be shaken without breaking. My confidence might feel weak at times, yet I know what I am capable of and, even in my doubt, there is still the knowledge that I can!

A remark was made after the competition about how calm I am on the platform. This is just how I am. While I can get super excited about a great deal of things, generally I am a calm and collected type of person. That doesn’t mean that I don’t feel nervous or on edge, because I definitely do. I never truly felt very nervous once I arrived at the venue yesterday. Well, only a little bit right before the squats, but the nerves definitely settled with the first successful squat and determining that I only had to do my own thing. There was a bit of nervous energy prior to each of my third attempts, but that is a different kind of nervousness, which is actually more about anticipation and concentrating focus than it is about fearing failure. The slaps on the back actually help at those points, because it seems to narrow the focus even more, settles the nerves, and acts as a motivator. This was a task that Abby took to heart and with vigor. My back has never been slapped so often or with such force. A few times I was inhaling chalk because she was slapping my back so much!

Westerns was a success! I am incredibly happy with my performance, and I am also glad that I am now entering my off-season. As much as I do enjoy competing, I now understand why most powerlifters spread their competitions out much more! I am looking forward to a change of pace and a change in my training. I know there will be many challenges thrown my way and the work won’t always be easy, but I also know that it will be laying the groundwork for more gains when I am ready to compete again next year. Besides, I’m not afraid of hard work!

Oh yeah…the shoulder held up perfectly, too! No pain, no issues with the low bar. 🙂



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