The third question on the list for ending your year intentionally is:

What or who is the one thing or person you’re grateful for?

Regardless of what my year has looked like or how I feel about it, I am always grateful for the people in my life and I have long been in the habit of expressing gratitude for things, big and small, on a daily basis. Thankfulness is part of who I am, and I could go on for days expressing all that I am grateful for over the course of the year.

To choose one thing or person is a difficult task, so I am going to approach it as a group result. Have you ever watched a boxing match? When the bell rings to signal the end of a round, the boxers go to their corners where they are tended to, coached, supported and encouraged. Cuts are tended. Sweat is wiped away. Water is provided. The boxer has people in his corner. I am not a boxer, but I know what it is like to have that kind of support and I am grateful for all of it.

1. My husband! He lets me do all these crazy things and willingly spends countless hours at my competition, most of which is just waiting for my turn to lift. He cheers me on, encourages me, and takes video for me. He has been at 8 of my 9 competitions, missing out on one only because he was still recovering from hip replacement surgery. It was odd not having him at Provincials this year, and I know that I felt the loss of emotional support when that competition didn’t go as well as I had hoped. I am glad that he was there at my most recent competition. When I broke the World record for my squat and emotion was bursting out of me, being wrapped in his arms was a wonderful feeling. Now that I am injured, he is still supportive. He encourages me when I feel troubled by worry and despair. He has my back. He loves me.

2. My chiropractor! I visit my chiropractor with some regularity as I put my body through a lot. He helps keep my body functioning as well as it possibly can, but he doesn’t just twist and crunch me. He seldom fixes me up without also giving me practical skills and advice to help keep my body working well. On occasion, I am also blessed to receive words of wisdom or encouragement that nourish my spirit and soul. In my eyes, my chiropractor is more than just a health care professional…he’s also a friend.

3. My coach! Perhaps coach should really be coaches, since I have had two different coaches this year. My previous coach got me started in powerlifting and played a big role in my journey. Even though he is no longer my coach, I cannot discount his part in my story.

My current coach and I are still in the learning each other stage, I think, but I have already experienced good things under his programming. Although I no longer have the direct, real-time contact with a coach while training, I still feel supported, encouraged, and challenged by my new coach. When I started with him this summer, I was recovering from another problem with my back or SI joints and hadn’t been in powerlifter mode for several weeks. I had the November competition on the horizon, and my coach took me through training on a level I had never done before…and it worked. I could hear his encouraging comments as I was on the platform. My injury has changed the nature of my training again, but I know my coach has my back!

4. My friend Sienna! For my competition in November, I needed a handler. This was only the second time that I have needed to find someone to help me out at a competition, because that role was usually covered by my coach. My daughter was my handler at Westerns last year, and my friend was my handler this time. She was probably quite nervous, uncertain as to what to do to support me, but I think she did a great job. I have competed enough that I know what I need to do and when to do it, but it is always nice to have someone there to chalk the back, offer encouragement, and remind you what you’re capable of.

5. My physiotherapist! This is a recent addition to my support crew thanks to my injury, but I feel confident in his abilities and treatment. I tend to be highly cynical when it comes to doctors and many aspects of “health care”, so I am always grateful to find medical professionals who are not stuck on out-dated methods and systems.

6. My friends, co-workers, and family! These people have cheered me on every step of the way, through thick and thin, weight cuts and water loads, disappointments and frustrations, sore muscles and all my back struggles. When I’ve had success, they’ve celebrated with me.



2 Days!

I made it through seven consecutive work days. Yeah me! As much as I love my job and the people I work with, I was ever so glad to walk out the doors this afternoon looking at three days off. Not that my days off are going to be super restful or lazy, but I am still excited for what awaits me. With working seven days in a row, a lot of home stuff got neglected, which means I have a lot of catching up to do before my weekend ends. Thankfully I had all afternoon to get started on my list, and I’m happy to say that I made a respectable dent!

The most important item on my agenda for tomorrow is weigh-in. My water loading is complete, and now I dehydrate until I’ve weighed in.

My coach has given me my attempts, and I feel good about those numbers. I won’t be chasing personal bests across the board; however, there is still opportunity for a couple of PRs and possibly some records of another sort. What will happen on the platform remains to be seen. I don’t know what my competition will do. I don’t even know how things will feel for me on the day. That’s the nature of powerlifting, maybe even any athletic competition really.

Tenacious Ang

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act; the rest is mere tenacity.” ~Amelia Earhart

Here I am at 4 weeks out from Provincials. I still have barely deadlifted since January. I have barely had more than 200 pounds on my back since August. I am roughly 6 pounds over my weight class. My husband can’t drive for something like 6-9 weeks, and I’ve never driven to the Lower Mainland, let alone driven in a big city. Of those four statements, the one that causes me the most anxiety is the very real likelihood that I will need to drive myself to Provincials. The weight loss shouldn’t be an issue at all, and I am determined to accept the realities of any lingering limitations I may have when I step on the platform. There is just something terrifying about driving in unfamiliar territory when the population far exceeds my own environment, but I can be brave if I need to be. White knuckles and all!

I am not planning anything drastic to cut weight for this competition. My current weight is easily within reach of the target, so I will clean up my diet over the next couple of weeks and see what happens. So, I’m cutting out breads, fried, and processed foods. Wine will be eliminated, although I reserve the right to have a glass if in the company of friends. Since I don’t go out very often, my wine consumption will be practically nil. No potato chips. No poutine. No pastries. No pasta. No bread. No ice cream. I even turned down the temptation of the freshly baked apple-peach-blueberry pie that was on display at the produce store this afternoon.

Even though I have known for months that I would need to drop a few pounds, the ultimate decision to begin the process of cleaning up my diet wasn’t easy to make. I knew I’d have to do it, but I also was reluctant to give up my treats, even temporarily. I told myself I’d start last week. Then I told myself I’d start when my husband went in for surgery. Then I told my husband I’d start on Wednesday. Yesterday I told my coach that I started that day, and that was mostly true. There was enough wine left in the fridge for one final glass. Who else would drink it but me? I couldn’t just waste it! Aside from that final glass of wine, I did clean up my diet yesterday, and I’ve stuck to it today. Decision made. Now I need that tenacity to kick in.

I know that I can do it. Been there, done it several times, and always made my weight class!

Gains & Losses

Facebook has a lovely feature which reminds you of stuff that you posted on that same date over previous years. A few days ago, as I perused my “on this day” highlights, I noticed one of my blog posts from last year. I found it rather amusing, because I had a momentary freak out that day when I stepped on the scale and realized that I was 164 pounds. The number itself didn’t bother me, but I had a competition in two months and wanted to be in the 148 pound weight class. I cut out flours and sugars initially, then cut my calorie intake by roughly 2-300 calories/day. And wine. I cut that out, too. I didn’t work at Starbucks at that time, but I was a regular customer and the baristas became well acquainted with my no fun orders for those weeks. As much as I would like to say that the entire process was difficult, the truth is that it was not as challenging as some might imagine it to be. It wasn’t always fun. I was hungry at times. I missed sipping wine. But I was focused on the task and was able to rise to the challenge in order to reach my goals. Losing 16 pounds in 8 weeks isn’t necessarily the best, but I also didn’t do anything crazy drastic, at least not until the last few days prior to weigh-in. I made weight…after stripping off my clothes!

The memory amuses me, because I’ve been reluctant to step on the scale for several weeks now but also knowing that I really should do so soon. If I were to make a guess, I think I am probably around 164 pounds again. No big deal, I know, but I’m now about 12 weeks out from competition. This is with a different association with slight variances in weight classes, so I don’t need to get down to 148 pounds again yet! My weight class maxes out at 158 pounds. My reluctance to step on the scale has been born out of dread, thinking that I was ridiculously above my weight class. That line of thinking is completely silly, but sometimes the brain just doesn’t see the numbers as they actually are. There are times when I’m squatting or benching and forget how much weight is on the bar. It might feel very heavy or light, and my thoughts will be swirling as I go through the motion, trying to remember what the weight is. I think my reaction to my perceived weight at this point in time prior to competition follows that same twisted mental process, where I forget what the numbers actually mean. I was freaking out inside over all the weight I’d have to lose to make my weight class in June, but talking about it with my coach yesterday made me realize that I’m not as far over as I feel. (Of course, until I actually step on the scale and verify my weight!) If I am accurate in thinking I’m around 164 pounds, then I’m only 6 pounds over and that can easily be dropped in a relatively short period of time. There is no need to panic yet, but I’m still somewhat afraid to step on the scale. First thing tomorrow morning…if I don’t forget as I’m getting ready for work at 4:50AM!

This Girl’s Got Goals

I have a little notebook of goals that I began a while ago, check back with from time to time and then forget about for a while. Some of the goals are quite specific in terms of time or place, while others are open-ended. I think the last time I looked at this notebook was early in the year, but yesterday’s front squat PR brought my little book of goals back to the forefront of my mind. So today I dug it out of the basket it had been tucked into along with my vast assortment of notebooks, journals and books of interest. How happy was I to look through my list of goals and discover that I could check off several of my goals for 2016!

  • do multiple unassisted chin-ups (on February 5 I did 2 chins from a dead hang)
  • break my National RAW records (on May 14 I broke them all, even if I can only claim two of them for new National records)
  • set a class 1 total with 100% RAW (May 14)
  • break my BCPA Provincial records (on June 26 I broke one of my two records)
  • break the BCPA Provincial bench & deadlift records (on June 26 I broke the bench record)
  • compete 2-4 times, including Provincials (I’ve competed twice so far, including Provincials, and I’m set to compete at Westerns next month.)
  • try sushi (June 28)
  • cut to 148 pounds for the May 14 competition without killing anyone (Despite a moment of panic at the weigh-in, I made it!)
  • deadlift twice my bodyweight (May 14)
  • get a tattoo (July 14)
  • squat 250 pounds (oh so close…248 pounds on June 26)
  • compete at Westerns (barring some unforeseen complication I will be there in August)

Not only is it exciting to see what I have already accomplished so far this year, it is also encouraging to see how close I am to reaching some more goals. Maybe I’m not quite there yet, depending on the day, but I’m ever so close to:

  • deadlift 3 plates (315 pounds)
  • breaking my BCPA Provincial total record
  • breaking the BCPA Provincial deadlift record
  • front squat of 200 pounds

Of course, there are other goals on my list and I add to the list as they come to mind. In fact, I added a new one tonight. With today’s announcement of the roster for Westerns and the knowledge that I have one other competitor in my age/weight class, I am no longer content to show up at Westerns and merely do well. I want to win!


Sweetly Broken

The good sleep I was looking for last night never quite materialized, and, although I am still definitely sore, it isn’t nearly as bad as I had thought it might be at this point in the day. My coach said last night that I might not like him today because of how sore I might be, but he’s still one of my favourite people. 😉

Having been off work for the past six days, I was looking forward to working today, yet there was also kind of a disconnected feeling that didn’t really disappear until more than halfway through my shift. Then again, the past few days haven’t exactly felt normal either. I have been so focused and driven for the past few months, and all of that energy, physical and mental, combined on Saturday into the perfect storm. It wasn’t really a storm, but I can’t quite think of a better way to put it. The competition was amazing, but at some point you just need to decompress and process and feel.

For months, I have been listening to the same narrow selection of songs, specifically chosen for the way that they inspired and motivated me. On Sunday, I listened to no music at all. There was no music for most of Monday either, and, when I finally did turn some music on, I stayed away from my power songs and enjoyed singing along with ABBA. I didn’t listen to music while doing paperwork in the office at work today. Sometimes I like the silence.

When I got home from work, I changed clothes and put on my running shoes to go for a walk. I hadn’t been for a walk since last Wednesday. I put in my earbuds and paused to consider which playlist to listen to as I walked. My instinct when walking (or running back in my running days) is to listen to upbeat, inspiring songs, but I couldn’t do it today. Instead I chose to listen to worship music.

You know, I thought that I was just going for a walk, that I was simply moving my body and helping my muscles recover, but it turned out to be so much more than that. Before I knew what had happened, I was assailed by chest-heaving sobs. The emotion of the competition was finally hitting me, and it left me swiping at tears as I walked. Decompression. It probably didn’t help, or perhaps it did, that I watched a compilation video that my coach put together and I saw a picture of a tattoo that is almost exactly what I had been imaging for months (more about that in another blog post down the road).

I am proud of what I did at the competition on Saturday. My squat and my bench were not personal bests, but they were still better than my previous bests with this same powerlifting federation, including a new National squat record. The unsuccessful World record attempt doesn’t phase me at all, not one bit! I was close and I had a decent shot, and I couldn’t ask for anything more than that. Lifting more than twice your bodyweight is no small feat, and I did it! I still have a video clip of me lifting 215 pounds for the first time nearly 2 years ago, and I remember how heavy and tough that felt. One that day, I would never have imagined adding almost another 100 pounds to the bar and being able to lift it! I did that on Saturday. Me! If I’m not careful I am going to slip into that future blog post…

It was an emotional walk. While I may not have expected it to be like that, I am glad for how it turned out. All that was tightly compressed inside of me has begun to expand and release. It felt like I was living in a fog for the past two and a half days, but now the skies are clearing. I haven’t had much of an appetite since Friday night’s post-weigh-in feeding frenzy, but I enjoyed loading up my dinner plate tonight and eating until I was sated. It was nice to not need to measure out my food! Likewise, I have not stepped on the scale since Saturday morning, and I doubt that I will do so all week. The scale doesn’t scare me, and I generally don’t obsess over my weight; I only focus on the numbers on the scale when necessary for a competition. I won’t need to cut weight for my next two competitions, but I have also decided that I am okay with moving up a weight class the next time I compete in the same federation I just competed in. (There is a slight difference in weight classes between the two federations I compete in which is part of the reason why I cut weight this time.) I am feeling relaxed, happy, and proud, but also motivated and ready to re-focus.

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.