Monday, June 21, 2010

9 Minutes

The Facts

I think most of you are pretty knowledgeable these days, listening to me talk about past meets, but just in case, I'll explain a little...

There are 3 lifts in powerlifting - squat, bench press, and deadlift. At a meet, you have 3 "attempts" at each...each attempt builds on the previous and increases in weight, until your 3rd attempt is an all out maximum lift. Many times, a max attempt is some weight a lifter has never even felt before - the max attempt is decided upon by a number of things but namely training progressions, some formulas, definitely some experience (where I'm falling down), and a good feel for your energy on the given day. You give each attempt as you finish the one before it. If you miss one, you can repeat it (assuming it's not your 3rd attempt) until you get it, or you can increase the weight, but you cannot decrease it.

We'll start with a summary: It was a day of highs and lows :)

I went into the day more calm and peaceful than ever, I felt solid in my plans, I knew I had trained hard, I knew I was well rested, I knew this was going to be my big day. Just for reference, Myles had asked a friend of his named Dave to keep an eye out for me on my lifts and attempt selections. Also, I didn't have anyone there to record my lifts, but they were recorded on the live stream. I've put the link for each lift below and in parenthesis with each attempt is the time marker for that lift. The videos load quickly and for the most part you can just move the sliding bar ahead to that marker and watch :)

The goals/plan as laid out ahead of time (always subject to adjustment, based on the things I described above):

Goal 1) Hit PR's on all lifts
Goal 2) PR my total, minimum of 617 to qualify for RUM 4 in January 2011

Planned Lifts:
Squat: 165, 185, 190 (former pr: 181)
Bench: 110, 115, 120 (former pr: 110)
Deads: 285, 305, 325 (former pr: 303)

Actual Squat - 160, 175, 190
Squats are here: squats
160 (43:00): I adjusted my opener to 160 because watching earlier flights, I saw the judges were really sticklers for depth (your hip joint must be below the top of the knee for a passing lift), and I just needed to be sure I nailed it. So I went with 160 on that opener and O.M.G - it was freaking *hard* I fought it, and I got it, but it threw my confidence in my plan for 185. Dave also approached me immediately after that and said "What were you planning for a 2nd?" When I told him, he said based on how that 160 looked, he really didn't think I should go for more than 170 (I told you it was HARD!). But I felt good, I wanted to chalk that 160 issue up to nerves, first lift, etc. Based on the 160, I wasn't confident in 185, but 170? I KNEW I had just nailed 175 for SIX in I put my 2nd attempt in for 175.

175 (51:00): In the video, you'll see me unrack, then rerack, and then unrack again before squatting. I felt I had set up with the bar unevenly placed on my back. I asked if I could rerack and set it up again and was given permission from the head judge. That is totally legal to do, so long as you have not already received the "Squat" command." In my head I was talking myself through it - it's ok, you are perfectly within the rules to ask, now get your sh*t together and just squat it and get it right so you don't look like an idiot now. Once I reset up, I felt it - the hunger had kicked in..that was missing from that first squat - I wanted this lift! So down I went and back up - EASY. WAYYYY easier than the 160! "OK..." I thought, that's where it you're ready!" So when i went to enter my 3rd attempt, I stuck with 190 (despite Dave NOW suggesting I go for 195, hah!).

190 (1:01:00): I have no idea, guys know how much I've struggled with squat, getting my form right in particular. Each time I went heavier I'd have to stop, knock it back again and try again. But then one day - it clicked. After much patience and day it just happened. And it all came together for me in this squat...the 190 went up easy - comments later were that it looked like the leve of effort you'd see in a 2nd attempt...definitely more in the tank, could have gone to 195, etc. have NO idea how that felt, after all this time. I was on cloud 9 and I was ready for 9 solid lifts..not only had I PR'd, I'd never made all 3 squats before, off to an *amazing start!

Actual Bench - bombed
Bench Press is here: bench press
I went back to the warm-up room and properly warmed up. I had no issues, nothing felt unsually heavy or weird or wrong, I was feeling strong, I knew my opener was easy. I did it at my last meet in January as my opener with no problem, and I'd done it in training a gazillion times since then, and done MORE than it in training as a matter of fact. It was a starting point - a means to working up to bigger things.

110 (43:00): I went out there, and I missed it. Not even close honestly. What? How can this be? It was not a matter of nerves, it was not a matter of getting my head in the right place like it was with that first squat, it was *heavy* got a pep talk from Dave, knew I had to get this, Focus. Visualize, see myself there with the bar at know you can do this....

110 (51:00): Miss! Same deal as the first. Panic. No...not going to panic. I went through the same process. Focus, visualize, feel it completing, see that have one shot at this. "This is NOT how you're going down" I thought, I pleaded with myself...the hunger, it was there - I was going after it.

110 (1:01:30): No lift. That's right, not one. The fact was, yesterday, regardless of what i did 6 months ago, regardless of the training, regardless ...yesterday it was *too heavy*

What does that mean? It means I was essentially kinda disqualified. If a lifter misses all 3 attempts in the same lift, it is termed "bombing out," and you're out of the meet. Nothing counts, no records (if set) would count, no totals count..nothing in the books, nothing official - yer out. It took me a long time to wrap my head around this. In fact, I wouldn't say I'm completely there yet. It remains somewhat of a mystery as to how it is possible, given my history with this weight, that I missed it like I did. But at that moment - the fact was, I was out.

Thankfully, the meet director told me that I could still deadlift (I guess that's fairly common). But to me, that was a blessing, because what it made me do was refocus. I needed to stop analyzing how I missed it, why I missed it, what did I do wrong, etc. WHY ARE YOU HERE, you're here to do a THING. You have nine minutes to do that thing in, don't throw them away. GET YOUR HEAD ON and DO IT. I repeated that to myself over and over. I called Tara, I knew she was watching. She reminded me...helped move me on. I got a pep talk from Dave. I got a pep talk from Eric (he was the meet director from the last meet, he lifted on Saturday, and he was the head judge during my session yesterday). I got a pep talk from this guy Mike who had just made a real go at the all time record deadlift for his weight class, at 860lbs, and missed it after pulling 770 and 820 in his first two attempts. These guys had been there, the message: "it's happened to all of us, it's ok, let it go and do your job." Ok then. *deep breathe* So let's warm up for deads...

Actual Deadlifts - 285, 305, 310
Deadlifts are here: Deadlifts
285 (39:00) - this was a key lift, I *needed* this. I needed it for my confidence, honestly I needed it for my ego, I needed it to prove that I could myself together. I got it, easy, no problem. Consulted with Dave - 305 was the plan, 305 it was.

305 (47:00) - Wow...ok where did THAT come from? It was waaaay too hard for what it was, but hung in with it and I pulled until I got it. I knew then that 325 was out, so I was thinking I needed to drop that. Dave came up and said "you don't have 325 or even 320 in you today." I told him I knew that, I said - let's take it to just 310. And 310 is what I entered for my final lift of the meet.

310 (57:30) - MINE. I'm crying now even as I type it, hahah crrrazzzy. When I started this lift, I knew I was getting it, that I was not stopping, that it was going to all the way up because damn it if I was going to miss another lift this day, "out of it" or not. It was a RIDICULOUS battle, but in the end I got it! And it felt amazing. It felt like it took about 8 minutes to pull it all the way up, but I think it truly took about 8 seconds (timing via video not the most reliable way but..), but there was NO WAY I was dropping it, and I didn't.

3 white lights, and that was the only way to end that meet.

The Lessons
(also long! :)

I spent a lot of time going OVER and OVER those bench presses. I was super down on myself for a few minutes there mid-meet, and don't get me wrong, it still burns, but for a while there was a lot of self-doubt and a lot of trash talking to myself. How could you miss something so *easy* especially when you've done it a million times? Especially when you got this with no problem as your opener 6 months ago?! How, why, what...I was also embarrassed, because I had felt so good and confident going in to this and I felt like it was maybe "serving me right" for feeling that way...

But after talking to a lot of folks, revisiting the possible hows, whys, whats, talking to people with more experience than myself...none of it matters. I could analyze it to death, looking at were my fingers ON the rings or just NEXT to the rings, were my elbows too flared, my legs not driving, my concentration off, blah blah...

I'll never *know* but there are some very positive things that came out of this:

Dave offered to be my new strength coach, and he says he does not charge. He believes he can help me a great deal just by changing some things up with my training. Helping make wiser attempt selections based on how my body handles maxing out (he suspects my squat PR caused the bench failure because it took more out of me than I allowed for in my selection).

I learned that there's no reason to be embarrassed, that my confidence was not really misplaced, and to an extent is very necessary for this sport. And this experience - bringing the new training parameters and coaching, should only serve to make room for bigger, stronger lifts and more experience to make wiser choices and learn more about my body.

I learned what I'm made of when I turned that around and pulled it together for deadlift. I needed that. I got an email from Myles today after he watched the videos that helped me to see that...

Objectively and contextually, your last DL was extraordinary. I'm
not going to play down bombing out. It sucks and should piss
you off however much it pisses you off. However, to deadlift a PR
after bombing out displays such a high level of psychological resolve
that's it's hard to overestimate how meaningful and encouraging this
is. So many other lifters throw in the towel after a bomb or
sometimes just after a're the mentally
tougher lifter.

And from that, I learned that I love this and I will keep going with this. If I didn't care about it, I wouldn't be so upset about it. I do know that I gave it 100% of my everything, I started and I did not stop until they took the bar from me every time. And to the eye - it may not look like much, but I never gave up on it...and that's where I'm going to have to end on that...because that's really all I've got to show for it, right? That's what this is about - you do a thing, and you give it everything...

"You start and you don't stop. All your strength, all your power, all your love, everything you got!"

I learned that I can be proud of myself for this precisely because I can walk away with so many positives. I had some HUGE wins...the PR on squat alone was a major win, and pulling it together for the deadlift and hitting a PR there AFTER all that...huge. This is good, this is right...I'm walking away from this one with pride now :)

For a while I have been planning to take some time off. I put my gym membership on hold for the month of July and was planning on Crossfit, no PL stuff for that time. But this morning I was processing all of this stuff and I walked away thinking and feeling .. I don't WANT to stop now, i want to want to PAUSE now...I want to get better now, I want it more than ever.

So some rest this week, easy week is a long week of business travel so probably a little more rest than I'd like but..then I'm going to be ready to hit it hard. I'm emailing Dave next.

I'm ready for my next lesson :)


  1. Cathy, I am so proud of you! Proud because you went out there and gave it your all even though you bombed out. Knowing that you're mentally tough must make you feel so good. More than anything? You have heart :-)

  2. I'm spreading my comments all across the internet. ;-)

    I couldn't be more ignorant about PL, and I know you said you hit your bench weight many times before, but it is interesting to me that your first attempt was at your previous PR, while for squat and deadlift your first attempt was below your PR. It probably doesn't mean anything . . .

    When I first read your post I wondered whether it would have been easier on you if your bench was after your deadlift. On the one hand, you wouldn't have had to deal with getting back up there again, but on the other hand you wouldn't have been able to get up there after dealing with it and nail it.

    You would have missed all the soul-searching, all the encouragment, all the digging deep for inner strength, the moment of truth on stage, the moment of victory when you saw those three white lights.

    I know June 20 will go down in Coothie history as another turning point!

  3. I wasn't able to watch them live because mom's internet was down (she's been having issues with it), but I did watch them.

    I'm SUPER proud of you. Just think, had you made all of your lifts with no obstacles, your mental toughness wouldn't have been tested. Yet you turned around and nailed that DL - and for a PR no less!

    It just proves that you are stronger than you think, in so many ways! Life has a way of doing that to us when we need it :) It may knock us down, but there are certainly times it picks us back up again.