Sometimes, people describe their experience of some activity/event as “a whirlwind.” I am inclined to do so in relation to my first powerlifting meet, but I think I’m going to go a step further and compare it to a strong thunderstorm. There was a constant rush of activity around the nine lifts I attempted during this meet, and I like to think of each of those nine lifts as similar to individual strikes of lightning. First, a brief summary of how I did by the numbers:
On squat, I attempted 149, 171, and 181 pounds. Why the odd numbers? Because powerlifting weights are measured in kilograms, not pounds–the kilos come out to nice round numbers, the weight one lifts in pounds during a powerlifting meet is usually some strange odd number. I failed my 181 attempt, and that was rough; I was relatively sure I could make it, but apparently my current squat ceiling is somewhere between 170 and 180. Lots of work to be done there.
On bench, I attempted 99 (this was basically a warm-up), 116, and 121 pounds. I failed the 121 attempt. Remember that powerlifting bench-pressing involves a pause–you must pause the bar until it settles on your chest before attempting to push it back upward. Paused bench usually takes at least 5-10 pounds off one’s touch-and-go bench total. Touch-and-go is the traditional bench you see most people doing in an average gym. One is not required to pause it at the bottom of the movement. In a paused bench effort, one effectively “stops” the lift mid-lift and has to restart it; this is what makes it more difficult. I have touch-and-go benched 125 and may be good for 130 in training, but my paused bench PR is lower. That said, I still benched above my weight and am happy with 116. For now.
On deadlift, I pulled (once again, “pulling” is the verb powerlifting has adopted for deadlifting) 220 (again, pretty much a warm-up for me), 240, and 253 pounds. I failed 255 in training a month ago so I’m pretty proud of my 253 in competition.
Here is a video showing my efforts as well as those of my boyfriend, Kyle. Kyle is now ranked fourth for his weight class in powerlifting in the country; his squat is ranked second and his deadlift is ranked third–his bench is also ranked, I’m not sure where. His lifts yesterday were inspiring to watch.
So much happened around the lifting at this meet. Psychologically, it was a very long, somewhat trying day. I’m really glad to have gotten the experience of lifting at a meet for the first time out of my way; everything being new made concentrating on my performance slightly more difficult. I learned that I had to push past disappointments–my failures at my third bench and squat attempts–to be able to put out my best effort for later efforts–my deadlift–and I had to figure out how to rally my mind to do so. With people everywhere, noise from all directions, the eyes of many on you, and the complaints of a body being asked to make max lift attempts multiple times, a powerlifting meet demands a lot from a competitor. If you’re lifting with a team, which I was, you are also concerned about the efforts of your teammates and are probably doing the odd job or favor for them, as they are for you. Lifting with the University of Iowa team was great; I’ve never really been on a team of any kind and the fellowship and support you experience on one is amazing. Here’s a picture of our team at the end of the day:
I DO have an Iowa shirt, it’s just so huge on me that it’s kind of like wearing a tent. We have more people on the team, but only the six of us made this meet.
My favorite part of the day was either watching Kyle total above 1300 (I screwed up the filming of his final deadlifting attempt a bit because I was, uh, yelling a lot with a camera in my hands) or pulling that 253. As I’ve said before in this blog, deadlifting is an incredible feeling. You get that bar locked out and it feels like you’ve either just a/ won some epic battle involving multiple people on horseback b/ killed the monster in Alien or c/ cured several types of cancer. Okay, perhaps option “c” is something of an overstatement, but it’s still an amazing experience. I really wasn’t sure I was going to get 253, either; my squat fail at 181 was a disappointment, and I thought that perhaps my strength just wasn’t there for a ten pound PR in pulling either. But my warm-ups for deadlifting felt easy, as did my first attempt at 220, so I told myself I was going to do it and I did.
Somewhere during the first third of the day, somewhere before deadlift and benching,I admit that my confidence was wavering. It’s daunting to lift in an arena in which the majority of the competitors are much larger than you and lifting MUCH higher weights than you are. I know powerlifting tests strength relative to size, but there are typically so few women in the 114 class at a meet that one experiences pangs of uncertainty as one gears up to compete. At one point, I had to throw some headphones in and go outside for a while to mull over what I wanted to accomplish and what I know myself capable of. Interestingly, I did not find myself anxious/nervous about the meet much before or during the event. Even during my confidence dip, I had a constant sense of settled focus and calm, because that is the way I need to be in order to collect my body to a point I can execute a lift in the way it needs to be executed. I have, over the few months I’ve been training, developed a mental sense of how to speed-check my body and its form as I attempt to move weight, and that particular voice is one that, when it sounds, stills all other voices in my mind.
Those who know me well know that I am extremely inclined towards anxiety, to the point where some people would probably choose to be medicated in order to control it. Kyle gets to experience its side effects periodically and handles them extremely well, and both of my parents have a history of enduring illogical rants I form in response to situations and circumstances that generate anxiety. It is both surprising and satisfying to me that lifting–and particularly competing at lifting–override, in a way, that tendency towards extreme worry and obsessing over inconsequential details. When I have to perform a lift, I center. Centering is a term that a lot of therapists like to throw at you when you’re trying to figure out how to deal with your anxiety (and a host of other issues), and I almost hate to use it here to describe how lifting works for me, but it fits. Weightlifting is confirmation that beneath whatever idiosyncrasies I possess, an pure, highly functioning force exists. It is perhaps in that way that training for powerlifting is self-actualizing for me, and why I will “sacrifice” certain aspects of life to it or endure physical and psychological discomfort for it. Going through yesterday’s meet, in short, was affirming, and I eagerly look forward to the training for the next one, which is October 27th.
I’ll wrap this up with a photo of me in our hotel room at 7 AM yesterday morning looking like a bobble-headed freak in my singlet:
Yeah, that tiny freak can deadlift 253 pounds. Deal with it.