I Went to a Meet and I Got More Than This Lousy Tank Top: Gaining Clarity at the Iron Battle on the Mississipi

I was there to help. If you had asked me what I was doing at the UPA Iron Battle on the Mississippi meet this past weekend, I would have replied that I was there to support and help my boyfriend with his meet. I will say that I did a tolerable job of supporting Kyle as he moved through his lifts on Satuday, but I believe I gained as much from the experience of going to Dubuque this past weekend as I had intended to give; I very likely gained more.

We arrived in Dubuque on Thursday evening, choosing to stay two nights in the city because Kyle’s weigh-ins were Friday morning and settling in the afternoon before would be most conducive to a smooth weight cut. We scoped out the setting for the event several hours after arriving at the hotel, which was conveniently connected to the meet venue via a second-floor glass walkway. Peeking into the large, ballroom-like main convention space, my eyes settled on a stage and a monolift set up in preparation for the meet. Anxiety stirred in my chest upon encountering both the size of the venue and the stage–I am not used to lifting on a stage in competition. We went back to our room and I mulled over the days to come.

I was nervous for Kyle. I’m not sure what it is about the lead-up to meets–the time period leading right up to the very second the first squat attempt is performed is one in which I have a history of experiencing appreciable interior tension. For others, for myself, it doesn’t matter: I am on edge. I navigated this state throughout most of Friday and into Saturday–right up until Kyle’s first squat. Then I switched away from fear to purposefulness, to clarity. I know that if I can avoid the period of tension, or at least find a way to decrease its potency, I will be better off in competition. Going with Kyle this past weekend reminded me of this, and I am determined to improve on it for my November meet at the same venue.

How? The answer to this question came to me as I spent the day at the meet with many people around me invested in the sport. It will surprise no one who knows me or reads this blog that I love strength training and I am enthusiastic about being competitive as a powerlifter, but it will probably surprise at least some to learn that my motivation stems from a love of giving to other people. There are few ways in my life thus far I have figured out how to truly give to other people. For one, and perhaps paradoxically, I am extremely cynical and disinclined to be philanthropic. With some exceptions, it is only when I am around those who demonstrate passion for something and a desire to learn and grow do I become motivated to give of myself. I’m not totally proud of this trait, but I can perhaps justify it by saying that I feel most effective helping, supporting, and guiding others when I can offer them something I know they truly want and need because of their dedication and passion. Participating in the powerlifting community has given me much opportunity to do this–my time teaching art at the University of Iowa for the past three years also yielded it to a lesser extent.

When I go to a meet and interact with other people–exchanging information, troubleshooting lifting or diet or psychological issues related to the sport–I am put in a position in which I can give in a concentrated way. I can help solve problems. I can give suggestions. I can support when someone is nervous or worried or uncertain. It is this opportunity that trumps all the discomforts–physical and mental–that can accompany a meet experience. I am not a spiritual person, but the fulfillment I walk away from meets with is about as close as I come to feeling the warmth of satisfaction at soul-level.

This, then, is why I’m now so absolutely motivated to get to compete in the UPA in Dubuque in November. It is the people who love the sport who feed my own love for it, and being with them gives me strength with which I can in turn fortify my own lifting. I went to the meet this past weekend to help Kyle, but I received far more than I gave during those days. I’m looking forward to a comeback in November, and that comeback will be about more than the numbers I put up.

I wore this shirt on Saturday (it's in reference to my boyfriend, Kyle Keough). House Keo will prevail.
I wore this shirt on Saturday (it’s in reference to my boyfriend, Kyle Keough). House Keo will prevail.

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