* This post was started in 2018 and due to many little things has sat in draft state for a year. I have dusted it off and finished it because that’s the kind of person I am – I like to finish what I start, eventually and in my timeline.
It’s been a while since we’ve chatted, so maybe let’s catch up first. So, what have YOU been up to lately? I do hope you’ve been able to accomplish what you’ve set out to do (or not to do). Me? How have I been? I’ve been well, thanks for asking.
Wait. Maybe that wasn’t completely accurate. Not false, but not completely accurate. There have been many changes happening in and around my life that I have been trying to process for the better part of the past year. I’ve come to terms with some things and will continue to process others. And through it all I’ve continued to grow.
You probably noticed an absence of blog posts last year. This was not because I wasn’t doing things, wasn’t lifting or learning or growing. It was partly because I didn’t think I had anything new to offer, that my posts were a rehash of things others have said before, or things I had said before or just weren’t that important in the grand scheme of others’ lives.
It was also partly because I wasn’t really happy with the progress I was making. I was comparing myself to others out there on the interwebs and seeing amazing feats by people and I felt my progress was too slow, too low, not important. Why should I show people things that others do better than me?
And it was partly due to not knowing what to say or how to say it. Life is complicated and it doesn’t always translate well to the interwebs. How much do I share? How much do I keep private? Do I need to keep this powerlifting related? Can I branch out? Do I need to be more technical? Should I change the format?
So my goal for 2019 is to share more, care more about showing up, and care less about what others think about any of it. I’m going to start 2019 by sharing my 2018 highlight reel:
Not much training but there were snowmobiles and snow. Yay winter!
Same. Winter in Minnesota is long and snowy.
Impromptu visit to Chicago with girlfriends. So much fun to be with smart women doing silly things.
Training begins for the 2018 Twin Cities Open! Lots of videos of lifting. A trip to the Iron Sisters training camp in Madison, WI. This was amazing and I highly recommend it. In fact, I will go again in 2019 if I can swing it.
More training videos. Still working to hit the next milestones. And of course, at least one day trip to Duluth, MN. There is nothing like Lake Superior to refresh my mind and spirit.
2018 Twin Cities Open: 314 Squat, 176 Bench, 341 Deadlift. Kayaking! White water kayak training at Otter Bar Lodge in Northern California. Amazing people, scenery, and kayaking.
Caterpillars, gardening, and kayak symposiums. Oh my! And the beginning of a new training cycle – hello USAPL 2018 Raw Nationals.
My favorite meet: Twin Ports Raw Open! I handled a couple of my strong friends and helped #teamgreen warmup for the meet. Weekend #girltrips with dear friends and a whole lot of training.
Labor retreat to Lake Superior for kayaking, saved a garter snake, and more training.
Training and finally…trip to Spokane, WA for the USAPL 2018 Raw Nationals. Squat: 319. Bench: 165. Deadlift: 347. My squat was my favorite! And then a trip around the Pacific Northwest. I LOVE the Oregon coast and see more adventures out that way soon.
Voting. Lifting. Being.
Training and trips to Duluth and the holidays.
So yes, it’s been a busy year. I’ve done a lot, I’ve seen a lot, and I’ve got a long way to go.
My 2018 powerlifting season is done. It wrapped up on October 14th when I received my 4th place medal in the Women’s M1 84 kg division at the USAPL Raw Nationals competition. This event capped off a year where I re-learned to squat, started to look more seriously at my nutrition, didn’t overly stress about “making weight,” and tried to have a more balanced approach to training and life.
While I didn’t hit every powerlifting goal I set this year I do have some key takeaways:
I squatted 145 kg (a little over 319 pounds)
My total at USAPL Raw Nationals 2018 (377.5 kg) was 12.5 kg higher than 2017 (365 kg) and 25 kg higher than 2016 (352.5 kg)
I made it to the podium at USAPL Raw Nationals this year with more competition than in 2017
Looking back over the four years since I began lifting there have been vast improvements, not only in form but also in mindset. I kind of did my first meet on a whim, fell in love with the sport and continued full speed ahead without thought of where I was going. I loved everything about the sport – training with purpose, getting stronger, competing. And at first it was about being “better than” other people. It was heady stuff, breaking 5 MN state records in my first meet (Squat, Bench, Bench Single Lift, Deadlift, Total). I’ve learned so much since then.
First, it’s not about being better than other people. Really, it isn’t. It’s about showing up and doing the work even when training sucks and you forget how to do anything and feel like giving up. There have been many, many times over the past four years I wanted to quit. And maybe at first I did. But lately I’ve learned that one training session (or one week or one month) doesn’t make or break you. It’s what you do over the long term that determines who you will become. And I’ve taken to listening to my body (mostly) and not shooting for numbers when I’m not feeling it. There’s always next week, next month, next training cycle to get that lift.
Second, don’t stress over the little things. This is much like the first point but expands to include weight classes and meet day weigh ins. My first few meets I didn’t know anything so I didn’t care, I just wanted experience (BEST way to start your lifting career). But then I got greedy and saw I could be competitive in the 84 kg (around 185 pounds) division rather than the 84+ kg division and my focus shifted to cutting weight to make that goal. And my training suffered. I was too focused on what I was eating and not enough on what I was trying to accomplish. Once I settled into a more healthy view of food (I really love food) and didn’t base my worth on whether I hit goal weight my training cycles were better. Again, it’s a “take the long view” approach that works for me. It really is a lifestyle and I need to take it slow and steady or I crash and burn.
Third, don’t beat yourself up over your performance at one particular meet. Sure, feel all the feels and work through your emotions but don’t dwell in that space. When I dwell in that space everything goes out the window – training, nutrition, you name it. I learned this lesson through shooting archery: you can’t re-shoot an arrow that has gone astray so analyze the issue, take a deep breath, reset, and focus on the current shot. Same goes for lifting: you can’t dwell in the missed bench press or deadlift. You have to push through the feelings and hit the next one.
Fourth, always keep learning. Nothing beats this one. Take classes, sign up for seminars, read blogs, talk with trainers, ask questions. The more you know the more you grow. Have you ever gone back and watched video of your first meet or training cycle and then compared it to now? See a difference? Yea? That shows what you’ve learned. Now look at video of the best of the best. See a difference? Keep growing and learning to get there. That’s my plan – keep learning.
Fifth, powerlifting is a marathon, not a sprint. For most people it is impossible to keep the “newbie” gains going after the first few meets. Eventually you find out how strong you really are and learn (there’s that word again) your weaknesses. You get stronger pound by pound, day by day, month by month and year by year. Sometimes you exceed expectations and sometimes you don’t (hello USAPL Raw Nats 2016) but no matter what as long as you are training you are getting better.
Now you may be thinking this seems like a bunch of malarkey (I love that word) but as I look back on my last training cycle and meet I can see all of these points. As I was training I was looking back at my old training records and was astonished at the weight differences and what I was moving compared to my last cycle. And while I was working on my nutrition and making sure I made weight I wasn’t stressing over it. I actually continued to have “normal” meals and allowed myself to have fun with friends and never beat myself up over it. That made all the difference – I went into weigh ins with a laissez-faire attitude and was nearly spot-on. And on the point of beating myself up: I allowed myself to wallow in my missed deadlift attempt but it never derailed me. I worked through my disappointment in the performance and made a plan for meeting my goals next year.
The fourth and fifth points? Yea, I have examples for them, too. Squats have secretly always been my favorite lift. They are technical and scary and what happens if I can’t stand up or hit depth? And for about a year I was having that depth problem. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what was happening. But then all the cues from my coaches kicked in and whoa – have you seen my depth? It is truly a thing of beauty. Because I kept learning. And those “newbie” gains? I had them in all my lifts in the beginning but eventually each lift posed its own problems to me that I had to overcome. I didn’t get weaker between meets but I hit my maxes and needed to learn how to work through them – gain muscle, improve technique, rest, whatever. And I know this will continue as long as I am lifting – whether I am competitive or not.
So what does this have to do with you? Nothing. Everything. I don’t know. This has been my journey so far. I’m still new to the sport – I mean I’ve only done about a dozen meets – so I have a long way to go before I cross the finish line. And I’m looking forward to every learning something new every day.
And just because I can, I’d really like to thank my coach, Jennifer Vogelgesang Blake (Coach JVB). She has been with me since the beginning and has helped me with this growth. It has been wonderful having such a role model and cheerleader in this sport. Thank you! And to all the coaches at The Movement Minneapolis – thanks for letting me get all my workouts in and helping me when I asked all the questions. David and Jen – thanks for asking the questions “who wants to do a powerlifting meet?” and “has anyone ever called you Donna the Destroyer?” Without those I wouldn’t be here.
Whelp, I did it again. I competed in my second USAPL Raw Nationals meet on October 14th. This time I came in fourth in the Masters 1 84 kg division and got to stand on the podium with three incredible women – Alicia Webb, April Grey, and Lorin Blake. You can watch us here and here.
I know you are thinking: so how DID you do, Donna? I’ll tell you: I successfully squatted 292 pounds, benched 171 pounds, and deadlifted 341 pounds. While none of these are close to personal records they are all better than I did a year ago at the same venue and they qualified me for the 2018 USAPL Raw Nationals.
Before I go any further with my recap I want to call out my coach, the amazing Jennifer Vogelgesang Blake. She has been my rock for the past two years, helping me get through personal issues and get over emotional hurdles and giving me the kick I need to do the work. I’ve been following her programming and it’s been what I’ve needed to grow.
I’ll also give a shout out to my gym The Movement Minneapolis and all of the wonderful coaches and teammates there. If it weren’t for my internat stalking of Jen Sinkler and Mark Schneider (yes, I stalked you both) I wouldn’t be where I am today.
And last, I can’t thank Julia Ladewski enough. She had been helping me with my nutrition and making weight since Nationals in 2016. This woman is amazing at knowing how to tell me what I know and then making it stick and actually getting me to follow the plan. She listened to me whine about it being hard to est right to get make sure I was in the 84kg weight class. Kudos to you, Julia.
So as you can see I have an amazing support team and wouldn’t trade it for the world. Thank you to everyone who has believed in me and helped me believe in myself. Without you I wouldn’t be where I am today.
And now back to our regularly scheduled blog post.
So, how do I feel about my performance? Would I have liked to have done better? You bet. Am I disappointed? No way. I gave it my all and then some and can honestly say it was the best I could have done on that day.
This sounds a little anti-climatic but i can trace this feeling to my first training session of this cycle: I kind of wasn’t into it. Part of me felt I had peaked at my first meet this year (MN Women’s State), part of me was disappointed with my performance at Twin Ports (even though I took gold), and part of me was just plain tired and probably needed a break. So why did I continue? Good question.
I continued because I had made a commitment to myself and my team and family. I continued because it was expected of me. I continued because I don’t know how to quit. I continued a little out of habit.
But really I continued because I knew it would be good for me and would keep me from falling into myself and into depression. You see, Powerlifting is more than a sport to me, more than a passing fad – it’s therapy. Without a goal I am lost and start listening to the negative voices and worse I start agreeing with them.
Powerlifting in general, and training with a competition goal in particular, helps me quiet those voices, ignore their incessant chatter. So I continued even though things were harder than earlier in the year. I wasn’t at the gym on consistent days, I don’t think I hit all my training sessions, and I was more stressed than usual.
These are not excuses I am making for my performance at Nationals. These are explanations as to why I am pleased with how I did – actually showing up and doing the work despite the chaos. And doing it to the best of my ability.
My 314 pound grind during my final squat attempt is a great example of giving it my all: coming off my training cycle I didn’t even think I could walk that out from the squat but I did, and I squatted to depth and got out of the hole and it wasn’t until after I pushed my hips through that I lost it – I actually shifted my right foot for leverage and I knew it was over. But I gave it my all, I didn’t quit.
I went conservative on my bench attempts and crushed all three of them. Ending the day at 171 pounds may not have been my best bench ever but it got me through Nationals.
And my deadlifts. This is the one lift I have a little sadness around. I was really hoping for great things, breaking the 363 pound barrier I’ve put up for myself. But it wasn’t meant to be.
My first lift went up well, no complaints. It was my second lift that threw me off – 341 is an easy weight for me but that day it felt like a million pounds. My setup and start was all wrong. Maybe switching my grip the month before wasn’t the best idea. Oh well, I did what I had to and got that bar off the ground. Unfortunately that meant I didn’t have enough left for my final attempt (again, a weight I knew I could lift) and I started my lift before my setup was even complete! But even in that situation I didn’t give up – I went down pulling hard.
So I guess that’s the moral of the 2017 USAPL Raw Nationals – I didn’t give up. I ended up on the platform and performing better than I had a year ago. I improved myself and really in the end that is the only statistic that counts.
The Twin Port Raw Open 2017 was my third meet-a-versary and it was what I expected. I weighed in at 85.81 kg and competed in the Masters 1 84+ class. I went 7 for 9 and ended with the same total I had at MN Women’s State Championship. I took gold in my class. I qualified for the USAPL Raw Nationals in the Masters 1 84+ weight class. And I came away with a PR in my deadlift – 358 pounds.
But what does it mean? What journey did I take to get here?
To me it means that I have proved I can set a goal and reach it. What was my goal? To match my performance at MN Women’s State Championship. But why was that my goal? Shouldn’t I have tried to improve? Yes, but…
You have to understand that I LOVE the Twin Ports meet more than any other I compete in for a few reasons: one, it’s in Duluth, MN. Duluth is my favorite city in Minnesota because it is a gateway to my favorite lak: Lake Superior. If you live anywhere in Minnesota and haven’t been to Duluth I am sorry and you should remedy that right away. Two, it’s such a well run meet. Joe Warpeha runs a magical meet. I mean it’s rainbows and unicorns magical. If you haven’t competed in it you haven’t lived. Three, it’s the anniversary of my very first meet in which I took bronze in my weight class and powerlifting took gold in my heart.
But there is ONE drawback: it’s between the Minnesota State meet and USAPL Raw Nationals. There’s something about competing in the State Championship meet that is romantic and cool and then there are Nationals which I want to compete in every year I qualify. Training is kind of back-to-back-to-back for these meets and I don’t devote as much recovery time as I should between training cycles. So yes, I want to improve, but it’s not necessarily going to be reflected in the numbers I put on the board. And I’m ok with that.
Now that we’ve got THAT out of the way, how did I really do? I mean really do?
I’d love to say that I feel like I kicked ass and took names but really I felt like I did ok. I would have loved a heavier squat and to at least have tied my PR in the bench. And to be perfectly honest I would have loved a bigger deadlift. But I’m happy with what I did, especially considering the start.
As I’ve said, this meet is well run – on par with Nationals in my opinion. I arrived (with my weekend roomies) a little before 7am, weigh in time. I had slept poorly the night before and was experiencing surprise menstrual cramps. I was tired and cranky and had to wait for my weigh in time – I was in the middle of the lot numbers – so I found a couch to nap on.
I eventually did get weighed in – 85.81 kg. Definitely over the 84 kg cutoff, just as I expected and it was NOT a bad thing. It just meant I was going to be competing in the 84+ weight class for state records only. All the Masters 1 lifters were in the same medal class so weight really only mattered for records.
I was in Flight B so I waited for Flight A to be done with their second squat before I went to warm up. This is normal meet day protocol – wait until the flight ahead of you is done with their second attempt and go warm up. I probably should have gone earlier or found a different bar to work in on for warm ups. I was helping the women ahead of me – they were lifting lighter so it made sense for them to do their warmups before me. Unfortunately this was a BIG mistake. I squatted the empty bar to warm up my joints and did 60% of my opener for four reps. I was walking up to the monitor to see where they were in the lifting order when Bonnie enters the warmup room saying “Donna, you’re up. They called your name.” Shit. How had I missed that?
Well folks, that’s when I sprinted to the platform. Cardio is good you, right? We got to the lifter area and they were calling the woman in front of me. Where was she? Was she in the same situation as me? And as her time ran down I had to calm myself and amp myself up at the same time. One warmup was better than none, right? And my opener of 281 is a gimme so I knew I could do it. But I was still nervous as I walked to the bar. What if something happened because I hadn’t warmed up all the way?
I shouldn’t have been nervous. I walked out to the bar, cleared my head and started my routine. Stop about a foot away from the bar. Look at bar, set shoulder, clear my head. Right hand touches bar, then left. Fingers wrap around and slightly shake the bar to set the position. Lunge to the bar, ducking head under and coming up with shoulders positioned under the bar. Walk forward and position myself under the bar. Tighten the traps and lats and begin bracing. Feet under bar, wiggle hips to adjust tension and position of bar. One, two, three. Stand up with the bar. Head down, watch my feet. One step back, two steps back, three steps foot position locked. Steady bar. Look at head judge. SQUAT. Breathe in, brace, breathe in, squat down. Down, down, down. Feel the bottom. Up, up, up. Push your knees out. Squeeze your glutes. Stand up. Lock out. RACK.
First lift done. Nothing to worry about. That old adage about your opener being something you could do for three reps on your worst day? Totally stood up to the test. Now I was in the game.
The second attempt was memorable only for the fact that I missed 292 for depth. No big deal – I at least knew where I needed to go for my third attempt. All I had to do was remember to feel the “second click” in my right hip before I came up again. And I nailed it at 303 pounds. Not a PR, but good enough to help me remember what I can do.
After my bench performance at State (which was AWESOME, if I do say so myself) I wasn’t expecting anything huge. I went 2 for 3 in bench – missing my third attempt of 188 pounds. Should I have not gone all out and attempted to match my previous PR of 182? Maybe. But I decided to push myself a little harder and missed. Oh well – there’s always my NEXT training cycle to hit it. I suppose you’d like to know the lifts I DID make: opener at 165 and my second attempt of 176 – nothing to sneeze at but I’ve done better.
And then there were deadlifts. I remembered the squat warmup fiasco so I made sure I was in the warmup room in plenty of time to get them all in and STILL managed to be short on time. I had planned on taking one last pee break before deadlifts (lifting heavy makes me wanna pee) but there wasn’t time.
Now this is kinda my lift. It was after watching me deadlift that Jen Sinkler asked me if anyone ever called me Donna the Destroyer. So I knew this was gonna be good. I WAS a little nervous about having an opener of 325 pounds. But I also knew I could do it. But 325 pounds? That’s a lot. Oh well girl, that’s what you have to do to be the best you, right?
So, my opening deadlift went something like this: warmup, walk to the backstage area and wait for my turn. When I’m three out walk in front of the curtain and start mentally preparing. This means tuning into the background music and tuning out what is happening in front of me. Two out. Put my belt on. One out, walk to the chalk bowl. Chalk my hands. Sway to the music (I don’t really dance). Then I’m up. My name is called. Slowly I walk to the platform. I step up, take a moment to latch my belt. Tight. Step up to the bar. Right leg in position, then left. Look up and passed the audience. Set my lats, brace. Bend over to get my hand position – right hand into position on the bar then left. Straighten my legs, brace and breathe. Get into starting position and PULL. Up goes the bar. Down says the head judge. Follow the bar down and DONE! First attempt good.
My second and third attempts were awesome as well. I pulled 341 and then 358 – which WAS a personal record for me. I must say I was quite pleased with myself for that lift.
So I finished the day with a 303 pound squat, 176 pound bench press, 358 pound deadlift, a 837 pound total, a GOLD medal in my age class, qualified for Raw Nationals in the M1 84+ class AND 7 new MN State records. No big deal. It was a good day and I did what I set out to do.
My latest meet has come and gone and I’m left sitting here with a hard-earned bronze medal thinking about where I started and where I’m going from here.
My first powerlifting meet was the Twin Ports Raw Open on May 30, 2015. I was so nervous – about wearing a singlet, lifting the weights, I didn’t trust that I knew what I was doing or that I even trained right. I didn’t know anything, I was shy and had a fear of failure and didn’t know how to talk other powerlifters – they all knew what was going on and I wasn’t in on the secret. I didn’t let that stop me from doing my best. On that day my best was a 248 pound squat, a 154 pound bench press, and a 292 pound deadlift. I took Bronze in my age class and set some age/weight class records. Since that day I have grown in many ways but my essence has remained.
I’ve posted the recap and numbers previously, but here they are again with a little more depth and substance.
The 2017 MN Women’s State Championship meet was truly one for the books. First off, there are now so many women competing in USAPL in Minnesota that we warrant our own championship meet. There were 70 women competing across the spectrum and it was a sight to behold. This group of women is competitive and driven to do our best but we don’t forget that everyone competing has put in the same effort and has the same goals: to be better than before. We cheer everyone on and get excited for each other’s victories.
My training was pretty much spot-on and going 8 for 9 with the miss due to a technicality was incredible. I weighed in at 83.69 kg to make it just under the 84 kg cutoff. Just where I wanted to be.
My squats were 275, 297, and 303. I rocked 275 for 3 white lights. No big deal. I squatted and stood up with 297 but was called on a technicality – I didn’t hit depth. Oh well. I had the lift so Coach JVB and I called an audible and I went for 303 pounds for my final attempt (my goal was 314). I squatted and stood up and lo and behold it was good – 2 white lights.
Next was bench. I have been all over bench this training cycle and man have I improved. I have been stuck at 165 pounds for so long I didn’t realize how much I wanted the plateau to be over. I opened with an easy 154, jumped to an impressive 170, and finished solid as a rock with 182. And as a side note, once I realized that my 182 was going up I slowed it down to savor the moment. This was a 17 pound meet PR AND a 2 pound lifetime PR – WITH GREAT FORM!
Finally we got to the Deadlift. Oh the Deadlift. It has a tendency to be a fickle beast but this time I prevailed. Opener was easy at 319. OPENER. Next was 341. This was a little harder and it did roll forward a bit. Because of this we called another audible and I went for 353. And it was GOOD. And a 3 pound lifetime PR and a 16 pound meet PR.
All this earned me a 380 kg total (836 pounds) and an age-weight adjusted wilks of 354. I’ve qualified for the 2017 USAPL Raw Nationals and I’m tickled pink with the results. I took the bronze in my division and broke three State records in the Masters 1 84 kg class: squat, deadlift, and total. Apparently I have to work a little harder to get the bench record.
All this was great but there was something else special about this meet. Not only were my biggest supporters there (yes, I’m talking about you, Mom and Dad) but one of sisters and her girls were there to cheer me on, too. This was pretty special because kids these days are crazy-busy and they gave up a Saturday (the first session was from 9am – 3pm) to watch a sport they knew very little about. They quickly learned that this sport has amazing GIRLS as well. Eight year-old Myla knocked their socks off and may have inspired them to give it a try. So excited for the next generation of lifters!
So, it’s been one week since the USAPL Raw Nationals and I haven’t posted anything at all? What’s up with that? Seems kind of odd, what with the premise of this blog and all. Well, let me tell you a little story, starting and ending with the results below.
Summary: Weigh In: 82.8 kg (182.54) Squat 125 kg (275.58 lb); Bench 75 kg (165.35 lb), Deadlift 152.5 kg (336.20 lb); Total 352.5 kg (777.13 lb); Wilks 316.65
I came in 6th out of 10 lifters in my age/weight class.
I broke 3 of the 5 MN state records (Squat, Deadlift, Total)
I am currently ranked 12th in my age/weight class – IN THE COUNTRY
Pound for pound I lifted more weight here than I have in the past
In my first EVER national competition I did a few new things: I cut weight from 90.8 kg to 82.8 kg (8 kg or 17.6 lb). I finished with a respectable total. I increased my Wilks score by 4.5 points. And I didn’t let mishaps get me down (for too long).
BUT, it has taken me TIME to gain this perspective. Precious, precious time. You see, I was slightly disappointed with myself during competition, letting things like raw numbers and previous meets and results get to me. I mean, since most of you have followed my journey here for the past seven months you know what I’ve done to get here.
In my qualifying meet (2016 Twin Ports Raw Open) my weights were impressive at a bodyweight of 90.8 kg (200.18 lb): Squat 140 kg (308.65 lb), Bench 72.5 kg (159.83 lb), Deadlift 150 kg (330.69 lb), Total 362.5 (799.18 lb), Wilks 312.08. And then two weeks post-Twin Ports I pulled my gym PR deadlift of 350 pounds. And all I wanted when I started training for Raw Nationals was to best ALL my personal records. Even if it was just by 2.5 kg (the smallest incremental increase).
The two numbers that scared me the most were the Squat (who the hell can lift 308 pounds?) and the Deadlift. I love both of these lifts and I think I’m pretty good at them. But those numbers freaked me out. I wanted to make sure I could hit them repeatedly at the gym – and I’m pretty sure I messed up at least some of my training by trying (and not talking to Coach JVB about my feelings – stoopid feelings).
So, when it came time to lift at nationals I was already feeling the burden of hitting those numbers. The RAW numbers. My attempts were aggressive in the sense that I knew I could lift the first two, with the third being just beyond what I had done before. And instead of focusing on the lift at hand I think I was focusing on the LAST lift a little too much.
My squats were my weakest lift this round: I hit my 275 opener pretty easy. It really felt good. So going up to 297 was not such a big deal. Really. But in my head I was thinking about what my last attempt should be – 308 to tie or 314 to beat my PR. So I bombed that attempt. I lost my focus and my tightness and couldn’t stand out of the bottom. I knew what had happened – I was lifting my last attempt rather than my current attempt. So I sat down and breathed, calmed myself, texted JVB and worked on getting mentally set for my next attempt at the same weight. And you know what, I was able to squat that 297, albeit with a technical call so it didn’t count. But mentally my head was back in the game.
My bench press went exactly as planned. No, really. See what I can do when I focus? Have things go exactly as planned – 148, 160, 165. I probably had something left in the tank and could have pushed for more but I went into the meet just wanting to beat that damn 160 that had been haunting me for over a year. And I did.
My deadlift. This is where I was going to shine. I was going to get that 350 pound deadlift and be so proud. I was going to make up for the technical call on my squat. Because this is my lift. My first attempt at 308 was good – a little heavier than I wanted but it moved quick. Yup, let’s go up and get this party started! And then I missed that second attempt. At 336. I have hit this in the gym many times – and especially on my way to 350. What happened? Concentration. I was concentrating on the wrong thing (when I put my belt on the tongue was not flush with the rest of the belt so it was digging uncomfortably into my side). I couldn’t get past my thoughts. And here is where things took a turn: I decided I needed to change my perspective.
And how does one do this at a powerlifting meet? The only way one knows how: find a piece of carpet and do a tripod. Get upside down, let the blood rush to your head and see the world (and competition) from a new angle. And you know what, it worked. Just like it always does for me. My third attempt (still at 336) went up. I had to fight a little for it but I had cleared my head, straightened my belt and gone out to do what I had to: I lifted the barbell that weighed 336 pounds.
This still left me feeling a little disappointed – I mean, I had just completed a National meet so I was happy. But I hadn’t met all my goals going into the meet. I missed what should have been easy lifts and didn’t come out with the total I wanted.
BUT, and here’s that perspective thing again, I DID come out ahead. I did all of the above (including setting TWO meet PRs) at a LOWER BODYWEIGHT than ever before. So, pound for pound I actually lifted MORE based on my bodyweight than I had ever lifted before. And that Wilks score of 316.65 is proof. Even without the 297 pound squat I increased my score by 4.5 points. So, for raw numbers I may not have hit my goal but I certainly hit them based on percentages. And for that I am grateful. Perspective is a good thing.
Check out this link to see video, scroll down to: Sunday 1A | Sunday, October 16th | Session 1 | Stream A (Platforms 1-2) | 9:00AM | Women’s 84 & 84+ kg & Men’s 120 & 120+ kg weight classes
Squat: My first two squats weren’t captured, my 3rd: 37:13 for 297 (I actually didn’t get credit for this because of my knee bounce at the beginning of the lift); I was credited for my first squat 275 squat
Bench: 2:11 for 148; 2:22 for 160; 2:32 for 165
Deadlift: 3:58 for 308; 4:05 for 336 (missed); 4:13 for 336
You know it. One week from today is the eve of my first ever Raw Nationals powerlifting competition. I will most likely be in a hotel room in Atlanta with my lovely parents (because EVERY Masters 1 lifter needs her mom and dad present) nervously awaiting morning. And apparently peeing. All.The.Time.
This is heavy shit. I’ve never competed at this level in ANYTHING before. And now I’m going to Raw Nationals and competing with the best. Literally the best. I’m alternately thrilled and excited to go and feeling like a fraud and I shouldn’t be going because I’m not strong enough. I’m nervous as hell because what if I can’t do it? But I’m also so damned excited because I’m doing this! I guess this is what it is like to feel ALL the feels – the good and bad at the same time.
This past week in training (my last for before nationals – YIKES!!) has been a boost to my confidence: I hit above my first attempt on each of my lifts (as permitted by my AWESOME coach, JVB) and everything felt wonderful. Before my final workout I sat with JVB and discussed strategy – lift attempts, warmups, water cut, how to pack shit for the plane ride, everything I had questions about. And she answered every one of them. This has been the best experience – knowing that I have a coach (and friend) like her watching out for me and helping me get over myself. Thanks, Coach. I know you are Unapologetically Powerful and you have helped me get there, too.
One of the things I love most about being affiliated with The Movement Minneapolis Barbell Club is that everything is so well-thought out and easy to follow – and gives every lifter the chance to be the best lifter they can be. For example, this article by gym-owner David Dellanave is the BEST source for figuring out your lift attempts – especially when you are a newbie lifter (like me). To put it briefly, be smart about it and don’t make it harder than you have to. There is enough stress on competition days without worrying too much about the weights you are lifting. Go in with a plan and stick with it as much as possible – but of course things can change on game day. That’s what I’m doing.
Another reason I love being affiliated with The Movement Minneapolis? The support and love from the entire gym community. I walked into the gym last night and prepared for my final deadlift workout before the meet and this is what I saw on the board:
How cool is that? I mean really. And after my final successful deadlift at well above my opener, the Women’s Only class gave me a shout out and applause for effort. Such support and love. I’ve got a lot to live up to but they’ll all accept my best and be happy for me no matter what.
So, I think I’m prepared. I’ve got coach JVB on speed dial. Ok, maybe not speed dial but I’ve got her number and instructions to facetime and text her whenever I need to while in Atlanta but especially Sunday: before and after weigh-in (here’s to hoping that water cut works), during warm ups, and whenever I can during my lifting attempts. This is both of our inaugural Raw Nationals and we’re both nervous AF. As she said last night: I’ve never competed in nationals and she’s never coached someone competing in nationals. We’re in this together even if we’re separated by a few states. I’ve got my community all around me cheering me on and I’m excited and ready to go.
Monday was my birthday. I turned 44 years old at 6:29 pm and I feel fine!
Last Saturday I spent the day volunteering at and watching the Solcana Novice Powerlifting Meet and saw the light beginning to shine in the eyes of newly minted powerlifters. I was moved by the emotions of each of the lifters as they walked out onto the platform for the first time did things they weren’t expecting. I was there to cheer on one of The Movement Minneapolis own lifters but as with every meet I attend I was cheering for everyone putting their skill and love of the sport on the line. I will say that my early birthday present was that Dani Saubert had a great meet and PR’d her deadlift! What fun to see.
And afterwards I had lunch and a long conversation with my favorite coach Jennifer Vogelgesang Blake. We talked about many things including the past several weeks of what I considered lackluster performance in the gym, my own expectations of myself and how I should be doing in training (which oddly enough translates to the rest of my life), and how to finish prepping for USAPL Raw Nationals in two weeks. Apparently my expectations were waaay out of whack and she set me straight. Expectations that may have been true as a novice lifter are no longer realistic since I’ve graduated to the intermediate realm – especially with my training cycles so close together. So I had to reset my brain (once again) to focus on what feels right in the gym rather than what I expect should happen in the gym.
What led me to this point (again)? I’m fairly certain it was my misguided expectation that I needed to prove that I can lift heavy things at the same level as my last competition during training for my next meet. I don’t trust a one time deal – my job as a software tester has taught me that until it’s been tested at least three times it could just be a fluke. In my mind setting a PR once is not proof that I am strong and can recreate it in my next meet. I need to hit that weight again and again to feel that I’ve earned the right to say I can lift it. And to me I should be able to hit the weight (or close to it) with relative ease during my training cycle or it was a fluke. I was having a hard time trusting the training and therefore a hard time with training.
This week has been a relative breeze with this mind shift. And I’m hoping it finally sticks. I was able to get through bench, squat, and deadlift days with ease – working up to a weight that was challenging, about an 8 RPE, and staying there. I inched up in each for a final set just to see what happened and even those reps felt good. And because I didn’t try to start too high I finished the sets with my head on straight. I started “comfortable” and inched up a smidge to check on my gainz. Spoiler: I’ve still got it.
I’m going into my last week of training with a fresher mindset and a comfortable plan for USAPL Raw Nationals. I’m treating this as a chance to see how far I’ve come since I began lifting competitively last year and to see where I’ve come since the Twin Ports Raw Open in June. I’ve put in the training, I’ve been consistent. I’ve learned to trust my coach and other trainers. I’ve got two weeks until I compete and I’m going to try to use them wisely. There will be long talks with JVB, recovery, and plenty of quiet time. All of this is will help me lift better, be stronger, and destroy my old expectations.
Oh, and how did I spend my birthday week? Playing dress up, of course! (Bear courtesy of office move).
Two weeks ago was, well, challenging. Nothing felt right and everything was a bit off. I don’t think I could even tie my shoes without feeling like I was doing something wrong. Be it hormones, mercury in retrograde, or a simple slump. Everything was harder than I expected.
Part of this was because of (I LOVE being a Monday Evening therapist) my “research” of the women I will be competing against at Raw Nationals. I had looked at the roster a few times since I registered but a couple weeks ago I really studied it. The Masters 1 class for both the 84 and 84+ classes seemed to have exploded with women. STRONG women. Women I don’t know and have never seen compete before and I’m sure they are sooo much better and stronger than me. And why am I doing this again? Cutting sucks and my lifting is bad and I can’t even do a “normal” set of 5×3 at deadlifts at 315 pounds. I’m sure I won’t hit any lifts…
For me, neither weight class is a “sure thing” for a medal any more (not that I ever really thought they would be) but I chose to cut so I would be more competitive in a weight class. At the time I registered I had the third highest qualifying total in the 84 kilo weight class so I decided to cut weight and see what happened.
I mean, I knew that more women would be registering and that would affect my ranking/standing in my weight class since I registered so early. But I didn’t realize how it would affect me mentally when saw their numbers and where I landed. I’m coming out of my small pond where I’ve been a “bigger” fish in the women’s 84+ Masters 1a division and going into a much larger pond – where I’m a much smaller fish. And it’s scary. And I let it get to me. A lot.
But this past week came to my rescue. Something shifted and (nearly) everything that was wrong before became an opportunity and learning experience. I’m not entirely sure what the shift was – maybe admitting to people I was having doubts and issues – but it happened. I have been able to NOT focus and stalk the roster, which is a good thing.
PLUS it was a training de-load week which meant lighter weights, shorter sessions, and definitely more WINS. Sometimes you have to feel like a winner to feel better. On bench day one I did a little heavier on the Dumbbell Incline Bench and my Sumo Anderson Squats were on point on Squat day. My heavy-ish bench clusters on bench day two? Nice and easy at 135 pounds. I liked it. And I rocked the 4×8 FAST deadlifts at 225 pounds on Deadlift day. That’s 32 deadlifts folks. At 225 pounds. For a total volume of 7200 pounds. And that wasn’t ALL I did in that workout.
So, does it matter to me who I am competing with in four weeks? Not really. Because I’m no longer focusing on them or who I can beat. I’m focusing on being better than I was at my last meet. I was pretty damn fine at my last meet so look out Atlanta – here comes the Destroyer!
I knew it was coming. I have been planning for it for months, training for weeks. But today, right now, this moment it hit me like a ton of bricks. October 16th is coming up and I am going to be lifting in a national competition. It’s exactly 6 weeks away. From today.
I texted my coach, the lovely and powerful JVB of Strong is Fun and Unapologetically Powerful, asking for this weeks training schedule. She responded with it and let me know that this week is heavy week, next week a de-loading week and the last weeks are a ramp up for nationals. Sounds pretty perfect to me.
And then I was thinking about it. How heavy is heavy? What’s my 5-rep max? What’s my 3-rep max? What does that calculate into a 1-rep max? OMG! I am freaking COMPETING in six short weeks. How am I going to hit the numbers in my head? What ARE the numbers in my head? Shit. This just got really real (again). Now I have to dial everything in – technique has to be solid, diet needs to be spot-on, I have to incorporate more walking into my week. Everything needs to go just-so.
I also have to get my transportation lined up. Getting to Atlanta takes a little more coordination than getting to Duluth (which took enough, thank-you-very-much). I am planning on flying so there is a ticket to purchase and figuring out how to pack my gear – can I get it all in a carry on? Or do I have my parents bring it since they are driving? So many options! How do I navigate the competition and check in and all that? Crap.
I know I can do it. But I really have to buckle down and make it happen. No one else can do this for me but I’ve got great support and am consistent with training. As long as I keep it up I will be golden.