SOMN Winter Games 2018

WOW!

That’s what I have to say about my third time volunteering at the Special Olympics MN Winter Games Powerlifting meet on Saturday February 18th. There were over 50 athletes of various abilities from across Minnesota and even a team from Manitoba, Canada showing their strength, support.

I love volunteering at this meet because of the joy and excitement of the athletes. They are equally excited to lift and show off their skills as they are to cheer and support the other lifters. The energy level of the athletes and the fans rivals any USAPL meet I’ve attended and even though their numbers aren’t the highest I’ve seen (hello Big Ray Williams, Jen Thompson, Kim Walford, and so many others) the lifts mean as much, if not more to the athletes.

The energy on the platform began with the first squat and continued through the last deadlift. For me, the first squat is arguably the hardest lift of the day. This lift really sets the tone for the rest of the meet. And I can say that most lifters hit this lifts beautifully based on their ability. There will always be some red lights but they only help to make you better – regardless of your ability.

What I probably love the most is watching all the volunteers and coaches with the athletes. The gentleness and respect given is amazing and in this case truly everyone is a winner. The big men who lovingly give a white light to lifters and the strong women who keep them safe on the platform truly love what they are doing.

I will admit that I have favorites. The Barbenders group from Minneapolis has two of my favorites – Nell and David. I know David through a fellow Movement Minneapolis member (hi Greg!). David is tall and lanky and lifts with his heart (figuratively, folks). He is quiet and polite and remembers so many details.

Nell and David

And Nell. There are not many female lifters in the special Olympics so its easy to root for them all. But Nell has a smile that just won’t quit. When she finishes a lift she just beams. And it’s the biggest smile I’ve seen. The smile lights up the room and I always just want to give her a great big hug!

The last lifter I have to mention is Reetu. She is wonderful to watch, too. To see her smile you have to look into her eyes. They sparkle when she knows she’s made a lift. How wonderful it is to watch her! And her lifts are so good! You know I’ll be watching for her next year!

Reetu

This year we – you know, #teamgreen – met up with the Bemidgi team and made lasting friendships. Volunteer coach Allyson Allen competed my coach Jennifer Vogelgesang Blake in her first meet way back when. She has a fine team who was in rare form at the meet. The support and love they showed each other was infectious and the kindness they showed us (#teamgreen coach JVB and teammates Andria Johnson, Traci Slane, and Libby Berg (if you need a chiro and are in the MPLS area I’ll hook you up)) what it meant to lift each other up and keep you humble. I’m going to strongly recommend we emulate them at all of our meets going forward.

Dale showing coach JVB some moves

The comraderie that is present in a Special Olympics Powerlifting meet is magical. Even strangers are friends. There is no greater joy for me than watching these athletes approach the bar and perform a lift. It is a beautiful site to realize that the bar doesn’t care who you are, it respects you for your effort.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program…

Training Week 2 and a Virtual Powerlifting Meet

A couple weeks ago was about getting back into the swing of powerlifting training, learning how to eat my macros for a successful cut, and a virtual powerlifting meet to test my current strengths and areas for improvement. All in all it was a successful week for all three, though some more so than others.

Getting back into the swing of training is pretty easy though I do sometimes forget what I need to put in my bag on a given day – good thing I mostly remember the important stuff! I can do without socks and extra underwear, and even sometimes my sports bra, but it would suck without the right pants (or shorts) and tops. The other thing is figuring out what my working weights should be to keep increasing my strength – I try to push myself but sometimes I forget and go way too light (no more 16k kettlebell swings for me). But that’s what I have coaches for, right?

The next thing is my diet. Cutting is hard work. I actually have to pay close attention to what I eat and when. And track it. I’m working hard on this one – I really want to be in the 84k weight class by October. But I don’t know how well I’m succeeding. Again, it’s good that I’ve got a coach (Julia Ladewski) out there I can ask the questions to: what about meal spacing and timing? How does one eat 6 meals a day? What?!?!? And so on. And she comes back with answers to all my questions and suggestions to help me along. And then we go through the next week and start all over again. It’s definitely a process.

The fun part of the week was incorporating a virtual powerlifting meet into my workout. When my coach JVB hosts an online powerlifting meet to cap off her 12-week Unapologetically Powerful coaching program the second week of training I can’t help but enter and see how I do. I decided to come into the week using the lifts for two things: 1) baseline for my strength in that lift and 2) a means to learn what I need to focus on during the remainder of this training cycle. And it was good for both. A little humbling, too.

I’ll critique my lifts in the order they appear in competition even though I did them in the order they matched my training days and on vastly different days.

First up, as always, was the Squat. It’s a favorite and I surprised myself with a PR of 308 in the last meet so I was feeling fine. I was totally thinking (OK, hoping) to hit 310, just because I could. First attempt at 265 was totally fine. No problemo. Second at 285 was good for me, too. But that third attempt at 310? Nope. Not happening. I admit to be a little down BUT I had a couple things going for me: 1) a GREAT spotter in Mark and 2) the video that helped identify my problem area – not staying braced through the whole lift. So yay! takeaways are awesome.

285 attempt is so good.

310 attempt – not so good but I’m caught by Mark. Failure teaches a lot.

I’ve been having problems with my bench and asked JVB to help me get a stronger bench by programming my training to help build my back and upper body strength. My goal for my meet lift was to hit 165 pounds – what I had missed at my Twin Ports meet a month earlier for not waiting for commands. My first lift was 155 and it was good – hard, but good. So here is where I need to start working on attempt selection and getting consistently stronger with the bench: I thought I could get that 165 up so I increased bench to that amount. Well, I was wrong. Twice. But I didn’t give up or go home out of anger. Instead I analyzed the stick (a little shoulder positioning, a little too heavy) and now I have goals to work toward.

My 155 bench is good.

My 165 bench? Not so much…

And last, the deadlift. Ah, the deadlift. There is no lift that looks so easy and cause so much joy and heartache. I missed a attempt at Twin Ports – 360 pounds just wouldn’t come off the ground. Why? It was heavy! Or it could have been mental. I’ll never quite know but for this virtual meet I redeemed myself. I pulled 330, 340, and finally! 350 pounds for a tough but fair deadlift. What a way for me to end the meet. Was it perfect? Hell no. Was it lovely for me? Hell yes! I know I have work to do and pounds to before I reach my current goal of a 400 pound lift, but this 350 sure felt good.

My 350 dead? You bet it’s good! (By the way – look at that arm!)

And now I’m off to the races, training those weak spots and getting better every day.