I purposely didn’t put a whole lot of hoopla on 70’s Big about the USAW Senior National Championships because I didn’t want any unnecessary attention placed on myself as a lifter. I figured that it was my first national meet, and I didn’t want to have to think about anything other than the lifting. I discreetly linked you guys to the live webcast (I hear it was good), so hopefully you got a chance to see some of our country’s best Olympic weightlifters. Since it was my first appearance at a national meet, I figured I’d briefly share my experience.
(If you want to see how some other lifters did, look at the USAW Website)
The meet was held in the Peoria Civic Center, which was a good looking building in a pleasant city center. I would liken Peoria to Chattanooga, TN – it’s clean, not crowded, and has a lush landscape. The lifting was in a large, cavernous concrete room and a black curtain separated the warm-up area from the competition area. Bleachers were set up in front of the competition platform (if you watch the video below, the warm-up area is to the left), and the whole building was very clean.
The warm-up area was equipped with some good platforms with high grade rubber (not sure of the brand) and Werksan bars and plates. There were probably eight or so platforms, so things weren’t crowded. They also had the attempts projected on screens in the competition and warm-up areas with a TV in the warm-up area of what was happening on the lifting platform.
I was in the B session for the 105kg weight class that started lifting at 11:00 AM. Earlier at the weigh-in I met Ben (who looks exactly like AC) from the Hassle Free Weightifting in Sacramento, California. This is primarily a 20 & Under club, but they have some older lifters as well. Some of you astute readers will recognize the head coach, Paul Doherty, from an article in a 2009 issue of Iron Mind’s Milo. Ben was a cool dude, and he said he liked the website, so we got along pretty well right away.
This was a good thing, because Ben was how I met Paul, and this had a very important impact on my meet.
Other than my girlfriend running the cameras in the stands, I was by myself. I figured I would be opening early since I totaled 287 to qualify (the qualifying total was 285). There were a few guys who totaled an even 285. Lifting was supposed to start at 11:00 AM, so I figured I’d be read to go by then. I started taking warm-ups and felt very good hitting 60kg, 90kg, and 100kg. During this process, Paul asked if anybody was handling me (there wasn’t) and he asked if I wanted some help (I did). That’s when he told me that the bar was opening at 110kg and that there were “like 85 guys opening with 120”, so wouldn’t be lifting for at least fifteen minutes. Well, balls. I guess because of all the hoopa I didn’t even go look at the attempt cards on the table – stupid beginner mistake. I started warming up to early, so then I just sat down and chilled out a bit.
This would end up being slightly detrimental. I was feeling really good warming up the first time, and when I started taking lifts again, things didn’t feel as good. Ben and I lift about the same weight, so we warmed up together and had the luxury of Paul’s lifters, Sae and Keelen (sp?), loading the bar us. I took 70kg, 90kg, 100kg, 110kg, missed 120kg (stupid error), and completed 120kg.
I opened with 127kg. Off the floor and through the middle, everything was fine. Once I racked the bar, I had the slightest bit of bar movement from not catching it tight and solid, but I was able to hold it in place and squat it up. White lights on the lift.
Rob, another coach that helps out with Hassle Free was counting attempts for me as I snatched. Paul came by and asked what I wanted next, and I said, “Well, the plan was to go to 132,” so that’s what he gave me. I wasn’t prepared for the long wait before I went. There were lots of attempts and misses around 130, so this delayed my second attempt. In retrospect, I should have done a power snatch with 100 or so to stay warm (something I would implement later in the clean and jerk on Paul’s advice), but I didn’t. I had never been in that situation before, so I didn’t have a clue.
When I approached the bar for my second attempt at 132kg, my mind wasn’t right. When you’re competing, it’s easy to forget simple things like the cue you are supposed to be thinking about, or maintaining/managing your mindset. I just wasn’t thinking about much at all, and this didn’t give me the “killer instinct” for the lift. I pulled it perfectly overhead, but just didn’t rack the damn thing.
I was kind of pissed off, so I had a short rest and then repeated the lift. This time I racked it, but let the bar drift backwards only to lose it (I’ve only done this a few times ever). My cue I had been using was “stick it back” (I can explain the mechanics behind it another day), which had been working until that lift.
So, there I was, heading into the clean and jerks with one successful lift. I only let myself stay irritated for a moment or so, and let it go. I am pretty sure Ben only hit one snatch as well, and I said, “Hey, at least we’re on the board.” My girlfriend had gotten me some food to eat during this time, and one of the items was som Muscle Milk. Ben let me have some yogurt before we snatched, so I asked him if he wanted some protein. After catching the Muscle Milk I tossed him, he said, “Ah, this is the ‘Lite’ kind…definitely not 70’s Big.” True. Later the lady friend told me she made it a point not to get the ‘Lite’ kind, but must have gotten it accidentally.
Ben and I pretty much warmed up together since we were both opening with 152 – I had planed on moving this up to 155 or 157, but after the irritation on the snatch I figured I’d get on the board with an easy opener. Ben and I went lift for lift on warming up when Paul told us to take them, and I had a goofy last warm up at 147 (there was only a short rest after doing 140). Eventually 152 was loaded on the competition bar, and I headed out. I made an easy clean and a nice sharp dip/drive on my jerk, but the bar whacked the piss out of my chin on the way up. I dropped the bar and staggered back holding my chin. I didn’t just skin it, I clocked it an inch and a half from the end of my chin (that’s where the bruise is). After reviewing the video, I figured out that my eye gaze was significantly lower than it usually is (I was trying to avoid looking at people since they can move around) which lowered my head and kept my chin down and in the way of my bar path. It sounds like a stupid little detail, but it was definitely the culprit here. I wonder if that had an effect on my second snatch.
I didn’t have to follow myself to repeat 152, but still had a short rest. I was a little pissed off, and went out, made the clean without much trouble, had a decent dip/drive on the jerk (my limiting factor on my jerks), and then racked it over head. However, I did something to move the bar backwards once I racked it, and this made me recover out of the split awkardly, and I had to fight with the bar to get into a solid position to receive the down command. White lights, but damn if it didn’t feel like wrestling a big ol’ snake.
I sat down behind the curtain, and Paul asked me what my PR was (meet PR was 157kg). He said, “Well, you want 158? You didn’t pay all this money for nothin’.”
“Yeah, fuck it, give me 158.”
I really didn’t think it was likely after my crappy jerk lockout from a minute before. Objectively speaking. I had to wait quite a while for 158 since I made a six kilo jump, and we had eleven lifters in the session. During this waiting around, I power cleaned and jerked 110 twice to stay warm. I had never had to do that before, and it really helped a lot. It kept me from getting cold, and I never would have thought to do it on my own if Paul hadn’t recommended it. Paul was very respectful (even though he didn’t need to be) of not trying to step on my toes about how I warmed up or performed my lifts. He was exactly what I needed; guidance and soon to be motivation.
After taking the 110kg in the back, I was waiting with Ben for 158 (he was going for 160 on his third attempt). As the lifter before me was finishing up, Paul smacked me into shape…literally. I had seen lifters get their quads slapped before a lift, and I never really understood why. Paul said something like, “All right Justin, you’re up. Let’s get this.” He double hand smacked the FUCK out of my right thigh – kind of like what The Hulk would do to a bad guy’s head. He walked to my left thigh, and did the same thing as he was talking. He then said Brent Kim’s all-time favorite line, “This is competition, Justin. Go out there and compete.”
He said some other stuff, but I can’t remember what it was. All I know is that Paul was the catalyst for my adrenaline. The smacks on the thigh forced blood to the muscle and my legs felt warm instantly. I stormed the bar with purpose; this would be the lift of the day for me.
The plates broke the floor, and once they passed my knees I exploded upward. I racked the clean routinely as can be, and had to give a pretty decent effort to squat it up. It felt harder than it actually was (see the video), and I settled for the jerk. I had a nice, sharp dip/drive and the bar exploded overhead quickly. Again, the bar traveled back a bit at the rack, but not much, and it wasn’t as much trouble to control to get the down command. I checked the three white lights, and felt one of the coolest feelings you can feel in sport – doing something that you didn’t think was going to be possible earlier. I truthfully don’t think I could have done it without Paul.
A few seconds later, Ben would hit his 160kg clean and jerk to finish with a total of 291kg – good for 6th place. I finished with a 285kg total and 8th place overall (including A session). It wasn’t my best total (I had done 287 to qualify) but all things considered – only 8 months of experience, first national meet, 4th meet overall, first travel-by-plane meet, just recently overhauled my jerk, and warmed up goofy on snatch – I’ll take it.
I talked with Ben and some other lifters (Keith, from Austin, TX, was another guy I met that lifted in the 105s) who were in their first national meet. They might get on and comment what their experience was throughout the meet.
Again, here’s a big thank you to Paul Doherty. He was kind enough to help me out, and I was really impressed with how he handled Ben and I – he’s a good platform coach. Also thank you to my friend (and chiropractor) Dr. Lee Birk who helped crack me back from a February injury. I could barely stand up to coach at one point and didn’t squat for two months before he started treating me, and it wasn’t long before I could do all the strength lifts to get stronger than I ever had been before. This set me up to get a little bit of practice with the Olympic lifts in the last five or six weeks before this meet. Without those two guys helping me out when I was in a bad situation, I probably would have had much different results.