PR Friday — Post all your personal records to today’s comments.
The 100kg session lasted almost four hours, so I was sort of burned out already. The 110kg, 125kg, and 125kg and up weight classes were all in the same session, so they were all weighing in at the same time. USAPL conveniently didn’t post a schedule for the roster like they did that morning for the 100kg class, and they are a bit gruff in the weigh-in room. When Mike and Chris were finally weighed, I drove Brent, Mike, and Chris to go eat at the same breakfast place from the day before. Thankfully I went, because the coffee, waffle, eggs, bacon, and sausage helped refuel me for the next six hours.
When we got back to the hotel, we had about 15 minutes until the session started. There were two flights and Mike was in the first and Chris was in the second. Again, they wouldn’t let me see the second flight’s order so I had no clue when Chris was going to open. I don’t fucking understand why they can’t just post it on the wall and clarify it’s “subject to change”. Having to aim a shot in the dark is irritating since I like to have the lifter take their last warm-up about 5 to 8 attempts out.
Irre-fucking-gardlessly, we warmed Mike up pretty quickly. He wanted to open lower than the 222.5kg (491lbs) that we went with, but I talked him into bumping it up since 240kg (529lbs) was his goal. Mike was pretty wound up, especially in his “getting pumped” period before that first squat. Most athletes are similar – I know that in football I was always a little razzed up until I got my first hit in at linebacker. It’s the same with my friends and their first squat; they settle down a bit afterwords. Thank god, because Mike was starting to piss me off the way he was grabbing me and hitting me before and after the easy opener.
We took 232.5kg (512lbs) on his second attempt which matched the PR from the last meet. Mike was a bit slow out of the bottom, but once he got the bar moving again it never slowed down. I cued him quite a bit on getting a sharp bounce on his third attempt of 240kg (529lbs). Choosing third attempts is a bit tricky; I look at the lift and judge how difficult it was, I ask them what they thought of it, and then I take into account what their goal is. As I mentioned a couple days ago, I took more of a risk at this meet because I figured, “Fuck, it’s a national meet, let’s force them to step up.” I called for the 240kg (529lbs). I wanted Mike to know he got the most out of his squat.
The last month leading up to this meet was a bit tough for Mike. He is an instructor in the Air Force and he has to stay under a 39 inch waist. This means that he can stay around 250 and cut some weight to lower down to a bit under 240 for his PT test (which he has never failed), so it fits nicely into competing in the 242lb class. The only problem was that he almost weighed 260 after he went on leave for a couple weeks, so he had a hellacious weight loss period. His training suffered, he felt like shit, and he was irritable as hell. He passed the PT test (which has new standards nowadays – if you fail one section, you fail the whole thing!), and got ready for the meet with sub-par training. It was all an after thought as we sat in the warm-up room getting ready for his last squat.
Unfortunately you can’t see that last attempt, because Brent Fucking Kim mis-pressed the record button on my camera and turned it off when he thought he was turning it on. AC has some footage, but what I remember in person is that the third attempt looked better than his second attempt. He bounced well, fought a bit, but drove it up evenly. Nice work.
Meanwhile Chris was warming up behind the stage. Ace came back and was helping me load, did a bit of filming, and generally giggled with Chris about the scenario based jokes that Chris likes to perform. Chris opened a little more than halfway into his flight, and we set him up with a 257.5kg (568lbs) squat as an opener. The goal was to PR, and that means anything higher than 600lbs. Chris is a pretty strong squatter – recently he did three sets of five at 500lbs, but he has a tendency to let his knees come in at the bottom, and this brings his hips and ass, thus the bar, a bit forward. He did a decent job on the opener, and had a pretty sick bounce out of the bottom. I still thought he could be tighter, and this was my emphasis when talking to him in the back.
We moved ahead towards 267.5kg (590lbs) on his second attempt. After Chris got that first attempt out of the way, he had better focus as we prepared for the 590. After he walked the weight out and received the squat command, he hit the bottom loosely. It’s a combination of going a bit too low and letting his knees fall in, and as a result his pelvis and butt actually move forward. As you can expect, it completely relaxes his hamstrings, and he no longer has that important muscle group to help him with the ever important bounce. This is all hard to see from the angle I was at behind him – all I know is that his knees came in. It wasn’t until I reviewed the tape that I saw him move forward. The fact that he quad pressed 590 back to the top is impressive. He got it, but it was a struggle.
I had a choice at the moment. I could try and match his 600 squat that he did in April or I could go for the next bump up and PR at 606. I was banking on getting him extremely amped for the last squat as well as cuing him to be tight. When he came back from the first attempt, I told him his knees yanked in at the bottom and to shove them out. My mistake is that I didn’t emphasize this and didn’t use it as my main cue. I didn’t bring it up because Chris is an anxious guy, and I didn’t want him thinking about more than a few things at once. I just used the vague phrase of “staying tight”. “Staying tight” as a cue doesn’t mean shit, and I never use it because it isn’t descriptive and doesn’t command the lifter HOW to stay tight, so I wish I would have cued his knees instead.
I got Chris as amped as he could be, told him to have a ‘sharp bounce’ out of the bottom (a familiar cue between us), and had to stand and watch. When you watch him on film, he falls pretty fast into the bototm, loosens up the same way he did on the second attempt, drifts his ass forward, and doesn’t have any hamstring bounce. I don’t see this as a “the weight was too heavy” situation, because I think he could have gotten it had I been cuing him properly from the start of his warm-ups. The good news is we know exactly what to cue him on heavy squats, and I think he’ll progress very well into the next meet.
Mike’s flight began benching next, and the bench press is Mike’s weakest event. His long gangly arms make it hard on him. In his defense, his reach is about six inches longer than AC’s, and longer than that when compared to mine. We opened at 127.5kg (281lbs), which was actually pretty easy. The problem is that the loaders loaded the bar incorrectly, so they made him get off the bench, walk back to me, then walk back to the bench, and in this process he absentmindedly forgot about the commands. I consider this my fault also, because I should have reminded him of the commands, but the mis-load got me mentally off track as well and I was talking to the judge next to me. I’ll be focused constantly in the next meet that I coach.
The opener was still easy, even though it was red-lighted, and we went up to 132.5kg (292lbs). Mike hit this with a little bit of trouble, but locked it out for a 5kg PR. The next choice I had was to either go to 297 or 303lbs. Well, 297 ain’t 300 and 300 is what Mike had a goal of, so I went ahead and gave him 137.5 (303lbs) on the third attempt. This is where the whole “cutting a lot of weight” thing hurt Mike, because it weakened his bench. He didn’t get the bar very far off his chest and missed the last attempt. But hey, we got a ten pound PR on the second attempt.
I was thinking that on the high end, Chris could bench 369 on his last attempt. After he missed the last squat, I said to myself, “I need him to PR on bench to keep his confidence up. The smallest PR will count.” We opened at 155kg (342lbs). Chris has tripled 345 in the gym, but he had a horrible (i.e. shitty, shitty, shitty) lift off, and it definitely perturbed him. In person I guess it looked easier than it does on the film, because after talking with him I gave him 162.5kg (358lbs). This was a blatant mistake on my part. 162.5 was his PR from the last meet. I should have stuck with the low end strategy I had written down on my notes, but for some reason I was confident in the high end strategy.
Chris lowered the weight, paused, and then had good drive on the bar and then randomly paused. He missed the rep. He took a moment to get off the bench and immediately told me his back cramped up pretty bad. His spirits were shot, and I still believe that this was my fault. Yes, I think that he could have gotten that second attempt sans back cramp, but I should have called for 160kg with the intention of going for a PR of 165 on the third. Judging Chris’ demeanor, he didn’t think he had a chance at making the weight. His back was sore, and I didn’t want him to make it worse for the deadlift. After a few minutes of loosening it up, I waved his third attempt. I’m still disappointed with myself about messing this up. I sort of made up for it when I asked Chris if he wanted some caffeine. I had his dad get him some coffee, and this gave a last surge for the deadlift.
We had a pretty abnormal warm-up for mike on the deadlifts. The five minute break became almost ten minutes, so I kept him fresh with periodic singles at 225lbs as we waited to take his last warm-up. Mike crazily did math in his head and found out he needed to pull 262.5kg (579lbs) in order to total 1400. We had him opening at 247.5kg (546lbs). He gauges how he feels by how easy 500 feels, and everything was going well.
Mike has this tendency to let the bar drift forward, so I cued him to keep it back pretty stoutly in his reps. He actually does a very good job of this – much better than the last meet and what he had been doing in training. He pulled 546 very easily off the floor, and then because of his goofy anthropometry (long-ass femurs), the lift slowed at the lockout. He was VERY excited about not having trouble with 546 because in his mind, the 579 was going to go. He pushed the bar down quickly and yelled “BOOM” (this is all on the video) to Brent’s amusement. The head judge didn’t like this, but technically he didn’t do anything wrong (he didn’t drop the bar). Anyway, don’t act like a spaz as you put the weight down at a meet. Three white lights, and Mike walked up to me and said, “Give me 579, I’ll get it.” I turned in the attempt to the table without hesitation.
Mike didn’t really get pumped for his last attempt of 262.5kg (579lbs). He got a little gargoyle-ish, as is his custom, but it wasn’t over the top like it was on the squats. He calmly took his headphones out, was already shaking his head yes to whatever I was saying, and said, “I got it.” He literally had no doubt in his mind whatsoever.
He approached the bar, made a face as if he were saying, “Yikes, I’m sorry about that last time Mr. Head Judge”, stretched his arms out a bit, and then pulled the bar pretty swiftly off the ground. Once he got it past his knees, it was a slow lockout. I shouted “smooth” over and over to make sure he didn’t hitch it, and he stuck with the hard, but steady grind all the way to the top. He set it down under control for three white lights, and had a nice cap onto his excellent meet. Every one of Mike’s lifts were PR’s (240/132.5/262.5) for a 635kg total (1400lbs). We found out later that his total was good enough for fifth place in the men’s 110kg weight class. Great meet for Mike.
Backstage Chris was feeling good. He’s very sensitive to caffeine because of his medication, so he was AMPED. He was doing funny stuff, singing at times, and smiling constantly. His warm-ups were going well, and one of the 242 lifters that we befriended said he was “just throwing weight around”. Things were looking up. We stuck with the opener of 277.5kg (612lbs) with the intention of choosing an appropriate PR for his second (and final) attempt. He pulled that 612 very easily, and was pretty excited about it (see video). Now, the great debate. Before Chris warmed up, all I cared about was getting him a PR, no matter how small it was. His previous best deadlift was 287.5 (633lbs) at the meet in April. Chris came off the platform and said, “I want 650.” The 612 looked easy, but I knew 650 would be a bitch if that’s what we went with. I don’t remember what I said, but he walked away saying, “Whatever you think is best.” I went to the warm-up room and sat their for at least 30 seconds debating. If he hit 650, then all of his other lifts wouldn’t matter, and this would be one of the greatest days of his lifting life. I could go lower and still get him a PR, but he wanted the 650. I really did think he could get it, but it made me nervous as hell. Finally I said, “Fuck it, it’s competition.”
I gave Chris a bit of a speech eight minutes or so before he lifted. I consider it private, but basically I told him that I fully believed that he could pull 650. I just needed him to believe it too.
Now, I want everyone to understand something. There are emotional times in sport. Usually we experience these emotions in high school because we grow up playing a sport with our best friends for years. When we succeed or fail with those friends, it bonds us closer together. I have vivid memories of the triumphant successes and devastating failures from my time playing football. When I left that sport, it disappointed me knowing that I would never feel that again, having that kind of bond with a group of friends. I can tell you that nowadays I have that bond with all of my best friends (the ones that were at this meet), and it’s much stronger than I ever had before. Our passion is competing with ourselves, competing with gravity. There’s so much more emotion when you’re in an individual sport, especially when you’ve been on a daily journey with your friends for over a year.
Compound that bond with the fact that I’ve experienced about 35 adrenaline spikes over the previous 30 hours. Every time one of my friends go to lift, I get an intense surge of adrenaline and feel as if I could walk over to the bar and move it with them. Now add in the fact that ever since I arrived into Denver I literally spent every moment manipulating every conversation, every little thing that happened in our group to purposely maintain a healthy, successful mindset towards competing well. I constantly evaluated everyone, consistently altered the dynamics of the group to keep everyone in an optimal state of mind. If you’ve ever been around my friends, you know that just observing them is exhausting, now imagine how much mental effort it requires to keep everyone in their own optimal mindset. The point I’m trying to make is that I was beaten down, and this was the lift of the meet in my eye.
Chris swelled with intensity. He unleashed it on the bar. The plates broke the ground. The bar dragged against his shins. It passed his knees. Slowly. His body bulged. His necklace almost snapped off. God damn it he was fighting. But it was too much for him that day. The bar couldn’t rise anymore, and it fell to the floor. He went out fighting.
Chris stepped back, almost passed out, but caught himself. I slung one of his arms around my neck and carried him to a chair. I think the realization that he missed the lift was setting in, and his bloodshot eyes welled with tears. He left his guts on the platform.
I fucked up. Obviously I should have picked something lower, a lower PR. I made five mistakes that I can’t forgive myself for. That’s just how I am. I make mistakes all the time, and no matter how good I am at something, the mistakes are always glaring. I’ve never been impressed with anything I’ve ever done. I wasn’t impressed with my football ability, never impressed with graduating high school, never impressed with graduating college, and not impressed with getting into grad school. None of these things mattered to me because I expect it all to happen. When I mess up in something I care about, it garners my attention. And I mess up a lot. The only good news is that this was only Chris’ second meet, and I learn from messing up.
Chris ended up getting second in the Junior 125kg category. Out of the four lifters, we finished second and fifth overall in open categories and second overall in a junior category. Not too bad for a few friends having a the best weekend ever.