The Day Before
My mouth is a desert. Parched, gritty, and possibly full of rotting camels. (I haven’t bothered to check my breath but I’m sure it’s not pretty.)
I haven’t had anything to eat since noon (slice of Southwestern quiche with a small but gloriously wet iced passionfruit tea) but my stomach is nonexistent at this point as all my focus is on all the water I am currently NOT consuming.
Except for a mouthful here and there, I stopped all liquids at lunch. When we checked into our hotel after arriving at Clarks Summit, PA, for the USAPL Stars and Stripe meet a little after 3:30pm, I weighed in at 125.6 pounds. I need to be at 123 in a little over 12 hours.
So I’m as thirsty as I’ve ever been (though not unhealthily dehydrated if the color of my pee is any indicator). We spend the evening watching a Bourneless Bourne Legacy and chomping gum. I may briefly contemplate swallowing my toothpaste instead of spitting before I go to bed.
Sleep doesn’t come easily. The room gets progressively hotter, my mouth gets progressively drier, and whatever dreams I have are uneasy.
When I get up, I take a long hot shower, trying to sweat out any last drops I can. I make sure to dry my hair thoroughly before throwing on sweats and meeting the rest of Team Max Power to head to the weigh-ins.
123.4 lbs. That’s what the digital display on the scale reads.
I look over my shoulder to the girl who’s administering my weigh-in. She’s scrolling through something on her phone. “Is that ok? Does the 4/10 of a pound matter?”
She smiles, “Yeah, you have up to 123.5 so you’re good!”
The guys also make weight. Tim’s actually a couple pounds under, and Mike stripped down to his birthday suit, but we’re all competing in our desired weight classes. First goal accomplished.
We celebrate with a big breakfast. After a brief discussion of the merits of Dunkin Donuts and Waffle House, we go with Waffle House. None of us get waffles. This may be a mistake.
(On a side note, if you’re not going to get waffles at Waffle House, scrambled eggs are a safe choice. No one ever really messes up scrambled eggs and toast.)
A quick stop at Starbucks (the first of 3 that morning) makes up for the lackluster breakfast. Mike also stops to make himself a waffle at the hotel’s breakfast buffet.
There are roughly 50 to 60 lifters crowded around the elementary school’s gym. I sip my coffee and Gatorade, trying to take deep breaths and not alert anyone to my presence as a powerlifting poser.
There are a couple teams of high school lifters wearing matching sweats and swagger. Sitting on the bleachers in a school gym, I’m suddenly transported to being an awkward teenager watching the cool kids. I try to remember that I own a Dyson and a 401(k) equivalent.
After a quick review of the rules, everyone in the first flight of lifters to compete scrambles to warm up. There’s maybe 20 lifters and only 2 platforms. Chaos descends.
With all the commotion and the nervousness of competing in my first meet, the bar is flying up for me under all the adrenaline. My opening attempt on the bench is the same as my last warmup set, so I should have no problems.
Time to take off the sweats and pull up the singlet. There’s probably an inverse relationship of jiggle to wiggle in proportion to the amount of spandex you’re squeezed into that I would normally be contemplating right now if I weren’t freaking my frizz out, but I am freaking my frizz out so I don’t have time to think about it.
Everyone’s crowded around a small monitor that lists the names of the lifters in order. There’s a curtain that partitions the warmup area from the actual competition platform, and I’m chalking up. I think I can see my heart pounding through my t-shirt.
The announcer says my name (incorrectly) and says I’m on deck. Since it’s a local meet, Mike’s doing the lift-off for me. It’s almost like being in his gym during a training session.
Almost. There’s a head judge behind me and 2 people flanking either side, tasked with watching one foot and one cheek each, and I think I am going to die if I miss my first attempt. Especially if those high school girls lift more than I do.
40kg flies up. Then 42.5kg. Then 45 kg.
Mike’s main goal for me is to make all my lifts, so each attempt is a conservative increase.
After each lift, the adrenaline backs off enough that I can relax a bit and watch the others perform. The woman who lifts right after me is a tall cheerful middle-aged mom. It’s her first competition too, and her easy smile and upbeat attitude help put me at ease. We’re all here to have fun, no worries.
Tim, in the 2nd flight of lifters, has started to warm up. On his 3rd attempt, Mike benches 110 kg, which broke the PA Men’s Raw Open Bench Press record for 132-pounders. Later we learn he also tied the American Masters’ bench record. (Congrats Mike!)
Tim feels good about equaling his PR on his second attempt and goes for broke on his third. He doesn’t quite get it, but it looks like he should easily hit 75kg with a little more work in the gym.
By the time they set up the deadlift, the restless night and adrenaline are catching up with me. I barely have enough time for bites of a banana and sips of another Starbucks venti dark roast to refuel between warmup sets.
There are no spotters for the deadlift. You just walk out there, alone, facing the bar and behind it, a judge, and behind him, bleachers full of onlookers.
I have just enough juice left for my first 2 attempts to fly up. Again, we go conservative. 95kg (my current PR) – 97.5kg – 100kg.
On my 3rd attempt, Mike gives me a pep talk before I walk out. Take my time, set up, focus. I can barely hear him over the mantra running through my head – 90 kilos, easy, 90 kilos, easy.
It’s my last lift of the day. It’s more than I’ve ever lifted in my life. I’m tired and hungry. I’m wearing arguably the most ridiculous outfit I’ve ever worn, and I once wore a Minnie Mouse costume for a day (in the name of community service, I might add).
But all I see is the bar. All I feel is my knees and hips locked out, and I look up to see the judge smiling at me. He gives me the command to lower it, and I’m so elated (and maybe a little lightheaded) with lifting 220-freaking-pounds that I don’t quite catch what he says next.
- Making weight. Not drinking anything for 16 hours sucks. From now on, I’m going to try to be roughly 2-3 pounds under my weight class so I don’t have to worry about cutting.
- There was a girl who pulled 132.5kg weighing only 100 pounds. I have a new long-term goal.
- Ok, after checking the results, those itty bitty high school girls benched more than I did. Only by 2.5kg though. I can live with that.