Quiet reflection: Eastern Canadians 2015

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Photo Credit: Douglas Stone

I was driving through the sunshine this morning, with The Beatles jangling optimistically and thinking about the weekend past. After each meet, I wait a day or two and then write myself up a review, noting what worked, what didn’t, how things went as planned and how the unexpected cropped up and how I dealt with that. Usually I keep those private, but this one I’m throwing onto the blog because it marks a pivotal point for me; I feel like this was the meet when all the pieces really started coming together.

First off, the results:

Bodyweight: 71.5
weight class 72kg, M1
Went 7/9
Squat: 137.5, 145*, 147.5(miss)
Bench: 72.5, 75. 78(miss)
Deadlift: 155, 160, 165*
Total: 385*
377.724 Wilks
*National records

Competition PRs:
up 12.5kg in squat
up 10kg in deadlift
up 22.5kg overall
(deadlift was both a competition and lifetime PR)
Wilks PR & second-highest unequipped female Wilks of the meet
Also second-highest all-time Canadian unequipped M1 female Wilks

No meet ever goes quite as expected, at least not for me. Expecting and rolling with the unexpected is something that I’m beginning to understand is the most important key to competition success for me and is something I’m learning, one meet at a time.

The other day, I wrote:

The purpose of this meet for me is to build confidence, increase experience, learn competition skills like anxiety and adrenaline control and to work on controlling when and if I flick on that switch that pumps me up. This meet is going to allow me to put a higher total on the board within the parameters of reasonable risks. It will teach me where my comfort level lies and stretch that a bit, without delving into the realm of needless risks.

During this meet, I achieved these goals and am very pleased with my progress. I was able to keep my anxiety at the beginning more manageable than in past meets, I had a good feel for my abilities on that day, and I was able to flick that switch to crank up intensity exactly when needed.

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Second-attempt: 160kg deadlift Photo credit: Steve Campbell

General stuff:

I think one of the key factors leading up to the success of this meet was the training programming that my coach (Nick Roberts) has figured out. We did a period of six days a week and, owing to stresses in my life outside the gym, this was extremely challenging for me to maintain. We stepped it back to four days a week for the six weeks leading up to the meet and this, combined with the substantial gains achieved during the six-day-a-week period, resulted in me feeling much stronger going into this meet than I have in the past. So the deftness and ability of Nick to modulate and modify the programming is a definite success factor. In future months, I can see the benefit of alternating between the options we’ve explored to maximize both progress and recovery. It’s working. In addition, the accessory work that we’ve done has kept me healthy and structurally-balanced; I came out of this meet (and the fairly strenuous training leading up to it) feeling tired, but uninjured. This a huge thing, since time spent injured is time in which progress is altered and sometimes impeded.

Additionally, the depth of my squats is more consistent now and I don’t need to fret or worry about them like I once did. Regular attention to foot and knee position has let me attack lifts progressively harder and not second-guess myself in the hole. I anticipate that this confidence will continue to grow and I’m really pleased with how it’s coming along. I need to better maintain upper and mid-back tightness when the nerves kick in, though, so that’s a thing to work on in the months ahead. I also need to get used to working with different spotters so as to be able to trust them and my legs in a meet situation.

I learned this meet how to really accept the difference between my expectations and the reality of the day. I had a plan going in for what I wanted to open with and ultimately hit and when my opening squat number was lowered post-lift due to a discovered bar mis-load (it happens – it’s no big deal), I accepted it and refocussed on the next lift without hesitation. When warming up for bench, I could sense that something felt slightly slow there, so I asked my coach if we could lower it and he agreed that we could. I didn’t bash myself up for this, I accepted it as a reasonable adjustment that would allow me to protect that Canadian record squat (and potential total) that I had just hit by making sure my bench opener was very secure.

It fit with the “build confidence” plan that I had for the meet and allowed me to make good lifts (missing the third bench really pissed me off, but it’ll be there with more to spare next time). It also let me go into the deadlift portion of the meet balls-to-the-wall and firing on all cylinders, leaving nothing behind. Frankly, hitting those deads with that kind of fire made me all kinds of happy and it was at that part of the meet that I felt on the outside most like the lifter I am on the inside; I was in The Zone and on fire for the competition and it was the most wonderful feeling in the world.

(Thanks to Brent Marsh for the video)

The flexible, yet determined, mindset worked and overall I am very pleased with this meet. I met my mental objectives, hit the majority of my numerical goals, and set me up nicely for future competitions.

The Bits and Pieces for future reference (likely uninteresting to non-powerlifters):

Nerves
I knew going in that I would be nervous for various reasons (same venue as Nationals, where I bombed out; home crowd and friends’ expectations; my own expectations; my coach’s hopes). For the couple of weeks leading up to the meet, I worked on meditation techniques and visualization and I think that those helped substantially. I was able to keep a wrap on nerves far more than for the past couple of meets. The jitters were still there, but I think the meditation and visualization tools, if I continue to use and develop them (two weeks is barely a taste), will be the key to controlling my mind still further. I’m also learning to contextualize my own expectations and those of people around me – I don’t have to be perfect, just better than I was last time. (Remembering this is harder than it should be sometimes.)

Water cut and food/fuelling:
I also kept a closer eye on my nutritional intake in the days leading up to the meet and planned quite carefully what I would eat and when on competition day. In the taper week, I reduced caloric intake since I wasn’t training nearly as hard or as much, increased protein, made sure I got lots of fibre, reduced salt in the last couple of days, and kept carbs between 150-200g. My starting weight a week before the competition was 74.2 in the morning and I needed to get to 71.8 or so. On meet day I woke at 71.1, so I had a glass of milk and a glass of lime juice, salt and water before weighing in. I ended up weighing in at 71.45 (71.5) which was still lighter than I had hoped. Total weight cut was 2.1kg, done solely through water loading and effectively without cutting water or food. The day before the competition I ate fairly normally and drank when thirsty. The only thing I was conscious of was salt and the digestibility of the food I ate – didn’t want to eat anything salty or that would upset my stomach or not digest quickly.

After weigh-in I used a couple of glasses of orange juice for fast carbs to stabilize my blood sugar, then I drank half a litre of Pedalyte, which is disgusting, but worked. I sipped the rest of the bottle throughout the meet. I had my usual breakfast of eggs, followed by a little bacon, coffee, and some Greek yogurt. Basically I ate whatever my stomach wanted and I had planned and brought the sorts of food that I knew I could handle when nervous.

Two of the things that I brought that I don’t normally eat were C4 pre-workout and a bag of Sour Patch Kids. I don’t use pre-workouts usually, so for a meet, the C4 could potentially be extremely effective. When I get stressed, my blood sugar can do wonky things. This is something I’m working on rebalancing in the long term, but for the purposes of the meet, I couldn’t afford to bottom out. I knew that since I don’t usually use it, the C4 would rev me out of my normal parameters and possibly pop me into the hypoglycaemic range, so I planned for a candy counterpunch and it worked very well. In future meets, I hope to come up with a healthier alternative, but for this meet, the candy worked.

At Worlds, I experienced a huge adrenaline dump after my first deadlift, due to relief of knowing I had a total on the board. I knew that I couldn’t afford to feel relieved and that I needed to be able to drive my rage and aggression up several notches to pull what I wanted for this meet, so the C4 was mixed 2 scoops to 1c water and I downed it right after my third bench. There were two flights, so I could feel it starting to kick in just as my flight’s deads were about to start. As a friend said, “When I take that stuff, I feel like I can SEE sound!” Between each lift, I had a sip of Pedalyte and about six candies. By the third dead I was buzzing so hard that I could have pulled anything they put on that bar. I could feel myself shaking and hungry for the lift in EXACTLY the way I was hoping to be. No doubt or hesitation. (This is a feeling that I hope to be able to mimic in a controlled way for the squats portion of meets down the road.) And the small tweaks that my coach has had me make in foot position came exactly naturally, with a smooth bar path for each pull. They felt excellent and I could tell with each one as soon as it left the floor that it was going to be good.

In summary, this was a very good meet and a big step forward for me. I’m confident that I can continue to build on this and apply what I’ve learned thus far to work towards the goals I’ve set for myself in the years ahead.

Post scriptum

When an athlete succeeds, it’s in large part because of the team that surrounds them. I am particularly blessed to have an exceptional group around me.The following individuals are owed sincere gratitude:

John – Without whom, none of this would happen, or if it did, it wouldn’t be nearly so rewarding. Thanks for helping me to keep perspective, for having my back at every turn, and for being such fun to be with. I’m very, very lucky.

Nick – You’re a truly great coach. Thanks for taking an ordinary, out-of-shape woman and helping her to find her inner athlete. This changed my life in ways I don’t have words for. Also thank you for believing in me, even when I was down. And for writing such kick-ass programs.

Maria, Michelle, Marilyn & Dana – You guys rock. With such a team, how can we not succeed?

Katherine – The fact that you are proud of me is one of the things that keeps me going when things seem impossible.

Tom & Steph – You guys have shared your experience, skills, and ideas with me in ways that have been invaluable. I am exceedingly grateful for all of it and for your continued belief that I can do this thing. I believe I now owe you more beer.

All the gals I met at the Iron Sisters camp – Being a part of this community of strong women has meant the world to me. See you next year.

Martha, Tera, Robyn, Lynda, Krista, Maggie, Maggie, Ana, Allie, Brenda, Pelin, Heather M., and all the other women who message me regularly and with whom I share this fitness journey – Thank you. All of you inspire me in your individual ways, probably more than you realize.

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