Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand.  The sun’s rays do not burn until brought into focus.” – Alexander Graham Bell
October 3rd.  It’s not far away at all.  Three weeks.  I can feel the anxiety rising.  This isn’t some lift in a CrossFit gym, or some dude’s field… or in some random high school gymnasium.  This is the Hook Grip Spartakiad, held in the Skybox Event Arena in Philadelphia.  Over a hundred lifters in two days.  When signing up initially, I had  an actual high level coach that was going to attend, as well as friends coming to support me.  That sounds awesome! I thought.  Daunting was the idea of such a big lift, especially since I’m planning on lifting heavier than I ever have in competition before… but I had a support structure in place as well as an actual coach.
My training intensity picked up.  I was motivated, injury free, and hitting some heavy weights.  This is going to be epic.  This is what this sport is all about.  The days of training went smoothly, I felt myself getting stronger.  Plans were in place, and everything was coming together.
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The lifting days turned into weeks… and then into months.  As the time passed things started to unravel a bit.  My coach had to drop out of coaching for me as he couldn’t make the travel to Philadelphia.  Then, one by one my friends started to drop out as other life things took place.  More and more, I realized I was going to be alone.  One friend at a time, a coach, and then nothing.  My anxiety started to rise.  It still is, three weeks out, as I realize this is definitely going to happen….
Often times in athletic events things don’t go the way of the athlete.  Bounces of the ball don’t go your way, bad calls by refs effect the outcome of the game, the crowd doesn’t favor the team or the athlete, or trash talking from other competitors.  In Weightlifting we have judges.  Judges, especially at smaller levels can be very different.  Some may allow a soft elbow, some may not allow any give at all.  You’ll see one athlete get 3-whites for what looked like a significant press-out… and then the next lifter get reds for a lift you couldn’t see a damn thing wrong with.
This can dramatically affect the athlete.  It is demoralizing to miss a lift out of technique, but to do something successfully, and not get it anyway?  That can single-highhandedly destroy the psyche of the athlete.  We can’t control what the judges are going to vote… we can only control the lift.
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Last week I had a tremendously unsuccessful – or so I thought – training session.  I was trying to PR my Snatch… and missed all of them.  Finally I wore myself out, lost my explosiveness to even continue trying.  I went in with a strained hip flexor too (you’ll see the towel in these pics I tucked into my waistline to soften the impact).  Miss after miss.  Shit, My warm-ups were even difficult.  I was getting disheartened with each miss, and the pain in my hip was effecting me in a lot of ways.  Eventually I took a seat, stared at the barbell, and felt defeated (feature image). I left the gym without a PR.  My mind started analyzing the lifts… and eventually I went back to the camera to visually analyze them.  That’s when the magic happened.
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I was faster under the bar than I had ever been.  Shit, some of them I nearly Power Snatched (albeit a low Power, but a Power none the less).  My speed was great, my pulls were strong, my chest was more upright… I was catching too high. Granted, stability in the pocket is crucial, as is timing… but these are fixable things.  I have the power, I have the speed… I just need to time it better.  When pushing your max weight hitting a lift is like threading a needle… while punching a charging Rhino (Paraphrasing Donny Shankle here).  Then my thoughts started drifting back to the competition.
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I am going to be alone, I am currently hurt with 3 weeks left, so no full lifts for at least the next week, no coach, I am going to have to cut weight as my diet has suffered from a lot of traveling…. I could just drop out.  Then I wouldn’t have to fly to Philadelphia and embarrass myself in front of 100’s of people.  I could drop out and not be afraid.
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That’s exactly why I need to go.  You have to go because you are afraid, because you are alone, because you have doubts.  Do it anyway.
What separates great competitors from the rest of the pack is their ability to stay focused and ignore the bad calls.  A great competitor doesn’t say, “I got a bad call, that’s why I am going to lose.”  A great competitor says, “That’s ok, I got a bad call, and I am going to win anyway.”  This is why I must go to Philadelphia.  Just because things aren’t falling into place, or nothing is going my way… that is not the time to quit.  That is the time to analyze what it is you need to change in order to perform, and do it anyway.  I wish I has some great story to tell you about how I analyzed my lift, walked back up, and then triumphantly nailed my PR… but no.  Welcome to Weightlifting.  Arguably the most difficult form of athletic training, and certainly where weights are concerned.  Do it. Do it anyway.
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