158 kg: Work To Do

I didn't have a great meet, but my singled definitely won the day.

My singled definitely won the day.

Last weekend, I had the chance to compete in my first Olympic lifting competition, the Broad Ripple Fit Club Barbell Lift Off on Saturday, February 13.

My goal is to qualify for the National and American Masters events in 2017 when I’ll compete in the 45-49 age class in the 77 kg weight class, so I’m looking at 2016 as a year of training and preparation.

This has been a big transition for me. I stopped doing CrossFit about 18 months ago, and focused strictly on Olympic lifting. Unfortunately, I hurt my back and missed nine months.

The pain was so bad that I wondered if I would actually lift again. Fortunately, I healed up just fine and begin lifting in August. But I didn’t start picking up heavy weight until November.

All that is to say that even though I’d been doing it for awhile, Olympic lifting still feels new to me.

But I wanted to compete even though I have a year before it counts. I want to get used to lifting in competitions.

I went into this meet hoping to hit a total between 161-165 kilograms depending upon how well I was feeling. That would put me within just a few kilos of qualifying next year, and put me on good footing moving forward.

The Start of the Day

I wasn’t feeling great the day of the competition. I was out of town on Sunday and Monday, and our coach moved up the training schedule to prepare us for the event.

Our normal Tuesday-Wednesday-Friday routine turned into a Monday-Tuesday-Thursday one. Since I was traveling, mine turned into a Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday.

I don’t know if the three days drained me, but I awoke on Saturday feeling a bit on the woozy side. My legs just felt…heavy.

But there’s never a perfect day. So I got up, ate breakfast (since I was in the middle of my weight class), and spent the day getting mentally prepared for the event.

The Snatch

I arrived early so that I could watch my wife lift. (She qualified for the National and American Masters with 5 kgs to spare.) With three hours before my flight, I had ample time to roll out, stretch, warm up, and get ready for the day.

My goal on the snatch: 75 kgs, which was 1 kg less than my max. To get there, I went conservative: 70, 73, and 75. 

I felt confident in that progression as I hit 70 and 73 kgs relatively consistently in the training. I thought that would calm my nerves, and give me one good pull at 75. 

And things started off well. 

Then my plan derailed.

I short armed my second lift. I didn’t complete the pull, and dropped 73. Instead of going for my 75 kg snatch, I stayed at 73, which was a problem since my one-rep clean & jerk was only 90 kg. That miss meant I wasn’t likely to hit 165 for the day.

I couldn’t worry about that. I had to get back on the podium in just a few minutes to try 73 for the second time.

The Clean & Jerk

My miss at 73 on the snatch put me behind schedule. I tried to put that out of my mind. Instead, I turned my thoughts to the Clean & Jerk. This is where most lifters make up serious kilograms. Unfortunately, I’m horrible at the lift (at the moment).

I’d put together an aggressive set of lifts for me: 85, 88, and 90. I toyed with the idea of pushing to 91 or 92 if I felt good, but both of those would be my one-rep Clean & Jerk max. Instead, I hoped to hit 88 kg, which would have gotten me to 161.

I knew in the warm-up room that the day was going to be a struggle. My legs just weren’t there even though I hit all my lifts, including my opening weight.

I walked off the stage laughing because that lift took more than 30 seconds from initial pull to final jerk, a lifetime on the podium.

That was the last lift I’d successfully complete.

I bombed out on the Clean on my next two lifts, dropping the bar after I short-armed the pull and leaned forward on my toes. I was spent. Worse, I’m not smooth enough on the movement to compensate for my lack of energy.

The Aftermath

My day wasn’t great, but I learned a few valuable lessons:

  1. I need to get to the gym, and work on my Clean & Jerk form, which is killing me. I’m embarrassingly bad at the pull and weak on the jerk. Lots of shoulder and panda pull work coming.
  2. I’ve avoided the hook grip for too long. My coach has now demanded that I deal with the pain, and use the proper grip.
  3. I’m strong, but not strong enough. I’ve got to focus on building more muscle mass if I plan on competing in the National and American Masters events.

The Pictures