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.
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.
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.
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.
My day wasn’t great, but I learned a few valuable lessons:
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.
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.
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.
Olympic lifting training is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
And it’s not the physical part that’s hard. It’s the mental part. I’m in a cycle where I’m strong enough for heavier lifts, but I haven’t quite wrapped my head around the mental aspects. My mind and body aren’t working together.
That can be frustrating. Dropping weights, missing lifts, and generally struggling for two hours isn’t fun.
That’s why it’s good to have great training partners. This is my best: Juice.
The thing about Olympic lifting. You have both a ton of time to wait, and no time. You have to stay in the zone.
When I first started Olympic lifting, I was adamant that I wouldn’t ever compete. I wasn’t interested in pushing myself. I wanted to get in shape, learn the movements, and have a good time.
What I really wanted to avoid was anything competitive.
I put that part of my life behind me, the competitive, win-at-all-cost attitude that turned me into a less-than-pleasant guy when I was younger. I figure somebody in his forties should probably work on chilling out.
But the truth is I missed seeing how far I could go. I love working out, but I really love working towards a goal. It’s the difference between running on a treadmill, and running on trails in the woods. They both get you to the same place, but you see so much more out in the forest.
So I decided to give the competitive master’s weightlifting circuit a try. However, I decided that I wasn’t going to worry about my placement in any competition. Instead, I was going to compete against myself.
That means less concern about strategy and tactics, and more focus on my own personal goals.
In February, I’ll compete in my first USA Weightlifting sanctioned event, one put on at Broad Ripple Fit Club, which is my home gym. Last week, our coach decided to host a Mock Meet so that we could get a sense of how everything worked.
Since this was my first meet, I wanted to push myself. I wasn’t concerned about hitting my weights. Instead, I wanted to get see what it was like to lift heavy weights in a quiet room in front of an audience and three judges. I also wanted to work on my qualifying weight
I decided I’d go 71, 74, and 75 on my three lifts regardless of what happened. I hit 71 with no problem. Then I botched the pull on 74. And I finally nailed 75…until I failed to lock out my arms.
I wasn’t upset with my performance. But I learned that I really need to channel my aggression better. I was so amped for my first lift that I worried I was too excited. I tried to calm myself, and did that too well. My last two lifts lacked urgency.
Still, here’s my 71 kg opening lift.
The Clean & Jerk
I decided to go 85, 90, 94 on the Clean & Jerk. That was 5 kgs more than my previous one-rep max, which I’d just hit two weeks before.The truth is that I have more in me. I’m still working on my form for each movement.
However, I felt solid going into the meet. We had the day off on Thursday, and a thirty minute session on Friday. I was ready to go.
I nailed 85 kg without any problem. Then came my meltdown. I hit 90 kgs, but two of the judges said no. (Since this was a mock meet, they were judges-in-training. And my friends. I was mad, but not at them. It’s hard to tell that from my look.)
Needless to say, I was annoyed. (You’ll notice my face at the end.) With no time to think, I declared my third lift at 90 kg again. I abandoned my plan, and instead let my emotions take over. I was going to smash that 90 kg, and show the judges. (Of course, I bombed out on the jerk because I was too pissed to concentrate.)
It was a stupid mistake, but one I’ll use to learn. For now, he’s the “No Lift” 90 kg lift.
I’m still working out my warm-up and lifting routine. It’s a bit odd to have everyone swirling around in the back trying to get loose.
What I enjoyed the most: the atmosphere.I loved that when it was time to lift everyone at the meet went silent. I’m told some people find it unnerving to have a room full of people watching you. Me: I went into a trance and didn’t even notice them.
I wish I could say that I haven’t been avoiding it, but the reality is I’ve let my life and school get between me and the words. It’s created a weird angst within me, the calling that usually comes before I cut the reigns and find myself roaming the countryside looking for what’s next.
I’m trying very hard to avoid that this time. I have a good life here in Indiana and the opportunity to do some amazing work.
So my former student Tiffany dragged me out into the city for a night of writing at cafes. Her charge: find us places to wander throughout the city. I have to say: she did an amazing job.
The ever-diligent Tiffany had printed directions for us, which we promptly ignored as we got lost. We somehow turned a 1-minute walk into a 20-minute escapade, although truth be told those are usually the best times. Only the ominous skies kept it from being entirely enjoyable.
But we made it inside before the rains came.
We plugged in and started working at 3:30 and stayed until just before closing at 7 pm.
It’s roughly 45 minutes from downtown Indianapolis and 45 minutes from Muncie. Which doesn’t seem so out of the way until I give you two more pieces of information.
The first: it’s an hour from downtown Indianapolis to Muncie, which means the trip to Bonge’s is 30 minutes out of the way; the second: it’s buried off the main drag, along a series of state routes that eventually lead you to a telephone pole with a hand-written sign on it that says “Bonge’s Tavern” to let you know you’re not lost.
In every city I’ve lived, one of the first things I do is seek out the jazz clubs where you can have dinner, a few drinks and an evening of jazz. There’s simply nothing better in the world.
I’ve been lax so far but this weekend I re-started the search.
My friend and I headed to First Friday, the monthly downtown art walk, but the snow and cold weather scattered most of the vendors. After a few brief stops, (my art bank Yelp review and my The Frame Shop Yelp review), we went to Agio (see my Yelp review) for dinner. I’d eyeballed the place the last few times I’d been to Massachusetts Avenue. There’s always some torch singers playing and I’m a fan of that. And the interior looked intriguing in a Roaring Twenties way.
The food was okay. The company was wonderful. The best part of the place: the lounge bar with the singer. I wish we’d have just stayed there.
Fortunately, there was more good music on the horizon.
A few days ago, I wrote about the special placeThe Rocky Horror Picture Show holds in my family’s lore. So tonight as my friend Hillary and I settled in to the festivities at the Irving Theater, I was pumped.
But I don’t want to rush through the story, which began during this week’s Glee episode that features seven songs from the movie.
As soon as the show ended, I began searching for places that still showed Rocky in the Indianapolis area. No problem, I figured, since it’s Halloween.
Ball State was having a showing, but I wasn’t too keen on hanging out with a bunch of students on campus this weekend. I posted as such on Twitter and in just a few minutes, a work colleague posted a link to a showing at the Irving Theater. I sent a message to Hillary, who was down for the show and the plan was in motion.
After a great dinner at Capri Ristorante (see my Yelp review), we made our way to the theater. The doors opened at 10:30 pm, but I was told we might want to get there a bit early to avoid the line. So we did just that, where we were promptly marked as Virgins since it was our first time at the show.
(Aside: I have an amazing picture of Hillary that I have been banned from posting. She looks awesome, but you are now subjected to my silly ass picture. I apologize for that.)
I don’t know how this happened or why this happened. I only know that it did happen. I’ve accepted it, embraced it and moved along. But I’ve been hard pressed to find people who are willing to join me on these escapades as a Fancy Lad in the City.
Fortunately, I’ve met some neat folks in the area and last night, a friend and I spent the evening bouncing around Indianapolis indulging in such snobbery.
We started off at the Corner Wine Bar (see my Yelp review), a cute little place in Broad Ripple. I’d been through the place last month when I met up with a few Twitter friends in The Wellington, a bar attached to the wine bar.
It really is an amazing little place. I’m positive I’ll be dragging my laptop down there this weekend for some writing. If I can’t be in Europe, I may as well go to Euro-places.
I’ve fallen in love with Massachusetts Avenue in Indianapolis, which I suppose isn’t very difficult to do since there’s so much happening in the area. Theater. Restaurants. Art galleries. Ice cream. (The ice cream cannot be under-rated. You should trust me on that.)
I’ve grown to enjoy it a bit more than Broad Ripple, which seems a bit more college-like in its atmosphere (although to pigeon-hole that area entirely as that wouldn’t do it justice) and definitely more than Fountain Square, which is a bit run down.
Every time I’ve ventured down, though, I’ve walked past restaurant called Mesh – which has large glass windows and a gorgeous awning over the front door – and promised myself I’d get down there soon. Last Friday, I finally found my way down.