Qualified!

Feels kind of weird to be tooting my own horn here on the blog, or even writing in first person at all, but I have something I’m proud to share: this weekend I qualified for the American Open – a national level competition- in Weightlifting. This wasn’t by chance, which is why I want to share this story. It was a process, and it was hard.

Let me give you a little primer on Weightlifting competitions, so you can understand some of the details here. Every Weightlifting meet has the same format: you get three attempts to successfully complete the highest weight Snatch you can, and three attempts for the same at the Clean and Jerk. Your attempts always have to move up in weight (or, if you miss an attempt, you can stay at that weight). There are three judges that watch your lifts, and you need at least two of them to give you a green light for the lift to be “good.” There are some important rules you have to follow to get a green light, but there are no style points. The weight of your heaviest successful Snatch combined with your heaviest successful Clean and Jerk is called your Total, and it is measured in kilos. Your Total is your score, and you are only compared to other competitors of your same sex and weight class.

I’ve been competing in Weightlifting a few times a year for the last several years with my numbers steadily moving up. Last spring, I saw that the qualifying totals for the national-level Weightlifting meets were realistically attainable for me, and I decided to make a goal: I wanted to get to a national meet. To qualify for a national meet, one must meet or exceed the qualifying Total that is determined by USAW for each weight class based on national rankings.

I think my Total then was only 5 or 6 kilos away from the qualifying total. Doesn’t sound like much, but it was. There are a number of factors that could (and did) make adding 5 kilos to my lifts difficult, including training age, real age, lifestyle, and of course the volume and quality of my training. Oh, and one more big factor: injury. Many of you know that I’ve been struggling with my shoulder for a year now (MRI was finally done last week, results still to be analyzed). This injury has really limited my ability to train, and at times I’ve needed to completely halt a session because of the pain. Not fun, and extremely frustrating. I definitely had times where I wondered if I were crazy, thinking I could or would  meet this goal.

I first attempted to qualify for the American Open last June at the Midtown Classic. Didn’t make it. There were several meets over the summer but my training was sporadic and it didn’t make sense to compete. So then I was planning for a September meet, the United Barbell Open, to qualify. I showed up at the meet in the morning, and for the first time, I didn’t make weight! I was .3 kilos over. Yes, one third of a kilo over. That meant that even if I made the qualifying total, it wouldn’t count because I wasn’t in my weight class. I didn’t make it anyway, but sure learned a lesson in the process about preparing ahead of time for weigh-in. There were a couple more meets right after that one, but with my shoulder easily inflamed, it wasn’t a good idea to compete so soon.

So, that left one more meet to qualify, the “last chance qualifier” in the PWA for the American Open this year, the Don Wilson Golden West Open, held this past Sunday up in Redding. It was a long drive up, but it was my only chance. I needed a 140 kilo Total to qualify, and the plan was to get a 62k Snatch on my second attempt (then attempt 64k for a PR on my third lift) and a 78k Clean and Jerk on my second attempt, finishing with 80k which I had recently hit in a competitive CrossFit event, the OPTathlon. Seemed like it would be no problem! I had hit both of these numbers before, just not together.

Easy. Yeah right! I missed the 62 Snatch. Shoot. Came back and got it on the third lift. Ok. Clean and Jerk time comes, I open with 74, then I miss 78 at the second lift. Holy cow. This meant that I had one chance, one lift left, that I had to make, or I would not be going to the American Open. This was really it – the last meet in which I could qualify, and now I was down to one single lift that would determine whether or not I did. Well I did! And I know this video doesn’t show how very hard that lift was. It took so much focus. I cried afterwards – first time I’ve done that!

I’ll go down and compete with the top dogs at the American Open on November 30th in Palm Springs, but I have totally achieved my goal already, so whatever happens there is just for the experience. I am proud of myself and really glad that I’ve done this. A big whopping thank you hug goes to my coach, Freddie Myles. As with any struggle, I’ve learned a lot in this process, and I feel that I haven’t even absorbed it all yet.

Thank you to Ryan for his support as driver, phone videographer, and audible cheerer! By the way, 62k is 136.4 lbs and 78k is 171.6 lbs.