I had never seen my coach so mad at me. Looming over me, yelling for real, “You didn’t get set, you didn’t take a big breath, your face didn’t even get red! This isn’t going to be pretty! You’ve got four minutes. You’d better bring it!”
I had gone under the bar with 200 pounds and was a mess, I caved. I didn’t know it was 200 pounds — I thought I was still working my way up to it, but that didn’t matter. I should have treated it like it was the most I’d ever done. Ben came back a minute later, a little less ferocious. “You remember the last one when you did 160 for reps? How hard that was? That’s what this is. You made 183 look like your bitch, do this!”
This was it. I could bring it or I could go home. I was terrified. I knew now what 200 felt like and I had to get back under it and do it right. In front of my friends who were cheering me on and just saw me fail. And nobody could do it for me. It was just me and the weight. My four minutes were up. I tightened my belt, grabbed the bar and shook it, hard. And again, squeezing with a death grip. This was IT. I meant business this time. I had imagined this moment at least a hundred times.
I swung under the bar and dug my feet in, everything tight. Everyone was yelling. No going back. I heaved the bar up and smiled inside. This was a world of difference. I was ready for it this time. It would still be a battle, but I was ready. I stepped back. My awesome friends were still yelling. Big breath, still tight and sink down, then UP with everything I had. When I imagined this squat I focused on keeping my knees out, my chest up, pushing against the belt, spreading the floor with my feet, getting my hips forward. When it comes to really doing it there is no room for any of that, no conscious thought. There’s just every fiber in my body fighting UP as I roar and my face goes crimson and I feel like gravity is winning, like the weight will drive me down, but I will NOT give up, not even a chance and I keep fighting up, up, up and then I’m standing again and I slam the bar into the rack and turn to ask Coach, “Did I do it???” “It was all you,” he said. Quickly, we watched the video — did it count? did I go to depth? And there’s no doubt. I did it. I did it! And better than I’d ever imagined it would feel relief and euphoria exploded inside me and I stomped my feet and high fived everyone, grinning maniacally. It was still sinking in, I was shaking, but I had DONE it!
I wanted to scream and jump and run and do a million things at once — I had never been so exhilarated. “I’ve never seen you approach the bar with so much intensity,” Dawn said. “Because I wanted it,” I replied, the understatement of the century. 200 had been the siren song in my head for months. I ran inside to get the champagne I had stashed in Susan’s fridge a couple weeks before, ready for celebration. We drank the bubbly out of her little girls’ pink plastic cups, me trying to refrain from yelling “I just squatted 200 f—ing pounds!” — they had all seen it after all. I kept feeling like I had dreamed it, that I hadn’t really done it, but I had! I huddled next to Sarah on the bench, trying to stay warm. “I can feel the testosterone coming off you,” she said. I could too – adrenaline, joy, every imaginable extreme feeling was pulsing through me. I had never felt like this.
On the drive home to get ready to go out to dinner with Brian and Susan and Dave to celebrate (my friend had so much faith in me she asked me days before to plan to celebrate last night) I probably looked like a wild woman. Once on my own I could let all furious amounts of energy and excitement out. My stereo as loud as it would go I roared along with Drowning Pool, Bodies, pounding my fist until I realized I might actually bruise my hand. This, this feeling made every single instant of work, of pain, worth it. Nothing you can buy even approaches the feeling of fighting for something so hard and winning. I wish I could hold onto that feeling, but now that I know it, I’ll always be chasing it.