I wondered a lot before showtime, before the moment came that I stepped back from the rack with 180 pounds on my back, what it would feel like. And I imagined it a lot, visualizing taking the weight and completing the squat. But as hard as I found it to imagine a weight heavier than I’ve ever lifted, I found it impossible to imagine what it would feel like to reach that goal.
My trial run for the June meet was yesterday. It was time to see how far my training had brought me since February. My heart raced as I drove to the gym and positively hammered as I took my place under the bar. I got to play the music of my choice and I went with a somewhat random combination of My Body by Young the Giant, Can’t Tell me Nothing by Kanye West and Beethoven’s Symphony Number 7 (the incredibly inspiring music in the final speech of The King’s Speech).
My friend and training partner Susan came to cheer me on — a definite boost to have such a staunch supporter. And Ben kept me focused on my task at hand, reminding me to do only one thing — keep my chest up. I warmed up, weight progressing, but purposely not counting the plates as Ben added them. I didn’t want a number in my head influencing how heavy I thought it was.
We got to my three lift attempts, starting (I learned after the fact) at 155 — 10 more than I hit at the last meet. It felt great and I buried it. Still I was super hyped up, pacing the room during my rest period. The next lift (165), again, felt great — I crushed it and I knew it. Making that one gave me a spurt of confidence for my third — I’d made it up without my knees even coming in. I didn’t know the exact weight but I knew I was now going heavier than I ever had. I took it off the rack, steadied myself for a moment to let my body get used to the weight, and like we’ve been practicing, took just two short steps back. It felt heavy and I started to lean forward a little when I came out of the bottom, but kept my eyes locked at a point on the ceiling, and came back up. That one was 175 — equal to the current APA record for the 105 weight class. My hands shook with excitement as I crouched on the floor to watch the video with Susan — looking to see if I went to depth. It was questionable.
In a real meet, if you are going for a record breaker you get a fourth lift attempt. It can be as little as two pounds. Ben assigned me to sit for five minutes to rest. The time crawled while my heart raced. I tried to just clear my mind, and at all costs avoided my eyes from the bar. I wasn’t going to let it psych me out. Then it was time to go.
Again, under the bar. Dig my feet in, arch my back, big breath, raise the bar, right foot back, left foot back, not looking down. Two seconds to steady myself, and down. Then the true test — back up. I glued my eyes to my spot on the ceiling and drove up, forcing my knees back out when they just started to come in. And then I was somewhat stunned to find that I was up.
A grin grew on my face a mile wide. “How much was it?” I asked. “180 pounds,” Ben replied. I’d done it. I’d really done it. We gathered to watch the video — again it was questionable whether I went completely parallel, so I have work to do on depth, but I had put 180 pounds on my back and completed a squat — five more pounds than the record.
I felt like Superwoman. I was ready to take on anything. I could have danced down the street, but it was time to bench, as soon as my hands stopped shaking long enough to update Facebook with Crushed 180 baby! I know that outside my my gym friends, nobody really gets what that means, but it meant the world to me. I’d set a pretty crazy goal — “lofty” in Susan’s words — and worked with intense determination for months. And now that I know I can reach a goal like that, I only want to do more. Out the window went our conservative plans for the June meet to open at 155. No. I’m opening at 165, Ben says, and hitting 180 on my second attempt. “You’re not just going to break the record,” he said, his pride clear, “you’re going to destroy it!” Nothing could have made me happier to hear –but then he said “200, we’re coming for you,” and I was even giddier. To realize that I’m only 20 pounds away from squatting almost double my weight, and that I have the confidence and strength to know it’s attainable, is an unbelievably powerful feeling.
I got onto the bench with an abundance of happy energy, and easily hit 80 (my max at the last meet), 85, and 90. I felt like I had plenty more and wished I could have gone on.
I started at 160 on deadlift – five more than I barely managed at the first meet. I picked it up like it was a bag of groceries so Ben gave me 175 for the next one. It came up so fast — and in my excitement I forgot that in a meet you have to set it down, not drop it — that Susan didn’t even realize I’d completed it.
One more. I’d hit every lift so far and was feeling hugely confident. Ben saw that and ordered 195 pounds, a number I’d have thought was insane a week ago. I got set, began to pull and forced it about two inches off the floor. It wasn’t a matter of it being a little too heavy — this just simply wasn’t coming with me. I was a bit disappointed — not to have missed 195, but to have not played it safer at 185. But it was worth a shot. And my three lift total had still rocketed from 380 at the last meet to 445. My ultimate goal of reaching 500 combined may not be so far-fetched!
I’m the same person I was when I got up yesterday morning, but I’ve changed. Not only because I know without a doubt that I’m strong, but because I’ve shown myself I can do what I set my mind to. I want to officially break the record at the meet but in my book, I won yesterday. And I couldn’t wipe the huge smile off my face for the rest of the day (some men who smiled at me in my pretty dress and hat yesterday at the track may have thought I was smiling back in favorable response — imagine if they knew I was thinking “I’m smiling because could squat you!”)