Getting There Was Not Easy
After taking doctor's orders about resting, I was feeling fine by go-time. Except then it started to snow, and rain, and then freeze in the alpine playground where I live. We can certainly handle each of those, but all three at once caused Queenstown airport to shut down.
My ticket to fly out was for Wednesday, the day before I was due to lift. I decided I would do what it takes to get up to Auckland the day before, as planned, rather than risk running late and being stressed out and wound up on the day I competed. I re-arranged my flight to go out of Invercargill and drove the family car through snow, sleet and ice to get there. By the end of the day, instead of a direct flight from Queenstown to Auckland, I drove, flew and waited in airports for nine hours. Ugh. Could have been worse. I'm grateful to get to Auckland, and in time too.
In a powerlifting competition, with the three attempts at each lift, you need to make a quick decision about what weight to attempt for your next lift. At this competition, lifters needed to have their next lift in to the official's table on the right slip of paper within one minute after their lift. It's good to have someone to 'run your numbers' so you can recover from the last lift and prepare for the next one.
I was planning to look after myself while lifting, as usual, but Sylvia's husband Phil kindly offered to run my numbers for me. He has supported Sylvia for years of her lifting and has even qualified to be a referee. He doesn't lift himself but knows the game.
There was a thrill of fear as I stood up under the 115kg bar. It was only 2.5kg more than I had held on my shoulders before, but that 2.5kgs pressed some of the brave out of me. I breathed out the fear, sucked in resolve, braced, lowered, heaved up a few inches and stalled. Couldn't get further. So my best squat stayed at 105kg, significantly less than I know I can lift.
When I first learned to CrossFit, I was taught to dump the weight correctly before I was allowed to start squatting heavy. In my powerlifting training which is mostly by myself, with rubber bumper plates, I often dump the bar no problem. Many other lifters always train with buddies and have spotters when they go heavy so are not in the habit of dumping the bar. The spotters got a fright when I followed my instincts and dumped it. Phil explained to me that that's not the done thing in a competition - something else to learn!
Phil turned out to be a friend indeed. He not only ran my numbers, but kept me on track with timing. He let me know when I had five minutes until lifting, then one minute, and helped me do my belt up tight. He said encouraging and helpful things before my lifts and told me what had gone wrong when I got red-lighted.
Powerlifting gets a crazy towards the end of the session, when the lifters are close to exhausted and trying to summon the last of their mental energy for their final deadlifts. The less brainwork a powerlifter has to do for themselves, the better. This is when the person who 'runs your numbers' becomes a 'handler'. We need handlers to do our thinking for us. I was very grateful to have Phil.
I have a training deadlift PR of 155kg, but a week before this I had failed a deadlift at 150kg. I warmed up to 140kg, and made 142.5kg well for my first lift, then 150kg ok for my second. Phil did some maths and figured out that whether I succeed or failed in lifting 155kg as I planned for my third, I would stay in the same placing, but if I tried for 160kg I would go up a spot. So I went for the 160kg, not thinking that I could do it. But with nothing to lose, I got out there, yelled at the bar a couple of times so it was good and scared, and picked the thing up. I was red lighted for moving my foot during the lift, but I am delighted to get that up. As a friend pointed out, in CrossFit that would still be a good lift. 160kg! Stoked.
Ashleigh Templeton, a rising star of NZ Powerlifting, is in my age and weight class. She lifted at the Record breakers event at the Fitness Expo on Sunday. When her lifts were accounted for I came out in fifth place. I had hoped for better, but played a risky game with my numbers which did not pay off. It was exciting, I learned things, I met cool people and I deadlifted 160kg! A good day.
Who else gets to explore the limits of their capabilities as a human? Where else would you push your body and mind to those extremes? This is not something you feel when they unscrew a jar lid with all your strength. This is an extreme whole body experience that is trained and pushed and gone deeper into over years of competitive lifting. It leaves your body depleted and your mind reeling. Competitive powerlifting brings the sublime into the human experience.