(And 1 thing that turned it around)
Article written by Josh Mac
I was more ready for this meet than I was for any other meet before it. I had planned out everything, I had a great meet prep, peaking program, and great planned attempts. I felt stronger than ever. I knew what total I was after and I knew I was capable of each and every lift and I had a plan “B” in case things felt off. I had even planned on writing this article about how well the meet went afterward. But what I hadn’t planned for was the day not following my perfectly planned script.
I had preconceived notions about all of the things that I could control, but what I lacked were answers to things that would pop up that I couldn’t. The following are the mistakes that I never saw coming from a guy who plans everything down to his own hiccups and farts.
I didn’t sleep… well
Pre meet jitters are nothing new and happen to a lot of people, so I drove down ahead of my family the day before the meet and got a hotel room a few miles down the road from the meet venue. That eliminated the stress of driving 2 and a half hours to the meet that started at 8am. Although I had planned this step out well, it kinda fell flat on its face.
I went out with a couple of other lifters and gorged on food the night before. I made sure not to stay out too late or drink and I actually got back around 9pm. Feeling good, I set the thermostat to “comfort zone” like I always do, used my pillow from home to eliminate and neck pain in the morning and blocked out the excitement of the following day as I drifted off to the mystical dream world where everything I do and say is right at around 10pm.
BAM! I’m awake. The sound of some jerk-off slamming their door echoed down the hallway and shook me in an instant. Disoriented at first, my brain slowly started making sense of my alien surroundings. It’s still dark in the room, but I did have the heavy drapes closed. Is it close to 6? If so, I’ll get up now. Damn, I feel good. Alert, energetic, ready to tackle the meet. I rolled over to check the time.
Oh no. No, no, no. It’s supposed to be close to 6!
I was ready to go on only three hours of sleep. I entertained the idea of staying up but with almost 5 hours left of sleep to claim, I had to at least try.
I tossed and turned until just before 4am. For nearly three hours I laid in bed taking my openers in my mind. My heart would go through intervals of calm to racing as I imagined the bar on my back. The heartburn of the meat lover’s pizza has doing a number on me too. If I could have found a tums on the hotel room floor somewhere I might have actually eaten it.
6am: the alarm sounds and I felt like complete shit. Even the excitement of meet day wasn’t enough to shake the cobwebs from my head as I packed up and headed out to weigh in. The meet was off to a rough start and I hadn’t even pulled into the parking lot yet.
I worried about the wrong things
I got to the gym about 15 minutes before weigh ins. I wasn’t that close to the cut off in my weight class but I still didn’t eat the Hardee’s grilled cheese breakfast sandwich that was sitting on the passenger seat beside me. That could wait until after the scale.
I walked in behind a team of lifters that had driven down that morning from out of state to be there. Hearing them tell me that they hit the road at 4am solidified my happiness in my decision to splurge on a room close by the night before.
I weighed a little more than I thought, but still had 7 pounds to spare to stay in 308’s. Relieved, I turned my attention to the warm steaming bag with the star on it. I ate that sammich so hard, I thought somebody was gonna call the cops.
By that point, a lot of people had begun showing up. I mean, more than anticipated. Later it would be told to us that 30+ people were unregistered walk-ins. All of the extra lifters changed the dynamics of the meet as we would soon learn.
The rules meeting was next. The meet director did a good job of welcoming everyone and stating the pretty obvious rules. Even though I had read the rule book, I paid particular attention to the commands as he went over them having never lifted in this federation before. Everything was pretty straight forward until the director opened it up to questions.
A lifter in the crowd asked “Are compression shorts ok for raw?” Now, every fed I’ve lifted in allowed compression shorts under the singlet. I even did a little research as to whether this fed did or didn’t and it was a gray area. The main purpose for these under armor stretchies is to keep the boys in place and to leave something to the imagination when I split my legs for the crowd on the bench.
The director replied: “No briefs for raw and if I see it, the lift won’t count.” This prompted countless lifters afterward to approach the director one on one and ask if theirs were ok but once I heard it, I got in line for the bathroom to take mine off.
After finally making it to the bathroom to pull off my “evil cheating shorts,” I met back up with my teammates who had just asked the director about theirs… and apparently got the green light. Back to the bathroom line to get my manly bike shorts back on. All of this silliness about worrying about how my balls looked was eating up valuable time, which led to my next mistake…
I lost track of time
With the stupid compression short debacle out of the way, I could focus on stretching out. I had a few remaining cobwebs but I was knocking them out with an unhealthy dose of caffeine and beta alanine. Despite my sharpening acuity, once flights were posted and the meet was underway I really thought I had more time.
We had one of our team’s lifters in flight “B” while the rest of us were in flight “C.” As in meets past, I started my warm ups while the preceding flight began their first attempts. So as our teammate was demolishing his opener, the rest of us started loading the bar backstage.
Because I was toward the end of the list of flight “C” I knew that I had some time, so I took the same weight for more than one set, unlike in training. The extra sets would help me wake up a little, I thought.
But midway through flight “B” we had noticed that the music had stopped. The PA system had shorted out and let out a fart of smoke as it died. The announcer was now calling lifters without a microphone. This change led me to make my next mistake…
I didn’t adapt
Still confident in the time and with the flight info posted right next to the rack that I was on, we hammered away on warm ups. These were feeling great and snappy. Although the music was dead and I couldn’t hear the names being called out by the platform, I could see that our flight “B” lifter was still in the midst of his attempts. I only had a couple of warm up singles to hit before I was good. Since things were going so well, I took the time to head back to where I kept my cooler to grab a few drinks. I could hear the announcer calling lifters that I didn’t know as I passed by the platform, it never occurred to me that they might be in my flight.
I wrapped my knees for my last squat warm up, which was an absolute smoke show. As I racked the bar and began unwrapping, I heard “Josh is the lifter, on deck Chris, blah blah is in the hole.” The PA had been repaired and just in time. But now I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t been that terrified to hear my name since I was 6. There I was, totally blindsided, dragging my knee wraps on the floor as I walked up to the scorer’s table to tell them that I was waving my first squat attempt because I wasn’t paying attention. This was going to change everything.
I took too big of a jump
I had a plan “A” and a plan “B” for meet day, but I didn’t have a plan “C” for screw ups like this. My planned attempts were conservative to begin with. A 585 opener, a 620 second and a 660 (10# pr) third was the plan “A” for a squat PR. Plan “B” was 585/625/640 for a better chance of making all attempts for a total PR without a squat PR.
Having not been prepared to skip my opener, I took my opening attempt of 585 when they called me again for my second. That went well enough, but now what? Well, I heard the cliché “Go big or go home” echo through my head as I walked up to the scoring table to give my third attempt. Before I could stop myself to actually put some thought into it, I opted to take a 75# jump and chase the squat PR with 660 for a third.
I missed it. Shit.
I didn’t stay hydrated
As stupid as it sounds I brought every Powerade and Gatorade that I could fit in the cooler and my luggage but they don’t do much good if you don’t drink them. Those drinks that I left warm ups to go get… in the haste of getting ready for the opener I never drank them! I was sweating like a hostage since 135 was on the bar and the humidity of a marginally warm day in March was enough to start that dry mouth syndrome for old Girth Brooks here.
There is a balance between keeping hydrated and visiting the god awful ¾ full port-o-johns constantly to urinate all over everyone’s old Chipotle mounds. Unfortunately, I didn’t find that balance. By the time that I made my way back to get some electrolytes, I was already feeling the effects of dehydration.
I warmed up too early
Once bitten twice shy from the totally avoidable squat attempt mistake, I made sure to keep better track of flight “B” on bench. Only, this time around when we asked for the bench order we were told that flights would just remain the same throughout. “Go by the squat flights” was what echoed throughout the warm up area as lifters searched aimlessly for their order. Without knowing where in the flight I was, I opted on the side of caution and began warming up as if I were going to be the first lifter of flight “C.”
Listening intently to the announcer as he said these were the 3rd attempts of flight “B,” I started taking heavier singles. Taking turns with team mates and strangers alike, I took my final warm up, about 20 pounds under my opener. Then I waited for my name.
Without the list of names, not once did I ever consider the “Bench Only” lifters that had entered. I had warmed up way too early and I sat around for the next 25 minutes flapping my arms like an asshole waiting for my name before it was called.
I let my misses set the tone for the next lift
Each lift has its own set of challenges, and just because one is off on a particular day doesn’t mean the same for the other two. Despite that logic, on meet day it sure can feel that way. I had gotten stapled on a squat that I thought was mine for the taking. Now on bench, my opener was slow and my second attempt of 400, although a meet PR, was a grinder. My conservative third attempt of 405, a weight that I crushed easily in the gym 9 days prior, was a miss.
Heading into the deadlift, this was weighing heavily on my confidence. Frustration was building as the last ten weeks of training and PR’s seemed like it was all for nothing. I was letting my teammates down. I had spent all of this money and had family drive from far away just for them to see me miss lifts in a friggen leotard, wonderful!
With things going from bad to laughable, I had one chance to salvage the meet. It was down to my favorite lift. The same one that set me so far back through injury. That gnarly old bitch, the deadlift.
I pried my head from my cheeks
I took my deadlift attempts as planned, as if every lift beforehand had been perfect. I worked up to a commanding 500 in warm ups on a stiff bar and headed out for my opener of 550 with a face full of ammonia and a head full of anger. But, it felt heavy…
My second attempt of 585 would tie my previous best meet total, and it went up with about as much effort. But 600 was the goal. It had been almost a year and a half since I herniated 4 discs and spent so much time walking with a limp and recovering to the point that I could tie my own shoes again. I approached the bar the only way I knew how, pretending that it was lighter than it really was. This was 585 again in my mind, I pretended that it was only my second attempt.
Once my mind got out of my bodies way, I pulled the easiest lift of the day for a 10# deadlift pr and despite all of the mistakes, I salvaged a 15# meet total pr.
I wish that the meet had turned out better, the mistakes that I made were totally avoidable and elementary like. I left a lot of pounds out there on the platform. But that’s why meet totals are more impressive to me than gym lifts. It’s hard to be on for so many hours and perform your best in three very different lifts in conditions so different than the ones that we’re accustomed to. My aggregate total is much higher and sounds more impressive, but this meet total is the very best that I’ve done in one day in front of judges. Despite my mistakes, I was able to take back the day and because of those mistakes I am now a more experienced lifter going into my tenth meet, where I’ll finally take a run at elite later this year. My team is ready to perform their best and next time I will be too. I’m packing my tranq’s and Q-tips already.