My first powerlifting meet is in the books.
If you asked me on Saturday morning if I planned to compete again, I would have answered with a resounding NO. Now that it’s behind me, I’ve changed my opinion, and I’m considering competing again in June.
Let’s walk through my first powerlifting meet.
Weigh-ins were on Friday, the day before the meet. I was positive I was just going to miss my weight class. I knew when I signed up that I hover right on the weight that determines whether I lift in the 75kg class or the 82kg class. Ideally, you want to lift in the lower class, but for my first meet, I wasn’t concerned with making a certain weight.
The first thing I did was get my rack heights. It was straightforward and quick. Then, I presented my USPA card, gave my starting numbers for squat, bench, and deadlift, and weighed in. I had visions of stirpping down to my bra and underwear in a room full of strangers because that’s what happens in the movies. Instead, the scale was in the bathroom, and the person recording the weight was outside with the reader. I was able to weigh in privately and was surprised to see I not only made weight, I had wiggle room.
The last step of weigh-in was having my equipment checked. I took my bag of “things” to the inspector and he made sure my singlet (it’s the worst), knee sleeves, t-shirt, deadlift socks, shoes, belt, and wrist straps were approved. Then, I signed my card and was cleared for competition the next day.
The Morning Of
The night before, I made sure I had everything I needed for the meet in my bag. I also made a breakfast sandwich that I could heat up the next morning, and prepped the coffee maker. I tried to go to bed early, but ended up not sleeping well, thanks mostly to neighbors who decided the parking lot was the perfect party location and a few nerves.
In the morning, I got dressed – singlet and everything – heated up my breakfast, filled my water bottle (and added my BCAAs!), poured a cup of coffee, and headed to my gym for the meet. There was a competitor meeting at 8:15, and I expected to hear a reading of the rules. Instead, the meet director gave a quick rundown of behavior expectations, thanked The Gym and sponsors/vendors, and wished us good luck. I’m glad I took the time to read the rulebook.
And then, it was time to lift.
I felt good about my squats from the get go. My opener was 250lbs, a weight I can do for a few reps. The goal was to get something on the board with attempt one. I had to be careful about listening to commands. I like to wiggle a bit after I unrack, like I’m screwing myself into the ground. Once you make eye contact with the judge and he gives the “squat” command, you can’t move your feet. I was careful not to look at him until he said “squat.”
As predicted, my first attempt was smooth. There are three judges at each lift, and each of them gives a red or white light. Two or more red lights is a failed lift. Two or more white lights is a good lift. Easy enough. I’m not sure if I got two or three white lights on my first lift – I saw three, but my friends said there were two – but either way, the lift was good.
I have no idea what attempt 2 was. Justin, my coach, knows the numbers get in my head sometimes, so he told the judges what my attempt would be. The number was displayed, but in kilograms, and I’m not quick enough at math to make the conversion on the fly. The poundage was announced, but I tend to have tunnel vision and hearing when I’m front and center. I didn’t see or hear the audience or the announcer. It was just me and the judges. My second attempt was also good – and this one was definitely two white lights.
My third attempt, we went for a PR. Again, I didn’t know what I was lifting at the time, just that it was at least around or more than my 275lb PR. Justin told me to “be a little more excited” when I went up to the platform, so I drew on that and felt really confident stepping up to the bar. It helped that Dylan, one of our coaches, was spotting. He knew what I was capable of, and I trust him. I can’t tell you how beneficial it was to have Dylan on the platform for our first meet.
I hit my third attempt – which I later learned was 281lbs! – and it was all white lights. Squats were a success!
Going into the meet, I knew the bench was going to be my weakest lift. I was also worried about the commands. Once you unrack the bar, you wait for the “start” command. You pause at the bottom – which I struggle with – and wait for the “press” command. At the top of the lift, you wait for “rack.” We had practiced this a lot, and I thankfully didn’t jump any commands. I like to put the bar back on the rack quick after a bench.
I opened with 115lbs, something I knew I could do once, maybe twice. My second attempt was 121.5lbs, just shy of my (messy) 125lb max. Justin opted to pull me after that – no third attempt – which was the right call. I managed three white lights on both lifts.
The women were in flight A, and flights B, C, and D were men. They took FOREVER to bench. While we waited for deadlifts to start, my back tightened up, likely from a combination of the earlier heavy squats and a lot of standing and sitting around. I tried to loosen it up with a foam roller and some stretching, then got an adjustment from Jacob who was on hand for this very reason. He helped immensely, but by the time I got to deadlift, exhaustion was creeping in.
My first attempt was an “easy” 260lbs. My second was 270lb, which I also got. We decided to go for a max of 281lbs for my third attempt, and I couldn’t even get it off the ground. I think, had we not had so much downtime and my back not staged a rebellion, I could have made it. I only had to wait for a “down” command on this lift – which if you’re asking my opinion, took the judge a little too long to give – and I walked away with all white lights on my first two lifts, and all red lights on my failed third attempt.
I was in the biggest class of the day, with four women total. I finished fourth out of four, but I accomplished the goals I set for myself. When the results sheet was sent out yesterday, I got to see for myself how much my bench held me back. I was competitive everywhere else, and I’ve already told Justin we have to work on the bench.
“It’s just a confidence thing,” he says. Stay tuned.
A few other takeaways from the meet:
- Weigh-ins aren’t nearly as stressful as I built them up to be in my head.
- Ammonia is commonly sniffed/huffed by lifters right before they step up to the platform. It opens their airway and allows them to inhale more air before they lift. I’m blown away by this. All I can think of is how my mother would send us out of the house when she cleaned with watered down ammonia, and keep all the windows and doors opened. I will not be joining the ammonia club. Although I probably second hand ingested some given the yellow cloud floating over the warm-up area.
- For my next meet (I think there will be a next one), I need to figure out nutrition. I didn’t eat much throughout the day, save for a couple of protein bars, and with both hypoglycemia and hypotension, I can’t do that. I need to spend some time figuring out how to fuel my body. I think that contributed to my exhaustion at day’s end.
- USPA exemplifies both professionalism and efficiency. I was really impressed with how smoothly things ran, and how quickly they broke it all down. They were breaking down the awards table while awards were being handed out – they are my kind of people!
I learned a lot during my first powerlifting meet, and I had a blast doing it. I’m grateful it was at my gym, with my people. Justin and Dylan were there, but so was – everyone else. Chan and Kim, who competed alongside me in the women’s divisions. Toni, who held down the fort like only she can. A whole host of guys who were there to lend their equipment, spot during warm-ups, whatever was needed. So many gym (and non-Gym) friends showed up to cheer us on.
It really does take a village.
I couldn’t have asked for a better first meet.
Here’s to the next one.
And a 300lb squat.
And a bench press that doesn’t embarrass me.
Thanks for the photos Hanna, Rachel, and Kim!