My first full year of competition: a 39kg increase

With my second appearance at the Maryland State and Potomac Valley Championships in Frederick, I have capped my first full year of lifting competitively with a 39kg improvement. Broken down, that's 22kg more in the snatch and 17kg more in the clean and jerk. It was a good year: I got my first pair of lifting shoes, went to my first national meet, learned to squat snatch, and qualified for Senior Nationals (all in that order). With everything said and done, I have some breathing room and a lot of hope for the future. I'm proud of what I did, and I don't think I could have asked for a better year. I also want to thank Leo for showing me the way, my teammates for egging me on, my family and friends for applauding me, and Christy for supporting me throughout (granted she's probably one of the only people who reads this).

Now I can happily wax philosophical! When I started this whole business, I had dreams of Olympic glory. Not necessarily a medal, but I really wanted to make the trip. What really surprised me was that I received support from the get-go: my old wrestling and lifting coaches, teammates, and friends actually believed I could do it. Truthfully, I still haven't even convinced myself it's possible, but I think it's a worthy goal. With the 2008 Olympic trials next weekend, I had known this year was far beyond my reach, but if Saturday's total had counted on the national level I would have actually entered into the Olympic rankings at 43rd. I'll be cheering on my East Coast Gold teammates: Lance Frye, Carissa Gump, Matt Devine, Hilary Katzenmeier, Gwen Sisto, and any others going to the trials. Both Lance and Carissa have a great shot at representing us on the biggest stage, and I know they would do our team proud. Not like when Leo handed me my ECG 2007 National Team t-shirt and told me, "Now don't embarrass us!"

The 2012 Olympics in London is still my goal, but I also still have a ridiculously long way to go. I'd have to total better than 325kg at the very least to go this year, and there's no guarantee that we'll have ANY slots for the men, let alone that I wouldn't need an even higher total. While 257kg vaults me into the top 20 for my weight class, everything gets a bit more stratified after that. There are holes in my technique and slight stability issues that can be fixed and will likely add a good 30kg-40kg to my total within the next year, but that's still not enough. What about after that?? And of course there's the ever-present threat of injury.

I am not going to bother myself with any of that! Every day I will continue on the best course I can determine until I get as far as I can go. What else can I do?

But, since the year is over and as is my wont to do, I'll make a note here of where I see myself headed. Saturday's meet highlighted two specific items for me to fix. First and foremost, I am going to learn patience and timing on my cleans. Every single clean attempt I did had the bar crashing down on me. In a proper clean, the bar is caught at the moment it is weightless. When I clean, the bar drops a good several inches on me, then knocks me down a good foot further. On a bad attempt, I drop the bar on the way down. On a good attempt, I fall until my ass almost touches the ground, then I front-squat my way out of it because my strength still outpaces my technique by a longshot. It all happens because I start the explosive pull too early and pull the bar too high. Leo has worked with me on this for the last two weeks, and when I do catch it at the right time it feels almost effortless! I did it correctly in warmups for the meet until 110kg or 120kg, but past that I still get too anxious and revert to my old tactics. If I can fix this, it could easily mean 150kg-160kg, and I'd STILL be under any of my numbers-game-projected clean and jerks. The other issue I saw was my stability under the snatches: I could pull the bar plenty high, but I'm just not used to holding that much weight over my head. I'll be going back to overhead squats and I'll start doing snatch balances with real weight for the first time!

And so that's where I am, and that's where I'm going. I met my goal of a 100kg squat snatch by March 14th, and yesterday I met my goal of a 115kg snatch before June. I did want to back squat 230kg, front squat 190kg, and clean and jerk 150kg by June as well, but really at this point all that matters is the technique. If I try too hard to raise my numbers I tend to start creating small injuries, so I will do this right. My next meet is the kickoff to ECG's summer lifting camp at Moorestown, where I'll spend a week dedicated to lifting. There's another meet in York, PA in September, then the American Open towards the end of the year and Senior Nationals a few months after that. If I can build up this technique, the American Open will be my first shot at really entering the elite ranks. Top 5 at the Open and top 10 or better at Nationals will put me on the map. Who knows: maybe I could be looking at 275kg-280kg by then. That could put me in the top 30 overall...

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