I'm already home, back at work, and I have a bronze medal roughly 3.5" in diameter hanging from my bookshelf.
A bronze medal for a third place finish in my first ever Senior Nationals, the top annual meet in the country? A rare feat, you might say, which is technically true. There is no question I am happy, and the moment I learned I was a bronze-medalist was absolutely incredible, but I still know that my award is more a result of luck than of the incremental progress that led me to my new best total for a national meet of 261kg.
In my last entry I mentioned my very modest goal of making four out of six lifts, which would show a noticeable increase in my ability to handle a meet with many lifters attempting similar weights to my own. I even predicted as low as 260kg with such a performance. It seems I couldn't have guessed better if I had tried - I made exactly four of my six lifts and my total was only 1kg higher than the minimum guess. I lifted in the B session (while there were only six 77kg lifters in the Nationals, there were many more in the Pan Ams), and managed to beat Jonas Westbrook, my only other competition in the session. I made my opening snatch of 111kg, then (predictably?) missed my second attempt of 116kg after a wait of at least ten minutes. I came back and made it easily. Then, while warming up in the clean and jerk, my heart started pounding and I began feeling dizzy after standing up with my cleans, even though my technique was pretty good. Out on the platform I made my first clean at 142kg, and I tried to catch my breath and stave off my dizziness before the jerk, but my arms bent so much that the lift was turned down. I came back and made it, but I clearly didn't have much more in me, so we finished with a successful 145kg.
I left the session happy enough, but disappointed. I really did feel like I could easily have snatched more than 120kg that morning, and I was flustered with the way I felt during the clean and jerks. At this point we've decided it was probably dehydration and an issue with me letting my weight get too high between meets, but I had really wanted to go for a PR of, say, 155kg, and the warmup weights had been as easy, if not easier, than they had ever been. I did meet my minimum, but totaling 15kg less than you felt you could have is not a good feeling. I had guaranteed myself 5th place with not much hope of anything better. So, of course, we went out to eat.
Just to see how it would go for everyone else, and to see some top international lifters in my weight class, I went with my family to watch the 77kg A session. Most did an impressive job, including Ivan Cambar of Cuba, a sixth-place finisher at the 2008 Olympics. All four of my competitors snatched more than I did, and, unlike many big meets I've seen in the past, almost all the lifters made most or all of their snatches. The first surprise came in the clean and jerk, when Oleg Danilov, opening with 145kg to complement his 118kg snatch, missed three attempts in a row and was out. The excitement was tempered a bit when David Boffa made 147kg look like it was made of styrofoam, and when Walter Soha easily made his opener. Both finished well with 268kg and 271kg totals, respectively. It looked like we were going to see a repeat of last year's American Open when Lance Frye opened with 165kg.. and missed his jerk! Then, he missed his second clean, and, in a moment where it seemed everybody's hearts stopped, the unbelievable happened when Lance's final jerk attempt crushed him underneath it and he stormed off the platform. Lance is my teammate, and I felt for him - that could easily have been me the way my first jerk went - but, wonder of all wonders, I was third place! I practically fell forward in my chair in disbelief. Leo found his way up to me to tell me I was needed below, and I found my very first USADA chaperone waiting for me at the door. It's funny how novel the urine collection procedure can be, and I much prefer the victory drug test to the collegiate version of the random drug test I was used to. My brother snapped pictures of me walking back from the test room, but he missed his opportunity to capture me on film walking down the hall proudly carrying my sample over my head.
I am excited about the result, but I feel much tempered with the knowledge that, for one, last year I would only have placed 9th with such a total, and, for two, I had a legitimate shot at first place. It's not even true that I am not consistent at my heaviest weights - most training test days where I hit PRs I tend to miss one or two lifts max, and my successful lift rate at meets is over 70%. But it really is true that I still have further to go before I can compete as well in a national meet as I can in a local meet. Leo hasn't given me a new workout plan yet, but it is my expectation that I will be training taking even larger jumps between attempts (I believe I missed the 116kg snatch because I had gone in the back and taken 100kg and 107kg and that the 9kg difference was too much for me) and waiting for more time.
It's all over, and I'm happy. The next meet is at FDU to start off camp, and then another meet in good old Frederick in August. Maybe we'll see 275+ over the next couple of months...