East Coast Gold 25th anniversary weightlifting camp

Friday, July 3rd concluded the week-long ECG annual weightlifting camp in Moorestown, NJ. I and about 29 other weightlifters lifted twice a day, every day starting the day after an opening meet at Fairleigh Dickenson University. For my third time attending, I thought I'd do a quick rehash.

We began with the Garden State Games, where we each got our own coach from a group taking a senior coach course in conjunction with the camp. I think I made it pretty easy on Tyrone, who had me write down my warmup sets since I already knew my plan and essentially had only to help load my weights, let me know how many attempts remained before I went, and decide for me what weights to attempt in competition. He must have done a good job, as I went five for six, snatching 117kg (and ALMOST 121kg) and clean and jerking a PR 155kg for a PR total of 272kg.

The next day started the real work. Sunday through Thursday was the same routine: meet at 9:45am for dynamic warmups, 11:45am for our first lift, and 5:15pm for the second (times varied slightly, and the less advanced lifters had their second lift earlier). Weigh-ins were every day to make sure we were eating and drinking enough: I lost 1.5kg the first day and 0.75kg the second, but managed to gain it back by the end. There was no skimping on the volume during the lifts; if anything, we did more reps with heavier weight each workout than usual. I won't say this even came close to the difficulty of some of the wrestling camps I've gone through, but it was a hefty challenge for body and mind to lift heavy weight with our best technique when our bodies were overtrained and our minds wanted to quit. I did manage a couple of PRs over the week, most notably a 113kg snatch double.

On the last day we had a competition amongst ourselves: the Yankees vs the Rebels. Each Yankee was pitted against a Rebel, with or without handicaps, and our score differences were added together to see which team lost and had to do the Chicken Dance. Even though we were all exhausted, many of us hit PRs and made some hard-fought lifts. Personally, I didn't put up nearly as good numbers as I expected, and I only barely eked out a win over my competitor Jake Rebman. Jake is a young lifter from Lancaster who had a few kilos on me, and I admit I thought I would mop the floor with him. With a few judgement calls not in my favor, Jake power cleaned 132kg and I did 135kg in the first part of competition. Even though it was turned down for dropping below parallel, I did hit 138kg with better technique than any such heavy power clean I've ever done. In the second part, double back squat plus push jerk behind the neck, Jake pulled ahead of me at 140kg when I tried and missed 141kg. We were allowed to continue until we had two misses in a row, so I dropped the weight a tiny bit and made it, and finally passed him by the time he dropped out. At that point, the Rebels and Yankees were trading leads with only two of us Yankees still going against three Rebels. I managed to stay in, picking weights just high enough to take the lead, making a go-ahead 148kg and only one other Yankee (Jesiah) and one Rebel (Ben) remaining. I can't describe how incredible the lifts were that they made, especially Ben (doing double front squats plus split jerks) who looked like he wasn't even going to complete his squats and still managing to make incredible jerks. I tried 150kg (my very, very old PR in this lift) and missed, and then tried and made 149kg, but accidentally split with my back leg and it was turned down. Jesiah saved us with one last, difficult lift, and Ben couldn't keep up.

Now that it's all over, I did learn quite a lot of technique and I my lifting has certainly benefited. But I'm not surprised to say that the best part of the week was all the people I met/spent time with. First and foremost was coach Joe Hanson from Florida, a Marine Force Recon veteran whom I met at this same camp last year. We roomed together and had quite a few discussions that gave me new ways of looking at familiar things, and he is an excellent coach who seems to rub off on everyone he comes in contact with. Good luck, Joe, especially on your upcoming wedding with your sweetie-pie Dana!

I also met Valerie Walters, a young-un at just 12 years old, who is already showing a lot of heart and dedication in all of the hundred different things she is doing. With new PRs at camp and a lot of potential ahead of her, she could easily be a force to be reckoned with in the sport if she sticks around. I met her 15-year-old brother Jeff, a Junior Olympian with aspirations to compete in the 2016 Olympics. For his age, Jeff is pound-for-pound one of the strongest lifters I have met, and I'd love to be there cheering him on towards his goal. All of the coaches I worked with were great, and I know I challenged them with my relentless need to know why we do things (sorry, Rob!). I hope they all know that I listened to everything they had to say, even if it conflicted with what I thought I already knew.

So it was with "a tinge of sadness" that we left for home when it was all over. Hugs went all around, and I know we're all looking forward to our chance to do it again next year. For me, personally, I'm a little disappointed I didn't hit many big PRs, but I feel better about it knowing how much better a lifter I am now than at this time last year. The next meet will probably be the Roger DeGarmo memorial, which also happens to be the World Team secondary qualifier, and several months later my third American Open... These will be great chances for me to show how far I've really come.

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