Three weeks to go. 150 miles southwest of last year's site and 800 miles west of my home, Senior Nationals will begin on Friday, June 11th in Peoria, IL. Registration is confirmed and flight is booked. One hundred and sixty people have thrown their hats into the ring, including twenty in the 77kg class.
It's a big change from last year's Nationals, my first, when only six people entered my class and two bombed out, giving me a very lucky bronze medal. Even with only six people I was in the B session back then. This year? I'm tied for the fourth-highest entry total and am in the top quarter of a class populated by nearly all of the best active lifters (if I'm not in the A session I will eat my hat). All the medal winners from last year's AO are here: Chad Vaughn, Mike Cerbus, and Chris Heinig. Lance Frye, my teammate and 2008 Nationals and AO champion, is on the list. Somehow 77s are once again the toughest class, with the top three entry totals higher than the corresponding top three 85 totals and with six more lifters than the next largest class.
What about me? I've been training, trying to get as much in as I can for this meet in the hopes that I can bring home another medal. It wouldn't be easy regardless, but my friendly little neck injury has come back to bite me. The pain never completely disappeared, though I was able to back squat as heavy as I wanted... until the muscles gave out and I strained a whole group of muscles along the top of my thoracic spine. I had to take even more time off than last time, which once again is wreaking havoc on the peaking cycle I'm supposed to do leading into the meet. All I could wish for once again is more time!
I still hate being injured, but I am taking a fanatical approach to getting better. The very next day after getting hurt I saw my doctor who prescribed muscle relaxers and physical therapy. I was already icing throughout the day and taking as many anti-inflammatories (naproxen sodium in this case) as I thought was safe. The next Monday I was in PT, asking the therapist what I could do to speed up the healing as much as possible with the long-term goal of being even healthier than before I was injured. I don't think he quite realized how serious I was at first - I guess most patients do the minimum to get by - so I had to press him before he said I shouldn't do the exercises any more than twice per day. I have been going to sessions three times a week as soon as the clinic opens at 7am and doing exercises and stretches at work and at home, even close to midnight in Christy's apartment gym.
Now I've done my fair share of physical therapy in the last few years, ever since I first hurt my shoulder in 2004. I have seen many people with very similar injuries, and too many times they resign themselves to the pain and decide that it's permanent. I have sympathy for anyone who is injured; we all encounter hardships, some of us worse than others. It's not necessarily our fault, and even if it is it doesn't mean we deserve it. I don't, however, have sympathy for anyone who doesn't choose to work at getting better. It may be difficult, but what do you have to lose? You CAN get better, and you may be able to do it faster. I was told sprains like this can take 4-5 weeks before getting back to regular activity, but I was snatching again in under two weeks. There is never a good time for excuses; assume you must get better, and then just go and do it! It's not much different than regular training.
So now it's over three weeks since I got hurt, and I'm back into the regular routine, minus back squats. My therapist says our work is nearly done. I'm doing everything I can to be prepared for the meet, including dropping weight slowly while getting back into the swing of high-intensity workouts. I am on a mission, and I WILL do well at Nationals. Will I come away with a medal? Well.., let's just say I wouldn't want to call anybody out ;-).