Even though I know it's going to be difficult and painful, I always look forward to camp. It's a really long week, but it also goes by so quickly that I grasp to hold on to it. Maybe it's the break from real life, maybe it's the focused schedule with no distractions, or maybe it's the training and improvements you can see happening. For me it's the camaraderie: having all your coaches and teammates together from far away and the new relationships built with people just getting acquainted with this way of life. Derek and Aaron, you guys were awesome platform-mates and have incredible potential ahead of you if you stick to it. Tyler, you are lucky to have the opportunity to enter the sport so young, and one day when you become a Whole Person you'll find many doors open to you. Dana and Bill, I am excited to see how much passion you have for the sport, and I am amazed at how much it seems to have changed your lives. Joe and Bo and Cara and Patty and the other senior coach candidates (and staff coaches), I can't wait to compete against your athletes at Nationals. And of course, Dana, Joe Hanson's sweetie-pie, who healed and inspired us - I'll see you out in Iowa!
This is my fifth camp in a row now, ever since Leo told me sternly, "you're going to camp!" That was right after I started with him, and I could only go to a couple days of it and I remember falling over trying to do a 40kg "squat" snatch. Since then much of my camp memories have been filled with stiff and sore muscles and exhaustion. It always seemed so difficult just to get moving for the next workout.
This year was a bit different. This year I spent so much time on recovery between workouts I barely had time for anything else. As a result I found I was rarely sore, only a little stiff, and I was always physically ready to lift. I even started my long, slow weight cut for Senior Nationals, so I loaded up on vegetables and completely ignored the dessert table, and as a result I dropped almost a kilo without sacrificing ability to train.
Another thing that was different this year: I got a lot more recognition. Last year I was a bit of a Big Man On Campus.., but this year it was like that times ten. As anyone who knows me likes to tell me, I'm not very good at accepting praise, so it was extremely humbling for me to have so many people come up to me and be familiar with my lifting. It was even more so when the former Marine (if there is such a thing as a "former" Marine) spec ops and illustrious coach Joe Hanson, adored by all who come in contact with him, continually pointed to me as an example of this or that lesson.
There were many people at camp who have done things far more impressive than I. Marines Joe and Gordon Limb are great examples, as is Bill who pitched in the major leagues, and Dave who may be on track to do the same, and Mary who won multiple national championships, and even Leo who is the life force behind East Coast Gold. National champions have come through camp, including Jared Fleming who took 8th at Junior Worlds last year and is making waves at the top levels of USAW. I wasn't blessed with superhuman strength or speed - hard work and luck are the only things that have gotten me this far - and I haven't yet succeeded at a high level.
I suppose what I'm trying to say is that I'm happy to be recognized, but I'm much more proud of being able to inspire people to do more in their own right. Joe talked about the necessity of competing for something higher than yourself; I feel a great allegiance to USAW and our team. One of my highest goals is to bring more people into the sport and to inspire them to improve. We are woefully underpopulated and we don't stand a chance at international medals until we change that. Every new person that lifts is another force to bring in more, and the longer they stay the more that effect is multiplied. The more lifters we have the higher the national standards increase and the more prestigious the national meets become. The more prestigious the meets and the more people that are familiar with our sport the more financially solvent our governing body will be. All of this feeds back into itself, and there can be a future where Olympic lifting is known throughout the country and we can become an international force once again. If I can play my own small part in this by being an athlete that others can emulate then I believe I have succeeded.
Also this camp has been another great inspiration to me, and I said my own little "ooh-rah" as I drove home.