Nationals is over and I am home, tired but safe. Here's a summary of how everything went down:
With a successful weight cut (no need for sauna, officially 76.35kg thankyouverymuch) the preparation for this meet went as planned. As the previous session finished up, I was surprised to learn how soon I was to start lifting; apparently our A session was relatively small and there were several new faces snatching around 115kg. My coaches, by the way, were Leo and Ellyn, with John Fillipini assisting them in loading my weights, and Justin Devereux, my old teammate who competed earlier in the morning and had just come back to the national scene after having a baby, videotaping me with my iPod.
My warmups went very well, but I ended up being ready to take my opening weight far too early. It was necessary, because if the lifters had gone up and not missed so much I would have needed to go immediately. I did take a couple extra snatches to stay warm, and then I went and opened conservatively with the same weight I did in the back of 117kg. The weight was easy, though not perfect and I had to stabilize it a bit after standing up.
At this point I was in the thick of the fight with Billy Bybee, Jacob Rubash, and Jonathan Barnett. I didn't really have any idea what was happening out front, but apparently Jon took two attempts to make his opener of 118kg, Jacob and I were tied after our openers, and Billy wanted more. Leo and Ellyn decided to stay conservative and gave me 120kg which I made even better than the first. Billy couldn't handle the same weight on his third attempt, Jacob jumped to 122kg and missed, and Jon wanted more. Still playing the conservative game, I was given 122kg, and this time I was unable to keep the bar close on the pull. I gave it plenty of power, but because it wasn't in position it looped out front of me and I couldn't hold it. Jacob then proceeded to make 122kg (enough to win on bodyweight even if I had succeeded) and Jon couldn't handle 125kg.
Photo credit: Doug Linn 2009
Opening after all the rest of us had finished, Chad Vaughn started his snatches with a ridiculous 144kg. 148kg and 150kg followed, all good, and I was officially in 4th place, 13kg behind 2nd place and in the middle of a pack of four lifters.
During the clean and jerk session there was a second surprise: Jacob was only opening with 137kg - and he missed it! He went up to 140kg for his second attempt and made that one, but 145kg was too much for him for his last. Considering I was planning on opening with 145kg as an absolute minimum I was guaranteed to knock him off if I were to post a total.
Photo credit: Doug Linn 2010
Right before Jacob missed his last lift, Billy and Jon opened with 145kg. I had just finished 147kg for my last warmup and we decided to play it safe and open with the same weight. 147kg later and I was in the overall lead.
I was in a great position at this point - Billy and Jon needed to play catchup with me for the C&J as well as the total. They each took a 5kg jump, and Billy made 150kg while Jon missed. I followed with another conservative 151kg, taking the C&J and overall lead back. Jon attempted 152kg for an outside chance at a C&J medal but again missed and finished with 118kg/145kg/263kg, only two-for-six overall.
In the meantime, Mike opened his clean and jerk session with 153kg. Considering in the past he has opened with 160kg and his snatches were so difficult, I can only assume he was trying to guarantee himself a total and go from there. This is actually a smart approach in my opinion, and I don't know why he didn't do it in the snatches! Not surprisingly he was good for it and was already up to a 286kg total.
I was 15kg behind Mike with one attempt left. I was not going to jump right to 167kg, a 5kg PR for me, so the focus became the C&J medal and locking up the overall bronze. It was just me and Billy, and I had a 6kg total lead and bodyweight advantage by 0.02kg. The weights had still been easy, but it was better to be safe than to open the door for Billy to win on a 7kg jump. Leo and Ellyn gave me 155kg, and the clean was not nearly as pretty as the other ones, but I hauled it in and stood up relatively easily. Here's where all my recent jerk work paid off, as I had no problem whatsoever sticking it and only needed a little backward step to adjust. After that, Billy decided against going for the win and just tried to grab a C&J medal with his attempt at 156kg, but he couldn't make it and finished with 115kg/150kg/265kg.
Mike was still going, secure in the lead, and took 158kg to try and upgrade his own C&J medal ahead of mine, but it was no good. He followed with an increase to 160kg (presumably to get some extra rest) but couldn't make that either, and he finished with 133kg/153kg/286kg, also only two-for-six, but 11kg ahead of me.
Photo credit: Doug Linn 2010
My final score was 120kg/155kg/275kg, going five-for-six. I took the silver in the clean and jerk and the overall bronze, the same result from last year and my third national bronze in a row. I increased my total by 7kg, which admittedly is not much, but the big deal was not in the numbers.
For one, I have been working on technical issues in the last two months in both the pull and the jerk, and the improvements clearly showed. I haven't yet perfected it at heavy weights, but it will make a HUGE difference when I do, and that day is fast approaching.
For two, I have been working on consistency in training. I got really pissed after the East Coast Classic when I bombed out in the C&J, and I decided I wanted to be 99+% consistent in training with all weights up to 90%-95% of my maximums. To fix this I have been deliberately lowering the weights in workouts if my technique was not adequate. Perhaps there was some short-term loss in strength, but the long-term gains in technique more than make up for it. It also so happens that every time you miss in training you are essentially training incorrect muscle patterns and you can easily overtrain trying to make up the lifts. The fewer the misses the better. This is part of why I made all but one of my lifts, my first time going five-for-six at Nationals or Americans.
For three, I have been on working on my focus on the platform. Ever since camp I have been practicing the mental aspect of approaching the weight. This is vital, as everybody has doubts, and they creep into your head at the toughest of times and can very quickly cause you to fail. With good mental technique I can approach the weight, see the lift happen in my head, and immediately execute with the confidence that if I do it the same way I will succeed. There is no room for negative thoughts. You really do have to practice this, however, as it's too easy to imagine yourself missing. Usually when I step out onto the competition platform my head goes blank. I repeat my cues to myself, but with the adrenaline I can be all over the place. Every time I walked out onto the platform this time I had a very clear picture of what I was going to do and how I was going to do it.
These things put together really are a big deal. It opens the door to me for much larger numbers, and I am much more confident that I'll be staring down 300kg come the end of the year.
But I just spent five weeks cutting weight. Now I can have a week off and a return to food normalcy!!