Regionals: Day 2

Until tomorrow, I will let the pictures mostly speak for themselves!

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And then…

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I chose my role model well. And I can’t believe I met her!

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Regionals. Day 1

The last two weeks have been rough. Wednesday night I got 15 minutes of sleep – that made everything I was handling even harder. Coach has been beyond great with handling this. The second I step into his room, I am able to forget the world and focus on my lifting. I don’t know how he does it. My lifts are are going surprisingly well.

The Husband and I drove 6 hours away from The Middle of Nowhere to Minneapolis to attend Regionals. I cried all the way and, in my exhaustion, I told him things I had only ever told Joel.

Day 1 of Regionals dawned this morning. We are in the fanciest boutique (so fancy it isn’t even a hotel!). I don’t know how or why, but I only slept 2 hours. I am exhausted.

I awoke to The Husband having breakfast delivered to the room (I’ve never had room service!), a hot bath drawn (there’s a TV in the bathtub!), and the husband saying “we’re skipping Day 1 and doing the city”. I like my plans and this wasn’t the plan. My 5 year old nephew, however, recently told me he is learning the life skill of flexibility and I could hear his voice explaining to me “flexibility means being able to change plans and not get mad”. I’ll give it a try.

And I enjoyed every minute of it!

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All day I danced up and down the streets and through the parks singing “who can turn the world on with her smile? Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile? ”

I love Mary Tyler Moore! How that man knew this should be my first stop is beyond me. He’s pretty amazing!

Tonight I will sleep like I haven’t in weeks and see what adventure happens on Day 2!

Slowly Healing: Hip and Spirit

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I hate it when people do this to me, but it can’t be helped…I am standing on the brink of a dream coming true and I can’t say a word about it. On one hand, it is a little diabolical how much I am enjoying sitting here beaming and making everyone wonder but I do wish I could at least tell you all. I am getting zero enjoyment from withholding it from you. I do hope, as you all have read my stories and witnessed my struggles, you are excited and enjoy the “maybe it’s this dream”. Since I don’t think I have many dreams, I am sure a couple of you have it right!! Still a couple months out, therefore things could fall through, but today…today I enjoy being one step away from the biggest dream I’ve ever had.

I loved every moment of my rest day. It was really cold here in The Middle of Nowhere and the cat and I spent our entire morning snuggled up, drinking coffee, and reading about ACL tears.

My afternoon at work included NCAA working on Oly lifting for her first time. I know this is the beginning of a long, frustrating, joyful and tearful journey. I’ve been there. She started off great. She knew this was step one on a long journey but she is used to succeeding and doing so quickly. Half way through the session her trademark sass started and she looked at me and said “You don’t know what this is like. You can just do it. You don’t struggle at all”. Coach was in my sight line and I just pointed at him as said “There’s Coach. YOU ask HIM about my struggles”. And what do you know…I magically had a well behaved child in front of me. Inside I giggled and thought “Coach is a handy threat to have in my back pocket”. I, an adult woman, was scared of him for years. Imagine what terror that instilled in her. I do love that kid!

Today was squat day with Coach. All these little changes (similar to how he re-worked my DL) came together today as we widened up my stance, changed the trajectory of my upper body, changed how I hold the bar and where it sits on my back. At the end of the day he asked how it felt, he was most curious about my back – there will be bruising – but my back was fine and all I could say was “my hip feels amazing. Not once did it snag.”

He had asked for a history on my hip and it wasn’t until I was reviewing my doctor’s notes that I remembered I was diagnosed with a labral tear. It suddenly makes sense why my hip felt like it was “catching”. It is. Imagine snagging a fingernail on a blanket – that is what is happening in my hip. Coach agreed with the doc that because it is the hip, surgery could end my lifting but we should be able avoid tearing it more AND lift pain free. We have already achieved that with the deads and now, today, we fixed the squats. There is a little part of me that is angry: this could have been fixed 2 years ago if there had just been a little more attention paid instead of “suck it up” talk. As my 4 year old niece would sing “let it go, let it go”.

The Cool Girl, Coach, and I sat around and talked about our injuries, our comebacks, I stressed “don’t come back to soon” and when The Cool Girl said “I have to do my WOD yet today” I reminded her to enjoy it for those of us who can’t anymore. And she laughed and said she would but that “ya know, we’re a little jealous of you too”.

Coach’s Wife and I had a long talk Tuesday morning about normal stuff…not lifting, not programs, and not my comfort zone of geeky things. Just a normal conversation like people have: work, weather, life goals and house chores. A normal conversation that I just usually don’t engage in because, as Patricia would say, I am unique and this uniqueness keeps me from engaging with people. Coach’s Wife is just sweet, soft-spoken, and I don’t detect an ounce of judgement or snobbery in her.

When I first started with Coach, I mentioned how his people took me in with open arms. It was nice. And 6 months later, I am beginning to feel like I belong with these people. Having a place, and a place where I am equal and honestly respected, has helped me move on. Please don’t confuse moving on with forgiving. It is not. But there is more light in the place I am.

Oh…and I told Coach July wasn’t going to happen and he laughed. “I didn’t think you’d figure that out so soon. Good job!”. I thanked him for letting me figure it out on my own. “I figured if I told you, you would try to prove me wrong. You’re at your ┬ábest when you set the limits.”

Good Days

I am having a pretty awesome week. When last week ended (and with my schedule week end is Saturday evening) I breathed a sigh of relief. Sunday evening, reviewing the week ahead, I just asked the universe for one thing: a win. I didn’t need a big win, I didn’t need more than 1 win. I would take a perfectly cooked egg or the exact right temperature of coffee for a win. My hip hurt, my shoulder hurt more than ever, and that meet in August had to be bumped up to July because of a prior commitment (I put together a team for a fundraising event for the local domestic abuse shelter August 22, a cause much more important to me than a lifting meet).

Monday as dawn broke and reasoning set in, I realized I didn’t need to be locked into this absurd schedule. Absurd not because of time but because I needed more time for recovery. I have to laugh as I wonder how many times will I need to learn to stop putting so much made up pressure on myself? There is one in September, if I think I am ready.

After the last meet, which left me walking on air, I knew my cycle would be starting with lower numbers and building up again. But knowing something and experiencing it are entirely different matters. I was a little depressed that a month later I was struggling with 240 on deadlift. Monday I thought maybe I should just change one little thing and see if that resets something. I placed a mat under the weights, lifting the bar less than an inch. Instead of the high top Chuck’s (too much sensory feedback for my already overstimulated mind) I put on the low cut Converse. Boom. 265#. Little changes, a win, and the return of positive energy.

I was good with my win for the week. Thankfully. Tuesday is bench day and I have managed to go backwards again. I sadly accepted (months ago) I would never see 215 again. Obnoxious weight on the bench for someone my size, I only have enough courage to try when Joel is there. That is a terrifying weight to have above your body when you weigh anywhere between 120 and 130. But the drop off had been so significant…last week I got 115# for 3 reps. I’m trying to let it go. At meet time bench won’t make or break my total anyway. But Tuesday I was still feeling good at 120. I felt good at 125. By the time I hit 130 I was feeling the reps add up but I chose to try anyway. I stuck a little midway up but didn’t stop and got it. Who knows? Maybe this is just the first step back to 215. Maybe I just need more time on my own with it to develop my own courage. I’m not going to over think it (hopefully) and just take my win.

Accessory work was just plain fun those days. And for once, my rest day feels well earned. I did not feel the need to sit on my hands or tie my feet to keep me off the weights. 2 wins deserve a break!

Olympic Dreams

I’m not a mom. I don’t want to be a mom. But I love my girls as if they are my own. I hurt for their disappointments and am overjoyed for their accomplishments.

Just a few short weeks ago my solid hard worker came in giving me a ton of attitude. I would have sent any other one home but this was so unusual for her. We talked. A junior in high school, sought by dozens of schools for her volleyball skills, worried about finals, disappointing us all…I’m so glad I didn’t send her home. She needed to purge all these thoughts.

I received a squealing phone call from her last night. She is one of 33 girls chosen for Team USA’S High Performance team. She’s in the pipeline for a future Olympic spot.

I’m not a mom but this is the closest I get to being one. I love my job!

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The Cool Kid

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I like to think I am a tough girl but I will admit that the reason I don’t take to people and can be withdrawn (some say I come off as a bitch) is because I am too tender hearted. I would like to say I don’t take to people but Warrior Girl is just afraid of them. And I don’t really fit in with anyone so the whole interaction thing just an awkward, scary event.

Shortly after my hip injury a CrossFit girl (The Cool Girl) started strength training with Coach. She, herself, coaches at the nearest box (it is new since my days). She was the first woman I saw here in The Middle of Nowhere who looked like me (same height, probably same weight class, and muscles!) and she was nice when she said “hello”. I remember looking at Joel and saying “I like her”.

It seems I’ve heard she’s made it to Regionals in the past and this was going to be her last year doing the Open. She tore a bicep on the second workout. My heart broke for her. We have only ever smiled and said “hello” to each other but who on this planet doesn’t feel the hurt when someone has worked hard just to have fate turn against them?

This is when we started talking. She came in to do what she could (my gym has some of the basic “workout” equipment a box doesn’t have). She could elliptical and bike and, knowing how much injury workouts suck, spending 45 minutes doing something you don’t like thinking about what should have been, I did something uncharacteristic of me and talked to The Cool Girl.

Today marks her return to squatting (safety bar, no weight) and I got to squat with her and Coach (also his first day back with the safety bar, no weight). So much fun! She and Coach are both one armed so I got to set up their racks. Since they are both hurt, my sad little squat numbers were highest. I realize this is very temporary but I’ll take it! I have a tendency to rush my sets and with her talking in between I finally know what a proper rest feels like. It turns out the more she talked the more I liked her.

Between The Cool Girl and Coach’s wife, I have started to feel less of an oddball in this conventional town – similar to most Middle of Nowhere’s that lack quirky characters. None of us will becoming regular training partners but it is fun to be part of the cool group occasionally. And it is always nice to be able have reminders that I am not a freak, I am not alone. I belong somewhere. Warrior girls are slowly finding each other.

PS. Coach “strongly suggested” I start wearing shoes. Look at these beauties (my first pair of Chucks) and picked out, shockingly, by my girl who chose those awful pink socks. More to come on this topic at a later date but I was too excited to hold out on a picture!
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April 18, 2015: The Meet

Warrior Girl has returned. And what a story I have to tell.

My training partner couldn’t make it that weekend so 5 people (4 of which 5’10” and up and all 5 feet of me) crammed into my Honda Civic – aka The Blueberry Deluxe for all you Psych fans – and headed off on a grand adventure. April 18th and it was still freezing here in The Middle of Nowhere so when we hit the welcome center in Indiana (fyi my favorite rest stop in the US) it was like landing on a tropical beach. The half hour sitting outside to eat chicken and broccoli was enough to give my pale self a little tan. Then, like clowns, we piled back into The Blueberry.
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By the time we reached Cincinnati/Newport there was just enough time to get to the gym for weigh in. My weight class is 132 (note: I never would have advertised this 6 months ago and a few years ago that would have sent me into months of not eating. I can’t believe who I have become!!) and I weighed in at 130.4. The gym was my dream: a section for powerlifting, a section for warm-ups, and a CrossFit section. Coach (new coach is now just Coach) texted that he was coming out of anesthesia and I should feel free to text him anytime with any questions or nerves. I didn’t need to – just getting that text made me feel like “nah, I got this.” As certain details change from gym-to-gym and meet-to-meet, I asked if they allowed deadlifting in just socks – yes but unlike my last one, socks needed to long socks.

Our hotel was right on the river across from Cincinnati. Watching the sunset with my girl, I have never felt more myself.
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I can’t convey this in any way that makes sense but the feeling was so different from December…it was so right and complete. That feeling you only get a couple of times in your life. It didn’t matter what Saturday held. I had fought my way back,
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The Husband was excited for me (the first time since I’ve started my recovery and lifting), my girl was there to witness my comeback, and my best friend who doesn’t give a crap about lifting but loves me in my darkness and my light. He thinks I am a superhero.
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We went out to dinner. It was a 45 minute wait to be seated so the boys waited and the girls ran to Dick’s to get those socks. For some reason I let My Girl pick them out and, unlike anything I would choose, she picked pink and purple tie dye.
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Awesome. After dinner the girls returned to the hotel. The boys headed over to what is supposedly the largest liquor store in the US and – lucky them – there happened to be a bourbon tasting going on. As we were settling to go to sleep I sent a text to The Husband to be quiet upon their return. The door creaked open, The Husband’s head popped in and giggling he put a finger to his mouth and said “Shhhhh”. I have known this man 22 years and have only seen him drunk once. Through gritted teeth (and apparently a deathly look) I said “Are you f*cking drunk 7 hours before my competition?” He and The Bestie immediately straightened up, went pale and wide-eyed. The Husband said “we didn’t drink anything, we were just joking.” My Girl said “Yeah, probably not the appropriate joke to play right now”. Out of the mouths of babes.

As I was deadlift only, the comp organizer told me I didn’t need to show up for rules but I wanted to experience it all as it should be, the experience I didn’t get the first time. Allan, my girl’s mom, and I went, we left The Bestie and My Girl to sleep in. They are both young and their mission on this trip is moral support and love, they don’t need to worry about details. It was so exciting! Everyone standing around, drinking their coffee. I missed most of the last rules clinic and if it was like this one, I didn’t miss much. But there was something about the energy of anticipation that was electrifying.

We stopped for good coffee on our way to get the young ones, packed up the car and headed over for the day. We got back to the gym for the last flight of squats. Coach had everything laid out for me in my training log. I will be in the first flight for deads so on the third attempts of the last flight of bench I was to begin warming up, keeping in mind there will be 15 minutes to break down from bench and beginning deadlift. He had all my warm-up sets written out for me: weight & reps and I was to determine if I needed 1 or 2 sets based on how I felt. I went to see where I landed in the order. Only the first flight was posted and my name wasn’t on the sheet. I sent the mom to look and I looked again. Not there. I went and spoke to one of the organizers (we have made small talk a couple of times by this point) and she said “we pushed you into the second flight”. Strange but ok. The mom of my girl start doing the math to determine when I would need to begin warming up. It is, after all, about how you adjust and the good news is I would be able to watch the experienced girls.

Flight one begins and I hear “Elizabeth _____ 4 out”. Panic. Stop panicking. My Girl’s mom and I race to the warm-up room and I decide I just need one or two pulls to warm-up, not ideal but I can do this. I just need to complete my first attempt. The challenge now is kicking the big boys in the 2nd flight off their warm-ups. One was actually very nice about it. The Husband runs back and says “the lady you talked to is dropping you down to 8 out. Relax.” and she came back to apologize and told me to not rush my warm-ups. I still did but I felt good and ready.

It was an amazing feeling standing there, 4 out, 3 out, in the hole. The current lifter was injured causing a 10/15 minute delay. I was concerned for him but still focused on my purpose. Hard to explain but in short: I wasn’t phased. Now I was on deck. Unlike December, I felt like I belonged. I was part of this group and we were all pulling for each other. Coach was not aggressive setting my weights. PRs were not the goal, getting 3 white lights with respectable weight was the goal. I tightened my belt, chalked up, told myself “take your time on set up, a minute is longer than you think”. I took a breath, got on the bar and 220 flew up. When I heard the “down” command I held it a second longer, just to make sure. Bar down, my head snapped towards the board and…I saw my 3 white lights.
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I wish I could tell you what I was thinking and feeling but I don’t think I felt anything at that second. My Girl ran up as I walked away and we exchanged high-fives. I love that kid.
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That’s when the feelings started. I did this, in front of people! People terrify me and I did this! I walked over to the table, acting as if I had done this a million times, and just said “240” (my next attempt). I’ve never given a “next attempt” before. That was the BEST!! Head to toe I was shaking like a leaf in a tornado and I immediately grabbed my phone and messaged Coach.
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I have never experienced an adrenaline rush like that before. That is one potent drug (and upon my return Coach assured me I will learn how to control it) and on the 2nd lift and I could hear and feel everything. The belt felt cutting, the whispering was like shouting, I was still shaking. I set up wrong and instead of re-setting I pulled anyway. The bar didn’t move. 240.

Coach and I discussed failing the first pull “keep the weight where it is” but we didn’t discuss the possibility of failing the 2nd. It wasn’t possible. And I know the way 220 flew, 240 should have too. I want to jump to 260. I can do 260 and that was the plan for attempt 3. But maybe I should follow the first-lift-fail plan. I will not text this man. Joel had told me weekly in our 4 years together that I was just a pain in the ass and I refuse to be a pain in the ass to Coach, no matter that Coach said a hundred times to contact him at any point if needed. I decide to follow the first-lift-fail plan, play conservative. I shout over to the table “stay at 240”.

Attempt 3, repeat 240. My head feels just like it did the first pull and up it flew. 3 white lights. Someone messaged Coach and he messaged me.
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There were hugs and high fives and I relaxed to enjoy the rest of the meet. I asked the group if we could stay for trophy’s, the whole experience – I want to see people achieving my long-term goal. They agreed. No one realized at that point I took first for deadlift…open, not masters! What?! I realize the girl who pulled 460 would have taken it if she had just paid for the extra division but she didn’t (by the way, she was the most amazing female lifter I have ever seen!). 3 white lights was my goal and I am still soaring with it. I have to admit, it is fun to look at the trophy. I never got to keep the awards I got as a kid, there was always something I did wrong to prompt a “you don’t deserve it” and they would wind up in the burn pile or thrown out the window as we drove home. I get to keep this one!!
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Those pink and purple tie-dye socks are now my lucky competition-only socks.

As My Girl told me, and I later witnessed on video, the announcer told the room to “give it up for Elizabeth’s second and last attempt at 240” and they did. She turned the music up. In the moment I didn’t hear any of that. I heard “bar loaded” and nothing else. I told myself “1 minute is longer than you think, take your time for it to feel right”. Watching the video, the music was turned up LOUD, people were clapping and cheering. I had no idea. I love the lifting community!

We then walked to a diner one of the local powerlifters told us about. Post-meet meal: waffles and bacon.
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And what a delicious delight that was. It was the first time in her life My Girl had been someplace indoors where smoking was allowed (do I feel old!) and overhearing our conversation someone said “honey, you’re in Kentucky” but I don’t think she understood. I feel a bit of a bad example: I took this 16 year old to a gym playing awesome (heavy metal) music, exposed her to eating in a full-smoking diner, ate terrible carbs and extra whipped cream. She is my longest client. She watched me struggle through injuries, my decision to give up CrossFit (heartache), failure, she witnessed Joel cussing me out and walking out multiple times while I stood there apologizing – excellent role model for young ladies that I am (I hate myself for her seeing those moments).

She watched me stumble but never quit, repeatedly come back, try new things. She saw that sometimes dreams come true with hard work even if the only person that believes in you is you. Maybe it was a worthwhile field trip.

There were group photos of “the winners” and when that was done, My Girl put her arm around my shoulder and as we walked outside she whispered “I never doubted”. I didn’t have words, I just beamed and for once, enjoyed the moment.
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And I am still beaming.

Next meet: August 22nd. I will be doing full power (squat, bench, deadlift) in a powerlifting town. I looked at the numbers, no chance for a trophy but I can hang with the big kids. When I told Coach today he was as excited as I was. “Full power is a different beast but damn straight you can hang. And more importantly, the women will be from the big powerlifting gyms. You can’t even comprehend how much you are going to learn”.

Coach said I have to get Chuck Taylor’s for this one. I hate shoes. I hate shoe shopping. I’m taking My Girl and getting them Saturday. God help me. If she picks out pink and purple tie-dye socks, what will my shoes look like?!

And just to follow-up, as Coach was detailing a the article he read last night he said “I’m such a pain in your ass with this stuff” and I couldn’t help but spit my water out with laughter. “And here I thought it was me”. Puzzled look from Coach. “The last words he said were ‘go to Jason, he won’t put up with your pain in the ass’ “. Coach laughed. “That you are not. Get under the bar.”

It’s been an amazing month for Warrior Girl!