Christmas in February

4 a.m, up and at em', rise and grind. 

I sprung out of my bed faster than my 7 year old self would on Christmas morning. For only have fallen asleep a mere 5 hours prior, I was more awake than someone who had just chugged a 5 hour energy drink. This wasn't Christmas though. Well, it was like Christmas in my mind. It's meet day; a.k.a, the Whitnall Powerlifting Invitational State Qualifier. Instead of presents neatly wrapped and scattered under the Christmas tree, there was a duffle bag over-stuffed with Adidas powerlifting shoes, Converse, a lever belt, wrist wraps, and any other accessory I probably wouldn't need but packed "just in case" all sitting at the food of my bed. My next sight of attack was the kitchen. I thought to myself, "Thank God I don't have to worry about weigh-ins, because I'm about to eat my own body weight in oatmeal, peanut butter, and eggs." 

And that's exactly what I did. Being the usual Rachel Ray I am in the kitchen, I scrambled some egg whites and whipped up my usual dark chocolate infused oatmeal topped with a crumbly yet deliciously foodgasmic Quest Nutrition peanut butter cup, and a generous tablespoon of whipped peanut butter. 

Now I was reaaalllyyyy rearin' to go. After dashing around the house like a mad woman and yelling at my procrastinator of a father to kick his rear into gear a million and one times, it was 6 a.m, we were finally off. Greenfield, here we come. 

We arrived promptly at 7:15, right before weigh-ins started. The first person I greeted as I entered the doors was my coach, Rg (the greatest guy ever). He handed me my weigh in and attempt card and hurried me off to the girls locker room for weigh ins. You know, you've never been in a more awkward situation when you're at an event you've never participated in before, not knowing what to expect, and you walk into a locker room full of girls stripped down to nothing but their sport bras and not much to show for underwear, awaiting weigh-ins to begin. I guess this was the "norm" at meets, so I played follow the leader and joined the almost butt nakey party. Stepping on a scale isn't something I use as an addiction or fear anymore. I can step on it and see a number that isn't Ed's "ideal", but yet not give a hoot about and carry on with my day. To my surprise, I weighed in lower than I expected. It surprised me because I had not worked out how I usually do all week, been eating the same glorious amounts of food, and been taking it easy. I thought to myself, "So stick that in your juice box and suck it, Ed."

After weigh ins were said and done, I wrote down my first attempts I would be trying for squat, bench, and deadlift (A/N: For those who don't know how a powerlifting meet works, there are three attempts for each category (squat, bench, and deadlift). You submit your first attempts at the start of the day, but cannot write down what you will be trying until you perform your first attempt. You want your first attempt to be something you can easily get in the gym on any given day).

And now, we play the waiting game. I had an hour to kill before warm-ups began, so it was time to initiate the carb-stuffing. My first carb of choice to inhale was a cinnamon raisin swirl bagel smothered in of course, peanut butter. I haven't had a bagel in over 6 years, and it was pretty damn tasty if I do say so myself. Another great thing about today was no food was off limits. I wasn't about to listen to Ed telling me that poptarts, candy, and bagels pre-lift was going to make me fat. No way, not today. I needed the quickest form of energy, and that comes in the form of sugar (no complaints here). 

Dat raisin chunk doe. 

Dat raisin chunk doe. 

One of the best parts of my day, was being surprised by my grandparents. Both Grandma Judy and Grandpa Gary took their day to come watch my special day, and I was definitely feeling the love.

Warm ups went smoothly, and I was feeling ready to go. Lights, camera, action

Next thing I know, I was chalking up my hands, about to approach the squat rack. My name flashed across the projection screen on the wall. A moment of silence poured over me. I had never seen my name presented on a screen like that before and it was an adrenaline pumping feeling.

"BAR IS LOADED" called out the referee. I sauntered over to the squat bar and lifted it off the rack. Two strong steps back, and my eyes locked with the front facing judge. His hand signaled a downward motion as he called out, "SQUAT". The crowd's gaze was fixiated on me, and the butterflies in my stomach started to party like it was Super Bowl Sunday. I thought to myself, "Stop Lauryn, just do you", and quickly snapped out of it. I took the deepest breathe my lungs could hold, shot my eyes up at the ceiling and descended towards the ground with ease. I sprung back up with no problem and awaited the "RACK" command. The judge called the command, and racked the barbell. I looked at the three unlit lights, awaiting the result. (A/N: There are three white lights at the edge of the platform, one light for each judge. In order for a lift to count, you have to get all three or two out of the three lights to light up white. If you have all three red, it's a no lift. Two out of three red, no lift. However if you have one red and two white lights, it's a good lift.) 

All three white lights flashed, and I smiled with confidence. The crowd cheered with excitement, and my dad's claps were the loudest of them all as he yelled, "YEAH, KABACHIE!" (Don't ask, nicknames are common in my family) and walked off the platform. I high fived Rg, Matt, and Lauren and took a seat, waiting for my squat number two to begin. 

The girls in my flight completed their first attempt squats, some receiving a good lift, some not, and it was time for round two. Squat attempt number two went just as I had planned it, and once again, the three white lights lit up. Feeling ambitious, I submitted my final squat attempt. A 25 pound increase was risky, but I was feeling ready to take it. 

As I unracked the loaded barbell and walked out with it, I could feel the heaviness sink into my trap muscles. I received the squat command, descended, and began to come up ever so slowly. And that's when I got stuck. Mom and Dad were yelling, "PUSH, PUSH, GET UP!!", the crowd was screaming, and I was most definitely pushing myself, harder than I have before. My eardrums started to pop, and that's when I knew I wasn't going to be able to get back up. The spotters took the bar from me and the red lights flashed a no lift. I was pissed. Pissed at myself, pissed that I was so close, but just couldn't get it. 

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 Check out that face. You could put a tomato next to my face and see no difference in our skin tones.

Lauren (a world champion powerlifter that I have the privilege of being mentored by and developing a good friendship with) gave me the pep talk I needed to hear. She told me to give myself 30 seconds to be mad at myself, have a pity party, get over it, and move on. Because if I didn't, it would affect my whole day. That's exactly what I did. Threw my pity party, built a bridge, and got over it. It was time to bench.  

Bench came and went faster than I had thought it would. All of my bench attempts were a success, and my confidence levels were through the roof.  

 

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Deadlifts were the final lift of the day, my personal favorite. I don't know why I like deadlifts so much. Other than the fact they make me feel like a total badass, I just really love them. My opening attempt was 225, and it came up with ease. 

 

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I thought I knew the rules of the USAPL handbook like it was the back of my hand, but missed one thing. I was not aware that you have to submit your next attempt within a certain time limit after you preform your lift. I took too long to submit my next attempt, and was penalized for it. The penalty was not being able to submit the lift I truly wanted. The judges only would let me submit a lift 5 pounds above what I had just lifted. I was confused and angry. After talking to many trusted sources, my final decision was made when Rg told me to skip it. My eyes widened with confusion.

"Skip the next lift? But I want to lift 275 for my third attempt!" I said.

"Then lift it. Simple as that. Why waste your energy for a lift only 5 pounds heavier than what you just pulled? Skip it." said Rg. 

Well, he is the coach of many world champions, so I did as I was told. I purposely skipped the lift, and sat patiently waiting for the third round of deadlifts to begin. 

It was go time. My hands were coated in chalk, my eyes were on the prize, and it was time for the biggest moment of the day. The command was given that the bar was loaded and ready for me. Before I stepped onto the platform, I muted the rest of the world out. 

"This one is for you. Screw you, Ed (except I didn't use the word screw). This is for everything you've taken from me in my life. Watch me finally rise above." I thought to myself. 

Reality resumed, and I was positioning my feet in a sumo stance at the bar. My hands gripped the bar, and I could feel my heart thumping thrugh my chest. I began to pull the bar up, my face turning bright red, pulling harder than I've ever pulled before. I could hear the entire crowd screaming "GO! PULL, PULL, PULL!" Rg, Lauren, and Matt were yelling, Mom and Dad were in the background shouting at the top of their lungs, and I pulled 275 pounds to the top. I held it with all my might and every last little bit of strength I possessed. The judge's hand swiped down as he yelled, "DOWN!" I slowly let the barbell reach the ground, not letting my grip release from the metal barbell. I looked up at the lights, awaiting the result. 

And that's when the best moment of my life began to take place. All I needed were two white lights to make this last lift. 

Thats exactly what I got. 

I threw my arms up in the air and the tears began to flood my bloodshot eyes. I ran off the platform and rushed to Lauren and Rg who hugged me with pride. I glanced over at my parents and sprinted to them. They threw their arms around me and held me as we cried tears of joy. It seemed as if the time had stopped, and we were the only ones in the gym. And in that moment, nothing else mattered. That was the moment I have been searching my whole life for. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and skipping my second deadlift was for this reason, this moment. I haven't been able to say I am truly 150% proud of myself until yesterday, until I pulled what my mind said I wasn't going to be able to. To be honest, I can't even begin to truly explain what that feeling was like to you. It was pure bliss, and what I have waited my entire life for.

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You know that moment on Christmas morning, and you unwrap the present you've been drooling over and dreaming about for months? Yesterday was that moment. That meet was my present I've been drooling over and dreaming about for months. I received fifth place out of my entire weight class, was the only raw (no special equipment) lifter in the entire competition of 220 people, and qualified for the state raw meet. I didn't receive first in their book, but received first in mine. I had gotten here completely on my own. Up until I met Rg about a month or so ago, I was completely self taught. I had brought myself to this point using my dedication, determination, and will-power. Of course, I wouldn't have been there yesterday without my amazing rock of a family, friends, and other supporters.

I have questioned where I am going in my life more times than I can count. I have questioned if I was going to survive my struggle more times than I can count. I have questioned whether I not I want to be on this planet more times than I can count. But you know what? I'm not ashamed of a single one of those times, because yesterday was the answer to all my questioning. My reason, is here. I am finally on the path to finding my reason, and am enjoying the ride. 

Life's a climb, but the view is great. 

 

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A special thank you to my entire family, friends, Rg, Lauren, Matt, and anyone else who has helped me along the way. I love you all more than words can even begin to describe.