Unlocked and Unloaded: Ryan’s Recap

 Here’s my recollection of what went down at our first Olympic lifting meet: Lock & Load 2011.

I traveled to my hometown of Hugo, Oklahoma the night before the meet.  The plan was for me to drive over to Durant the following morning and Jeremy to drive down from OKC.  We met at Chance’s place around 11:30am and hit the road.

I’d never been to Van Alstyne before so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  But even this is expecting too much.  TomTom ordered us off the highway and onto an old dirt road.  I was sure this was an error.  We passed a couple large buildings along the way and each we were sure was the location of the meet.  TomTom ordered us onwards.

Coming around a corner TomTom cried, “Destination, 800ft.”  We were excited.  As we rounded the bend we all wondered, “where is it?”  Then we realized the destination was the large red barn with all the cars parked in front.  This was the Van Alstyne Fine Arts and Convention Center?  With this sight, we were all a little deterred.  This was not very awesome. 

I guess it was around 1pm when we showed up.  We walked in and there were quite a few folks milling about.  There was a large platform up front.  Couches and old church pews served as seating for the audience.  There were also three warm up stations on the right and very near the audience.  Dangerously near if you ask me.

We just sat there for a bit soaking it all in.  Eventually we overcame our disappointment and decided to see if we could weigh in early.  We were supposed to weigh in at 2pm and lift at 3pm.  Luckily, they allowed us to do so.  The weigh-in process was some odd formal/semi-formal system.  I’d never done it before so I guess I can’t really judge.  Firstly, we all had to declare our opening attempts prior to weighing in.  We aren’t very good at converting pounds to kilograms so this was a little challenging.  After we got this worked out Jeremy weighed in.  He got to weigh in alone and simply told the meet director (or some guy) his weight.  This is good.  Jeremy was a little worried about making weight on the way down.  Let’s just say he wasn’t nude when he weighed in, but may have been close.  Chance and I both made weight as well but we were accompanied by one of the staffers.  I should also not that the scale was located in the unisex bathroom of the barn.

After we made weight it was time to fuel.  This was a little challenging.  TomTom was able to lead us to the local Sonic five miles away.  Jeremy and I demolished double cheese burgers.  Chance must have been watching his figure as he opted for the chicken wrap.  I was unimpressed.

When we got back, the first flight was beginning the snatch portion of the meet.  Dutch Lowy was there and he put up some impressive numbers.  There were a few others that did really well, too.  The guys at Spoon have still not posted the meet results so I can’t be as specific as I’d like.

Towards the end of the first session we decided to suit up.  I was not excited to be wearing a skin tight singlet.  But, probably more so, I was not excited about where to put it on.  Apparently, we had the choice of the barn bathroom or the house.  Now, I appreciate the hospitality, but I am very uncomfortable getting naked in a strangers house.  After much deliberation, we decided the house was the route to go.  One by one we went into the bathroom and slipped around on an unsecured rug while trying to squeeze into our singlets.  Jeremy’s singlet is purple, by the way.  But at least he wasn’t the only one in purple.  There was a cute girl wearing the same color. 

So prior to warming up we all sat down and figured out our respective game plans for the meet.  Jeremy would attempt 145, 165 and 185lbs in the snatch and 231, 255 and 265lbs in the C&J.  Chance would attempt 165, 204 and 215lbs in the snatch and 246, 265 and 270lbs in the C&J.  Lastly, I would attempt 185, 205, and 215lbs in the snatch and 265, 275 and 285lbs in the C&J.

Looking back we did a very poor job of warming up for our lifts.  And who’s to blame us.  It was our first meet and we didn’t really know what to do.  We discussed this on the way home at length.  There are a few points I will share for the novice lifter in his first meet.  In your attempts, you should choose weights you know you can do.  I snatch 185lbs regularly.  This is why I chose to open with this weight.  I feel very confident I can do it.  I can hit 205lbs about 80% of the time.  215lbs is something I have done before as well.  Initially I wanted to finish with 220lbs or 225lbs.  Last minute I decided to end with 215lbs.  I don’t think it is a bad idea for you to hit your opener during warm ups.  And this is my rationale, you are a novice.  You are not limited by strength, you are limited by technique.  Every time I attempt 205lbs or 215lbs in the garage, if I miss it on my first attempt, I can get it on my second.  So, in effect, this is a method to “get the first miss out of the way.”  A lot of coaches would probably disagree with this but I think it is good strategy for the novice lifter in his first meet.  Also, I suggest getting a hi-pull with your third attempt weight as part of your warm up.  The second attempt warm up could be a hi-pull or a full lift.

So I came out for my first snatch attempt.  As I said this was a 185lbs effort.  Something I snatch with ease.  And I miss it.  I don’t know if it was the nerves or the poor warm-up but I simply lost it forward.  No bueno.  I decided to stick with the same weight for the next attempt and, luckily, there were a few other guys attempting 185lbs so I got a breather.  Second attempt I nailed it.  After this I chose to keep it modest and made 205lbs my third attempt.  The lift was solid.

I felt pretty good coming into the Clean & Jerk.  Again, we didn’t warm up so well but my first and second attempts were weights I could handle.  At the time, my second attempt was my max and I was looking for a PR on the third attempt at 285lbs.  This was a modest PR attempt as I had previously cleaned the weight but failed on the jerk in the garage.  The first lift at 265lbs was good and felt easy.  My second attempt at 275lbs felt much harder.  Coming out of the hole I had to let out quite a yell to help me get the weight up.  The jerk was great, though.  275lbs is around 125kgs.  I planned on 129kgs for my last attempt but, since the second seemed so hard, I called for 127kgs.  As soon as I declared my third I heard the announcer call me back to follow myself.  I couldn’t do that.  So as a bit of strategy I changed my third attempt to 128kgs to get a bit more rest.  Apparently, the guy who would have had to follow at 128kgs was winded so he bumped up to 129kgs.  I was still too tired so I called the same.  You see, here it gets a little like a bidding war in an auction.  How much are you willing to pay?  He wasn’t prepared to try to lift any higher so he went and he missed.  129kgs is 285lbs so I was back to what I originally wanted on my third attempt.  It felt heavy.  And like the second attempt I roared mightily coming out of the hole.  I botched the jerk big time, though.  I dipped my knees and just stood back up.  This is a foul.  This means, “No Lift.”  On the video you can see me become physically disgusted.  On Spoon Barbell’s footage I audibly say, “SHHHHHHHHIIIIIIIT!”  But the awesome thing was that the entire crowd got behind me in that moment.  Much like the caber toss at the Highland Games in Yukon.  They were on my side and demanded to see me finish the lift.  And I wouldn’t disappoint them.  I dipped again, exploded up and dropped under the weight with ease.  And they didn’t red light me.

Lock & Load was not at all what we expected from an Oly meet.  But it was good.  We met interesting people (Chad Vaughn, for instance), witnessed some incredible lifts, and learned a ton.  It was a good day.

Lock-and-Load: Looking Back, or A Noob no Longer (Jeremy’s Writeup)

Our first Olympic meet was a great experience. As a lifter, I matured more in six hours than I have in the past six months. Just being around other serious athletes in a competitive situation is an experience unto itself. Seeing some of the best doing their best is a fantastic inspiration, and quite humbling. And personally, taking the show from the garage to a competition platform with 51 lifters, Olympic coaches, judges, and over 100 spectators adds an element of intensity to the lifts that simply cannot be replicated.  How do you become a poised, experienced weightlifter who kicks ass in sanctioned meets? Well, you don’t do it by reading books and messing around in your garage – you do it by going to meets and throwing your hat in the ring. There is no substitute.

Lock-and-Load truly is a one-of-a-kind event, too. It’s held in a barn. Yeah, I said it. There are church pews up front, couches in the back, lawn chairs by the door. If anybody needs a drill press I think I saw one of those in the corner by the billiards table and the cuckoo clock. This is a fine arts center, after all. There’s an unbelievable environment in there. It’s comical, chaotic, crowded, and downright weird to see this unlikely spectacle unfold as you walk into the musty old building and see Olympians and national record holders warming up on makeshift platforms mere inches away from spectators. You see lifters take the main platform and begin to pull as weights are dropped and doors are shut only feet away. This isn’t Beijing, fellas. And if you’re a nervous noob who is easily distracted, this is where you go to die.
This is also where you go to grow. When and how to get warm is a hollow conversation until you’ve struggled through one of these. Focus is easy in your home gym when it’s still and quiet and you’re alone – try repeating that PR attempt when some baby in the 3rd row is screaming bloody murder because the old guy behind him farted when someone dropped 300 lbs of rubber just as you make your first pull. Load selection, coaching cues, best use of down time – again, this is something that you simply cannot replicate in the garage; it has to be lived and breathed.
After watching the first sessions compete it was time to shift gears and get serious. We got some warm-up reps in, jotted down our tentative load selections, and began to prepare mentally for our portion of the meet. We checked the announcer’s table to see the line-up and tried to balance preparedness with relaxation in the calm before the storm. Everything actually felt good; no nerves, confident, ready. Once they called my name, though, I kind of zoned out. I got a huge adrenaline dump and although I didn’t feel nervous, I was clearly in an altered state of consciousness. My focus was heightened, but I was also very tense and anxious as I approached the loaded bar. My opening snatch was a mere 145 lbs: a lift I warm-up with.  I started to imagine the humiliation of failure. I took my grip, tightened up, and exploded upward with everything I had. It was probably a 200 lbs snatch with 145 lbs in my hands. The bar glanced off of my forehead and I almost lost it behind me. It was pretty shocking. The result was an awkward, high speed, muscle snatch that left a knot on my head and drew some uneasy “oooo’s” from the crowd. But, it was a good lift. We had a little laugh; I shook it off and came back to complete 165 lbs and 189 lbs (86 kg) with better technique and more composure. My previous snatch PR was 185 lbs. Knowing what I know now, the opening load was just too light, I was full of nervous energy, and I was not adequately warmed up.
The second session clean-and-jerk went much more smoothly. I opened at 235 lbs and felt fine. I was starting to loosen up and feel more comfortable up there. Moved to 255 lbs, my clean-and-jerk PR, and nailed it. For my final lift of the day I selected 265 lbs (120 kg). This would be a clean-and-jerk PR and more than I’d ever even attempted on a jerk. I was surprised at how easily I cleaned the weight. Sure, it was a good effort, but the lift was never in doubt. On the jerk I simply did not drop down enough and got called for a press-out. Looking back at the video, it’s not as blatant as I thought and I was really very close to hitting this lift. Anytime you can go into a competition and do something you’ve never done before, you’ve got to feel pretty good about that.
Editor’s note: I did not see Rut’s last CJ but I did watch the video.  It was a press out but other guys at the meet got away with much worse.
In retrospect, I’m extremely pleased with our team’s performance. We went down there not knowing what to expect and were more than a little surprised with the situation we found ourselves in, particularly in terms of preparation space. But, we adapted, fought through some early nerves, and managed to accomplish everything we set out to do at Lock-and-Load. Although I was red-lighted on my final jerk, we all set clean PRs on our last lifts of the day. I also set a 4 lb snatch PR.  One of our primary goals was simply to make our lifts. Being new to this, we felt it was important to go out there and complete a lot of our attempts. By way of this, our strategy and load selection was spot-on. As a team we went 15-for-18 on the day, each missing one lift. That’s a damn good batting average for three first-timers. Very few lifters went 6-for-6. In addition, we all put ourselves in position to get aggressive on our final attempts because we were so successful with our early attempts. It all played out very well. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we learned a lot about ourselves: what to correct, what to expect, how to improve. Moving forward, we have a clear vision, concrete goals, and ample motivation. That alone is worth the price of admission.

Lock and Load Recap

Last Saturday Jeremy Rutledge, Chance Adams and myself traveled south to Van Alstyne, Texas for the Lock and Load Olympic Weightlifting meet.  This was a first for all of us.  After the chalk settled, Chance and Rut walked away with first and second, respectively.  Yours truly was forced to take a shameful 4th place.

Here’s the video.

All in all it was really cool.  We all did pretty well for our first meet.  Each of us set PR’s at some point in the meet.  There were a lot of good lifters there.  Very strong men and women.  Plenty of former and current Olympians, which was awesome.  We’re each going to do our own personal recap this week so I’ll leave the details for then.

See Chauncey lift…


Lock-and-Load Prep

Editor’s note: This is Jeremy’s write up on prepping for an Oly meet coming fresh off a powerlifting meet.  This will be the first Oly meet for all of us and we all had stuff going on that really hindered focusing on meet prep.  I had to prepare for finals and was / am dealing with a shoulder issue.  Though we are not as prepared as we would like to be, I think we will do ok.  Enjoy.
The transition between power and Olympic weightlifting is a smooth one. With all the explosive squatting under my belt, the primary goal for Lock-and-Load is getting my head right. Having only 3 weeks between the NASA powerlifting meet and the Lock-and-Load Olympic meet, elaborate programming and technical overhaul were out of the question. All I had time for was reps. I wanted to grind these movements into my brain about 3” deep, building muscle memory and developing comfort and confidence to an acceptable level.
The first real obstacle was speed. Moving from max-effort squats and dead lifts to highly technical speed movements was challenging. I felt slow and stiff for the first week. However, the stability and power I’ve accumulated during the last few months have allowed me to leapfrog many of the limitations I would have otherwise faced. For example, I’ve been doing heavy front squats, sometimes with bands, chains, or danglers, for the past 6 weeks. As a result, in only 3 weeks of Olympic training I set a 15 lb PR on my squat clean and a 5 lb PR on my jerk, and had a near miss at a 35 lb PR. Why? Because I can front squat a boat. Anything I can pull to the rack position is going up; end of story. This has given me a new level of confidence and aggressiveness in my 2nd pull. I used to be intimidated by throwing myself under the heavy attempts. The doubt and hesitation here is gone, and that is vital to any real Olympic progression. Improvements in the 2nd pull have also allowed me to use the upward momentum of a deep, strong front squat to create a bar bounce and re-grip at the top of the squat which gives me much better hand position and stability on my jerk. In short, working the front squat ruthlessly over the past few months has inadvertently fixed everything that was wrong with my clean. If only I’d been overhead squatting too . . . 
The dark spot is my snatch. I’ve done exactly zero overhead squats over the past few months and it really, really shows. All the benefits of the front squats are mirrored by glaring weaknesses from my lack of overhead work. My snatch has no 3rd pull, no stability, no aggression, and no hope. The best part is that I figured all of this out about 10 days before the meet, and thus can’t do a damn thing about it. So, what’s the lesson?
With the success of one and failure of the other, we see clearly what a central role squats play in the development of sound Olympic lifts.
Any other lessons? Yes – video your lifts. I picked up a ton of things I was missing by reviewing video of my lifts. There is simply too much happening too fast to self coach, or even rely on 3rd party eyes to catch the foot placement, bar path, hip extension, back and knee angle, elbow breaks, and overhead positions in a lift that takes less than a second to complete. But with a decent cell phone or a crappy camera, you can easily get endless slow motion, stop, and rewind breakdowns of front, side, and ¾ angle shots of your lifts and start to identify your tendencies and weak points and make corrections. I made videos of myself lifting once a week for the past three weeks. After every review session I was able to identify a bad habit and spend a few days working on it. You can also share videos with other coaches and get input on things you might have missed. I got some great feedback from the SCBC guys. My only regret is that I don’t have another couple of weeks to tweak things and get some reps in with the overhead squats.

In terms of programming strategy I played the whole thing by ear. This is not an advisable strategy, but again, I’m working with 17-days of total prep time between the NASA recovery and the rest days leading up to Lock-and-Load. With a small window like that, you’ve got to lift as much as you can, get some heavy days, gets some speed days at 50% and 60%, and rest when you have to.
The game plan for Lock-and-Load is simple: it’s the same blueprint from the NASA meet. Select an opening lift you can absolutely own. That first “stage lift” with 200 people watching and judges with their grubby little fingers on red light buttons is not something you can mimic in the gym. You will be tight. It will be awkward. Your legs and brain will not communicate. This is not the time for a 90% effort lift. It’s the time for a confidence builder. You want something that looks good, feels good, and gets the ball rolling. Once you break the ice, you get aggressive. I want the 2nd attempt to be a lift that is do-able but challenging. This is the time for a 90% lift. Sure, I’ve done it before, but I’ve also missed it before. I’m confident that it will go up, but I need to be sharp. Also, and most importantly, this is a number that I can live with if my final attempt fails. Having a respectable 2nd attempt in the books that is close to a max effort (85% – 95%) frees me up to go for a PR attempt on my final lift. On lift #3, I want to scare myself a little. I want to dance on the edge of failure. I want to harness my nervous energy, the tension of the moment, the pressure of the judges, the power of the audience and my peers, and use it to push myself just an inch beyond what I could do on my own. In my garage, if everything goes absolutely perfectly, I can maybe, just maybe clean-and-jerk 275 – but I’m not in my garage. I’m at a meet with 40 lifters, some of them former Olympians and decorated veterans, respected trainers and coaches, gym owners; there are 200 people here and right now every single one of them is watching me walk up to this bar, waiting to see if I win or lose this battle. My hours of preparation, training, travel, financial investment, it’s all led me up to this exact moment on stage with a loaded bar in some tiny town in Texas about to live out a story I’ll tell for the next few months or maybe years. And in 5 seconds I’m going to be on fire or crushed.  If you can’t get up for that, if you can’t find another 5 lbs in there somewhere, you’re in the wrong sport.


Upcoming Events

The main goal of the SCBC at this time is to keep Oklahomans aware of various venues to compete.  I have not done a very good job to this point.  Forgive me.

Here are some of the things we are looking at at this time:

Lock and Load.  This is an Olympic Lifting meet this being held in Van Alstyne, Texas by the Spoon Barbell Club.  Three of us are heading down there on May 14th and I think we’ve got a shot to do well.

Strongman Competition.  The details on this are not clear yet but I’m pretty excited to see how it all shakes out.  From what I know, Matt Baysinger is responsible for putting on this event.  Apparently, he operates Back Alley Strength and Conditioning.  This was held in Moore last June.  Will keep everybody abreast of the details.

Editor’s note: I’ve spoken with Matt.  The Strongman Competition will be held toward the end of summer this year.  

Also in June are the Stillwater Celtic Festival and Highland Games.  This will be held June 18th.  Jonathon Irvin is a pretty accomplished thrower and he is responsible for these games.  He is also the same guy that organized the Games I competed in at Yukon.  Cool guy.  There is some question as to whether this will be held this year.

The next Olympic Lifting meet we’re looking at is the Onaga Blast Chance in Onaga, Kansas on the 2nd of July.  Jeremy and I met the organizers of the Onaga meets at our USAW coach certification.  Cool people who like to lift.  They put on a lot of meets in Onaga.

Edit: Blast Chance is out.  We will be at the Liberty Open in Wichita Falls, Texas on July 2nd.  This is at Mark Rippetoe’s gym which will be pretty cool.

The NASA World Cup will be held in OKC August 6th and 7th.  See Jeremy’s write-ups on this.

There are two more Highland Games in Tulsa in the month of September.  The first is on September 10th.  It is the King’s Champion Games.  I have had no confirmation that it will be held.  I emailed the guy in charge and got no response.

A week later, the Oklahoma Scottish Festival will be held in Tulsa over the weekend of the 16th.  Frank Lamb organizes this and is a pretty decent thrower himself. 

To close the year, The Christmas Open will be held in Onaga on the 31st.

I’d like to point out, these are not the only things available for you to compete in.  These are the events we are looking at.  There are more Oly meets and Highland Games in Texas.  Below are some links that you use to find places to compete.  Also, I want everyone to know that the SCBC is working to bring more competitions to Oklahoma in the future.

USAW – Olympic Lifting

NASA – Powerlifting

NASGA – Highland Games

NASA is not the only powerlifting federation but it is the one we endorse.  I will do my best to keep you up to date on what’s going on and where.

Ronny, out