by Krista Winbigler
"I should have known from the moment I realized I only had one deadlift sock that this day was going to throw me a few curveballs, but you see, I’m an optimist and I was running on adrenaline so any inkling I had was swiftly ignored. It was on a Saturday and
I had 10 minutes to get out the door to meet my coach and make the hour and a half trek to the meet I’d signed up for just 4 weeks earlier. Luckily, I had stolen a pair of my brother’s socks the week before during a family dinner. Sure they were covered in pictures of breakfast foods and were only long enough because they were made for someone with much larger feet, but for today, they’d do just fine, mostly because I had no other choice. We had just started the drive when I missed the entrance ramp for the freeway. After
getting back on the road and navigating the mist and fog of the winter morning, we arrived at what looked like the wrong location with 30 minutes left to weigh in and get my equipment checked. Testing my emotional stability before sunrise is about as good a plan as throwing a cat in a swimming pool. Everyone within reach is sure to have the physical scars to mark the occasion and it looked like we might not have enough band-aids to handle the aftermath.
One panic attack later, it turned out we were in the right spot and about an hour early. Rad. Commence dirty jokes with the coach and scrolling through GWPL on Instagram. Weigh-ins came and went. Things were back on track. What could possibly go wrong?
As the time kept ticking toward the 9 am athlete debriefing, I couldn’t help but wonder if everyone got drunk the night before or maybe no one got the memo that this was happening. I seriously considered the possibility of being the only female athlete. I realized I’d forgotten a t-shirt. Sh*t. In a sea of curly haired, manicured girlfriends and wives, I was the only chick in a singlet. Freaking Awesome. The judges dismissed us from the huddle to warm up. With only a dozen athletes, things moved fast. Real fast. And I was feeling damn good.
I opened up my squats with an easy 215#. Piece. Of. Cake. Feeling strong and more than a little feisty, I attacked my second rep at 225#. “Take it!” the judges barked at my spotters when I got stuck halfway to the top. “What the heck? That’s nothing. I can do that for reps.” I shouted in my mind, totally confused. Like going back to sleep after a bad dream, I shook it off. And like bad dreams sometimes do, it happened again. I’d planned to hit 260# for my third and couldn’t budge 225# for a second. It took all of the willpower reserved for trying not to eat the whole pint of The Tonight Dough to not break down and cry right there. I couldn’t look people in the face. I couldn’t do the pity faces and “good try” fist bumps.
The rest of the meet went pretty well. I hit a meet PR on bench and an all time PR on deadlift. I made friends. I won my division.
It was the perfect place for things to not go as planned. Because that’s what we do. We plan, we prepare, we rehearse every detail. We like data. We eat percentages for breakfast and we get high on PRs and chalk dust. We, the women of iron will and callused hands, thrive on being in control. We are powerful and strong and sure.
But sometimes the day doesn’t go according to plan. Sometimes the plan gets lifted off your back mid rep. That’s part of the deal. No woman with any real love and dedication for this sport can avoid the days when it all falls apart. And it sucks. It can feel like a waste. A wasted day after months of wasted training and meal prep and sacrifice. Or it can be an opportunity. These are the days we learn humility; how to take coaching and encouragement from other lifters. We can look at what worked and what didn’t. We can choose to take the pressure off ourselves and just have a good time with our callused, limping, strong as hell family. The choice is up to us every day. Because at the end of the day, no one cares if you went 9 for 9. No one’s tallying your total. We’re all on the same team. All of us are just out here trying to be stronger than yesterday.
Just as we were leaving, my coach told me one of the guys stopped him and told him not to give up on me. “She’s got it up here” he said, pointing to his head. “She’s got the heart. She’s going to be a great lifter. Just don’t let her give up.”