Not your average suburban mom. I’m more your typical, normal, commonplace, everyday, garden-variety suburban mom. With a thesaurus.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Barbells, Beards, and Bald heads Oh My!


Okay, so that might be a generous description for what was, although an extremely bad@ss time, only a two hour drive and a seven hour experience. Day trip, maybe? Whatever. All I know is that this mama of four, after spending ten days at Disney World, set off on a solo adventure across state to observe what would become her favorite sport in the history of the world.

That's right. It's time for a little report of the Michigan APF Fall Open. (Since I know the majority of you reading this are learning about powerlifting with me, I'm going to try to explain everything I needed explained to me. So, APF = American Powerlifting Federation. The Open meet would offer three events - the squat, bench press, and deadlift. This is different from the meet I will be doing in January, which is just a Push/Pull; push = bench press, and pull = deadlift.)

"Hey Kemp, remember when you worked your
voodoo magic on my hip flexor? Too bad Imma
use my new found flexibility to ROUNDHOUSE
COFFEE." (Seriously, bro, I know. Post workout
iced coffee is legit.)
The meet started at 9:00 am, but there was an informational meeting for the athletes at 8:00 that I wanted to crash. I planned to leave my house at 5:30 am in order to get there on time. My first stop was (duh) McDonalds for iced coffee. (I can see Kemper wincing at this news.)(Don't worry, Kemp, I also got an Egg McMuffin with an extra serving of egg whites.)(Somehow I don't think the "muffin" portion of that confession made Kemper feel better about the Carb Fest that is McDonalds Nectar of the Gods Sugar Free French Vanilla iced coffee.)(Total disclosure - totally worth it.)(Like, I would cage fight Kemper and win if iced coffee was on the line.)(Huzzah.)

I was honestly kicking butt on the drive over. I was flying down the highway, listening to early morning radio and Driver's Seat Performing whatever chart topper cued up. I noticed about an hour into my drive that my shoulder with the rotator cuff injury was getting a little sore from changing the radio station so frequently using my death crush of a super strong grip to hold the steering wheel, and that's when I realized I'd left my instant ice packs at home. No problem - I'd just stop off at the next exit that had a Meijer or a drug store and pick some up.

This would have been a stellar plan if the exit I chose also had a functional on ramp to get me back to the highway.

Not again.
Since I don't have a data plan for my phone (enter rant here) I couldn't look up an alternate route, so I had no choice but to get on the highway going the opposite direction and pull an illegal u-turn. Because clearly that was my only option. (Don't tell my sis the cop.)(Although she would totally agree with me out of family loyalty only.)

I finished the drive and arrived at the venue approximately five minutes after the informational meeting I'd booked it out there to hear was finished. Awesome.

The meet was held at DeVos Convention Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It's a really pretty building, and the APF rented out two meeting rooms for the event. One room was for the judging and the other was a warmup area and general place to hang out.

Walls of Jericho, anyone? I remember watching
Earthmover practice in the basement of the Hasty
House/Beaverland Ranch. #memories
Walking into the warmup room I was overwhelmed with Feels. Firstly, it felt so familiar. Years ago I was a hardcore music scene kid. This was back in the 90's when people wore baggy pants and *ahem* wallet chains and I got horrible tattoos and rad body piercings that I will still deny publicly ever having to this day. I embraced the counter-culture aspect of the hardcore scene. I connected to the "tough as nails/defeat is not an option/fight The Man" personal philosophy of the scene persona. I loved the freedom to be a little bit different. The freedom to embrace the dichotomy of being a sweet, quiet girl who loved screamy music filled with power chords and the inevitable breakdown.

Walking into the powerlifting meet felt like returning to my youth. I told Brian later it was like the scene grew up and got into lifting. I understood the people. I got the music. I felt the camaraderie. *sighs dramatically and gazes earnestly* It felt like going home.

monolith squat rack after it jumped
out of nowhere and tried to maim
my cheek
I found Sara and dumped my stuff with her. I'd packed all my food for the day since I wasn't sure how long the meet would last. Sara gave me a quick tour of the meet set up and I "saw" my first monolith squat rack in person. "Saw" is the new way I'm describing running into it with my face because I wasn't paying attention to where I was going. I met some new people as we waited for the start. The National Anthem was played (totally wasn't expecting that) and the meet began.

Squats started the day. Each lifter turns in their "openers" - the weight they want to attempt for their first lift. The order of athletes is scheduled with lifts going from lightest to heaviest. This makes sense because with each new lifter the spotters only have to add weight to the bar, not completely unload it. Each person gets three lifts in each event, but the attempts are separated by a rotation through the line up, very similar to batting order in baseball. Each lift is judged by three people who individually vote if the lift is good or not. It takes 2 out of 3 white lights for a lift to be counted.

Watching people lift left my mind completely blown. Since powerlifting is an individual sport, numbers are really subjective. How much someone can lift is often considered in correlation with their body weight. For example, a 200 lb deadlift may not be that impressive to a lot of people, but when a tiny little 98 lb woman lifts it, people (um, me) be like, "Whut."

After squatting came bench press. This was Powerlifter Sara's first event. I was hyper nervous, so literally no encouragement cheering was coming from my mouth yet. Sara is crazy strong, so she did great on bench. I spent a lot of time observing protocol, getting a lay of logistics, and noticing why people failed certain lifts.

Firstly, yes, this picture is huge. But here you can clearly see all the players involved in this crazy
pageant of awesomeness. The woman on the left in the pink and the two men in white shirts are the judges. The two men in black standing next to the plates on the barbell are the spotters. They are there to stop you from dying if you fail the lift. The man in black holding the barbell over Sara is her handler Bob. Sara is on the bench with her super cute braids done by yours truly that you can not see. Not pictured: the super hot spotter who just happened to make every other picture I took that day. 

After bench was my favorite event: deadlift. 

Sara and her braids deadlifting.

I don't know this dude at all but his beard is on point.
Also, Brian makes fun of me every time I say on point.

By the time we got to the deadlift portion I felt a lot more confident in my decision to compete in powerlifting. The environment is so encouraging. After I got over my nerves I was able to fully join in with the yelling* that happens when someone struggles on a lift. I watched a lot of people fail on lifts, especially in the third rounds, and no one made fun of them. That really changed my whole approach to choosing my goal weights. Why go conservative when it doesn't hurt to try for all you got?

(*The yelling = I loved hearing one guy in particular yell encouragement to his buddies. In fact, I took his pic to show to Powerlifter Tracey because he was wearing a t-shirt from the gym where she trains and I figured she would be able to identify him. I want to be adopted into his lifting family so he can yell awesome cues to me like, "CHEST UP! SQUEEZE YOUR @SS!" because duh, then I totally will because his cues are both succinct and yelled with authority.)

(Seriously, I totally want this to happen.)

The day culminated with me witnessing an EIGHT HUNDRED FOUR POUND deadlift. Guys, this seems incomprehensible to me. You know my undying love for my Internet Boyfriend Elliott Hulse from Strength Camp? I remember my mind being completely blown that he could deadlift more than 600 pounds. EIGHT HUNDRED FOUR POUNDS? is ridiculous. Here is a picture of that happening:

While this was happening, it was loud in the room. But when those three white lights lit up indicating the lift was good it was like OUR TEAM WON THE SUPER BOWL.
(I also posted this to Instagram.)(Because did you know I'm on Instagram now?)(Sublurban Mama)(Follow that mess.)

So that is my recap of attending my first ever powerlifting meet. Welcome to the world of powerlifting y'all. Buckle your seat belts. We are in for a ride.


  1. Now that was interesting!! I'd love to see one and the camaraderie you felt is why I stick with crossfit. I'm more like you now falling deeply in love with lifting and those are the days I'm like, "OH YAY!! I GET TO LIFT HEAVY STUFF!" But those people at my gym? Are MY people. When I judged a competition and my people competed......really I finally got the bro, team, we love each other because we do this allldayeveryday together and I'd kill for them you get with say football players. The time Miguel after two years of doing crossfit PRed on his back squat and the excitement I had was on par to him telling me he was getting married or maybe when I found out I was getting married. Anyway thanks for finally putting it in words that going home feeling. Yep that's it. I'm really excited to watch your journey. And let me get all girlie on you. OHMYGLOBWEFOUNDSTUFFWELOVE!!! :)

  2. I am super impressed by all of it!

    I was also giggling whenever you said "on point" :)


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