|The End of a Lifting Career?
||[Mar. 4th, 2009|09:44 pm]
So today was the day. I've been anticipating this day since losing last March. I've chronicled my training so no need to rehash that so I'll just concentrate on today. |
So I had class today from 10-4 and it was the longest 6 hours of class ever. I did my best to try not to focus on the competition but had little success. I had so much nervous energy that I couldn't sit still all day. I was just hoping that all this nervous energy wouldn't result with me being drained come game time. I got out of class and was able to bs for an hour until I got dinner and it was time to get after it.
This year I was going heavyweight with no intentions of dieting as in years past. I weighed in at 226 (a little skewed because I was wearing shoes and clothes). It was only me and my main competitor in our class. He and I were in a league of our own and it was going to come down to which one of us could get the job done when it mattered. They did all the small fries first. I didn't even watch any of it and couldn't tell you what any of them lifted as all I cared about was the showdown. After the smaller guys got done it was time for the big dogs. I would say we started warming up around 7 or so (contest started about 6:20). I did my usual warmup - bar to get loosen up, 135 x 10, 225 x 3, 315 x 2, and 365 x 1. All of the warmup sets were good. Although I was nervous I felt good and the reps were clean. The order was determined based on the weight you were attempting so my opponent (Mitch) was going first with an attempt of 375. He always starts low and builds off of there. He did 345, 365, then 390 last year as opposed to me who started at 380 hit it, then missed 395 and 390. He hit 375 with ease as I expected he would. My first attempt was at 405. The room was packed with people watching. It was the moment of truth. I stood in front of the bench closed my eyes and just visualized and tried to relax my heart rate. I got a good liftoff and powered the weight up clean for a successful attempt. I declared 415 as my next attempt. I figured Mitch could probably do about 405 and I knew I needed that weight to get on the board but I figured that if I could hit 415 that it would get me the win.
Mitch's next attempt was at 395. I figured he would probably get this but he seemed to get it easier than expected. Next up was 415 for me. Just like the last attempt I closed my eyes and visualized. If I could hit this I'd win. I got a good lift off, brought it down under control and powered it up. I slowed a bit in the middle but nothing I couldn't man up against and finish. Attempt 2 was a success. Mitch originally planned to go for 415 for his 3rd but changed to 425 at the last moment. There was actually a rule that said in the case of a tie, the higher weight of the 2nd rep would determine the winner. Mitch realized that if he went for 415 and hit it, he would lose since his 2nd attempt was 395 as compared to my 415. He took his time for 425. If he hit this rep I would have to match to win. Originally I declared 420 based on his original declaration of 415. However the rule of the 2nd lift seemed somewhat cheap if it came to it so I hoped that it wouldn't be decided that way. He got set for 425 and went for it. He got a good drive off his chest and reached the mid point of the rep and hit the wall. He battled for several seconds but eventually the weight started coming back down. I really thought he had the rep but he just didn't have enough to finish. I had won the contest before my 3rd attempt. But this 3rd attempt was all about pride. I decided to go for 425 as well. I was a bit more relaxed this rep but still focused. I got the liftoff and got a good drive off my chest. However I also got stuck at the midpoint. It was from here that I defined my lifting career. I fucking battled like never before. The bar literally stopped midway but it really wasn't coming down. It was going left and right but I kept my back and ass down on the bench. After what seemed like an eternity I drove and somehow locked it out. I wasn't sure if it was a good rep since it was downright ugly but the refs said it was - I had benched 425 and won the competition. The most anyone had ever done was 390 last year by Mitch so I shattered his record by 35 lbs. He and I are seniors so there stands a legimitate chance that the record may stand for years. Before Mitch and I the record had been 385 by a heavyweight. I still owned the light heavy weight class with a lift of 365. Thinking about the last lift now I've come to the realization that it was symbolic of my lifting career. I started lifting in 7th grade when I weighed 90 lbs and just used to do hundreds of bicep curls. Throughout high school I lifted but for most of it I was weaker than a lot of people. However what set me apart was my drive. No one trained harder, even back then. I used to be furious if anyone lifted more than me and was determined that one day I would be the strongest. Well the day occurred early in college and I've grown since then. Even though I've been sort of lifting icon of sorts at the DAC, that desire has never relinquished. Today it surfaced one last time. Mitch and I's attempts at 425 were extremely similar, we got stuck at the same point and it came down to desire. Basically he came up just short and my desire to lift harder and push harder allowed me to get that last rep.
After winning I received a ton of congratulations and I certainly appreciated every one of them but all I could think about was the one person that's not here anymore - Ian. I feel that I had 3 truly close friends at Drexel (4 if you include the College of New Drexel) that I really trusted and would always know that would be straight with me through good and bad. Since Ian's death not a day has gone by that I haven't thought about him. Sometimes when I'm with friends we joke and remember the good times we had but often when I'm alone the pain of losing him sets in. The reason why I bring this up is last year when I lost the competition, I was crushed. I had trained so hard but came up short when it mattered. However the first person to send me a consolatory text was Ian basically saying that he was sorry to hear that I had lost and that I was still the man and the most dedicated person he'd ever met. I thought about that today because of the congratulations I received. Certainly I was appreciative of every one of them but I also realized that in life it's so easy to be someone's friend in the best of times. But the true friends are the ones that are there for you in the worst of times. I just keep thinking back to the night of the accident and wondering why. It kills me inside that Ian is no longer here.
I keep thinking back to a conversation I had with him one night. If you had asked him about it I doubt he'd remember but it was meaningful to me and something I haven't forgotten. It was January 2007, the Saturday night before the Eagles Giants playoff game (I remember every Giants loss to the Eagles quite vividly, unfortunately). It was Ian, Matt, and I just chilling in Crossings and the discussion came to be about what we wanted out of our college experience. I talked about wanting to leave a mark - through lifting - so that my name wouldn't be lost. I've always felt that if you look at the universe as an infinite time, the span of our lives essentially becomes 0 when compared to the universe, unless we leave some kind of mark that lives on past us. For me I always saw lifting as a possibility. I discussed the possibility of being the first 4 time bench press champion and that being my mark. Ian pointed out that if I look at life that way I miss out on things. If I'm so committed to training I let college (and life) pass me by. I really thought a lot about that night. It's so hard to balance things in life that often times you become so focused on one thing that you put blinders on to everything else. He talked about the way he would remember me - the guy that chugged Evan, all the random stories we had since freshman year - and things like that. 7 months later I competed in my 1st bodybuilding competition and I came back to that conversation. Instead of looking at the competition as a starting point, I looked at it as the fulfillment of my goal. I felt that now I had completed everything I had wanted and could look towards enjoying the time I had left in college. Although it might have been hard to notice from the outside, I really did begin to change. I looked less at what my next workout would be but rather how I could enjoy each day more.
There's really not much time left for me in college. I have a couple weeks remaining this term then 10 more in the spring and that's it. When I look back on my years I think one thing that could describe my experiences is "sacrifice." Sacrifice in the weight room, in my school work, at my co ops. In high school I used to wonder what my life would be like had I made different choices. You can think about that all you want but at the end of the day you cannot change the past, only live with your decisions and make the best of them. Everyone wants different things out of their lives but I feel that the best way to look at your life is whether you can look at yourself in the mirror and be proud of the person that looks back. I've made some decisions I wish I could have changed and possibly gotten more enjoyment out of things, lost sight of things at times that are important such as family and friends but at the end of the day I knew I could always look in the mirror and be proud of the guy that looked back. I never sacrificed my ideals for others and for that I am proud of the way I have spent my college years. I think this quote exemplifies it best, "Our integrity sells for so little, but it is all we really have. It is the very last inch of us. But within that inch we are free." If this is the end of my lifting career, I'm so proud of the way it ended. I'm appreciative of the friends that I've made throughout my years here, and in high school, and my only regret is that Ian isn't here anymore. However, his spirit will live on and I hope that his words and our times together can continue to shape my experiences and allow me to live my life to the best of my ability.