2015 Starting Strength Pro Raw Challenge – Braving the Storm and Funky Gravity

2015 Starting Strength Pro Raw Challenge – Braving the Storm and Funky Gravity

Mar 9, 2015

Ten weeks went by ridiculously fast and the next thing I knew I was at the Arnolds.

A couple of things before we get to the actual meet.

We had the traditional sacrifices to the strength gods.  Meaning I fed Cold Stone cupcakes to all the people I train with.


Mmmmmmm……… Cupcakes……..

I spent all of Wednesday watching the forecasts and hoping this was going to be one of the times when the meteorologists were totally wrong.  By Wednesday night, I’d mostly accepted that they weren’t and started revising out travel plans to leave a bit earlier.  It helped some.  The snow started just as we were leaving town.  By the time we got into the “mountains” of western Maryland (I grew up out west.  There are no real mountains here.  Just big hills), it looked like this:

Supposedly, there was still a road in front of us.

Supposedly, there was still a road in front of us.

One of these years, we’re going to have a nice boring drive.  No freak blizzards going through the mountains like last year.  No non-freak  snow storms like this year.  Just 6-ish hours of car karaoke and Bugle eating.

Still, we managed to get to Columbus all in one piece in enough time to get checked in and do gear check.  Then it was off to dinner and pre-meet pie.

Because there has to be pie.

Because there has to be pie.  Do I even need to explain this anymore?

The Meet

I got to the convention center in plenty of time.  Enough time to stake out a good spot in the warm up room and run to the bathroom before weigh-ins.  I weighed in at 113kg on the nose (the lightest I’ve weighed-in in about a year) and then it was time to wait.  It’s weird but even though the meet had a good pace, it seemed like we waited forever until it was time to start warming up for squats.  Warm ups went well and it was time to hit the platform.


Warm-ups for squats went well and I was feeling pretty confident and only a little nauseous when I went out for my first attempt at 192.5kg/424lbs.  I felt like I smoked it but…..  3 red lights for depth.  Interesting.  I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten 3 red lights on a squat I actually managed to stand up.  But it isn’t super uncommon for me to miss my front squat because I have a case of the yips.  It was fast and felt light so we went up anyway.

My second attempt at 200kg/441lb felt also felt fine.  More red lights.  Well, shit…….  This has never happened before.  Looking at the video, I agree my depth looks a little suspect.  Certainly more so than my first attempt.

As much as I wanted to go up and hit a good number on my squats, I also didn’t want to risk bombing out of the meet so we decided the safe answer was to try the 200kg again.  I’m not sure where my head was really at waiting in the back for my next attempts but I was surprisingly calm.  Probably calmer than I’d been all morning.  This was it.  If I didn’t hit my last attempt, I was going to be out of the meet.  I decided that was so not an option.  So with nothing else to do, I went out and hit my third attempt….  And got it.

I was told that the crowd really enjoyed the drama.  Personally, I kind of could have done with a bit less drama.  But I was in the meet and that was all the mattered.


Bench has been going so well in training, I was actually pretty excited for it. I hit an easy opener at 97.5kg/215lbs.

My second attempt at 107.5kg/237lbs went up a bit slower but was still good.

I was pretty confident in my last attempt.  I hit a paused single at 240 in the gym last week so I was sure my last attempt at 110kg/242lbs was in the bag.  Except that it wasn’t.  I got it about half way up and then something in my back kind of seized up and I got out to the groove.  I still thought I was going to be able to push it through the sticking point for a second or two until the left side of the bar dipped and the spotters grabbed it.


I had some pretty high hopes for my deadlift to based on my training too.  We hadn’t planned anything super crazy for attempts but I was looking forward to a solid PR.

We opened at a pretty conservative 192.5kg/424lbs and it came up just fine.

My second attempt at 202.5kg/446lbs would have been a small PR.  But I missed it.  Looking at the video, it looked closer than it felt.  I’m not sure what I did but I managed to get myself into a position where I just couldn’t bring my hips through.

My third attempt was even less successful.  I managed to get it just barely to my knees before I realized it just wasn’t going to happen.


Video of the full meet is here.

And that was that.  I finished out the meet with a 500kg/1102lb total and a 406.3 wilks.  That left me in 3rd in the 84+ kg class and 20th overall.  Not exactly the result I was looking for.

So what went wrong?  We joked over the weekend that there was something funky about the gravity in Columbus all weekend based on the number of missed lifts and people bombing out in various competitions.  I’d like to blame it on something like that but really, there are some other things I think are more likely to have caused my problems.

1.  The drive.  It normally takes  about 6 and a half hours to get to Columbus.  This time it took about 8 and a half.  I drove the first 5 and a half, including about 3 in the snow.  This did nothing good for my stress levels.  If I’d asked, I’m sure someone else would have driven but I don’t know if that would have made it any less stressful (because I’m a control freak.)

2.  The sickness.  I spent 4 weeks of this training cycle on antibiotics for whatever that nonsense was.  Then I had the stomach bug during my last week of training.  Training and then trying to recover while being sick or getting over being sick is hard.  My stomach never really sorted itself out.

3.  My squat.  It wasn’t a good training cycle for my squat.  It was bound to happen eventually and trying to fix the weird made it more likely.  This kind of screwed with my confidence even though bench and deadlift were going just fine.  Squat is usually my most reliable lift.

4.  Mentally, I wasn’t there.  I know there are people that can hit the platform on like one day’s notice and feel great.  I’m not that person.   I love competing.  I love testing myself and getting to see all of my friends that I only see at meets. But it takes time to get myself in that place where I’m ready to deal with the nerves and the (mostly controlled) chaos of a meet.  Maybe it was all the stuff I’ve already mentioned.  Maybe it was the relatively short turn around from the American Open.  Whatever it was, I didn’t get there this time.  I spent the last couple of days before we left trying to hype myself up for it and the best I could muster was “Yay! It’s the Arnolds!” instead of “Yay!  I’m going to have an awesome meet, PR everything and win the world!”  I was honestly more excited about getting to start a new training cycle when I got back than I was about doing the meet.

All or that means I didn’t get what I wanted (or even what I reasonably thought I could get.) But there are also a couple of important things I don’t want to lose sight of.  I had a bad meet, possibly the worst meet I’ve had in years, and I still totalled 500kg.  There was a time when that was a number I couldn’t have imagined getting even if I had a perfect meet.  I’m also very proud of the fact I didn’t completely freak after I missed my second squat attempt.  There’s a time when I would have and that would have caused me to miss my third attempt too.  It’s possible that this means I may actually, finally be showing signs of some maturing as a lifter.  And finally, it’s the Arnolds!  How many people get a chance to say they shared a platform with some of the best lifters in the world at one of the biggest fitness events in the world?  It’s hard to be negative about anything that happens in that environment.


And since no meet report would be complete without it……

Things I Learned

—  Mother Nature hates me.  No.  Really.  There is truly no excuse for all the crappy weather we’ve had this year.  Especially when I have meets to get to.  Also, why in a car full of people do you let the re-located Texan drive through the snow storm?

—  I should not be allowed to look for parking in large cities I’m unfamiliar with.  Letting me do it means that we’re likely to have to walk like 6 blocks in the freezing cold.  Letting me do it the morning of the meet when I’m worried about being late for weigh-ins (even though we had plenty of time) is a recipe for a melt down.  Thank you to the Co-pilot Who Shall Not Be Named for throwing me out of my own car at the convention center and taking care of the parking.

—  Complaining about the meet shirt is part of the warm-up.  No, it doesn’t matter what it looks like.  There’s going to be something wrong with the sizing.  I’m chalking this up to it just not being the shirt we brought with us.

—  Caffeine in all of it’s various forms may be one of my favorite things about meet day.  This isn’t even a joke.

—  Being part of a small flight and having a big flight right before you is the best thing ever.  Seriously.  All kinds of time to warm up and not a mess of people trying all trying to share a couple racks.  It was the best.

—  Seems I’ve been letting my squats run a little bit high.  Or at least higher than they should be to remove all doubt.  So we know what we’ll be working on next cycle.

—  My lock out still sucks on my deadlift.  My favorite angry Canadian had some thoughts on this.  I’m afraid she may be right.  I’m also afraid she spent a bit too much time talking to my coach.

–There’s some damn good German food in Columbus.  Totally worth the cab ride.  Oh, and they have a buffet.  Just think about that for a minute.

And now for some pictures:



And as usual, I have a lot of people to thank.  Some of them are personal but there’s a mess of people I don’t know personally that I still have to thank:

– All of the volunteers.  Especially the spotters and loaders.  You kept the meet running smoothly and everyone safe and there wouldn’t have been a meet without you.

– The sponsors.  SSP Nutrition, Titan Support Systems, Rogue, Bodybuilding.com, Doughnuts and Deadlifts, Starting Strength.com, LiftingLarge.com, and Next Lifter Software.  (And if I’ve somehow managed to miss someone, I’m sorry.  Thank you, too!)

Now for the more personal stuff……

To my husband for giving up time with me so I can train and compete.  I love you!

To Chesska and the The Co-Pilot Who Shall Not Be Named for keeping me sane and in check during the trip.

To my coaches, Jared and Ryan, for doing my programming, pointing out my flaws and generally calling me on my bullshit.  There’s no way I would have come as far as I have without the two of you.  It does what it’s told.

To the whole 12 Labours family.  I can’t imagine training anywhere else.

To Trisept Corporation for sponsoring me and giving me an awesome place to work.

And last but not least…..  To Iron Authority for being my first sponsor and giving me a place to babble on about the sport I love.


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  1. Jen Kroken /

    Way to keep it together to stay in the meet. That is a tough issue to endure.

    You are a great lifter and the Arnold experience is definitely like no other! It’s difficult to have it all come together in any meet but the pressure always seemed amped up on this one.

    Looking forward to seeing you at Nationals–enjoyed watching you lift!

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