Another fun and educational time at the weightlifting meet. Here's how it works:
Each participant weighs in and then competes against others in his/her weight and gender class. Participants have three chances to establish a one rep max, which may or may not be a personal record, in first the snatch and then the clean and jerk. So this may mean starting with a weight you know you can do and then moving up to a weight that's more challenging, and finally one that might be beyond your ability, though I've also seen people go straight for a PR, miss it, and then nail it the second or third time. Women go first. Participants and/or their coaches submit the loads they want placed on the bar for their lifts, and there are two loaders who add the plates, which are in kilograms (and are color coordinated, so the lime green plates are 10 kg, for instance).
The bar sits either on a raised platform or, as was the case on Sunday at TCFA, in a taped-off square in front of the the three judges, who sat on plyometric boxes in a kind of semicircle, and the announcer, who sat behind a table with all the paperwork. Coaches give the announcer the loads for each participant, and the announcer tells the loaders what they are. He announces the person who is "up," the person who is "on deck," and the person who is "in the hole," which just means the person whose turn it is, the person who is next, and the person who is up after that. The judges decide whether the lift is good or not by giving it a thumbs up or a thumbs down--although James, one of the TCFA students, inadvertently gave a thumbs sideways once. I think he needs to work on his wrist flexibility. (Just kidding, James!).
When you complete your lift, you must hold it in the locked out position (either at the top of the snatch or the top of the jerk) until the head judge says and signals "Down." Then you can drop the bar in a controlled fashion, unlike what I did after my first snatch, where I literally let go of the bar at the top of the lift and kind of watched it bounce all over the place. Not so good. I did better subsequently.
The weight on the bar always goes up. What this means is that the weaker people go first and then the stronger people. And I may do my three snatches before a bigger or stronger (because the stronger people are not necessarily bigger) even does her opening lift. (Yes, this has happened, and did happen on Sunday. A couple of us finished all three of our snatches before one girl who was super strong even did her first one.) If I end up "following myself" in a lift, where I lift and then lift again because my weights are lower than the next person's, I get a couple minutes to rest.
There are also strategic gambits you can use to maximize your rest. For instance, you can submit a load that you know you want to change. Then when the announcer announces your load, you ask to change it, and then the rest clock restarts. Sneaky, eh?
When it's your turn, you have two minutes to start the lift. You can go before that, but you must have initiated the lift before the two minutes is up. I don't really know exactly what happens if you don't, because nobody went overtime, but I suspect you don't want it to happen, whatever it is. Different people have different rituals for before a lift, ranging from chalking their hands, to slapping their own faces and legs, to just kind of going up to the bar, setting up as well as possible, and going for broke (that last would be my ritual).
You can power clean and power snatch. This means that you do not have to receive the bar in the full squat position. You can bend your legs only as much as you need to in order to make the lift. This is what I like to do because I'm so squat challenged. Of course, people who are far, far better at lifting than I are more likely to drop into a full squat, because if your technique is where it needs to be, you can lift more if you drop than if you power. I am not there yet. Maybe someday.
For those of us who are mathematically challenged, having the weights in kilograms is a mixed bag; since I don't know how much is on the bar for me (Eric, Vanessa, and Michael make those calls), I don't know whether to be nervous. A well-adjusted person would decide not to be nervous at all. I decide to be nervous all the time.
Fortunately for me, the stakes here are pretty low. If I'm not mistaken, some people use these meets as entrees to bigger meets; their scores qualify them for bigger events. In my case, I just use it as an opportunity to practice the lifts and do so in front of an audience. I got two thumbs-up snatches and two thumbs-up clean and jerks, and then I got one thumbs down snatch and one thumbs down clean and jerk (the last one of each). This is because I "pressed out" on the snatch and then on the jerk. This means that instead of receiving the bar in the snatch and the jerk with my arms locked out, they were slightly bent and I had to straighten them after the fact.
This is a no-no. And it means that I do need to get lower as the load gets heavier. The feedback I get consistently from my coaches and teammates is that I have the strength to lift heavier, so I just need to trust that and get under the friggin' bar. Easier said than done. Eric said that people spend decades perfecting just these movements. I believe it.
Other no-nos are walking outside of the tape or off the platform (obviously, you don't want to walk off the platform), and of course, dumping, which entails dropping the bar and launching yourself in the opposite direction to minimize the likelihood of getting hit with it.
We saw some pretty sweet lifts. I'm going to think about how it feels to lift a PR successfully and try to describe it here; there were a couple people who fought like hell for what ended up being beautiful lifts, some after fighting like hell for what ended up being heartbreaking dumps. If you haven't at least tried to lift, and in front of an audience, no less, it might be difficult to imagine how difficult it is to pick up a bar that's heavier than any other bar you have ever picked up before. And how exhilarating.
Meantime, congrats to Vanessa, who PRed by a lot on her clean and jerk (can't remember the amount--I think it was about 145lbs) and to everyone who participated. Technically I came in first in my weight class, but that wasn't really what it was all about for me. I have tons of work to do and now I know how to proceed. Hooray! Thanks to Eric, Vanessa, Michael, and Kellie, as well as my teammates and cheerleaders. It's fun for me to get to know a different subculture, after spending so much time in the grapply one.