First Powerlifting Meet Recap: El Cajon Open


That’s just it, in one word. Just… wow.


Yesterday was indescribably amazing…but let me try. If you weren’t following along via Facebook or Instagram, I set not one, not two, not three, but FOUR lifetime PRs on the platform, so let’s start there.

Squats: My previous gym PR had been 230, and attempts at 235 had failed twice. My opening attempt was set at 225, which went up easily. My second attempt was 237 pounds, which also went up fairly easily, and officially broke my squat record by seven pounds. Feeling like I had more in me, I went for broke on a 242.5 pound squat, already pleased with my performance, and completely shattered my old gym record by a full 12.5 pounds. Un. Real.


Bench: My previous gym PR had been 120. I came onto the platform a little too excited for bench, and my first attempt, at 105 pounds, was considered “no lift,” meaning all three judges said the lift was bad. I knew it before I even finished the lift, though. In bench, you have to pause the bar at your chest and wait for the judges command to “press,” which I had failed to do. What can I say, I was excited! I reattempted at the same weight for my second attempt, which felt like a feather, and made a 5kg jump, to 121.3 pounds for my third attempt. I feel confident that I could have gone up another 2.5kg, but only after having had the success at 121.3. Had I not messed up my first attempt, and gotten a reasonable second attempt in, I think I’d have gotten a bit more, but I’m definitely not mad about even a small PR.

Deadlift: This is what I came for. Deadlift. My previous gym PR was 295, but I know I had over 300 in me. I came with the goal of 315, but that was a reach goal. My opening attempt at 270 hardly required any effort, so I made a jump to 292 for my second attempt, which again came up beautifully. Three hundred… it was right there. I could see it. I needed it. I perhaps could have gone a bit higher, 2.5kg up, but I needed that 300 pull, so I went modest with 303. Watching the video after, I couldn’t be more pleased with how beautiful my form stayed, the lift was absolutely gorgeous, and I’ve never felt more powerful, more confident, more beautiful in all my life as when I locked out at the top of that lift, over 300 pounds resting in the palms of my chalked up hands. Turning to look at the judges lights, I saw three whites- all three judges called the lift good- and I immediately burst into tears. Two years of work went into that lift, in that exact moment. Two years ago I posted on my Facebook that I was working towards 300 before the end of the year… finally. It felt so… validating.

Outside of the fact that my body accomplished absolutely astounding things by moving so much weight- a total of 666.9 pounds, adding together my biggest lift of each type, the entire experience was unlike anything I had expected.

I woke up jazzed, crazy excited, and my body felt absolutely incredible- fully healed from that brutal massage, then you Epsom salt bath. I showered, washed my hair (absolutely unheard of on a weekend) and put on a full face of makeup- yup: winged liquid liner, contouring, brows, lashes, the whole damn thang. I stopped just short of lips and falsies, but only because a quick consult with my clock told me I needed to prioritize making some turkey sandwiches, and I was short on time. I knew that having my hair and makeup done would give me a little extra confidence. Some might think that’s silly, but that works for me. When I feel pretty, I also feel badass. And when I feel badass, I feel pretty. You’re damn right I was going to set myself up to feel both!

All packed up, I headed over to the gym, still vibrating with excitement. Zack would  be on his way in an hour or two with my doughnuts, but I needed to get to the athlete briefing, and stake out a spot for my stuff. Setting the mood, I chose some chill music- Chet Faker– for the ride over. Knowing that my anxiety can become problematic, I chose this on purpose. I didn’t need any more energy, I needed to cool it for a bit while I had a little time to myself. I was feeling confident, strong, relaxed and energized all at the same time.

  Carbs provided by Nomad, as always

The moment I walked into the gym, I set down my things in a corner and text Zack:

“Oh god. These people are STRONK.”

“These girls are way more badass than me.” 

I was so intimidated! Everybody was stretching and foam rolling and warming up and hanging with their team and they looked so confident and strong… just like I’d felt moments before… and suddenly I felt so alone.

Of course, it took all of ten minutes before I had made a friend, though- sharing cereal is always a good way to make a friend- and within an hour I had a whole pack of friends. I can’t stand to be lonely- making friends is one of my favorite activities.

“Hey, do you wanna be in my warm-up room selfie?” “Duh!” This is Claudia- the lady beast who took first in the 123 weight class with a nearly 800 pound total. Her IG is @claudiachaloner

I recall being surprised by how friendly the girls were backstage at my figure competition, but that was nothing compared to the familial vibes happening all day at the meet. Every person was so encouraging, so positive! I can’t believe I was so intimidated- people came up to me all day, people I was admiring on the platform, to tell me that they were inspired by my lifts. That they thought I was a beast! It’s hard to explain the energy and the camaraderie that flowed through the gym all day. Every single person there, lifters and spectators, was there to see people be successful. Every person cheered for whoever was on the platform. It didn’t feel at all like a competition- it was never one person against another. Each time someone took the platform, it was just them, and every single person in the building wanted to see them succeed. Leaving the platform every lifter was met with high fives, congratulations, slaps on the back, hugs, advice, cookies, water, chalk, whatever was needed. Strangers became your allies, your cheerleaders, your coaches, you teammates. One person’s lift failure was the whole room’s failure, we all felt it, but the vibes stayed positive even as our energy began to flag- the entire meet taking almost 12 hours. I know I hate -tion words, but it’s hard not to feel motivated and inspired when you’re in such an environment, with all of these incredible, strong people. To see what a body can do, pushing to the limits of strength, I’ve probably never been so motivated in my life. Watching a 21 year old woman in the 132 weight class set a state record with a 409 pound deadlift… who hours earlier complimented your impressive squats-how can you not want to step your fucking game up? Awe inspiring.

There were so, so many lifters, and only one lifting platform, so the meet took absolutely forever, even though it ran smoothly. Lifting began around 9:30am, and I think we left around 7:30pm. There was a lot of down time, so I sent Zack home after he watched me squat, and he came back, having eaten and lifted himself, to watch me deadlift. Also present to see me squat was an internet friend and fellow powerlifter and writer, DJ from Mens Fortis. For something like three years, we’ve talked training, first through Fitocracy. He brought me home-cured bacon to celebrate, and helped me pinpoint the weak point in my squats. I couldn’t believe he had made the drive just to see me lift- just another example of the friendliness and cohesion of the powerlifting community.

Let’s talk macros for the day, being as my LoseIt app just decided to throw a fit and give me a notification about consistency. Really, LoseIt? You have like three years of data on me and you’re going to feel neglected after a DAY? You have attachment issues.

I did not track my macros yesterday. Yesterday was about doing what I’ve talked about a hundred times before- listening to my body. In order to optimize performance, and push as hard as I knew I would need to, on nine lifts in three bursts, I would have to carefully plan my day. I’d need carbs for quick energy, as well as copious amounts of caffeine. Protein for sure, but not excessively, so as not to feel too full. Fats I kept low to moderate, to avoid any sluggishness or guts issues. Nobody is trying to poop while they deadlift, you know? I mentioned also that I did not follow my normal intermittent fasting protocol. So I ate carbs, from the sources I listed, as I felt I needed the energy, and after my squats I knew I needed some sustenance, so I had a turkey sandwich. I was also hungry after I benched, so I ate my second sandwich at that point. After deadlifts, I was famished, and disgusted with the idea of another doughnut or Oreo, so I sent Zack out in search of a chicken salad, which he delivered on, returning with a glorious Greek salad. I did not go back and track my intake, but I feel like I did a good job of keeping myself energized properly. I felt good all day, and I’m happy to have that level of knowledge of my body, of what it needs, and how to interpret the things that it is saying to me, to be able to properly fuel such a long and intense day. I ate A LOT, though, particularly before the deadline, when my energy was starting to fade, and quick. I hit the pre workout hard, and busted out the last remaining pack of red velvet Oreos- this was just the occasion to open them- to carb up for the occasion. After getting home from the meet, first order of business was to raid the fridge for a beer. Did it fit my macros? Not a chance. Did I want it, and did I need it? Abso-goddamn-lutely.

Now today, on the other hand… today I woke up feeling like Mufasa.

You know how he’s, like, an awesome badass, and you fall in love with him, like dang, this lion is amazing!


And then he gets trampled to death by a stamped of freaking antelope?

Yeah, all of that. That’s how I feel. Yesterday I was a badass lion, and then I was trampled by a stampede of antelope, and today I am dead.

There has never been a better use of this gif

All told, I walked away from my first meet having set four lifetime PRs, with a meet total (the total of my biggest lifts on each of the three lifts) of 666.9 pounds. Out of six strong women in my weight class, this total was high enough to earn me a second place medal. Not too shabby, for a first go around, if I do say so myself. It’s a fantastic pairing with my second place trophy from my March figure competition. I can’t wait to add partners to both- much like I felt an instant connection to being on stage, I cannot wait to get back on the platform either. I started looking at meet dates for next year before I even left the meet!

It’s conceited to say, perhaps, but I haven’t felt so proud of myself in a long, long time. The numbers don’t lie- I accomplished big things yesterday, and I refuse to pretend otherwise. A lot of work went into that meet, and I was as successful as I planned to be. In the end, that’s what it’s about, right?

You plan, you prepare for success, and you don’t make it optional. And so, you are successful.

6 thoughts on “First Powerlifting Meet Recap: El Cajon Open

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