Spoiler alert: I made 9/9 attempts, set three new PRs and qualified for the British Championships! I also won my weight class but I was the only one in it so it would have been a shame if I hadn’t 😉 But let’s start at the beginning…
On Saturday I woke up bright and early to meet Em at the train station. I was 73.7kg and Em convinced me to have a black coffee. I was in a pretty bad state. For example, I almost cried at the train station when I realised I was on the wrong platform, as it meant I had to face more stairs.
We finally reached Birmingham at about 11am. I weighed in at 74kg and wasted no time in stuffing my face. I hadn’t eaten or drank any water since 8pm the previous night. I had a protein shake, electrolytes and a bacon, egg and sausage panini.
I am never competing in a federation that doesn’t allow a 24 hour weigh in. What a world of difference it makes.
About five minutes later, Laurence Shahlaei and his entourage of hot, sexy men arrived to weigh in. I did my best to a) not be a total fangirl and b) not drool all over the floor when they stripped down to their underwear.
Despite me wanting to stay and perve on naked men for the remainder of the day, Em dragged me away to check in to our hotel and eat again. It was cake time!
We went shopping for a couple of hours but didn’t want to over-exert ourselves with too much cardio. We picked up some Reese’s donuts at Krispy Kreme for the next day. I’m not going to lie: I was more focused on food than lifting anything at this point.
We had an early dinner at about 4.30pm. What would it be other than burgers?! We went to the Handmade Burger Co and I had the Macho Barbecue Beef, Cheese and Bacon burger (two beef patties because gains). With sweet potato fries. Obvs.
We then had brownie and waffle sundaes. Holy foodgasm.
The waitstaff were enjoying themselves watching us devour all this food while literally bouncing up and down and moaning. I think I must have said “this is the best day of my life” about 20 times. Poor Em!
We got back to our hotel at around 6pm and chilled out for the rest of the evening. I had a couple of these pitas before bed as I wanted to be as well fuelled as possible.
Lights were out at 10.30 and we both did our positive visualisations like good girls!
We were up at 6.30am Sunday morning. While I had been panicking all week and Em had been remarkably calm, the tables had now turned so I had to eat enough breakfast for both of us! I had a bowl of muesli with fruit, eggs, bacon, toast, hash browns, two pain au chocolats and juice. Mmmmm.
We arrived at the gym at 8.30am. The comp was due to start in an hour, so I distracted myself with coffee and social media until it was time to start warming up. There were four flights on the day, and we were all going one after the other, so it was going to be long.
We started warming up for squats and that’s when I started feeling nervous.
I hadn’t mentioned it here because I didn’t want to jinx myself, but my goal going into this competition was to qualify for the British Champs (hence why I was so concerned with making weight, which is usually a no-no for a first time competitor). I needed a 292.5kg total, which meant I had to get slight PRs in all three lifts.
The reason I was so panicky when Alanna sent me my attempts last week was that it meant I had to go 9/9 in order to qualify. It felt like a ridiculous amount of pressure!
I knew exactly what I was doing for bench, but she had given me two options for my final attempt of squat and deadlift.
We moved through the lifts so damn fast! There were eight people in my flight, and you had 60 seconds from when they called your name to receive your first command.
That meant I had just enough time to wind up my wraps and put them on. I didn’t even have time to get my belt in the right hole for my first and second squats. I rest much longer in a normal training session! I didn’t watch anyone other than Em.
I opened on 90kg (200lbs). I was worried that would be far too low but it was perfect to build my confidence.
My second attempt was 100kg (220lbs). I think I went even deeper on this one.
I decided to run with the heavier option of 107.5kg (237lbs) for my final attempt. When I was winding up my wraps, Laurence was chatting to me and said I would get that weight easily.
During my first and second attempts, I didn’t have time to think anything other than “don’t screw up the rack command” but right before my last squat I looked out into the crowd and Laurence gave me a little nod. I said to myself “Laurence Shahlaei is watching you – don’t fuck this up!”
And it worked – it was easy and I could have definitely done more!
As squats involve the most faffing about (adjusting the height of the monolift, moving the arms in and out, and a lot of people filling the time limit to get to the platform due to knee wraps), it meant we had an almost four hour wait between squats and bench.
I was pretty calm at this point as I had been most worried about squats. I had a good idea of what I’d be able to bench and deadlift on the day, but squats were still very much in the air considering my PR as of 12 weeks ago was only 92.5kg (205lbs).
We had front row seats to watch all the big boys throwing around massive weights like they were nothing. The gym was freezing but I did a good job of warming myself up with lots of food.
Throughout the day I had pasta salad, chicken and more pita bread. I stuck to my rule of not eating sugary junk until right before the end as it always messes my stomach up without fail.
I was ready for a nap after four hours of sitting on my arse, so I had another coffee.
Bench warm-ups went super quick as I didn’t have much to warm up. I was opening on 45kg (100lbs), which I just about threw through the roof.
My second attempt was 52.5kg (115lbs), which was my current gym PR. I did get a warning for sitting on the bench before they’d finished setting the weights, but I still maintain it was their fault for calling me too early!
My third attempt was 55kg (120lbs). It was easy! I think I’m finally getting to a point where my bench might not suck.
We “only” had about two hours between benching and deadlifting, so I entertained myself with more food and coffee. I also started listening to music at this point as I needed to seriously fire up for deadlifts.
I had done the math and, because I’d gone slightly heavier on squats than I’d intended, I only needed a 130kg deadlift to qualify – but I wanted 135kg to make all nine lifts, damn it!
My final warm-up set was 105kg and it felt heavy. Ruh roh. I told myself to snap out of it and pull the damn weight off the floor. I had a Creme Egg for a last-minute sugar rush.
I opened on 120kg (264bs). It felt heavy but, looking back at the video, it doesn’t look too bad.
Right before my second attempt, Em pulled 140kg and, in the process, qualified for Europe’s and World’s. Watching her reaction was priceless and I felt like I had just pulled it with her! It was good motivation to get the job done (and right before I did my final lift she came *this close* to locking out 150kg, which is bloody amazing!).
My second attempt was 130kg (286lbs), which I’ve done in training twice.
Given how heavy that felt, I erred on the side of caution and stuck with 135kg (297lbs) for my final attempt. Thank god I did as it was an absolute grinder!
If I manage to get the bar off the floor, I know it’s going all the way up. So, despite the fact I could feel vomit coming up my throat, I stuck with it and pulled the slowest deadlift I ever have. I was actually surprised that this video is only 24 seconds, as I could have sworn I pulled for at least 30!
I love how in every video I finish the lift with a huge smile on my face. It’s also fun to hear everyone shouting at me, as I don’t hear any of that when I’m lifting.
Seven hours passed between my first and last lift, and then we had to face a four hour journey home. It was a looooong day but SO worth it!
I had my donut right after my last deadlift, and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I became so bloated and could barely face eating a proper dinner when I got home. Luckily I didn’t eat it before deadlifts, as I wouldn’t have fit my belt around that food baby.
I had such a great time and I am surprised at how much more calm powerlifting is compared to strongwoman. The British isn’t until November, so my next comp will be a strongwoman one in June.
A special thanks to Em for putting up with me, Sam for filming and, last but not least, Alanna for providing brilliant coaching and guidance. Thank you to everyone who supported me and wished me luck throughout this journey!