The Feelings of Growing Into My Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal

Instead of making new year’s resolutions in 2019, my wife and I graduated to setting some BHAGs for the next three years. It is not often that I am pushed to think outside of my current limitations and beliefs. And I wanted to change that. I dreamed to one day hold the American Men’s record for the heaviest snatch for my weight class. Currently the record lies at 163kg (359lbs). Woah…

I decided that my first step in that direction was to qualify for the American Open series within three years.

“I like big goals and I cannot lie!”

Sir Lifts Alot

At my first local meet, you could probably read the word ROOKIE on my forehead from the back row as I prepared for each lift. I was the only athlete with no coach; I had no clue how any of the timing worked. On top of all that, I was most thrown off by trying to warm-up with plates labeled in kilos instead of pounds. I mostly guessed the weights based on their size and color…which didn’t turn out to be an accurate method.

…oh. And I was the only athlete lifting without a singlet. I opted for my black triathlon shorts with a butt pad and the tightest shirt I owned! What a sight.

My opening snatch attempt was 61kg (134lbs) and it was successful! Despite that, I had finished all 3/3 of my attempts before most of the other guys had even started. Never again…

In the months to follow, I spent many hours alone in a quiet room with just a barbell, a set of bumper plates, and a camera on selfie mode! There was a strong sense of pride in being able to consistently train well. Additionally, it forced me to objectively analyze my movement and consider where more strength would benefit my lifts. I learned new exercises and became a better fitness coach because of it.

They say, “Perfect practice produces peak performance.” And I believe it. In just over 13 months, I got my qualifying total to compete with the best athletes in the American Open. And for that, I was stoked.

But then, I got even more and more obsessed with lifting as the competition drew nearer. It all started with leaving a barbell in the living room to move around when I had a few seconds to spare. But then, eating became a part-time job as I tried to gain weight…any weight. (I sit at the very, very bottom of my weight class and have no desire to drop down.) Then, I started consuming @hookgrip videos like it was my job and analyzing many different lifters’ movements and techniques. Eventually, it consumed most of my thoughts and prayers, but not entirely selfishly. I still prayed to be a catalyst for a healthier community and that through me, others would be inspired to be strong. However, I noticed it most when I realized I hadn’t been making many deposits into my trophy wife’s bank love account. Despite that, she was a trooper and supported my efforts in many ways and didn’t say a peep. That’s what you call running up the score!

I’ll say it again, my trophy wife was huge in making it as smooth as possible for me to compete. She drove to Xenia, Ohio from 8p to 11p the night before and then woke up at 3am to finish the drive to Columbus by 4am while I tried to sleep through most that time. I felt loved and really enjoyed the blessing of marriage in this way.

And then, the rest of the morning my phone was blowing up with text messages of encouragement and prayer from many friends and family. I felt strong leading up to this time and this was fuel to the fire!

The time came to warm-up and I was hitting every single snatch all the way up to 100kg (220lbs). The stars felt like they were aligned and I was prepared to have the meet I had been dreaming about. I opened at 98kg (216lbs) and threw it over my head as I do more often that not for my first lift. No big deal. For attempt 2, I repeated 98kg and missed again. Now frustrated and confused, I set my sights on walking away with a competition PR of 103kg (227lbs).

Now was my time to shine. I grabbed the bar, set my back and tried to rip the floor apart with my feet. The bar flew up and I punched myself under that bar as hard as I knew how! My feet stomped and I started to stand it up!!! Then, my right elbow popped and I let the bar drop behind me.

Three attempts + Three misses + An injured right elbow = My worst meet ever.

I ended up scratching out of the Clean and Jerk and didn’t compete in the 2nd half at all. I was in a horrible mix of disbelief and disappointment. I wasn’t much fun to be around for the rest of the weekend.

Honestly, I felt pretty guilty for obsessing so heavily and then failed to perform well. It felt like a waste of time and I let myself down. And I also hate to admit that my trophy wife didn’t get much attention from me. Having a helper like her is an incredible feeling and an even better experience.

Overall, I think I had a very positive outlook on life through this entire journey. Even though I didn’t finish as planned, there is an unsuppressable feeling of satisfaction knowing that I am progressing. I can confidently say I am the strongest I have ever been in my life. And my shoulders are healthy for maybe the first time ever.

I will continue to lift with the hope that maybe one day, Blake Bramer will be the record American record holder. #PrayBig #WorkHard

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