More Than Lifting, Chelsea Zimmerman’s Recap of the 2015 USAPL Raw Nationals

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My goal of competing in the 2015 USAPL Raw Nationals was to qualify for the Arnold. Did I accomplish my goal? Unfortunately I did not.

Fortunately, with the competition in Scranton it made me feel comfortable and confident for the meet. I had previously lived there for five years and knew the area like the back of my hand. I drove up Thursday to see some friends, compete and get a feel for the warm-up room and platform. It was incredible to see people from all over the country in the Hilton trying to reach their goals and I was truthfully in awe of how smoothly Steve Mann ran the competition. I was able to meet so many people including Ben Esgro of De Novo Nutrition, and Krissy Mae Cagney, who was just the most down to earth person there, and even Meghan Pellatt, fellow Barbell Spin interviewer (who was the absolute sweetest)!  After so much excitement and watching Day 1, I started to get a little anxious as the night came to an end. However, I still felt very ready to accomplish my goals the following day.

I had known going into Nationals that my coach, Ryan Nosak, would not be able to be there and due to an injury I hadn’t been training for the last few weeks. So when Friday morning came, I began to feel a slight panic regarding my openers and the meet in general. My dad is my right-hand man, but on any given day he thinks I could pick up a house and put it down so his judgment isn’t always unbiased. Thankfully, my boyfriend came from Florida and was able to be my coach/handler for the day. I also did not have to cut weight for this meet which was great, but in the morning, I begin the sour and spit ritual to just weigh in slightly lower. While I was busy with cup in hand, my boyfriend was crunching numbers left and right until we had the official weigh in. We knew it was crucial to hit every statistically set number in order to qualify and we had to dance around my recent pectoral injury. As soon as I weighed in, it was “off to the races”.

The warm-up room was crowded, however everyone was accommodating and moved quickly. The area was restricted to only athletes plus their coaches. I was so excited; my squats felt great and I was ready to start with my favorite lift. I opened with 132.5 kg, three white lights and set the new PA state record JR/Open squat in 63kg. I then moved to 140 kg, in which I failed and dumped the bar (they weren’t too happy with that). I began to slightly panic, because this is exactly what happened at my previous meet. I remember thinking “here we go again” but with my dad and boyfriend in the back with me I quickly redirected my focus and knew I would nail it the next time. I got under the bar with nothing but confidence, however, it ended up short. Literally, I was called on depth which was such a letdown because I was the girl who when I started powerlifting, I would go TOO low (yes, there is such a thing for the nay sayers). I remember coming off feeling absolutely crushed. It felt so light that if I had touched my butt to the ground I still would have gotten up. My boyfriend looked at me and said you have twenty minutes to pout and then you have to leave it behind.

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You bet your ass I took full advantage of that twenty minutes while I watched the third flight compete on platform 3 (amazing lifters by the way: Jennifer Thompson, Ewa Januszkiewicz, Victoria Liang, just to name a few). Then I benched, I increased my state record 70 kg to 72.5 kg in the Jr 63kg and had failed on 75 kg, which is a number I’ve hit many times in the gym. Truthfully I wasn’t too upset, since I am dealing with a slight pectoral tear.

So, this meant that to gain the right Wilks score, it all came down to my deadlift… my worst lift. Again, panic ensued, but was put to ease after a few warm-up attempts. I felt pretty good and had slightly increased my opener, 135 kg, which I hit with 3 white lights. I moved on to 145 kg, again a good lift, despite becoming slightly light headed.

In typical “Zim” fashion, it all came down to the final lift. Here I am, newbie powerlifter, with an injury at a national level meet in the strictest federation and I manage to corner myself into needed a single lift.  I needed a 155 kg pull, which is 5 stinking pounds above my previous meet. No go. The bar floated so far away from my shins and trying to recover from that with a max effort weight and hurt pec was nearly impossible. I put everything into that lift, literally; my boyfriend had to come out and hold me, taking off my belt as I passed out for just a wee bit. Crushed is the only way to describe that feeling. I packed my things out of the back room and silently walked out to the lobby, crushed.

Despite my performance, I had an incredible crew waiting for me as I walked out. Five Autism Twin Anchor Fitness designed awareness shirts waited for me, people I was meeting for the first time. My 9 month pregnant sister and brother-in-law (she was due yesterday!) and two of my friends from the Scranton area were there to give me a big hug.  I had texts and posts wishing me luck, friends letting me know they watched the live feed and messages telling me to keep my head up.

Although, right after the meet I didn’t feel like this, I know that this meet was for a greater good. It was more than just numbers and lifts to hit, it was to raise awareness for Autism, it was to gain experience at a high level, and to enhance my performance while increasing my goals. I spent the whole weekend over analyzing each lift that I almost didn’t enjoy the overall experience. My poor boyfriend probably wanted to murder me because I tend to dwell, but I knew deep down he knew exactly how I was feeling and he remained patient and supportive. We ended up seeing incredible lifters throughout the weekend, such as Jesse Norris and LS McClain, where there were floods of people. The crowds went in waves and you could feel the energy rise when a big name lifter was coming up in line.

This all was leading up to my dad’s flight on Sunday. That’s when I truly began to let go of my sadness. My dad is in his element on the platform. For a man who constantly gives and gives for everyone else, it is amazing to see him light up for his OWN goals and murder it on the platform. He killed it going 7-for-9 and seeing my boyfriend help him warm up and call his numbers really meant a lot to me beyond just lifting weights. To see the two men who helped me the most the past few months work together was just awesome.

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Overall, when I looked back at it, it was an unreal experience. The amount of people that were there to push themselves, support their friends and come together as a powerlifting community was amazing. I am eternally grateful for the people who helped me to get to that platform and honored to have competed against and with some of the best athletes out there. I knew my boyfriend was an experienced and efficient coach, but seeing him put in the work he did for me made me overwhelmed with gratitude as well as my dad who didn’t leave my side on Friday even after traveling all week for work. That inner strength created by family and friends is exactly why I wanted to do the Autism fundraiser. Everything in life is beyond you and you alone.  I look forward to getting healthy, increasing my overall knowledge to training and becoming smarter to accomplish my goals. Next year, Raw Nationals, next year.