2nd lifting meet: Athabasca Cup

In mid October, I competed in my second lifting meet. It was my last chance to qualify for provincials. To do so, I needed a 101kg total. Going into this meet, I had snatched 42kg and I had both cleaned and jerked (though never clean & jerked) 60kg. I knew I could do it!

But then, I guess I choked. I opened with an easy 38kg snatch, then missed 41kg twice (well, I finished both lifts but pressed out slightly both times, which means my arms weren’t locked by the time my feet hit the ground). I had a big cry in the bathroom because with only 38kg to my name, I would need to cj 63! A feat I had never even attempted!

After wiping my tears and receiving several pep talks, I somehow rallied and had a great warm-up for the clean & jerk. I opened with 57kg and felt GREAT. My next attempt was at 60kg and it went up easily. As I centred myself to jerk, I heard the buzzer sound. I ignored it because I didn’t know what it meant, but then a voice on the mic said “uh… can you please put the weight down?” I was really confused, but it turns out I had caught the clean a little low and when I raised my elbows to prepare for the jerk, the bar moved higher on my chest. This is called an adjustment, and it invalidates the lift. It was a rule I had never heard of (though I have now since read the entire rule book, so this will never happen again). Instead of re-trying 60, I went for 63. My goal was to qualify for provincials, so I figured I might as well risk it. So up I go for my third and final attempt, and I miraculously clean 63, and… buzzer. I had adjusted the bar again. So, with all 6 attempts finished, I only totalled 95kgs.

I stomped off the platform like a grounded teenager (video exists, but I haven’t been able to track it down. It’s kind of funny actually) with my provincials dreams shattered. I was grumpy for days and gave serious consideration to just going back to only doing Crossfit. Crossfit only makes you feel good and happy! In Crossfit, you can always just try again! Lifting is a MEANIE. It has too many rules. But to the gym I returned, and my coach put me on a strength program with a bit of technique work, but nothing greater than 80% of my snatch and cj max. Then, in late November, we retested:

I snatched a new record of 43 and very nearly entered the 100lb snatch club with a 45kg lift that I just couldn’t balance. The next day I finally clean & jerked 60 (with a clean clean) and even cleaned 63, but missed the jerk. So much fun!

I guess a few lessons learned from Athabasca:

1. Don’t cut more weight that I need to. I compete in the 63kg weight class, so really I could have been 62.99 and still only have needed that 101. If two competitors in the same weight class total the same, the lighter one places higher, so technically it’s worth it to be further under. But because my goal was hitting 101, and I didn’t care about my placement in this particular meet, there was no need to cut at all! But, not really thinking about that, I didn’t eat or drink until after weigh in on the morning of the meet. I was 60.04 but thirsty and grumpy. Next time I won’t cut so much. Less than 63 is less than 63!

2. I can keep my goal when things go wrong. In retrospect, I dealt with my first no-lift at 60kg pretty well. Instead of getting flustered, I immediately put it behind me and started thinking about killing it at 63.  That’s nice to know!

3. Weightlifting is not all sweetness and light! When you start, you hit PR after PR. PRs feel great! I love PRs! But sometimes you can’t do the things that you could do last week, and then you feel sad. If weightlifting is going to be my main sport, I’ve just got to get used to that (easier said than done).

My next meet is in February and I think I might be able to hit about a 110? With 45 and 65? Who knows right now, but for sure I’ve got that 101 in the bag. Next year I will most definitely be at provincials.

Girls, Women, and Females

I remember being about 21 or so and sitting with a bunch of co-counselors at summer camp talking Feminism 101. One friend brought up her “new thing”: referring to herself as a woman. Not a girl. A woman.

“I mean,” she explained, “it’s basically an insult to call a man our age a ‘boy’  Isn’t it equally infantilizing to call ourselves ‘girls’?  By any definition, all of us, all in our 20s, are women.”

This was an entirely novel idea to me, and while I completely agreed with my friend’s logic, I had trouble making the change. It felt odd, and sometimes still does. Using “woman” to refer to a woman in her 20’s sometimes elicits turned heads, weird looks, or assumptions that I’m talking about somebody in her 40’s.

In casual contexts, it is quite common to hear people calling men ‘men’ and women ‘girls’ is at this point. I hear it a lot in Crossfit gyms, “135lbs for men, 95lbs for girls” or “count the girl’s bar as 35” or “a lot of the girls beat me”. What a weird and annoying word choice to describe an adult!

I find most Crossfit reporters  make a real effort to avoid the saying ‘girls’ in professional contexts. Great! Perfect start! Yet there still seems to be a real aversion to saying ‘women’. And I sympathize with that! In some situations (like when others are saying ‘girls’) I feel like it would be too awkward to say ‘women’ so I use an ironic ‘ladies’ or ‘gals’ or something. But something I see very frequently it Crossfit coverage is the word ‘females’. And, when paired with the word ‘men’ (as in ‘men and females’) it absolutely kills me.

Today’s example, which prompted this post but which is most definitely not a one-off peculiarity that I happened to find, comes from the Rx Review. The article gives us coverage from the USA Weightlifting Open and first summarizes ‘the men’s half’ and then a few paragraphs later, ‘the female’s half.”

Here’s the thing. ‘Men’ and ‘Women’ refer to people. ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ refer to bodies. When we call the men ‘men’ and the women ‘females’, we’re discounting women’s personhood.

I’m happy with male/female as adjectives, e.g.,  ‘the male athletes and the female athletes’, and I’m okay  with the use of ‘female’ when paired with ‘male’. But here, I’ll do a quick search through 2013 coverage and find some examples of men/females:

“While most of the men moved easily through the chest-to-bar pull-ups, this movement became a sticking point for the females.” NorCal Regional Report)

“Most females got to collect themselves regularly as the men split the work up into four to eight sets.” (Europe Regional Report)

“Our strategy with the guys was to just keep it going, unbroken, and not get caught up in a transition. No rest at any transition. We put faith in the females to finish it,” (Canada West Regional Report)

It’s all over the place! I sure noticed it a lot while watching the Games live, too. Let’s stop saying ‘girls’ or ‘females’ and start calling women ‘women’!

(In pre-emptive answer to “Why does such a little thing matter?”)

November post round-up

There’s so much great thinking all over the web! I thought I would link you to some of my favourite reads of the past month.

If you’re a Brittney Griner fan, I’m sure you already read her profile over at Elle, but even if you’re not, it’s a fascinating read on gender expression and policing in the WNBA.

Elizabeth Akinwale’s response to the notion of “thigh gaps”. The article is great, but my favourite part comes from a commentor who says “them thighs are the truth”!

Sociological Images talks about “the gendered forest” and how hiking gear is needlessly gendered.

10 Things I Want My Daughter to Know About Working Out (most importantly, that it is not about fitting into a dress)

Rowling with a Baby

I really enjoyed this video not because it is fun to watch people taking turns rowing 100m (like bowling, rowling is fun to play, horrific to watch) but because of the dang cute baby!

A muscle dude talkin’ muscles while being a good dad, and then his muscle bros helping out with child-minding while they do sports! It’s certainly imagery we don’t see very much in mainstream media: hyper-masculine-looking men being casually nurturing. I support this!

(Highlights throughout, and at 4:45 at 7:00)

CF24 review

Last weekend I did 24 workouts in 24 hours to raise money for the Creation of Hope. So far I’ve raised $920 but it seems there are still a few donations straggling in.

Let me tell you something: 24 is a lot of workouts. The day was long and hard. Along with many others, I struggled to eat properly since working out on a full stomach is hard and you’re always at most an hour away from starting a workout! After about 5 workouts, I had no energy and was crashing pretty hard. It looked pretty grim! Luckily, I packed a protein shake and had friends deliver me gels, so after getting those calories in, I was back in action.

But then I started getting sleepy! At 8pm I could have sworn it was more like 4am. After 12 or 13 workouts, I starting napping in between each. I got into a nice system of waking up with 5 minutes to go, putting on proper shoes (running or lifting, depending on the movements in the workout), taping my hands if there was any bar work, and chugging some water.  After, I would wash the chalk off my hands, have a quick snack, and get back to my sleeping bag. Repeat for 8 hours.  It is a skill of mine to fall asleep easily, so a concrete floor, bright lights, and a heart rate that has not slowed back to normal were no barriers for me! It did mean that I stopped stretching… and I paid for that dearly. I’m still stiff!

Here is my team’s little sleeping nest:


Though I definitely elected to wimp out and go easy on a couple workouts (bar-facing burpees at 3am?), I surprised myself by being able to pour it on fairly hard on select workouts even after completing so much work already. The real challenges were painful hands on the bar work and lack of sleep. 24 workouts in 12 hours probably would have been easier. Here are some of my favourite workouts:

Workout 2: OHS and DU

10 minutes. Score is max double unders (skipping rope goes around twice per jump) with one person doing double unders at a time. But every minute on the minute you must stop skipping and one member of your team must do 5 overhead squats at 85/115# (different weights for men and women). The problem is that doing 5 overhead squats takes about 20-30 seconds, so you’re only left with about 30-40 seconds to get those double unders in. Transition time is crucial!


Workout 8: Two minutes of  barbell work

Score is number of reps (one athlete working at a time). 95# for women, 135# for men.
2 minutes deadlift. Rest 30 seconds
2 minutes clean. Rest 30 seconds
2 minutes shoulder to overhead (press, push press, jerk… do what you gotta do). Rest 30 seconds.
2 minutes front squat.

This is the one I was looking forward to most. I love barbell work! Our friend Jo was around and took a quick video of my doing my turn on the cleans:

Workout 12: Crazy Tabata

20 seconds of pushups, 10 seconds rest. 20 seconds of air squats, 10 seconds rest. Do this 10 times. Your individual score is the minimum you get in each round, so maybe in the first few rounds you get 15 pushups and 20 squats, but in round 8 you only get 10 pushups and 18 squats, then your score is only 28. It’s a fun one because you have to pace yourself and strategize well. Then your team score is the combination of your individual scores. We did well on this one!

Workout 21: Chipper.

Your score is how quickly you can complete this list with only 1 athlete working at a time.

20 push press (75# for men/45# for women)
30 KBS 53/44#
40 thruster 75/45#
50 box jump 24/20 inches
60 double under’s
50 box jump
40 thrusters
30 KBS
20 push press

Our first half was slower than the second half, since our communications through the transitions improved.

Mostly, I was glad that this was a team event. I don’t think I could have pulled myself out of my nice warm sleeping bag for workouts 14-17 if I didn’t have my team members relying on me. I love my team!


Thanks to everybody who donated. I am so proud to get to tell the Creation of Hope team that my friends helped me raise enough money to send two students (three, with the final donations coming in!) to school for the coming school year!

Annabel the Kettlebell

In August, I interviewed my sister for this blog. She has now had her baby, a little sweetheart named Annabel! They had a birthday WOD (workout of the day) for her, a combination of Crossfit’s Annie and Isabel:

50 double unders
50 sit ups
10 snatches (135# for men, 95# for women)
40 DUs
40 sit ups
8 snatches
30 DUs
30 sit ups
6 snatches
20 DUs
20 sit ups
4 snatches
10 DUs
10 sit ups
2 snatches

Like her parents, little Annabel spends a lot of time at Rocket Crossfit so it only makes sense that Annabel’s nickname quickly became Kettlebell. And from there it only makes sense that her first halloween costume would be a 1/4 pood* little kettlebell.



Isn’t that the cutest kettlebell you have ever seen?

*a pood is a unit of mass equal to about 36 lbs.

American Weightlifting: Documentary Review

I was recently invited to view the independent documentary American Weightlifting.


Greg Everett, a very well known lifter and coach, produced, directed, filmed, edited, and scored the documentary on his own. It’s a real passion project and I was thrilled to receive a press screener copy.

Overall, I think the film tended to bounce between a few themes and lacked narrative. About 95% of the documentary was interviews  played over b-roll of athletes training at Catalyst. I think Greg really missed out by focusing strongly on coaches and not interviewing very many athletes. I grew attached to some of the athletes in the b-roll, especially the high school athletes, and I would have loved to hear their stories!  Perhaps the part 2 to this documentary could be the weightlifting version of Spellbound. I would be into that.

That’s not to say I didn’t like American Weightlifting! I loved it! On many occasions I have settled into my couch and watched an hour or two of lifting competitions so I’m happy to watch Catalyst athletes practice drills, react to misses, and struggle through the heavy ones. I’m also interested in hearing about the history of weightlifting in America. This documentary will be appealing to most weightlifters, but I’m not sure that it has enough hook to bring in the non-lifters for two hours.

The highlight of this movie was Aimee Everett’s interview where she teared up while talking about her love affair with the platform and the bar. She talked about how weightlifting has given her so many happy things, but also torn her apart so badly. I’m still fairly new to this sport, but I couldn’t agree more. After I did poorly at a meet last weekend, I wanted to quit and never return while simultaneously I wanted to never quit and keep trying forever. I wanted these things equally. A torrid love affair.

Another great quote from the documentary: “You just have your body, your mind, and this one simple tool to express your will and measure your success”. That is such a beautiful definition on weightlifting.

When Greg sent me the press screener he suggested it might be especially relevant to the audience of this blog as it features so many female lifters. In fact, probably the majority of the lifters were women. Throughout the film, the viewer is treated to many women, of a whole range of body types, perform heavy lifts with great technique. I would probably go to their gym and be happy to watch them train all day! There were no gratuitous camera shots that zoomed in on scantily clad bodies, and there plenty of shots where women supported each other. Who would have thought that a documentary about weightlifting would pass the Bechdel test with flying colours?

The best part is that the inclusion of women didn’t seem forced or even intentional; it seemed natural. It didn’t seem like Greg actively had to remind himself to get some ladies in there to fill up some XX quota, but more like he just filmed his crew of athletes that he respects and duh, of course that’s with plenty of women.

Even the interviews with female athletes just focused on being an athlete. Oftentimes when female athletes are interviewed, the focus seems to be on “what’s it like to be a sports lady!!!?” whereas male athletes get to speak about their sport. COOL.

Feminist rating 5/5!

The documentary comes out on November 16th and you can purchase it here.

Also, watch the trailer. It made me tear up a little:

Adventure Racing and Friendship

A few weeks ago I did an adventure race called Race the Rockies with my friend Sierra. IMG_0942

We did the Edmonton race, which was mostly through trails and parks in the south side of the city. Early in the morning we picked up our map, marked with check points worth different numbers of points (and which would take different amounts of skill/effort). We were given an hour and a half to make a race plan, and then the race began! We had 6 hours to bike, canoe, and trek around, collecting as many check points as possible. We had to be back in by 4pm… every minute in early was worth one extra point, but every minute in late cost you 10 points! There was also a food drive for points- every pound of food donated was worth an additional point.

Our initial route was, shall we say, stunningly optimistic. The race was hard! Though we intentionally bypassed some of the most challenging check points, we still managed go up and down several staircases with our bikes (Edmonton has a very steep river valley) and at one point found ourselves carrying our bikes down the steepest hill in town (surely) as we made our way to a canoe check point.


This! With a bike!


We had to canoe with the bikes as well, which added for some balance challenges. “Nobody has fallen in yet today,” said the volunteers. “Let’s not be first!” I replied.



We kept our cool, called it a refreshing rinse, and continued on our way!

Later in the race, we dropped off our bikes at ventured into a trekking section of the course. We expected this to involve trail running, but instead found ourselves lost in a park many, many times. Luckily, a river helped us orient ourselves and we were able to spot a few check points. At the start, we merrily and nimbly did things like inchworm scoot across a log while crossing the river. On the way back, covered in scratches and nettles, we just splashed right on through.


The trekking was by far the most difficult part of the race (not the four hours of biking that came before). It was so hard to make decisions, knowing a bad choice would cost not only me, but Sierra as well. We took turns trying to trail-blaze. There were times when the path would just vanish, and we were left whacking back tree branches that clawed at our faces like that scene in Snow White.

I felt responsible for tipping the boat, so every time I also picked a bad path (“I feel so confident in this shortcut!”) I felt doubly guilty. But Sierra was a great teammate and we never got too down on ourselves. We reminded ourselves that our goal was to have fun and do our best! One time we spent about 20 minutes looking for a checkpoint that just didn’t want to be found. It was so frustrating, but we strategized and communicated really well and just decided to put it behind us, not focus on the lost time, and keep racing. Zero fights the whole time! Zero disagreements, even!

Also, we got to see some great views:


At the end of the race, we had a little awards ceremony and pizza party. Sierra and I somehow came in 3rd in the women’s division! We chatted with some of the other teams that we had run into at different places on the course. Many people have been doing this for years and years. They talked about races that were freezing cold, that involved carrying bikes through neck-high water, and that were 36 hours long. Most of them did all these races with the same parter. What a true test of friendship!

It got me thinking about how important sports can be in a friendship. My best friends growing up were soccer team friends. In university, I ran and biked with friends. Now most of my best friends are ones I met through Crossfit (or whom I gently encouraged to join Crossfit with me). I doubt I would make it to lifting 5 times a week without knowing  my friends would be there!

At the after party, racers’ spouses, kids, parents, etc. showed up and we all said goodbye and the day ended. But the fact that we had all just spent 8 hours racing with our teammates, time that was physically and mentally gruelling, is pretty cool. Most people raced with a friend, some people raced with a girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse, but nobody raced alone. And I just think that’s great.

CF24 and Creation of Hope

I’m doing CF24 on October 26th! Twenty-four workouts in 24 hours… every hour on the hour. Sounds like torture, literal torture! See last year’s workouts here.

CF24 is a fundraiser for Special Olympics Canada. I’m really excited to be raising money with athletes, for athletes (our goal is $50,000!). We are encouraged to ask our friends and family to help us meet fundraising goals, so if you’d like to do that, click through for my personal fundraising page!

However, I’ve decided to meet the Special Olympics goal myself and ask for your help in fundraising for another organization with which I am involved, Creation of Hope. I spent three months in the summer of 2009 in Kikima, a village up in the mountains a few hours east of Nairobi. I taught math, physics, computers, and the occasional gym class at an all girls high school. Here are my students at a computer class (it was in a church, since our school didn’t have power):

I also spent time on weekends with some of the hilarious, spirited, incredibly kind kids who are part of a food program that Creation of Hope runs. They are sponsored (by Canadians and by Kenyans!) through monthly donations. I’ve been involved with the program for over 4 years now, and it’s been great to watch them keep growing up. School is free only up until grade 8 in Kenya (well, “free”, since the cost of the necessary uniform can be prohibitive) so many children’s education stops with grade 8. The Creation of Hope is currently sponsoring 43 students in high school and post secondary, but that costs about $15,000 a year. I’m hoping I can use CF24 to raise money to make a sizeable dent in those tuition costs.

A very cool thing about Creation of Hope is that 100%, truly every last cent, of your donation goes towards the program (never to setting up booths at the mall or mailing you glossy brochures every year to ask you for more money, and none of it will go towards running the CF24 event, either). You can read through the monthly updates to see full accountability of all funds raised.  In fact, you’ll be able to follow that blog and see your donations in action as well! GUYS, THAT’S COOL!

Ways to donate to Creation of Hope

1. Mail a cheque made payable to Creation of Hope (with “CF24” as the memo) to:

4082 Powderhorn Cres.
Mississauga Ont.
L5L 3B9

2. Give me a cheque in-person and I’ll mail it for you!

3. E-transfer me money or give me cash in-person and I’ll write a cheque to Creation of Hope and mail that!

Whatever you choose, you can expect full accountability on my blog and on the Creation of Hope blog.

Also, if you’d rather donate to Special Olympics Canada, that’s also pretty fab. Just go here and click Donate Now.

But if you’re not in a position to donate right now, then if you’re in Edmonton you could just come on by at some point during the 24 hours of workouts and cheer us on!

Weightlifting Bad Days

I haven’t posted much about my lifting progress since the last meet, primarily because I haven’t made any. I’ve yet to hit anything higher than what I did on competition day. It’s frustrating and discouraging. I’ve snatched 41kgs time and time again, and I’ve failed at 42kg so many times and in so many ways (I’ve hit my forehead and even somehow the back of my head while snatching). It’s mentally defeating.

I think that I’ve been waiting to hit the good news so that I can say “I finally did this weight, and it is especially lovely because of all the bad days I experienced along the way!”. But I now think it’s worth it to point out that weightlifting is very hard and in unexpected ways. It is just hard.

A quote from Catalyst’s post “Where Have All The Prs Gone?” describes my situation well:

Let me tell you something about weightlifting. New people come on the scene, especially now with CrossFit pulling so much interest in to the sport—these folks PR every week, their lifts continuously go up week after week, and they are the fucking bomb! Their confidence is through the roof! Do we have the next World Champ? The greatest thing to hit weightlifting… they are thinking to themselves, well shit fire and save matches! At the rate I am PRing in my snatch and clean & jerk, 3-5kgs a week, I will be beating all these bitches, all these top 10 girls or boys, and I will be amazing! I will be an Olympic medalist for sure… as they are calculating what their lifts will be in 6 months at this 3-5kg per week increase.

And then reality sets in. You can’t PR every week forever. New people to the sport have a level of strength and a level of technique. Once those two things match up, they hit a wall. New folks PR every week because they are new to the sport, and they are going to naturally progress to where their limit is, based on their athletic ability. When they reach their limit, they find PRs are not coming every week. Or every two weeks, or maybe not even in a whole month.

Yep, that’s me! “At this rate, watch out Lindsey Valenzuela in mid-2015!!!!!” I thought to myself during the summer. But now the PRs have stopped coming so quickly and hoo boy, let me tell you, it is hard. But the thing is, that even after I miss and miss and miss a lift, I think it’s important to avoid being cautious with optimism, because if there is even a shred of doubt in my mind that I can make a lift, then it’s over, I won’t. Every time I walk up to the bar, I have to truly believe that this is the time I can finally snatch more than 41kg, which means every time I miss, it’s kind of crushing.

So… back to the gym again! Clear eyes, full hearts, right?