Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Meet Recap / Lessons Learned

The blog is going to be focused a little differently today.  Up until now, it has been all about sharing my daughter.  I'm going to continue using it as a forum to share her, but I'm also going to start working in one of my other loves – the sport of powerlifting.  Last Saturday, I lifted in a meet held at CrossFit Retribution, an awesome gym in Westminster, Maryland, owned by an awesome dude named Beau.  To be sure, Ruby was on my mind all day.  I wore ruby-colored shoes (no pig tails, cutesy dress, basket, or little dog though) and a t-shirt with her picture on it, listened to music that reminded me of her, and looked at pictures of her on my phone for a little extra motivation before attempts.  Just being there was my first lesson learned:  you really can endure loss and continue doing things you love and that were important to you before the loss.  Anyway, let’s get on with the meet report.  If you’re really only reading the blog to read about Roo and don’t give a rat’s ass about some meat head sport, just jump to the end.  That little peanut makes an appearance before I close. 

I hit some good training lifts in September but then the injury bug (back, per usual) and work demands conspired to mess up my preparation in October.  To salvage the meet and at least make some progress I decided to focus on my bench, which wouldn’t aggravate the back, and try to get 400 at 220.  The week prior to the meet I made a pretty decent 385 in training that I thought showed I had some left.   

I followed the 385 with some board work I’ve been including for my lockout.  Board work simply involves benching while lowering the bar to boards of varying heights resting on your chest.  This shortens the range of motion by the height of the boards used and allows you to overload the lift a little.  I might not have been born with a barrel chest, but I can get one temporarily by throwing a board under my shirt!  During my first, and only, set of board pressing, I felt a twinge in my right pec.  A twinge during board work is unusual, since the first few inches of the lift that boards eliminate should be the most vulnerable part of the lift for pectoral injuries.  Ah, this brings me to my second lesson learned:  things aren’t always as they seem and sometimes a logical explanation eludes, despite our human desires for one.  I’m sure you guessed I’m not just talking about weight training with this observation.  Why did she have to go when so many needed her here?  That one is too big for me to answer, so I don’t even try.

Back to the meet… during the week leading up, the dodgy pec seemed fine but was a concern in the back of my mind.  I definitely didn’t want to stress an injury and cause a blowout.  I don't know if I subconsciously shifted a little more weight to the left side to compensate or what, but I felt a distinct cramping/pulling on my attempt with 400 and quickly stopped driving the bar a few inches off my chest.  At 44 a torn pec might be a tough injury to recover from, and I consider myself lucky to have had time to recognize something wasn’t right and stop the lift before doing any damage. 

With little deadlifting the entire month of October, I certainly wasn’t expecting much but decided to at least warm up, maybe take an opener, and then make a decision about whether to keep raising the weight.  After Beau’s equally awesome wife, Angie, performed her magic on me with some deep tissue work and a few stretches, warm-ups went pretty well.  I opened with 550 and it felt reasonably fast, though my left low back still did not feel perfect as I walked off the platform.  Ah, par for the course; seems like I always feel a little tweaky.  I put in 600 for my second, figuring I’d just bail if anything felt weird.  It seemed like this was the emerging theme of the day.  And then… Boom!  Solid lift with good explosion, and low and behold I felt fine walking away.  Shoot, I felt spry as a rutting buck.  You better bone up on your Outlaw Josey Wales references if you don’t recognize that one.  Weird… my back is completely random and unpredictable.  What was lesson number two, again?  Ah, right, it’s the one about life not always revealing logical explanations.  Well, guess what?  The best thing about that one is that it holds true not just for bad occurrences, but for serendipity as well.  As Charlie Sheen would say, “Winning!”  My feeling about the lift was confirmed when I mouthed 630 to Marty across the room and he shook his head up and down enthusiastically.  I think the video and photos speak for themselves.  My lifetime PR 630 was solid with no form breaks.  It was a little slow, especially at lockout, but I think I had some left.  Judge for yourselves:


I Know; The Ruby Red Shoes Rock

Sure, I want to bring my bench up some.  I think 400 is well within reach at 220 and might have even been there on Saturday without the twinge.  But anyone who knows me knows I’ll take a squat or deadlift PR over a bench PR any day.  I’ve pulled triple bodyweight as a 198 and am inching closer at 220.  I think 660 will fall soon.  When I squat 630 or so, a 660 pull will be a foregone conclusion.

For those still reading, I’ve dropped a couple of crumbs, but you’re probably waiting for the big lesson learned.  Ah hell, I don’t know.  Listen to your body but don’t listen too hard???  That sounds ridiculous, but it really is kind of what I do.  It’s a powerlifting meet.  You’re not playing the clarinet, though I do wish I had a speck of musical talent.  You’re lifting really heavy stuff, and that means you’re going to be asking your body to do something it doesn’t really want to do.  Also, there’s a difference between pushing on a weight (squat/bench) and pulling on it (deadlift).  If the weight is on top of you, it’s difficult to bail.  So if something doesn’t feel right beforehand, I say don’t even attempt a lift.  And if something feels weird in the middle of a lift, like with my bench on Saturday, make sure you have good spotters ready to take the weight in an instant.  With the deadlift, at least you can bail on your own without relying on spotters by just opening your hands and letting the bar drop.  I’m not real reckless at 44; certainly not like I was at 24.  I can’t afford to be.  If anything had felt weird at any point on that PR attempt, I’d have just opened my hands and said, “No mas.”  I love lifting heavy, and I want to be able to do it for many more years if possible.  Let’s see if I can restate that ridiculousness above about listening but not too hard.  My third lesson learned:  you know your own body best, and there’s no shame in tapping and living to fight another day if something feels “off” – just try not to act like a wussy.

After the meet, there was a letdown.  I lifted well and earned an unexpected gift in the form of that deadlift PR.  I thought about my angel and how I felt her presence there with me helping me through the day.  I didn’t feel her as strongly afterwards, as if she had flown back to heaven where she belongs.  Of course I was greedy and wanted her here with me.  But I have someone new here; a woman.  I realize this knowledge might divide my meager audience.  I could end up with too few readers to even field a team for a 3-on-3 basketball tournament.  Anybody ever play 21?  Tim Randolph… I’m talking to you… surely you’re still here.

Grieving man moves forward with his life – some may see this as selfish.  Others will see it as healthy and be happy for me.  At times, we all live our lives worrying about what others think.  Losing Roo made me care less about what anyone thinks.  It’s not that I don’t want friends.  I want lots of them.  I need them.  I just want the ones who accept me for me.  I’m not saying my friends need to rubber stamp every assholish (ugh, grammar checker, please quit underlining “assholish;” it’s obviously a word!) thing I do and tell me how great I am when I’m really being a jerk.  They just can’t disown me over choices I make.  Well, I suppose they could disown me over some choices, like you know, murder and stuff.  But are you really going to abandon a friend over life choices or even give them some holier than thou attitude?  I've quoted the NFL Game Day crew before, but I must yet again.  “C’mon man!”  Look in the mirror.  I’m sure we’ve all done some stuff others don’t understand.  But in the end, don’t most of us try to do what we think is best for ourselves and those we love?  I got a divorce.  I had my reasons, and I explained them to everyone who needed to know the details.  Everyone else will just have to trust me or not. 

Here’s something I wrote on a really bad day a few months ago but didn’t publish.  I couldn’t imagine anyone would want to read it, yet it was the truth at the time I wrote it.  I don’t want to go back to this place, but I might.  We all might.  Hopefully, none of us stays there for too long.

I need to write more of these blogs, but I'm having a hard time sitting down to do it.  Nothing really helps.  I can't stop crying and I just want to be with her.  Even though she was about to turn six, she was just a little baby still.  Mary had gotten her an Elmo potty training video, but she had no interest in watching it.  Mary tried a few times to put it in the video player and Roo would just get mad and say, "Beach!  Beach!"  She wanted to watch her little beach video and see Elmo run around in his swimming trunks building castles and splashing in the water.  I had a beach painting on my wall.  It was actually pretty ugly, but I knew she'd love it when I picked it up for a couple dollars at a yard sale.  She used to climb up on the couch and mess with it and say, "Beach!  Beach!"  Maybe she knew she wouldn't be here long and that potty training didn't matter.  I want to go be with her.  I don't want to be here anymore.  I pray every night maybe that can happen soon.  I wish others wanted that for me too.

I don’t feel this way anymore.  I started trying to pull myself out of my funk on my own.  I had some minor victories, but it was hard and I slipped back a lot.  I needed some help.  And then I met a girl and asked her out.  She’s wonderful.  I was fighting to be hopeful about an uncertain future before she came along, but her presence has certainly opened my eyes to many beautiful things life still has to offer.

I'll share a few more lessons learned through lifting and living.  Humans are complex.  We can be sad and happy for different reasons at the same time.  Things aren’t always black and white.  Learning when to push through and when to pull back is difficult but important.  Life gives and life takes away.  Hope and love are at the heart of human existence.  Moving forward is scary but Winter Warlock knows you just have to “Put one foot in front of the other and soon you'll be walking 'cross the floor.”  Something else scary:  Halloween will never be the same, but I still enjoy passing out candy to children.

Banana and Ape

Mary Lou and Bela Karolyi

Little Red Riding Hood and Big Bad Wolf

Elmo's Best Buddy is a Goldfish... Not Happening.


  1. Wait till you see the trophies Dan & I are giving out at the First Annual Ruby Miller MD State Championships on (hopefully) April 26th 2014

    1. Don't keep me in suspense, brother!

    2. Please keep me in the loop on this meet. I'd like to lift in it.

  2. CD;

    I grieve for every time I read your blog's, but I get so inspired by your writing and the things you are accomplishing. Right now, I am down for the count because I had to have surgery on my left foot. No more working out for me for at least another 8-10 weeks. However, you keep the hope in my heart that I will one day get back to where I was and continue lifting. Maybe, one day I can work out with you; like the old days. Keep up the good work and continue writing, because I am sure reading your blogs every time you post one.

    Your Friend, Ex Neighbor

    Anthony N

    PS God Bless Rudy for my Friend CD!

    1. I am just so happy we reconnected. I tell stories about you all the time. Roo even heard a few of them. Without a dad around growing up, I needed someone to instill a little fight in me. I've met all kinds of people since I left home, but the toughest I ever knew were right there in Bridgeport and you were at the top of the list. You'll get past this foot thing. I know you will.

  3. good post, and congrats on that big pull.... very nice!

  4. Good post Chuck. Thoughtful, reflective and informative.

  5. As always, I love reading your stuff. I need to thank Paul Carter for making me aware of your blog. Congratulations on the PR too, I know that must feel great. Being a father to my own 6 year old little angel, I have enormous respect and admiration for how you're able to write about your sweet daughter as you do. I sincerely wish you nothing but peace and understanding in all of your days.

    1. Hey Aaron, thanks so much for coming back to read some more and for your kind words. All the best to you and your family this holiday season.

    2. It's my pleasure (even if I have to hide a tear or two at work) and you're very welcome. I wish the same for you and yours. I didn't realize you were in Maryland before now - born and raised here myself.

    3. Wipe that tear away and come train with me sometime!