2018 IPF Classic Worlds-The Coach's Perspective

The last few years for Jenn and I have been a whirlwind. Some incredible meet results, world travel and pizza in about each location consumed with beer. We seem to learn something each meet and training cycle and work to hone our skills along with Aaron Thomas. It’s a really interesting dynamic that works very well. It’s exceptionally cool for me as I have known Aaron since he and Wes played football together seemingly a life time ago.  There is much communication and questions and every time I start a list for the next meet, there is many notes with many times, a lot of white out and marks along the way. That said, it has worked and has produced many great results.

However, before we get to this meet in Calgary, 2018 IPF Classic Worlds, it’s best to rewind a bit. There has been back and forth with Jenn about staying 57 or moving up to 63. It’s gone back and forth, been discussed, discussed some more and about every time I think we’ve decided, we’re back and forth again. Long story short, she decided to do 57 at nationals…again, I’m going to rewind some more. All the meets I have been part of with Jenn have been great meets. She continues to learn, as we all do, and she continues to improve. I’ve written about it before. Women’s pro/am, wins class, best lifter. On to 2016 USA powerlifting nationals, Atlanta. Wins her class, which I fully expected. Then goes on to win best lifter! I didn’t expect that. It’s not an issue of doubt, it’s just that’s so much to ask. It’s really hard and there were amazing lifters yet, there Shorty went and won it all, again. We go to the Arnold, very confident and we both didn’t follow through but, she gets 2nd, and we knew where we made mistakes and trust me, we talked about it for seemingly ever to make sure we didn’t make those mistakes again. The Belarus at worlds. I was very confident. Again, I expected she would win, planned for her win, was there for almost every session along the way. I knew she could and would win her class and then there she went again, best lifter. The build up here is it is a career year. Yeah, coulda woulda shoulda at the Arnold…all those ladies there were badasses and so every meet, you must be 100% on point and we weren’t. But, everything else was lined up and executed and winning the meet overall happened as well. It’s really impossible to ask for more.

I should also add, Jenn asked me about my no bullshit thoughts on her staying 57 or going 63. Now, keep in mind, after Belarus was done, she wanted to go 63…I can’t speak for Aaron but, I thought the turnaround was too quick given she was going to gone and out of the gym so much. I didn’t think it was a good idea. So, when she asked me, I told her, it was up to her but, my opinion, was to stay 57 and become iconic. Yes, I think the 57’s are loaded and there is much up and coming talent but, I still feel that Jenn is the best 57 in the world and if she’s on, no one can beat her. I feel like she’s proven that and that it’s not a glitch or fluke or a first time lucky shot. If the results from this meet don’t prove it, nothing will. Of course, in true Jenn fashion she questioned everything I said in the statement. It’s just the way it is for her and I. Now, I will admit, it’s easy for me to say that. I don’t have to lift her weights and more, I don’t have to make that stupid weight cut. At this point, and you’ll read, you can see why I’ve let up on my original statement and feel 63 is time. I stand by my original statement but, if this is what she wants and given what the cut takes out of her, I’m for it and will do my part. Also, this is where she and I are once again very alike. I got to the point where I had won some meets, hit some records but knew, if I wanted to achieve my goals, I needed to move up a class. I felt like I had something to prove and wanted to see where the added weight took me. I had made cuts to make 308, nothing dramatic but, I wanted to just train, eat and see what the lifts turned into. The rest is history. I completely understand the need and want to move up. This year, the timing just seems a little better…at least I feel better about it…

Going into the 2018 world season if you will, was filled with expectations. And now here is the catch. Expectations are necessary. They are needed to create, note I use the world create, to create goals and set up training cycles and to get everyone’s mind wrapped around what is to come and what we must do to make those expected results. Back to the catch, expectations are the seeds to frustration as well. Now don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean I expected less or I’m already making excuses. That’s hardly the case. Jenn and I always talk numbers initially and then put them away for a bit and then they crank up as we get closer to the meet. Last years nationals, this year’s Arnold and worlds were no exception. This builds up to what we’ve faced the last 5 months. I am the conservative one, Aaron is the scary one and Jenn leans towards scary. It’s not fear it’s just always my approach. I’m looking at sure things and they are much broader minded than I.

Jennifer is someone that loves this sport and more, more than competing, loves to prepare and this is why she is a world champion. It’s not just showing up to train every day and being consistent. It’s eating right doing the walking and cardio to manage pain, weight and everything else. The studying and hundreds of chats each cycle going over things, asking my opinion and then busting my chops challenging everything I say. See, no matter what, regardless of past results, we are pushing, and we have to prove it day in and day out. But, this is the mindset and formula of a world champion. I came up with a saying for her, to be all time you have to be all time all of the time. Sounds cool…yeah, but, it’s hard to live with expectation and while she flew under the radar of her career best year…this time, you could and everyone else could, see her coming and, expectations were high.

At last year’s nationals, Jenn made the decision to go 57. There was talk about how to go to worlds as a 63 so, the plan was set. Jenn goes over this a bit in her blog so, I’ll move on here. Now, she will disagree with me but, I feel like the weight cuts are starting to have a negative effect. Here is why I say this. Jenn has been training at our gym now for a bit over 4 years. She’s always been a 123 or 57 depending on where she lifted save for the one time she and AT decided it was a great idea to cut to 114, one of the many reasons why I drink but, that’s a story for another time…anyway, she’s been a 123/125 lifter her entire time here. I have witnessed in that time how her body has changed. She is much denser now and heavily muscled. She was in great shape when she arrived here but now, she’s even more so. It makes it more difficult to cut as now she must lose muscle to get to the weight class.  In her time here, she is always training and prepping for a meet and that always culminates with a cut. And sometimes, the cut is long and each time it becomes a bit more arduous. It is not just hey, cut a few things out of the food plan and do a water cut and we’re all good it’s quite the process and it has to be wearing. In fact, it is. SO, finally, at nationals. I see the effect. You can see it in her eyes and in her size, or lack thereof. It’s not a bad meet but, I notice then she has a bit of a struggle with her last squat. Like the low end strength is having a hard time revealing itself. The end results isn’t a bad one. She goes 8-9 and has a new American record pull. She easily wins her class but, is knocked out of best lifter by a few 100th’s. 2nd overall, not bad but, certainly not like the year before.

For the Arnold, Jenn had decided to lift as a 63. It’s a risk…she likes risk…me, not so much. But, she is going 63 and then finds out that she can go to worlds only as a 57 so, starts a little bit of a cut, to get to 60 which makes her wilkes score drop. She and many others can explain it much better than I can but yes, 3 kg has a huge impact on your score. The meet is pretty good. Not quite the planned numbers but, an 8-9 day and I called for a 200kg pull to finish in the money,  in any other meet, I would have called 195 and she would have pulled that. Now, back up a little. Just prior to the Arnold, say 4 weeks, Jenn comes in and has a mark on her face. Not like she got hit but, like a little rash or spot, I dunno but, it’s there. She has written about her Shingles episodes. The thing is, this has likely been underlying for some time. Long story short, this really takes it out of her and starts the journey of dealing with this challenge. The long and short of it is, this is something she had been dealing with since early February, if not longer.

The training cycle for worlds was difficult. As she wrote, one deadlift sessions, she missed a pull and simply packed up and left. I figured she was just pissed but, she never just packs and leave. I’ve seen her cry, I’ve seen her get mad and struggle and we’ve even had arguments but, she never packs up and leaves. I get a message from her I’d say roughly 2 pm later that day. She is apologizing for leaving and tells me she just woke up….that’s when I knew this was a bigger issue then just a skin irritation and feeling a little played out. The problem is, these things take time to get over and get back to 100% and this cycle, her body was not going to cooperate.  She gets passed the initial Shingles then almost immediately a cold and then Shingles are back. All this is going on while she is training to defend her title and it’s not going according to plan. Basically, this lingers until 3-4 weeks out. Jenn, not unlike myself, feels like when you are better, you feel better and ready to be 100%. I can certainly appreciate and operate in the same manner but, it just isn’t going that way. Many times it seemed she felt good enough but, the body wasn’t responding. Plain and simple, she was sicker than any of us knew and simply, were willing to accept. The picture I’m painting here is Jenn was never fully well the entire training cycle. She fought through and while she had big expectations, they were adjusted to what we thought were realistic numbers.

I was an alternate on the master’s world team and decided I’d go up as if I was lifting. I wanted to see Beau Moore kill all the world records, see everyone and do some scouting. I knew I’d be meeting Aplyft and Aaron earlier in the week and it gave me some time to catch up on rest, programming and be prepared for the scouting and meetings I wanted to do. Jenn arrived Tuesday night and she was like 11 lbs. over. When she told me I played it off but, in my head I was like WTF!? If you’ve read Jenn’s meet recap, you see how the cut went and Jenn made weight. Conversation’s with Aaron and I planned on what to expect and we both knew that we could be rolling the dice with what was to come. The long training cycle and issues had taken a toll both mentally and physically, now the weight cut, which was completely different than the previous year. This could be a dog fight.

And, we called it right…

Squat warm ups were going along and 2nd to last I believe, both SiouxZ and I feel like Jenn is cutting depth. It’s not bad but, I have watched judging for a week and they are calling it tough. I saw what I thought was good lifts in the pocket get turned down. SO, I knew we would have to be on point. I told her I needed a bit more depth. She does her last warm up…it doesn’t look great. Keep in mind, we have a gold standard. Jenn is the current world record holder so we expect that everything is going to be pristine but, it is not. It’s all good and I’m my reassuring coach self and say, we’re good, you’re good. Opener comes and Matt Gary and I look at each other and think, this may get reds from the side It’s just not the convincing depth we are accustomed to.  She gets it 2-1 and she’s in and the battle and the day to come, it begins. 2ndattempt, Jenn comes out, pick is not great and she labors to get in position. Just when I think she is going to get the squat command, she reracks it and sets back up. Time is short, we are both confident she’s fine. She has a decent pick, sets up, gets the squat command buzzer goes off and Jenn hears from somewhere, “time” and she racks it…we were completely caught off-guard. It’s not something I ever thought to talk about, none of us did. That falls on me. Only ever listen to the head judge. It was very confusing and just like that, no 2nd attempt. Jenn is in back, we’ve already called to repeat and she is apologizing. She is running through the events and I simply say, only ever listen to the head judge. Now, it’s done, focus on the next attempt. Get it and we’re good, you’re good. It’s not a mistake she will ever make again and it just goes to show you, you can prepare and think you have everything covered and that you are experienced and something will come up and bite you square in the ass. But, it’s one attempt and while precious it isn’t a breaking point. Everything is about composure and that was our focus word last year. Focus word, I didn’t have one this time. I always have one. I always have a saying…am I slipping? Am I failing Jenn? I have nothing new for her. I put that aside as she has her 3rd attempt and just like a champion does, she goes out, nice pick and best squat of the day. 170 and under what we had expected but, a lead and I’ll take that going into the bench.

Bench warm ups seem much better. Last warm up is 90kg and it looks fine. Opener of 95 is not as good as hoped and even Matt suggested 97.5. SiouxZ and I thought 100 would be more than doable. We were wrong. Jenn’s opener she touched a bit high, so I told her so as to make sure we got the right bar path and touch point. This time, she touches low and grinds and about 2/3 of the way up it stops. We repeat and it’s the same, she’s out of gas to push from the grind of the 2nd attempt. She is not happy to say the least and hurls her wraps in the back.  We are in a dog fight. That being said, she has gone 6-9 and is leading by 7.5kg going into the deadlift. She seems to hate the pull and I have always said, and, we have certainly argued about it that, deadlift is her lift. She’s the American record holder and when the bar hits the floor, she shines.

In the back, it occurs to me that I have a word for Jenn, a new focus word, thank God. Grace. In most the meets, Jenn is cruising along and hitting records and amazing lifts. It’s almost easy. Today, it’s hard, none of those things are happening and I told her, no matter what, handle yourself with grace and be graceful. In tough moments, how we choose to handle things can make or break us. And, to Jenn’s credit, this is exactly what she did. Warm ups look damn near perfect. I am excited. I knew after the last warm up, it’s over and she will repeat. Opener is 170 and bam, that’s our Jenn and we call for 180 as expected and planned and it is not what we expected and planned. I see the right knee cave in. She’s about to simply run out of gas. The length of illness and the rough training cycle and weight cut, have finally caught up. This last pull will seal it but will be a tough get. Now, we are playing the game to see if we can get the lifter from Ecuador to show her hand. She’s lighter than Jenn and has had a great day. Noone is surprised as she was a bronze medalist the year before.  So, a tied total means the gold would be snatched away from Jenn. I honestly felt like the 180 did it but, another 5 kgs would do the trick. So Matt and I called for 190, let’s see if they selected enough to tie and win. We were going to hold that until close and then change to 185. Jenn at this point is done and even comes up to us, and she never does this, and says just do enough to win…we assured her that we were and once she went to the back, Matt and I chuckled. I knew she would have to have all she could muster to get this. Now, you know Jenn pulls this and wins but, something I had said to Jenn after Belarus was, the hardest things to do once was to do it twice. Being all time does require you to be all time all of the time. But, sometimes the pressure of being the best, the expectation of it all, the tough training cycle while being ill and a crazy weight cut, it catches you and you have to give what you have. You have to give 100% of what you have to give that day. Jenn was well under 100% but, gave every ounce and shred of energy she had in that moment. It was a hard fought lift, it was a hard fought meet and nothing came easy. In her toughest moment when she wasn’t her best, she was still the best and handled herself with grace and composure.

Moments like this are defining. Belarus seems magical now. It was the first one, it all seemed to go as planned even though there were issues and obstacles.  Training went well, prep went well and our plan worked perfectly. Calgary was basically the opposite. Typing this and reading it, I am as tense as I can be. As a coach, this was the toughest yet likely the best coaching job and team job and lifting job we’ve done. See, what is defining was not all the issues, not the illnesses and the weight cut and all the things that didn’t cooperate. In spite of all these things, in a moment that seemed dire, composure and grace come through. What is defining is with all that, you come through the other side having given your best and staying the course and showing the heart of a champion. Jenn embraced the grind and the fight and managed to still come out on top. This was a win that was super sweet. Despite everything that happened and went wrong, it’s what went right and was fought through that decided the day. 

We all went to the back and Jenn is getting congratulated by all the lifters and coaches. I shake a few hands and go to the back and sit. I am spent and emotionally, I’m done. I am an emotional coach. I am not Tom Landry on the side lines who is stoic and everything is water off a ducks back. IN these 2 IPF world meets, I have done my best to be the example of being composed and cool as ice. I’d like to think I have done that until the meet was won and then I can let go a little. Tears flow. It’s done and she wins for the 2nd time. It is truly harder to do it twice than to do it once. This is one that will be talked about for years to come. It’s quite rewarding to work with people who you share a passion with. The Gary’s Matt and SiouxZ are a delight to work with and Matt and I seem like old kindred spirits. It’s just automatic with us. Aaron and I have such a neat history and he is clearly one of the brightest people I know. Not only is it great coaching with him, he and I enjoy talking training and strategy. It’s just a big positive thing and a positive team. It’s a great joy to me to see it all work so well together regardless of the circumstances.

Jenn and I, once medals were done, took off and had what I hope is a traditional meal of pizza and beer save, this year we added wings. We talked about many things and simply enjoyed the moment and company. These are things I cherish. I couldn’t be more proud and more excited. Every time we all learn something and it helps to make us better.

What’s next? It looks like Jenn will make her foray into the 63’s and that will be no joke. That class is stacked with great lifters and the challenge will be great. All I can say is stay tuned. I can promise that we all will do our very best to put Jenn in the best position possible to as successful as she can. We know Jenn will work as hard as possible and prepare. You can count on expectations being high .I can’t wait to see what happens next!

I would be remiss if I didn't thank some people. On my end, Missy ran the gym in my absence and got alot of help from the entire gym family. Grant is here over the most of the summer and stepped up as well. We've had team mates like Jr...Wes Garner, come in early to make sure Missy had a hand off and spots, etc. So, to all of my home team at the Ogre Compound, thanks so much. I couldn't do this without your help and support. Equally, the support I got from Team Ogre online is amazing. I truly appreciate your trust and belief in what we do. To all of the Super Human Radio folks that bought one of my gym t's to help fund this, you helped make this possible. For Jenn, I'm not speaking for her but, in admiration, her husband Michael knocks it out of the park. He is so selfless with all the support and making things happen. I truly admire him. I know the kids missed Jenn and I love those kids to pieces. Jenn's family is so very supportive and I enjoy being with them and amongst them any time that I can. truly, it takes a village. And for any of you that read this that I got to share bourbon with this trip, I hope you enjoyed it and it inspires you to do so again.
onward and upward from here.
Until next time, lift heavy, train smart & eat more pizza

Davie Smith