I Don’t Remember!

I came back to lifting as a 46-year-old Master in 1993 after a ten-year hiatus from competition. At my first National Masters in Baton Rouge, I encountered an 85-year-old lifter acquaintance in the lobby the day after he lifted. I heard he had won and I congratulated him on his victory. When I inquired what his lifts were, he hesitated, thought hard, and replied, “I don’t remember!” Ahhh…Masters lifting at its finest, I thought, realizing that I might be looking at myself forty years down the road.

Occasionally, I try to relate my competitive experiences to younger lifters, but it’s futile. It’s too much information and I quickly lose their attention for a number of reasons. Perhaps they think I’m blowing my own horn too much (someone once called my stories “pompous”). Or, maybe they think I’m bullshitting them. Or, maybe it’s just too long and eventually gets boring. All of these things are plausible and understandable to me. The thing is, it’s all true and I’d better write it down before, like my 85-year-old acquaintance, I can’t remember it all.

I started doing clean and jerks when I was ten years old (split cleaning). My benchmarks growing up were: age 10 – 80 lbs. at 75 lbs. bodyweight, age 12 – 105 at 107 bodyweight, age 13 – 130 at 125, age 14 – 150 at 135, age 16 – 170 at 150, age 17 – 180 at 165. These lifts were done on exercise sets…it don’t remember what the starting position looked like but I’d venture I was pretty well bent over to start the lift. I didn’t train with weights at all, but did all the other things kids did at the time: rode my bike, climbed trees, ran footraces with my friends, plays LOTS of pickup baseball games, and just boogied around a lot. When I was ten I started playing little league baseball and continued with that through the age groups up until age 18. At age 13 I began wrestling in high school and continued that for four years along with playing high school baseball.

When I was a sophomore in high school, one of my cousins six years my senior got into some trouble with the law. It was his exercise set that I began on at age 10. He got sent to prison in February 1962 for his bad behavior and stayed there for three years. His sister lived right up the street from me at the corner for my bus stop and in the winter months I would wait for the school bus in her living room and warm up. During these visits she would show me letters he had sent her describing weightlifting competitions he was participating in while incarcerated. He was released and came home on April 1, 1965, two months before my high school graduation. I went with his sister to the bus station to pick him up the day he came home. While returning home from the bus station, I looked through some magazines he had brought home with him. The magazines were Strength and Health, and it was the first time I had seen a photo of a snatch. He told me he had found the sport for me and was planning to buy a York Olympic Standard barbell with money he had earned working in prison industries. He intended to put it in his sister’s garage and that would be our training hall. On July 8, 1965 we did our first total. On November 20, 1965 I competed in my first contest. Today, the story continues…I’m continuing to train and compete. Forty-eight years later, I’m writing you this blog. I’ll save the competition history for the next entry.

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