I didn’t compete this weekend, but man, I wish I had. I can’t thank Jenn and Rich, Vaughan, all the volunteers, sponsors, competitors, and their supporters for all contributing to making this such a unique event.  There are six zillion meets each year.  In those 6 zillion, if you missed this event, you missed out.

Annie “Gunshow” Dohack hit the nail on the head a few days ago when she talked about how incredible it is to see women’s role in iron sports skyrocketing the last few years.  She recounted how, at her first strongwoman event, she was thrilled that there were even 2 other people on the planet that thought this was cool and did what she did.  I’ve only been competing a short time, but I can remember my first meet having a small women’s flight of maybe 10 women, one of whom was Hannah Johnson.

The fact that this weekend was entirely about seeing women grow in strength sports, consisted of an entire day of wrapped powerlifting, unwrapped having its own day, and there was a strong(wo)man show occurring the SAME DAY is unbelievable.  If this weekend is any sort of indication of the direction and growth of women’s powerlifting, I’m sitting on my hands excited and have a few handfuls of confetti in my pockets.   I saw 17 year old Helena Wu pull 355 at a TINY 117, beltless, like it was a casual Sunday morning.  17, people!

Jenn’s vision for creating an event like this is longstanding; I think it came together so naturally because it is so much a function of who Jenn organically is. there’s nothing to be created-  it already exists in the form of Jenn as a person. If you’ve met Jenn… you know she’s got enough soul for a pack of gorillas packed into a 114 (111.6, actually) pound body.  That soul, with some direction to become an event, is the best way to describe this weekend.  I’ve been so fortunate to meet a lot of strong, powerful, humble female competitors, but Jenn is the one that has influenced me the most.  This weekend was about so much of what makes her who she is:

Lifty things with lifty friends.

Gracious, it was awesome.  I feel stupid writing that but there really aren’t other words.

The weekend started with a seminar Friday afternoon put on by Annie Dohack and myself.  Maybe it’s because I haven’t been around long enough, but every seminar tied to a meet or event I’ve been to has had… maybe one female speaker.  I don’t think its because the experience, education, or knowledge is lacking.  I can name DOZENS of incredibly qualified women, of which I’d list myself close to last.  It’s a cool time when you can find two female competitors who truly have a desire to connect with, educate, and empower people.  For me as a PT, it was meaningful because it gave me a chance to operate in my vision a bit.  I’ve written before about how I don’t think there are enough female voices out there that get some volume, so it was fulfilling to be a part of seeing that change.  Annie is incredible.  She makes you feel like gold, and she’s  got this way of articulating things that reframe how you think about things.  She’s so genuine. Hearing her stories of how she’s seen things grow, her experiences with competing in multiple sports, and knowledge on nutrition was applicable to both older and newer competitors.  She is a WEALTH of knowledge and experience. And she gives awesome high fives.

Saturday- Saturday was the wrapped squat powerlifting meet and strongwoman show.  I can’t count how many records were broken.  Ann Vanderbush totally blew me away.  The fire in her was the kind of thing that made it impossible to NOT watch her: She’s got this way of igniting the platform almost effortlessly.  I’ll be honest, I spent most this day doing PT type things with lifty friends, which kept me…extraordinarily busy. As soon as I finished talking with one person, there was a tug on my sleeve in another direction.  It’s awesome when athletes and pt’s can actually start communicating, and I think it was helpful to have the seminar Friday to introduce some of the concepts that I use frequently in that it built a common language with those that came to see me Saturday and Sunday.

The number of people wanting some sort of help was a good wake up call for me in terms of what we really need in this sport: I knew I’d be busy, but I didn’t imagine the volume, or that people would be so willing to trust.  I’d be lying if I said I felt equipped for even 10 minutes.  It was incredibly rewarding, and also mentally exhausting feeling like I need another 10 years (or 20? Ha) experience to feel remotely qualified- but I don’t think that feeling is a bad thing, or will ever go away.  I so badly wish I had the mental energy and capacity to say “yes” to everyone.  I think with more experience it’ll come a little more seamlessly.  But, that’s demonstrative of the need to continue to bridge the gap between competing and “PT’ing.”  Marilia brought up a great point with me in conversation that in order to bridge the gap between two places, you need to have a foot in each. Taylor Weglecki, a PT that works with Complete Human Performance, was a HUGE resource.  I loved being able to talk with another PT that lifts.  He’s someone I look at and think if I can have half that knowledge in a few years, I’d be really proud of that. We think alike, but have different backgrounds, so where I have weaknesses, Taylor was able to fill in some gaps. I LOVED being able to hear how he talks about things with people and his verbiage with the educational component.  We see a lot of the same things, but through slightly different lenses, and may choose to go a different direction with them. He’s awesome, and I can’t say enough good things about him and his skillset.

Sunday I desperately tried to shut off my PT brain, mostly because….

JENN was lifting.  And this was her house.  And there really aren’t words to say what Jenn means to women in powerlifting, or to the sport in general.  I haven’t met anyone who responds with anything but intense enthusiasm when she comes up.

Jenn is one of my favorite humans on this planet. I knew she was going to hit some big numbers based on some of her training videos.  we have some similarities in personality, so its invaluable for me to see how someone sort of “like me” in some ways has grown to be someone that gives back to people so freely and so generously- it’s something I aspire to, so seeing someone that has done it so well is good mentoring.   Gol, Jenn… has some SOUL.  She’s quiet, and pretty introverted, but when she turns up, that switch gets turned ALL the way up.  She smoked her squats, and hit an all time record of 341 in sleeves at 111.6.  You know how cool it is for someone young that lifts to see that it takes time to progress like that?  Or, that even after lifting for a long time, you can continue to improve?  There is no ceiling for Jenn.  She’s a dear friend to me, so I got a little teary watching this event come together, feeling the energy in the room, and then seeing her on the platform. She had her lats lock up a bit after her second bench, and we worked on a few correctives before pulling in hopes she’d be able to maximize position.  She was prepped for huge numbers that day, and poured her heart into this weekend on so many levels.  She looked the best in warmups I’ve ever seen her look meet day; I think that was more a result of her mentally saying “I’m here to do this” than any of the correctives we did, and she went on to pull the easiest I’ve seen her pull 370, and then 390 something.  She went for 413 on her third- insane.

I think this… man, I wish I’d had more time to talk to her about this, but I had to leave to catch my flight home.  I think part of this was for her, I think part of this was for those of us there that are HERE in this sport because of her… its one of the ways she gives back. One way Jenn inspires us because she gets us thinking “why not me?”  she KNOWS this.  She knows that every time she does something ridiculous, someone else gets the courage to push a little harder.   The courage to do that translates to more than just the bar.   I don’t think I’ve EVER seen someone give so much effort to one lift.  She missed at literally, the last 2 inches, and only because she went full pretzel mode and passed out.  We had a conversation after where she questioned if she let people down.

Who does that?  Whose response is “did I let other people down?” when they miss a world record attempt?

Gracious.  Not me.  I’m as selfish as they get on meet day. But… I think that’s why she’s Jenn.  That’s why she has the effect that she does.  And it’s such a reflection of her heart.

And that spirit is the one that drove us all here- it’s why I flew from Colorado to “be” at an event I wasn’t competing in.  I can’t count the number of records broken, PR’s smashed, friendships established, and it’s impossible to put a tangible on the unity created here.  This event WAS Jenn.  It was amazing.

There were so many incredible people that drove the spirit of The Jenn.  Rich, you are a gift to this planet.  Your patience and encouragement, the energy you give to others, and the time spent to make this happen … thank you.  Every single competitor and their supporters, Gorilla bench and the team there, Complete Human Performance, GWPL, the Jaffe’s and Villoch’s, Dan and Shelly… there are so many.  The coolest thing is that we ALL, from all over, came together in the spirit of Jenn.  When one person and what she stands for can unify that much, it’s a powerful thing.  That changes people, and that’s what this is about.   It gives me so much hope as a young generation of lifters that tend to be all about “me,” myself included.

Jenn, there’s no way to say thank you.  I’ll be there next year.