2018 Raw Nationals: Will the Real Jennifer Millican Please Stand Up
As per the usual, the beginning of a new training cycle always hinges on the results of the last one. After IPF Worlds in June , I was pretty beat up and beat down. For almost the entire training cycle, I was either just getting over being sick, or about to be sick again. If I wasn’t sick, I was dealing with an annoying tweak. And of course, the added fun of having to keep my bodyweight in check. All of this to say, I was probably a little worse off than I thought at the time, but in typical me fashion, I couldn’t realize it until I came up for air after the meet.
I had decided long ago that I would be moving up a weight class regardless of what happened in Calgary. So that was not even a topic of discussion. A non-negotiable. The training cycle started super slow. All dumbbells all the time. I was pretty hesitant to get any sort of heavy weight in my hands at all because of how beat up I felt. I sandbagged for quite a bit even with primarily non-barbell movements. Eventually, I get called out by my coaches and decide it’s time to quit playing.
Now, despite my hesitation to push, I was still optimistic (read: confident) about what I would be able to put up as a 63. Now, some of you reading may already know, but for those of you who don’t, I’m gonna let a cat out of the bag. IT’S REALLY HARD FOR ME TO WEIGH LESS THAN 130 POUNDS. I don’t care what my coaches say or how tall I am. For me to get/stay under 130lbs takes mucho discipline and I’m not talking about the showing up to the gym and getting through my training sessions and sticking with the plan 90% of the time discipline. I’m talking about 24 hours a day, 7 days a week of strict what am I eating/drinking, when am I gonna get cardio in, will I get a full 8 hours of sleep, what if I have to (or WANT TO) do something social kind of discipline. That’s what it takes. And, quite honestly, I did it. For all intents and purposes, I DID THE DAMN THING. (see below)
When I decided to go full force into USA Powerlifting, I set out to win Nationals, go to Worlds, win, and move up to 63’s. Well. I went to Nationals. I won the 57’s. I won best female lifter. I went to Worlds. I won. I set two world records. I won best female lifter. The only thing I did not follow through on was moving up immediately. Do I regret it? The only glimmer of regret I have is staying in the 57’s for another year. But I wouldn’t change that first year for anything.
I only regret staying a 57 because I knew I was slipping. I knew my willingness to have the discipline required was fading. But I took the bait of the shininess of another title and shot at making history with a huge wilks. I went entirely against what my gut was telling me. I ain’t just talking about hunger pangs. (insert hysterical laughing here)
Back to the subject at hand. I decide to quit playing, and I’m confident about the numbers I would be able to put up. I am confident because as soon as I step off the platform and exhale as a 57, my bodyweight jumps to 135lbs. I can linger around 135lbs with mild discipline. But still discipline nonetheless. With no real discipline and living my life like a regular person, I’m at the top of the weight class. So I know what training feels like when I’m hitting that beautiful stride. Only this time, I’m gonna take it up a notch.
Now, was training all rainbows and sausages? Not really. I was a little disappointed actually. Except for bench. Bench was bae the whole training cycle. Which I totally expected, but even with my high expectations, I was still impressed with how well bench was going. I kept waiting for the crash. There was no crash. It was glorious.
Squat was going pretty well. We came out of the gate of heavy training with 170kgs. From there (my perspective here), it was pretty lack luster. We inched the weight up, but not one session was magical or super confidence boosting. I spent weeks squatting a single at 180kgs. I had decided I would not go any heavier than that. About 2 or so weeks out, Aaron tells me to push it for real. So, I load 182.5kgs and it was pretty close to a max effort squat. So, (in my 57kg brain), I think, I’m probably good for MAYBE 180kgs or 183kgs for a national record at the meet and even that would be awesome.
Bench. As I said, bench was bae. Man, I don’t even know what to tell you. It was just fire the whole time. We didn’t get greedy. We did step up the frequency. I was doing some kind of pressing every session. I didn’t rush or push any specific number. I really tried to walk a line. I thought because I had such trouble with bench at Worlds, missing 100kgs TWICE (hello fatigue), that if I could build a huge bench for Nats, it would really take my competitors by surprise (despite benching against the greatest bencher of all time). I knew where I fell short was the deadlift, so my strategy was to push the subtotal.
Deadlift. What a bitch. WHAT A BITCH. So real quick, when I said I was sick for most of the training cycle before, what was kicking my ass was shingles. It just kept coming back. I couldn’t get over it. Shingles attacks the nervous system. And, uh, lifting heavy ass weights isn’t exactly easy on the nervous system. Bad move on my part? Maybe. However, the show must go on. I kept waiting on my deadlift to show up. And it was taking it’s sweet ass time. For real. Now, I am a shaky person. I get the shakes. Please watch any video ever. MY NERVES IS BAD Y’ALL. I knew that my deadlift wasn’t turning the corner because I would start getting the shakes at much lower weights than usual. So, one thing I did for the entire training cycle was take supplements regularly. I read all this stuff (it may be witchcraft or a placebo but guess what? Idgaf) about how stress or things like shingles that attack the nervous system will strip you of vitamin B and minerals. Which will kick your immune system in the dick and you’ll be sick forever (i.e me). So I order some b complex vitamins and liquid minerals (and liquid vitamin d plus k for good measure) because I am no bueno at taking pills and quite honestly I am so sick of feeling like shit. I kid you not, that I felt my real deadlift finally showed up at my last heavy session when I hit 195kgs. It wasn’t until that session that I thought I might be able to pull enough to be in the running.
I had some thirds in mind. I was *somewhat* confident on my stretch goals for thirds. But all I knew for sure is what my first and seconds were and I didn’t care what they loaded for thirds. I was just going to make them. What you have to understand is my expectations are set in the mind of a woman who has been at a caloric deficit for weeks (months?) and who is coming down to the wire on body weight. I know enough to know that meet day is a different ballgame and that expectations need to be kept in check.
I am warming up for squats and think….uhhhhhh, what the fuck. WE JUST MIGHT have a good day on our hands. Of course, it’s important that I don’t acknowledge that and just do exactly what I’m told. My opening attempt, when I go out, I am taken aback by the crowd noise a bit. When I set up, I am not quite sure about head position and where I want to focus my eye sight. I hear only one person. I hear my husband. “LET’S GO JENNIFER”, and set up, walk it out, and about halfway up I hear the crowd make a sound as if to say “put some weight on the bar”. Three white lights. Second attempt, more confidence, easy, three white lights. I don’t say shit to Wade or Aaron. Aaron just keeps telling me to keep everything the same. I’m thinking, what are they gonna call? It feels easy, but DO I HAVE more than 183kgs…can I really hit a lifetime PR on the platform?! Fuck it. They will make the right call. Just do your job. 185.5kgs. An American Record. An unofficial World Record. AND most importantly, a 400lb+ squat in sleeves, a LONG TIME goal of time. I walk out and the crowd is amazing. I hit the pocket, slow down a bit at the slowing down spot, the crowd comes in right on time, and I stand up with it. Three white lights. This may be my most favorite lift I’ve ever lifted. It was in this moment, that the real Jennifer Millican had made her debut on the powerlifting platform.
So, now I am unusually fired up. It’s a different kind of fired up than I’ve felt before. I just hit a lifetime pr, that also happened to be an American Record and an Unofficial World record. TO BE CLEAR, I spent a lot of my lifting ‘career’ on breaking these sort of records. Like, my entire focus for many years was breaking these records. And the truth is, is that I didn’t care at all about them IN THIS MOMENT in time. I just wanted to make attempts. And now, I’m thinking, well damn, what if bench follows suit?! And it turns out it did follow suit. I hit my opener at 100kgs (thank you very much failed attempts at Worlds). We jumped 7.5kgs to my second. My 57kg brain was nervous for this jump so I kept the option open to make the 5kg jump. My 57kg brain had no place in the 63kg weight class. I had hit ~110.5kgs in training. I thought it would be super cool if I hit 110 in the meet. After my second attempt at 107.5kg, Wade came up to me and said “We’re gonna do what we came here to do” which I knew meant 112.5kgs. 57kg brain is like ‘are we sure?!’, the competitor brain is like ‘just do your job’. So they load 112.5kg, a number that I told myself I would reach at the beginning of training but also seemed so far out of reach….BUT ALSO I knew I would make it. I knew I could grind if it came down to it, but I also knew I didn’t need to based on my 2nd attempt. I didn’t need to grind. My third attempt was just like every top end single in training only with more weight on the bar. And when I walk off the platform Wade looks at me at me says, ‘that’s right mother fucker!’. Now, I have two lifetime pr’s under my belt AND I have the highest subtotal going into deads.
Deads are more of the same. I know this is where I fall short and I know I’ve pushed them as far as I can via subtotal. Now, I just need to put together some solid attempts and let the chips fall where they fall. As I mentioned earlier, deads have been lagging just a bit. Not horrible, but a little slower than the rest of my lifts. However, they did seem to show some response my last heavy session and the rest of the meet has me feeling optimistic. Did I feel magic during warm ups for deads? No. After squat and bench I got messages from a couple of my lifting homies. And they both meant a lot to me. They both had the same message. ‘Just don’t stop pulling!’. So, as far I as I was concerned I had done my job. I had reached the subtotal that I thought was out of reach. I knew going in as a 63kg, it was going to take a nearly perfect day and even after that the pull of a lifetime.
Third attempt dead.
First, I look at Aaron,
-Do I have time to pee?
Next…Wade comes to me and says
-All I need out of you is the pull of your life
-Ok, the pull of my life, got it
-I tried really hard and I peed everywhere
It was 202.5kgs and it would have tied me with the total that won. I would have lost on body weight ironically.
I spent this training cycle leveling up. Now, it’s go time. The real Jennifer Millican is here to party.
As always, huge shout out to APLYFT, SBD, my coaches Aaron Thomas and Wade Johnson, my husband (the real MVP) Michael and all of my Team Ogre teammates and all of my GASOLINE!
World Champion, National Champion