I think someone famous once said something to the effect of learning more in defeat than in success. I'm still trying to figure out all that I learned this past weekend at the West Regional, but here are two things I know I learned for sure.
One: I Choked and I'm Still Okay
I entered the weekend more relaxed than I usually feel in competition. My expectations weren't to qualify to the Games. I simply wanted to perform the way I had in my "mock competition" weekend a couple weekends before.
But the moment I stepped onto the floor during Randy, before I even did one snatch, I think I redlined myself. 20 reps in and my arms felt numb, my face was tingling, my vision blurred, and my internal heartrate monitor clocked it at roughly 190 beats a minute. I self-destructed before I even started the workout. The following workout was a similar story. My feet didn't want to trap the rope solidly, so my arms had to work harder than normal. I was a pathetic lesson in inefficiency.
Competition details aside, the long and the short of it is that I have to admit something no athlete ever wants to admit: I choked.
Choking is why I'm scared of competing. It's my worst fear as an athlete.
It happened. It felt like a nightmare.
But you know what?
I survived it. And life is carrying on as normal.
Two: Human Beings are Pretty Good
When things are going well, I don't think I'm as aware of how beautiful people can be as I am when I'm struggling.
There are so many moments I could talk about that I witnessed in my humbled state: There was the hug my friend Kelly "Dash" gave me. To others it would have just looked like an ordinary hug. It wasn't. I didn't even need to speak, but she squeezed me extra long and extra tight, fully aware I needed to be consoled. Or Jayde Quilty, who gave me magical hospital grade crazy glue to put on my wounds so I could survive the chest-to-bar pull-ups. Or Jesse Bifano, possibly the most genuine man alive: There he was, maybe the busiest man in the venue racing around keeping the competition in order, yet he made time stop and talk to me multiple times, to look me in the eyes as if he didn't have 10,000 other jobs to do, to see how I was holding up, and to listen to my silly little struggles as if he were my own coach.
There were so many moments that touched me, but the one that takes the cake:
As I prepared in the warm-up area on Saturday afternoon, all of a sudden Deanna Fester came rushing in realizing it was almost go-time for her.
"Oh shit, I better warm-up. I was out there watching Jeremy," she said with a smile on her face.
Two minutes later, Deanna couldn't seem to stop herself from watching Jeremy again. There she was watching the TV, sacrificing her own warm-up time in the process. Taking one look at her fierce eyes and listening to the sheer intensity in her voice as she screamed at the TV screen, you could see and feel how badly she wanted it for her boyfriend. She seemed to care more about him than herself.
I've often thought that being an elite athlete can be an incredibly selfish pursuit. I know on a personal level, I was way worse at every other aspect of my life - and way more selfish - when I was preparing for regionals.
So that moment - watching Deanna be so selfless and so genuinely concerned about the one she loves over her own performance - reaffirmed that people can be pretty damn good.