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Thoughts on a Bombed Meet

By Brandon Renert
As a competitive athlete looking to compete on a high level you push yourself day in and day out.   You train hard to excel when that competition/game/meet day arrives.  Blood, sweat and tears are shed.  When that competition/game/meet day arrives, and in my case an Olympic Weightlifting meet, it is your one shot to display your hard work where it counts.

 In my sport the meets only come around every couple months and you only have a total of 3 attempts to get it right, just 3.  The meet day arrives and warm ups are taken and they hit like butter.  The first attempt comes, my name is announced and I proceed to the platform, ALL eyes on you.  MISS #1.  I have, to date, competed in 4 other meets and have never missed my first lift, granted, I am trying to qualify for Americans so I am a bit more aggressive with my attempts.  Having said that, so much more pressure is mounting, my dream of making the national stage this year now looks bleak, but, possible with a big recovery.  I am extremely rattled now but am somewhat holding it together.  My name is announced again and I make my way to the platform, again all eyes on me.  EPIC FAIL #2.  I am now on the verge of complete mental collapse, not only is the national stage gone but I am faced with the prospect of scratching all 3 snatches.  I am shaking, can’t gather one coherent thought.  This is your true trial as an athlete, do you suck it up or go home.  After some help from my coach, I calmed and walked to the platform for my 3rd attempt and nailed it.....  I walked off the platform and then heard the announcement that the judges called it a no lift, another fail, I had scratched all three snatches (I watched the video I have no idea why the lift wasn’t good).

The Clean and Jerk portion was inconsequential.  I did well but it was a bombed meet.  This was my first bomb as a competitive weightlifter.  I know there is no elite athlete out there that has not had a bad outing; it is something that has to happen.  How you deal with it is your true test.  How you grow from it is your assignment.  This complete bomb of a meet will not deter me, it will compel me to work harder and do better. I will be back on the platform to train Tuesday with a vengeance.

Have you ever worked really hard for an event and then had it fall apart on you in some way? How did you deal with it?

Reader Comments (29)

Tough luck Brandon; I'm sure you'll come back strong for the next meet.

I lost in my boxing final in high school. One of the biggest disappointments of my life. I wrote about it here:


September 24, 2013 | Registered CommenterSamir Chopra

Several quick perspectives on "failure":

-"You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don't try to forget the mistakes, but you don't dwell on it. You don't let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space."-Johnny Cash

-“Success in science (or athletics!) is defined as moving from failure to failure with undiminished enthusiasm”-WInston Churchill

-“Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently”.-Henry Ford

-"Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense."-Ralph Waldo Emerson

So, failure is a part of life. An essential feature of that life if we are to get better at what we do.
Its bittersweet for sure, but no one can avoid it. Its how we grow.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Brandon, sorry to hear that -- sounds like a heartbreaker of a call, and I hope you come back even stronger.

My nerdy answer to this question is that, as many of you know, I solve crosswords competitively. In 2005 I made the top 10 for the first time. I had never been anywhere near that good before so I was all of a sudden thinking, "OMG I could win this!!!" I started solving 20 puzzles a day, solving at least one puzzle every day without using the Across clues (try it; it's REALLY hard), and generally becoming a crazy person. This did not lead to my winning any tournaments; in fact, I ended up crashing and burning several times because I was fast, but made mistakes. After finishing 21st in 2011, which horrified me, I swore that was never going to happen again. The next year I decided to be slow (by competitive standards, anyway) and deliberate. I did not make any mistakes, and I made it back into the top 10 in 2012. This year I did the same thing, and had my best finish ever (5th place), in a much more crowded field than there used to be.

Of course, now finishing 5th has made me wonder, "should I go for it, knowing I might make a mistake and crash and burn again, or should I play it safe so that I know I'll stay in the top 10?" #nerdproblems

Tomorrow's WOD: 73#, 5 rounds + all of movement 1 + 1 of movement 2. Cash out, 6 sets...brutal! I thought I was doing great in my first set, and then it all went to hell from there.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStella

Brandon, sorry to hear about the meet. But it sounds like you have a great attitude to move forward!

A couple of years ago I ran the NYC Marathon and was super pumped to beat my prior time and generally kick butt. By mile 10, I realized that I hadn't had enough to eat before the race and my attempts to take in more calories at that point were futile. I think it took me 30 minutes to run mile 19 because my leg was so cramped. That is when I saw someone on Team Achilles and was reminded that other people struggle with greater challenges every day. I told myself to stop feeling sorry for myself and finished the race. I'm really proud that I didn't give up.

6am with Jess, who did a particularly fabulous job today. Did the fitness version of the handstand work and attempted a HSPU - I'll get there! Did the WOD with a 16kg KB and finished in 8:31.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca C

6am with Jess who handled a big class, with two different workouts, smoothly. My handling of Wednesday's workout was not nearly as graceful. Hit 4 rounds + 9 at the Rx weight. Heavy. Took way too much rest towards the end. Forearms and posterior chain were on fire.

Thanks for sharing, Brandon.

Sophomore year of high school my brother and I were the top doubles tennis team at our school. A few days before the regional tournament at the end of the year I sprained my ankle very very badly -- one of those sprains that takes months to heal. We had to pull out of the tournament and the replacement team from our school went on to win it. I'm pretty sure I skulked like a teenager for weeks. In hindsight, I imagine it was harder on my brother who was a senior and uninjured.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

6am with Jess, who did a boss job handling 22 people in two workouts! Not a hiccup.

Wednesday's WOD with #115, 4 rounds

Took it pretty slow throughout, then pushed hard at the end to get my last set in. Probably could have paced it better.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlex C

6am with Jess who was an expert at herding all the morning cats. 3 rounds +11. Overhead is my doom.

Oh so many! But the most current was FGB last year. I actually did train for that and was in decent health for once - was absolutely beyond stoked to get it on. Womp womp concussion and fractured tailbone two weeks before. Thank the stars for DO and a gigantic private session to find subs so I could participate as well as trying to get me somewhat mobile. I laugh now. It was heartbreaking. I did it tho! Geriatric and all.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJB

holy weighted lunges, my buns.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGracie

Anybody have any advice about a pinched nerve in my neck (C6 to be exact I think)?

I've reached out to the chiropractor and the physical therapist. It started on Friday, really got worse over the weekend and now I am in constant discomfort. Should I get an MRI? Take pain meds? Or wait a few weeks and maybe it will just go away on its own?

THanks for any advice!

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMrav

I have had several epic fails in my athletic "career". None particularly worth noting. The story that I find most inspirational involves one of my favorite athletes - Paula Radcliffe. She entered the 2004 Athens Olympics as the marathon world record holder and the best chance for England to win a gold. Four miles from the finish she pulled over to the side of the road, sat down and started crying - could not go on. It was a shocking result and she was accused of being a quitter and considered retiring. A month later she started training again, entered the NYC Marathon at the last minute and won the first of her three titles. (I think that she won the third one after giving birth in January).

Good luck Brandon. It will turn around.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJay

I would say that one thing I repeatedly read, or that stood out was that you were noting the crowd. I would say you should train to attempt a more inward focus... learn to block everything else out. Train with annoying music playing.. with people dropping weights and talk, etc. around you.... learn to block it ALL out and concentrate on your task.. in your sport I would also train, on occasion, with a clock staring at you... similar to a meet. Train on occasion, to really practice the rhythm of the meet. Practic e the routine so that when you go to the meet those things are less odd and more routine... nerves are part of competition... use that energy and don't let it hold you back. YOU are the one lifting the weights. You are the one competing.. but really you are competing against yourself, so train yourself to focus on YOU and only YOU.
Writing this article in and of itself takes guts. To open up about a personal failure is no easy task.
I would also say that I would look at your third attempt as a success really. You stood there on the brink of failing and nailed yoru last attempt... maybe some tiny infraction, but overall you nailed it. You picked up that heavy bar and nailed the most technical lift out there. That is an accomplishment.
Maybe occasionally, at the end of a workout, do a 1 time and I mean 1 time attempt at a near best Snatch and 1 time attempt at a near best C&J. This will get you used to that one and done attempt mentality as well... you can't go for broke too often but on occasion when you're going heavy do a 1 and done. That's just my 2 cents.
Best of luck and keep training hard... that's really where the competitions are won and lost... in training.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteranton gross

Giant 7am class beautifully handled by lady fox. Did Mondays inversion work. Only my third time doing this stuff in the gym--September rather a bust for me athletically--but loved it. Worked performance, got some good tips from Jess who managed to watch us handstanders even while warming up the barbellers. 30 HSPUs in 6 sets, 2 abmats. Happy with how these have progressed in even this few exposures. WOD with 20kg and banded ring dips, 7:19. Hilariously failed to chase DanL.

@anton those are great tips.

@Brandon: Ugh. That sucks. And immediately brings to mind Nick's Olympic semifinal race. The US drew a really tough heat, and came in 4th with a time that would have won them 2nd in the other heat (top 3 advance to the final; 2 of 3 medalists were in their heat). It was brutal to watch. Still can't really talk about it, actually. And I didn't even f*#cking row it.

I'm not a religious person. At all. But there's some good poetry in some of the old texts, and these lines were basically my mantra for many many days after that race.

"I returned, and I saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong,
neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

So much of the time we work steadily toward goals, investing time and effort and making progress, and so we lull ourselves into thinking that the universe works that way all the time.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte

Mrav - see Noah's post:


particularly the part where he says:

"when an athlete comes up to us with some sort of nebulous description of the pain they are feeling (“Noah, it feels like 2 hamsters are having a sword fight inside my left knee”) we will always recommend that you “get it checked out.” That does not mean go home, drink a fifth of Old Grandad, and then come back tomorrow. It does not mean ignore it, or do lots of yoga, and hope it gets better. It means go to a doctor..."

I'd recommend having it checked out. Don't mess around with your neck. You've only got one of them :)

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlex C

I want to echo Alex C's comment. Get it checked out. Ignoring pain that is getting worse is not a good plan.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Can we play some games during back off week? (I'm reading crossfit kids articles and getting jealous)

Partner Patty Cake Pushups
1. Partners begin in the top plank position facing each
2. Do a pushup.
3. Explode forcefully up from bottom position.
4. Bring the right hand up and touch palms.
5. Continue alternating right and left hand.

....UNTIL THERE IS A WINNER!!!!!! (this makes it for adults)

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercrystal

Brandon - Thanks for sharing your experience. So hard and frustrating and yet, as you say, it happens all the time in competitive athletics in one way or another. I think this is a great blog topic.

In my humble experience, I have nothing groundbreaking or more eloquent to add to earlier comments (well said Charlotte and Anton). I did feel pretty defeated after TTD in July -- I felt I'd worked hard to prepare and had expectations based on the prior meet. Like you, I even thought I'd nailed a much needed lift only to find out it was DQ'd.

But of course there are things to gain from a bad meet. For me it was renewed determination and appreciation for the mental and strategic aspect of competing.

As Anton said, huge props for hitting the 3rd attempt after the mental tailspin, regardless of how it was judged. Anyway, we all know you've got it in you and you'll come back strong.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

@Charlotte Wow, that was so beautifully said. Thank you for sharing. A life of work and choice and chance, inside and outside the gym.

Despite playing sports since I was a little kid, I was one of those people who never thought I could run, or at the very least, hated it. The idea of being on a cross-country team--even the idea of being able to talk while out on a run--was baffling to me, and even made me slightly nauseous. But after moving to New York over three years ago, a couple of my cousins who had never run before started getting really into it, and my Crunch gym membership just wasn’t that exciting. I started “jogging,” and finally, on one outing, I hit six miles, which I’d never done before, and something just clicked. I knew I could do it. A good friend started training me, I signed up for the 2012 NYC Half, and also joined the Ronald McDonald House team and started raising a bunch of money. Overzealous, naturally. I was so into it. But I was also in grad school at the time, totally broke and overextended, and I ended up getting mono a month before the race, which I discovered when I almost passed out on mile two on a treadmill at the aforementioned Crunch. (Like, who gets mono in their mid-twenties?) I was devastated and even had to fly to Ohio to spend six weeks recuperating with my mother who is a nurse. I was humiliated and just so sad. BUT, I signed up for the same race the following year, and despite also getting sick the week before (this time due to too much drinking and not enough sleep at a friend’s wedding), I pulled it out and had such a great race, and was able to tell all the people who gave me money that I’d been thinking about them while running. Not really, I was thinking about the next water station, but it was true in essence. I’m running another half next month on Staten Island, yeehaw!

So many of my injuries or sad turns-of-event during or before athletic performances have taught me something about respecting the limits of the human body, or learning what it needs so that it can defy our ideas of its limits. Sucks hard at the time, though.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKate R

@mrav - as a wiser man than I once said "Yo, you best protect ya neck!"

@brandon - great writeup, insights, and attitude.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTodd

Alan O'D, shoot me your email please!

noah at crossfitsouthbrooklyn dot com

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNoah

Found a pipe on the deck that was sturdy enough for me to do pull-ups on.

AMRAP 30 Minutes
12 Squats
6 Push-Ups
3 Strict Pull-Ups

I have no idea how many rounds I did. I tried to keep track but kept losing count and guesstimating where I was then around the 6th round said screw it and just wanted to keep moving. I actually now wish I knew how many rounds because I was cranking through them.

While I was doing this a bunch of dudes came by and were like "MAN I WAS LOOKING FOR SOMEWHERE TO DO PULL-UPS!!!" and... I saw Ruvin Levavi and his family! They walked up to me mid WOD. Nice coincidence.

When I was in college I went to a shotokan Karate competition at the SKA international headquarters in philly. First we did Katas, and I was ready and raring to go, I was particularly good at all my forms and felt really confident. I was going up against someone two belts higher than me, and then they said "GO" my mind totally blanked. I just stood there. After like 10 seconds I was like shit... what am I doing, and I couldn't even start.. I just stood there and watched the other guy perform a sub par version of the kata. It was really rough because everything up until the second before I started was fine, I knew the form and I KNEW I could beat the guy. It was rough failing like that in front of my whole team too.

I also feel like I bombed my snatches at the last meet. I hit my first lift which felt really ugly and then missed two easy lifts after that. I wasn't mentally prepared to be on the patform in front of people and It killed me come game time.

Overall- I'm not great at competing. But realize it's still worthwhile.

September 24, 2013 | Registered CommenterDavid Osorio

Great write-up, Brandon. Thank you for putting that together.

And Anton, you hit the nail on the head. What you wrote reminds me of a Talking Heads line that struck me as the point of training when I was a competitive rower: "cut back on weakness, reinforce what is strong."

Some random thoughts:

The mental dynamics of weightlifting are so different from rowing or any other endurance event. One thing that fascinated me about rowing was the quest for the limit – how fast could I go? How hard could I push myself? The limit seemed a little elastic to me – sure, I always felt like I gave it my all, but I wasn't passing out at the end. I wasn't DYING. So what's the limit? Also, you get about 200 bites at the apple in a race – if there's a stroke or two that aren't so great, you might still be able to make up for it. With weightlifting, you get those three shots. And in a way, not even – the first attempt is sub-max, so you really get two. You either nail it or you don't. There's no pain, which is nice, but the idea that you get a couple shots – and that's it – makes it very difficult. Compartmentalization is part of the trick, I think, and it came somewhat naturally to me – I was able to remove myself from what I was doing. That and everything was ingrained, just from the sheer number of races I got under my belt. When it was time to go, I just went – it was almost like instinct kicking in.

I don't know about other sports, but in the rowing world you often hear of how there are two types of athletes: "competitors" and "trainers" – i.e., people who live to compete (but aren't quite so anal about training or don't perform tremendously well in practice) vs those who just love training but don't really know how to compete or who have a serious mental block about it. For a long time I thought of myself as a trainer because I loved to train and I hated racing – I was super anxious about it. I'd sleep like shit the night before, and I would literally piss myself at the starting line. (The anxiety was 95% about anticipating the pain.) I thought this was really bad, which only made me more anxious. It took a long time for me to come to terms with it. The first "aha" moment came in college when I read something a boxer said – I forget who. He said that if he wasn't nervous when he stepped into the ring, he knew he was toast. By the time I was on the national team I was more relaxed about the anxiety – I thought of it as part of my routine. I was fine with getting 3 hrs of sleep the night before and pissing myself at the start.

I never had a major explosion in competition, but I certainly experienced setbacks and frustration and mental hiccups in training (e.g., not finishing an erg test – that totally qualifies as falling apart). When I look back, those setbacks are what made me a much smarter athlete than I otherwise would have been.

The seeds of my result in Sydney that Charlotte so eloquently wrote about were mostly the technical instruction we'd each had as individuals throughout our careers and that we had as a boat. (And yes, we could always have been stronger.) There was no spectacular falling apart in that race – we just weren't good enough to medal, and we could have been good enough to win. As Anton said, competitions are won and lost in training.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNick Peterson

6:30 With Jess and Arturo

Tomorrow's workout is a beast. Wasn't feeling great today but things came together once I started moving.

Did it at 135 since that's all I've done the analogue to this workout at before. Got through 3 rounds plus deadlifts, cleans, and 1 jerk. Kind of wish I had started that last round with a little less waiting around, I think I could have gotten through 3 sets of 2 jerks in under the cap if so.

Cashout hollow rocks were rough. 25, 20, 20, 10, 10, 10, 5.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTodd

Ive been competing in athletics my entire life...well at least since i was 10 when i started playing tennis on the national level. When I first began, I had a horrible temper on the court, throwing my racket, yelling, and generally being an ass. Whats interesting about tennis is that that kind of behavior is not only detrimental to you, but also an enormous boost to your opponent. I would LOVE when i got into my opponents head and he started yelling and screaming. I learned over the years to control myself. One of the more important things i learned playing was that YOU WILL NEVER be a great player if you harp on the past. Once a point is over, its over. Once a match is over IT IS OVER. onto the next. While I obviously have lost very important matches, one particularly sticks out in my mind...

I was playing at the National Junior Hardcourts in Kalamazoo Michigan when i was 16. This is the biggest most important tennis tournament in the US. College scouts are there watching and recruiting, racket companies are scouting to give out sponsorships and its generally just an absolute pressure cooker of a situation. I made the round of 16 and i was playing against the #6 guy in the country on one of the main show courts. I still remember his name, Anthony Jackson from Georgia. I won the first set and was up 4-2 in the second, on the cusp of what would be a VERY big win, putting me into the quarters, and probably putting my national ranking into the top 25 in the country. I lost that match...I tightened up, started playing conservatively, i wanted him to GIVE IT TO ME. But no, you have to TAKE IT. At that level no one is going to give you anything. I still think about that match and what it might have meant...maybe a great scholarship?? maybe i would have won the tournament and gotten a wild card into the Junior US open (which the winner does get). Regardless...one thing i learned was this. When it comes to competing, you have to go balls out, think of nothing but fucking winning, and take it to whomever is your opponent....even if that is urself and a barbell. Go hard, or don't go at all.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJakeL

Wednesday's workout with Jeremy today at 4:30pm. I'm liking my new Tuesday time.

6 RNDs + 5 DLs @ 70#. Forearms were the limiting factor throughout. Had to keep stopping and massaging them. Well maybe I didn't have to, but that's what I did.

And Happy Birthday McDowell and Arturo!

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

I once belly flopped a dive that I'd nailed a million times over. The only difference was that my mom was watching. Other than that I've been perfect.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFox

Fox, you kill me.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGracie

You learn more from failures than from successes. Hence the phase fail often. The faster and more mistakes you make the more you learn on what to fix. I will agree that it might have been the crowd that got to you. At one point in time I was a very good skateboarder. Competitions became a focus of mine. I was doing really well hit three competitions and was in the top three well on my way to sponsorships and at the next competition doing what was always a wired trick to me. Something I did in my sleep I completely messed up and then spiraled out of the competition. It wasn't that I couldn't do it it was all mental. I lost focus on what I wanted to do and made it had to do.

Practice and train like you do but also do at least a trial run of the competition. Timing, pace, clocks, hard (even unfair) judging. If you have a big gap between warmup and performe do that too.

Good Luck with the next one.

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKeith W.

My biggest event fail - at least related to fitness, anyway - was the 2011 NYC Marathon when it took me nearly 6 hours to sort of run, but mostly walk, stagger, and limp, to cross the finish line.

Speaking of ignoring pain, 26.2 miles of running will not go well when an idiot has...never run more than 15 miles before...feels pain in the right side of her knee at mile 11 of a planned 15 mile run, but finishes the next 4 miles anyway, only to feel sharp pain after putting weight on her knee after an ice bath, after which...she takes two and a half weeks off because of the pain, but decides to run a half marathon three weeks before the full because it's feeling better and eek, it's been too much time off since her last run, after which...she can barely walk to the car after crossing the finish line, and then doesn't run until the Wednesday before the race, when she tries to go to Central Park and test it out by doing a slow loop and nearly starts sobbing because the finish line is blocked off and her knee is throbbing and she thought she would at least get to PRETEND to finish the race that she definitely can't run on Sunday.

Said idiot will then go on to decide to get a cortisone shot at the 11th hour instead of deferring to next year.

Slightly stubborn, much? I'm also known to be hellaciously stupid (see: cortisone shot). Who the hell do I think I am, Stevie Brown?

Other than that, I auditioned for The Nutcracker when I was a kid and received a personal letter from the director saying that while I was very talented, they couldn't select me as a polichinelle because I was too little for the company costumes. I'm not bitter.

September 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCourtney

Courtney, you are a winner. Even when you're losing. Too little for the company costumes...

The NY Times' most emailed article today seems pretty appropriate: "Losing is Good for You."

September 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKate R

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