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Rise and Fall

Wondrous Whales
By Donny Shankle

I’ve seen whales up close on two separate occasions. Once in Alaska and the other time in Antarctica. In Antarctica, I was a mere arm distance from a pod of Humpbacks. They were so close I thought they would tip the boat. On the first sighting they were coming head on towards us. The second time we stealthily approached them as they were sleeping. You could hear them breathing through their blowholes from a good distance back. As I got closer you could see them rise and fall in the water with each breath they took.

In nature where there are only few sounds like the cold wind beating against your face or the waves pushing your boat along, my mind was clear. I felt both excitement and alertness so as not to miss anything around me. Tingles and shivers went up my spine because of the freezing Antarctic cold and the close proximity of the whales. I reached out and touched the back of the leviathan. I felt its cold rubbery skin with the tips of my fingers and as I put my glove back on, I wondered if such a marvelous creature of God could even feel my touch. Before I had the chance to answer my own question though the whales disappeared down into the deep. Down deep into the dark water they swam as our boat went back to the main ship. Just before disembarking I saw out through the white and hazy mist of falling snow and rain a fluke coming up from the water as if saying thank you for your visit. 

The best cue you can learn in the gym is tomorrow is another day. Improvement is a slow and mundane process but you will get better if you stay committed. I never thought I’d see a whale as close as I saw one in Alaska. I was about ten feet from one and was filled with wonder. Surely that’s as close as a man could safely get to such an incredible animal. Tomorrow however led me to a much closer experience. In Antarctica they were beneath my boat close enough to touch. I didn’t see that coming but after that experience now I want to get in the water with them.

It’s important for you to keep going into the gym and working hard. Get in there first and leave last. Listen to your coach and push your teammates as much as you would want them to push you. If today didn’t quite measure up to what you wanted, tomorrow is another day. Worry not for there are many wondrous whales waiting to welcome you on the horizon. There are even many more waiting for you to swim with them in the deep.


The Power Snatch
By Donny Shankle

I know I have made reference before on the importance of commanding yourself to move in training. Of all the lifts, the power snatch certainly will find the person who is being lazy. No other lift demands more attention given to speed than does the power snatch. Sure you can sneak under a clean sometimes and still manage to stand up with it. This is not the case with the power snatch because so much emphasis needs to be put into the finish of the second pull. For me it’s always been a love hate relationship with this lift. Typically upon completion the question “ Was it high enough?”  always follows. It seems as though the power snatch is ever and anon on my mind. Forever reminding me to move quickly and soon to be causing me frustration due to inches. I’ll explain why but first let me give a brief description of what this lift entails.

Knowing that a snatch by itself is lifting the bar straight over your head in one motion, the power snatch is lifting the bar overhead in one motion making sure you receive the bar high enough for the thigh muscles to be considered above 90 degrees. Or just make sure the hip joint is above the knee joint. Relying on a strong overhead bottom position doesn’t matter for this lift because all the emphasis is placed on catching the bar higher. The power snatch is a snatch not received in a deep squat. It emphasizes moving your feet fast, bringing your hips through powerfully, and finishing the top of your pull violently.

I believe my best power snatch was only 150k although I have been told by others it’s as high as 160k. Now I’ve caught some high snatches but I’ve also gotten used to hearing from Glenn, “Donny that’s a nice snatch but it wasn’t power.” I stand in frustrated disbelief at times wondering if he wants me to power snatch the thing or catch the bar on straight legs. In the end I realize he’s just trying to get me to finish more and move faster but I still want to break out the video camera. Instead I sit down put on my Popeye face and give it another go.

The power snatch is not my favorite lift. If I had to choose between snatches and clean and jerks then I would have to pick the latter. There is a special kind of bite to the power snatch though as the weight tries to push you down into the full. Try to envision that picture of Atlas holding up the sky. How his brow is focused down and you can feel the strain in his legs. His arms are pulled back behind his head as he balances the heavens above him. Well the power snatch is kind of the same feeling only worse because at least Atlas was smart enough to rest the weight on his back. Not only do the muscles in your hips and thighs wrench from the exertion of fighting the weight high but the muscles in your shoulders and arms work in sync with them to produce one hell of a grind.

The dramatization is palpable when you’re in there on a Monday morning and open up your training with this exercise. I guess throughout the rest of the week you just become numb not just to the power snatch but everything else that comes with it. I remember training with Abadjiev one morning and it was his response to my foiling that summed up my new found treatment towards the power snatch. I said, “Uncle, I’m trying to power it but it keeps pushing me down!” Abadjiev’s response was, “Yes, when bar pushes you down you must push up.”



Perfect Cast
By Donny Shankle

Last week I did some trout fishing in Colorado with friends. I haven’t gone fishing in a long time and this was my first time to fly fish. I had a really great time even though I didn’t catch much. Only two fish gave me bites and one of those got away before I could bring it in. To bad too because I got a glimpse and it was big.

When we weren’t fishing we’d throw axes to test our warrior prowess and carry stones to show off our strength. When the sun set we’d chat about anything and everything. Put a few beers in good ol’ boys under the stars and you get yourself a bunch of regular preachers and philosophers. I think we made about as much sense to each other as the quantity of fish we caught. Not much but it was great to spend the time with good people before crawling into our tents to sleep.

The fly fishing was something completely new to me. I had a lot of fun putting on my fishing waders and going in search of where I thought the fish would be. I went out far too. Looking back I think I would have had more fun sticking around with the other guys but I know me. I figure if it’s hard to get there then that’s where the fish will be. I was wrong. All I got was sore feet and bruised up knees from tumbling over rocks. One spot though turned out to be a promising one. Not because I caught any fish but because I caught something else.

There I stood practicing my cast and listening to water flow towards and around me. Out of my peripherals I could see little creatures like chipmunks scurrying about catching insects along the bank. The clever ravens I’m sure had a good time watching me fail but I didn’t see them catching anything either. I believe a few squirrels probably had the best goings of it scavenging and digging up whatever it is they eat. While all that was going on I could see a few shadows of fish all around me. It didn’t do me any good asking them to go bite the bait I had cast out. Fish don’t hear too well. It must be because they’re missing ears. While all this was taking place I kept practicing my cast and each time I let out the line I couldn’t help but thinking about a perfect cast is like a perfect finish on the bar.

A good pull is patient like a good fisherman and a perfect cast is like a perfectly timed finish on the bar. Each feels like a whip in space. The arms stay relaxed and it’s all in the wrist when you bring the rod forward watching to see where the fly will land. Not so different from staying relaxed on the platform and bringing the hips through at just the right moment in time to feel where the bar will land across the shoulders or overhead. The only difference now is for the fisherman the fishing turns into a waiting game, while the weightlifter needs to stand up and get the down signal. Still though before that moment there are some similarities and it was fun to feel them all alone with nature around me.

Like I said, I didn’t catch much but I did catch something. I caught the wind in my hair and the sun on my face. The water was so chilly in my waders I may even later on catch a cold. Nah and even if I do it’ll have been worth it. I got to catch another one of life’s precious moments spent with good men. Life is full of moments and this will be one I won’t soon forget. I’ll keep practicing the perfect cast just like practicing my lifting in the gym. Perhaps next year I’ll get good enough to hopefully entice a few more fish to bite.