I nearly didn’t make it to the British Championships. The worst storm in 32 years led to a two-hour wait at St Pancras, followed by an early train termination at Ashford, and then a cab-share with a priest and an old man. Sounds like the start of a joke, but alas not. It took five hours, but we made it to Dover.


My preparation for this competition hadn’t gone to plan. Three weeks out I tested positive for covid, meaning five days in isolation. I pressed on with training at home, but being unable to follow my gym plan knocked my confidence. Another knock came one week out when I failed an attempt to bench press 80 kilos. I’d hoped 80kg would be my heaviest lift in competition and that failure had stuck in my mind.


I struggled to sleep the night before the competition. Padding to the bathroom for the hundredth time, I swore blind I’d never put myself through this again. I woke feeling far from rested, my muscles stiff and eyes swollen from lack of sleep. I got ready slowly, attempting to put off the inevitable, before finally exiting the hotel into raging winds to wait for the taxi.


The venue was unremarkable as usual; a boxy-looking secondary school in the outskirts of Dover. If you’re unfamiliar with the format of a powerlifting competition, here’s what happens:


Weigh in: After a long wait, you’ll be called into a designated room and told by a female official to strip to your underwear. If your weight is a fraction over, you’ll have to go naked. If you make weight, you breathe a sigh of relief and tell the official what your first lift will be. If you don’t, cue a trip to the toilet for frenzied spitting, peeing and pooing.


Kit check: Present another official with your competition kit – t-shirt, singlet, wrist wraps and shoes. Unless you’ve shelled out £100-plus for a singlet and t-shirt emblazoned with a sponsor’s logo, expect to be challenged. I was once told I couldn’t wear a plain cotton t-shirt because it had a V-neck. Not sure how the V-neck gave me a competitive advantage, but there you go.


Eat. Having fasted before weigh in, now is the time to fuel up. Forget a healthy balanced breakfast, a powerlifter needs fast-release carbs i.e., sugar. A standard powerlifter’s breakfast is bagels, jam, gummy bears and Lucozade.


Warm up: This is a drawn-out affair as you’ll be waiting for the previous flight of lifters to compete. Don’t be surprised if you see lots of eye-popping contortions performed in the warm-up area at a bench press competition.  Back flexibility is key to this lift.


Lift off. This is where the competition got interesting. My first lift of 70kg flew, followed by an equally straightforward 75kg. I was raring to go for 80kg, but my coach changed my attempt at the last moment. I’d already placed first in the Masters (over age 40) category, but I stood a chance of a medal in the Open (every age) category. If I could top 75kg, I’d do it. My coach advised a safer 77.5kg and I was unwilling to risk a bonus bronze medal. When the spotter passed me the weight, it felt light in my hands. I knew I could do it.


This competition has changed the way I feel about myself. I am a British champion. How many people can say that? I previously saw myself as someone who buckles under pressure and lets emotions and self-doubt win through. That just isn’t true. I am 42-years old and yet I shared the podium with a world bench champion and beat girls 15 to 20 years younger than me. I’ve proved that if I apply myself to a goal I will succeed, despite the snipes from that little voice in my head. For me, that makes it all worth it.