So, after a day of eating my own bodyweight in potatoes and a good night’s sleep, I felt ready to compete. I arrived at Genesis Gym in Wembley laden with two kit bags and enough sandwiches to feed an army c/o mummy dearest.

My first competition had taken place at Genesis and it was no prettier now than a year ago. Cold, dank and piled with atlas stones, chains and iron, it’s more like a torture chamber than a gym.

Anyway, I zoned out the cold and the thrash metal blasting from two huge speakers and began warming up. I felt ok going into the squat round, but I decided on a light 75kg opener to build my confidence. I made it easily and went for an 85 next. The judge flashed up three white lights signalling a good lift. In the last round I was going to attempt a PB – 95kg.

Some people are natural competitors. They rise to a challenge and perform out of their skin at major events. Maybe it’s lack of confidence or the fact that I’ve never been much of a risk-taker, but I don’t fit that category. I replicate in competition what I’ve done in training. 95kg was a bridge too far. My legs took me into a half squat, but I panicked and bailed. 85kg was carried forward.

When I saw the competitors in the 60kg category, I was relieved I’d made weight. If you’ve read my last post, you’ll remember I had to dehydrate and fast for 24 hours to get under 56kg. It was worth the sacrifice as I’d have had no chance against the crushingly powerful lifters in 60kg.

These were wonder women in 100-watt beast mode. Before a lift, many dashed lemon juice in their eyes, inhaled smelling salts and approached the rack bellowing. I was awestruck when one girl opened on a 130kg squat! I felt like a toothpick in comparison.

Bench press is my best lift. I was feeling optimistic until I noticed many of the girls were failing their opening lifts.

‘That’s a tough judge.’ The girl next to me nodded towards the hawk-eyed woman in the judge’s chair. ‘Those pauses are way long.’

She was right. For a bench press to count in powerlifting, you have to hold the start, finish and end positions and only move when instructed. If the commands are slow, you have more time under tension, making the lift much harder. I made 60kg, but failed on 65kg.

My goal for this competition was to qualify for the British Championships and now I was close. I only needed a 102.5kg deadlift. I made it easily and aced my next lifts of 110kgs and 120kgs. I’ve since wondered if I could’ve pushed for better numbers but, at the time, I was just relieved to qualify and win my weight class. When the competition was finally over, tears pricked my eyes.

The 2018 British Powerlifting Championships will be in Scotland, slightly less convenient than last year’s trip to Welwyn Garden City. I haven’t definitely committed to going, but I’ve got until November to decide. For now, I feel content to be South East England champion and back in the gym with no pressure. Maybe, come November, I’ll feel differently…