7/6: The last few weeks of training have been encouraging after several disappointing months. Today, I tripled 550 on squat for 2 sets and it felt like I had a bit more in the tank. This will be my last normal training week as the Raw Nationals in Charlottesville are coming up in 20 days,
7/8: Did 525 and barely missed 535 on the 3-board today. My elbows felt a little tight but, overall, a good session.
7/10: After 4 sets of triples with 585 on deadlift, I did a single with 645. Other than some grip issues with my right hand (the bar has been rolling out of my right hand a bit), the single was pretty easy. Tom (my training partner and founder of westcarybarbell.com) suggested curling my hand under the bar which is something I will try next week.
7/13: Openers for squat. Settled on 565 which is probably more like 575 with Tomâ??s overweight plates. All 3 sets felt pretty easy.
7/15: Openers for bench. 3 sets at 440 and all were quite easy. 440 may be a bit too conservative of an opener.
7/17: Openers for deadlift. 3 sets at 640. Grip was slipping again but Tomâ??s advice helped on the last set.
Tuesday, Meet Week: Tom devised a strategy which seemed to work for us in peaking for a competition, including doing just a warm-up to 60% for all 3 lifts and some light assistance work. Everything feels great and I am ready to go!
Thursday, Meet Week: Treated myself to a professional massage which coupled with the contrast showers I started this week, helped me to feel much recuperated.
Friday: After staying up too late playing poker last night, my mother and I manage to get on the road by about noon. My mom and I get along extraordinarily well and she is completely selfless and understanding and knows to expect me to be withdrawn and nervous with the meet only 2 days away.
With no interstates connecting Charlottesville, the route is very meandering and extremely scenic. I am eager to get there and watch some of my teammates compete. Jennifer Thompson and her husband Donovan Thompson have formed 2 North Carolina teams including the three of us and some other renowned lifters including Michael Neal and Bill Schmidt. We arrive at the hotel in time to watch Donovanâ??s 3rd deadlift, unpack and then head eagerly to the nonexistent outdoor pool which was still advertised on the hotel website with pictures but was removed a few years ago. After getting lost looking for a restaurant, we find a nice local place and have a relaxing evening.
Saturday: After a surprisingly good nightâ??s sleep (I have horrible insomnia that is exacerbated tenfold when I travel, especially the first night), I get up around noon and watch the end of the AM lifting session and the PM session. Particularly impressive were Sabre Schnitzer and Joe McAuliffe. After deciding not to venture into downtown Charlottesville, we settle for a quite good meal at a TGI Fridayâ??s close to the hotel. Having access to the meet scale has been comforting and, as my weight has stayed under 276, even after meals, I wasnâ??t worried about making weight. Mom and I buy a deck of cards and play gin in the lobby until she goes to bed. I thankfully manage to fall asleep around 3, with more than enough time to get a good nightâ??s sleep before weigh-ins tomorrow.
Sunday, Meet Day: Fortunately, I was one of the first to weigh in and tipped the scales at 122.8kg, well under the 125kg limit. I think I need to come into the meet weekend around 280 next year as it appears I have no problem losing 4 or 5 pounds overnight. After weigh-in, I proceed to drink about a gallon of V8, water, and Gatorade and ate some fruit and quinoa. Not sure when my flight starts, I stumble downstairs around 1:30, only to find out I am in the first flight and I need to immediately start warming up. Tom was an immense help, loading all the plates and rearranging benches and bars.
As usual, I am extremely nervous and do 5 plates for my last warm-up set with shaky quads. Alas, it is time for me to go and I open at 255kg (562.2lb). The weight falls heavy and my back felt rounded but it went up and I am 1 for 1! From this point forward, my nerves subside and I know I am going to kill it. I put my Ipod on, listen to my favorite Viking metal (Ensiferum, Wolfchant, Wintersun) and get ready for my second attempt. The 2nd lift at 270kg (595.2lb) goes up quite easily and I am much relieved, having missed this weight at the Arnold this spring. (The judge had the spotters grab the bar; I think because I hitched). I have never dumped a squat in competition and I decided to test my limits, choosing 280kg (617.3) for my 3rd lift. I am intensely focused and psyched up as I hit the platform and nail the weight with ease. I am now 3 for 3 and my worst, most hated lift is behind me. I look forward to bench pressing!
Warm-ups go well and aside from a bit of elbow pain, I feel confident. As we are warming up and the Superheavies are squatting, we hear a gasp from the crowd. One of the lifters, Chris Harris, went down with the bar in an apparently ghastly accident. Having assured my mother that it is much more likely I get injured training than at a competition, I am sure she is sick to her stomach. I hope Chris is okay and look forward to seeing him lift again. The opener at 202.5kg (446.4) goes up easily and so does the 2nd at 215kg (474.0lb). After much deliberation at the scorersâ?? table, I decide on 222.5kg (490.5lb). I get back to the warm-up area and start second-guessing and tell Tom to increase it 2.5 kg. The rules apparently forbade changing the weight so I was stuck with it. Fortunately so, because the lift went up but it was a real grinder and Iâ??m not sure I had another 2.5 kg in me. It came off my chest easily, but took a while to lock out. (I definitely need more heavy board work). Allâ??s well though and I am 6 for 6!
After being told there would be no break between lifts, I realize we have very little time to prepare for deadlifts. I am a bit worn and my back is achy from squatting, but I suck it up and warm up to 5 plates. Tom tells me that I have a healthy lead so I am relieved that I am opening very light. The opener at 285kg (628.3) goes well and I decide on 305kg (672.4lb) for my second. Ipod on, I am completely prepared when my name is called, only to get called back as the guy before me bled all over the bar. Timing off, I still manage to make the 2nd lift and have a big decision for the 3rd. For a long time, Iâ??ve wanted to pull 700, even more than benching 500. I also, however, want to PR on all my lifts and go 9 for 9. Every meet except for 1, I have missed my last deadlift. I also want to total 1800 pounds. Having done the math in my head I decide 700 can wait for another day and settle on 315kg (694.5lb), the pull that will put me over 1800 total. My name is called, the bar is loaded and time slows as I grip the bar. Taking a deep breath, I pull and am modestly surprised as the bar comes up quickly. Remembering the refereeâ??s admonishments, I gently lay the bar on the floor and celebrate. 9 for 9!
After a lengthy, slightly uncomfortable, but necessary drug test (any activity involving expelling bodily fluids in front of older men seems best left for the Amsterdam sex shows), I head downstairs to find that I missed most of the awards ceremonies. My mother had claimed my 275 class trophy in my absence. I arrived in time to hear the announcer proclaim that the North Carolina team won the 1st place trophy. I was stunned to be called to the podium once again to claim the Best Lifter Award.
After a night in Charlottesville involving a great meal, a few cocktails, and countless beers, we headed back to Durham the next day. I found the results posted online and discovered that I came in 2nd by Wilksâ?? formula (which accounts for bodyweight and weight lifted) overall to Eric Kupperstein, or 3rd including the women (Jennifer Thompson lifted an amazing 931).
Anybody that perseveres in powerlifting or similar endeavors knows the extent of physical, emotional, and spiritual pain that competing entails and the amount of time, sacrifice, and work that is involved. When you attain your goals, the feeling of accomplishment is directly proportional to the monumental effort sustained, a fancy way of saying â??all the hard work is made worthwhileâ??!
Thanks to my Mom and Tom Simon for handling me emotionally and physically.