T Nation

Trip Report for 2010 Raw Nationals


Thad Benefield
2010 Raw Nationals Report

USAPL Raw Nationals, Denver, Colorado, July 16-18

This training cycle had been going really well until I encountered some lower back issues. Iâ??m pretty sure they are stemming from some issues I have with my squat form including lower back rounding. This is really disheartening, considering how well things have been going for the last 6 months or so. Most disturbingly, I missed a 670 pound deadlift during my last heavy training session and I experience spinal pain during the lift.

Despite the lower back issues, bench press has been going well. Additionally, for the last month (since a decadent trip to New Orleans) I gave up alcohol, soft drinks, and fried food, and consequently lost about 5 pounds of body weight.

Meet week-I did a light warm up on Monday and received (a rather brutal) massage on Wednesday from my training partner Tom Simonâ??s physical therapist.

Friday - My mom and I are off to Denver! Tom and my mom will be coaching me, like last year. Despite the natural beauty of the Rockies and the excitement of visiting a city Iâ??ve never seen, I am still a bit concerned about my lower back and my confidence is flagging. We are a bit late getting to the meet venue, but arrive just as they are finished to hear about Jennifer Thompsonâ??s (a fellow NC lifter) remarkable performance. She bench pressed 132.5 kg (292.1 pounds) and scored over 500 Wilksâ?? points, a measure of pound-for-pound performance that takes gender and age into account. We manage to find a sushi restaurant for dinner and then played some cards and relax in the lobby until bed. As usual, my Mom reminds me how bad I am at gin.

Saturday - Now would be a good time to acknowledge the fact that I have crippling insomnia, exacerbated when I travel. The AC unit kept coming on and off, annoying me intensely and waking me up every hour or so. I finally give up and wake up in time to watch the last half of the AM session of lifting and continue watching the afternoon session. There are some particularly impressive Masters lifters (over 40). We gather a group together, including lifter John Demchek and his wife, superheavies Brad Madvig and Jim Cahill, Tom, my mom and myself, and find a great Thai restaurant where we have dinner and share lifting strategies and gossip. My mom comments later how every powerlifter she ever met has been very nice and extremely intelligent!

Sunday, meet day - Surely, given the fact that I probably got 3 hours of the sleep the last night, and I had 11 hours from the time I went to bed until the time I had to wake up for weight-ins, I would have no trouble managing a good nightâ??s sleep, right? I realize as soon as I turn the lights off that Iâ??m not the least bit tired. I realize 4 hours later that Iâ??m still awake and the sun is up. 3 hours later, still sleepless, the despair starts to set in. All the hard work Iâ??ve done over the last year was going to be derailed because of my insomnia. I consider not doing the meet out of frustration and fatigue. At 11:15 AM, I give up and crawl out of bed having slept exactly zero minutes. If anyone has suffered from severe insomnia, they know the anguish and frustration it can engender.

I stumbled zombie-like through the weigh-in to discover that overnight I had somehow lost 6 pounds and weigh in at 120.86 kg (266.5 pounds). Given my mental and physical state, I adjusted my openers and decided to open very conservatively on squat and deadlift. I had about 45 minutes to regain some weight before I had to start warming up, so I headed up to my room and drank and ate as much as I could. (Thank heavens for some great food from Whole Foods!) Still in a daze, I headed downstairs and started to warm up.

Squats - Surprisingly, my back felt pretty good and the weight felt light during warm-ups. The mental fatigue also started to subside and I actually found myself to be more excited and less nervous than I usually am at this point. I open at 250 kg (551.2 pounds) and the weight feels quite easy.

I pick a conservative 262.5 kg (578.7 pounds) as my second attempt, still a little low in confidence and I bury it readily. At this point, I think I am okay and decide to to use my third attempt to go for a PR of 282.5 kg (622.8 pounds). The weight felt heavy but my form was tight and I got 3 white lights after a little bit of a grind!

I hear Blaine Sumner complete his third squat at 365kg (784.6 pounds), an amazing lift for anyone, under any circumstances, especially a junior lifting raw. I got a chance to talk to Blaine a little bit after the meet and he is a very humble, nice guy and should dominate this sport in the years to come. I breathe a huge sigh of relief as my most hated lift is done (successfully!) and I get ready for bench press.

Bench Press - Okay, now my confidence is restored, my back feels fine and my fatigue has been replaced by adrenaline and excitement. My 202.5 kg (446.4 pounds) opener goes smoothly, except for the fact that they skipped me in the lifting rotation and I had to yell â??What about me?â?? I choose my second attempt at 227.5 kg (501.6 pounds), because, frankly, anything less than this I would consider to be a failure.

I ramp up my intensity and am completely focused as I hit the platform. I have been trying for quite some time to get a raw 500 pound bench press and feel sure that today is the day. The weight feels heavy but comes off my chest after the â??PRESSâ?? command and I manage to lock it out.

I have just nailed my first competition raw 500 pound bench! My third attempt is 230 kg (506.9 pounds), just a touch over my 2nd attempt. Honestly, I didnâ??t think I would get it as the second attempt was so difficult, and, indeed, the weight stalled right off of my chest.

Deadlift - My concern over my lower back has tempered my usual zeal for this meet-deciding lift. Warm-ups go very well though and my lower back feels fine. I feel like I could do about 20 reps with 5 plates, but wisely stop at 1. My opener at 287.5 kg (633.8 pounds) feels quite easy and I have a big decision to make.

Like the 500 pound bench, the 700 pound deadlift has been a goal of mine for quite some time. I decide to go for it on my next attempt and choose 317.5 kg (700.0 pounds) as my second attempt. I quickly shuffle off to the bathroom (kind of a superstition before my second deadlift). With superstitions out of the way, I pick my favorite Viking metal song to inspire me: â??Battle Songâ?? by Ensiferum.

I am in a state that can best be described as really fu*&ing psyched up-goose bumps all over my body, eyes tearing, heart racing as I approach the platform. I feel the energy course through me as I stare down that insolent bar (how dare you weigh 700 pounds!). Four deep breaths and the weight is up-700 pounds nailed. Tom said it looked like a grinder, but it actually didnâ??t seem that hard.

My third attempt is kind of an afterthought and I pick 322.5 kg (710.8 pounds). This time the weight stalls right off of the floor, but I am still grinning about hitting 700 pounds on the second attempt.

Post Meet - We get some good pictures of the North Carolina lifters, myself, Tom (who didnâ??t compete but better next year!), Jeremy Leonard (a really impressive lifter, especially given that he is only 21), and Rick Wilcox (before a meet Rick is more nervous than a virgin on prom night, but he's a really strong guy and multiple masterâ??s record holder).

Congratulations to Jeremy for capturing the 275 pound Junior Class with a total of 725 kg (1597.9 pounds) and to Rick for taking home the 275 pound Masters 1 Class by totaling 747.5 kg (1647.5 pounds).

I am starting to think the USAPL officials have a crush on me, because I am again notified I will be drug-tested! After this revealing and rather tedious sidetrack, I rejoin my friends and we head off to eat some Italian food and reflect on the meet. Monday, my mom and I take an inspiring tour of Pikes Peak, a 14,400 foot tall mountain. Tuesday, we return home.

Thanks again to my mom, who I think was quite worried about my emotional state after not sleeping Saturday night, and Tom Simon, who adeptly coached me, Jeremy Leonard, and Rick Wilcox. I jokingly told him that he had a tougher day than any of us did, but itâ??s probably not far from the truth.

I am thankful for the camaraderie of powerlifters: we come from different states and different backgrounds but on the platform we support each other and share a common goal.


Additionally, I would like to thank my sponsor, WestCaryBarbell.


Awesome lifts man. Looks like you had a great meet


Very cool writeup man. Congrats on the huge PR's!

Are you from Cary/Raleigh? My g/f goes to ECU and we occasionally venture over to Raleigh and I'm always down to get a training session in with some fellow T-Nation bastards, so if you're down, let me know!


I train at my sponsor's house in Cary. Send me a PM next time you're in town.



I'll be in Asheville the first weekend in August, but I'll be immediately post-meet and therefore probably pretty drunk.

Very nice lifting, I wish I'd been able to make the Sunday sessions!


Wow!!! I just saw this thread.

TunaMonkey, excellent work. Those are some impressive numbers. Was that PRs across the board?


Thanks-Yes, PR's for all 3 lifts.


fixed for weight accuracy.


Congrats TM, that is a large raw total! Get your back 100% and go after 2000!