This thing is, in fact, still on.

During the ridiculous hiatus, I continued to lift weights (and take up beer league hockey), which had some interesting results, the most noteworthy being…. this.

Aas far as the US Powerlifting Association record book is concerned, this is officially a thing now:

How the hell did that happen, you may be wondering?

May 1st was spent at the Orlando Europa Sports Expo, a laughably huge sports and fitness event in an even bigger facility (seriously, the Orlando convention center has a bigger footprint than downtown Coudersport; it was the best part of a mile from where I parked to where we weighed in, and only about 300 yards of that was the parking lot itself. The room in which the expo itself was contained was more spacious, both in terms of square footage and enclosed volume, than the two-rink-and-laser-tag facility where I play hockey, and that’s just ONE ROOM). That was most definitely a thing I honestly don’t think the me of ten or more years ago would have imagined myself doing.

I weighed in at 191.6# on Friday (the day after my office’s team outing to a driving range that is half video game, which meant salty food and free drinks; I behaved myself and had a couple of Miller Lites, though my performance with the driver would best be categorized as “impressive but inconsistent” throughout, because about three out of every five swings would feature a slice somewhere between “moderate” and “Ted Bundy”), which put me smack in the middle of the 198# weight class, to no great surprise. I didn’t think I had any reason, or reasonable shot to, cut weight (if only water) to get down to 181#. The lifting itself took place on Saturday, which meant that, in the last two weeks, I have had three occasions to take a leisurely 85 mile cruise from my house and back again. Well, at least I’m getting plenty of instant use out of those new brakes and that tune-up.

For those unfamiliar with the sport, weightlifting/powerlifting meets are all structured the same – each competitor gets three lift attempts at each of three exercises – back squat, bench press, and deadlift – and you give your anticipated first lift weight to the meet organizers when you weigh in, so they can slot you into the lifting schedule (called “flights”; in this case, there were three flights of about 17 lifters apiece; I was in the second flight, since they go from lightest weight selected to heaviest in the interest of bar-loading efficiency). My brain vapor locked, and I inadvertently chose squat and bench openers that I had been ballparking for my second lifts. WELP, NOTHING TO DO ABOUT IT NOW BUT LIFT THE WEIGHT, SON.

So, about that, with a brief side-track to follow my own brief side track.

There’s a dress code. Lifting singlet (I wore a wrestling one), socks, and a t-shirt are required (the lattermost to keep sweat and other potential biological material off the equipment, primarily). I… did not bring a t-shirt. Okay, I had, but it was in my car (see above point about facility massiveness). But, wait… I’m in the middle of marketing mecca for meatheads. How hard can it be to get a free short-sleeved t-shirt on short notice?

Unsurprisingly, the answer is “Not very.” The hardest part is finding a shirt with sleeves, because everyone in attendance is fit as fuck and showing off the results of their hard work. I talked to an energetic and ridiculously buff dude hawking grape kool-aid flavored pre/peri-workout samples, asked if they had any shirts, and was offered one in exchange for a Facebook like. SOLD.

Anyway, on to the lifts.

I have never felt like a particularly proficient squatter – confidence, biomechanics, and technique are all sub-par – so I really wanted to be mindful about doing well and not botching any of my attempts by not getting down far enough. So, I warmed up in a fairly close approximation to how I do at home, and walked out to try my very first competition lift. 175kg (about 385#) went very well, as did 185kg; my third attempt, at 195kg, got flagged for exactly the expected sin of insufficient depth, but peer review of the footage (by my admittedly slightly biased lifting mates and coach :-)) suggests that the call was on the tight side – I have no quibble with it, as the judging was consistently strict for all the lifters – and I did ultimately move the weight and felt reasonably good about it. 430# (the missed 195) is a 5# PR, and, spoiler alert, was the only one I set on the day.

Squat, top weight miss:

After the squat flights (which, despite the efficiency and organization of the meet, still takes a good while – fifty athletes times three attempts, at about a minute and change per lift, means that it took almost three hours), there was an intermission while the equipment was swapped for the bench press station, and a lot of folks grabbed lunch. I had a case of protein bars and a shaker bottle with some amino acid powder, so, in the interest of frugality, that’s what I stuck with. Twelve-fifty for a footlong sub? Uh, no. I’ll stick with bland, boring, and free.

On the bench press, I learned the biggest difference between training and competition is hearing and paying attention to the lead judge’s commands (when squatting, the commands are “down” and “rack” – letting you know when you’ve been judged to be set to begin and completed it, respectively; the bench press has three – “down,” “press,” and “rack” – the one in the middle is where you’ve demonstrated control of the bar with it in contact with your chest). I completely whiffed on the “press” command and drove the bar up immediately, resulting in a “no lift” at 117.5kg (259#). Frustrated but not vexed, I asked the officials working the scorer’s table if I could attempt a higher weight, and was told that, yes – a missed lift could be re-attempted or topped, but a lighter weight was never on the menu. My second lift, at 125kg (275#, tying my PR) was good, and then I had to mentally wrestle with how much more I thought I could achieve with my third; unfortunately, I guessed just a little bit too high (130kg/286#) and couldn’t completely lock it out. Might I have gotten 127.5kg? Maybe. But with three professional spotters and meet adrenaline, it seemed like the best time to be just that extra little bit aggressive.

Bench @ 275#

Same changeover story before the deadlifting commenced, and by this time, it was getting late in the afternoon after having kicked off shortly after 10am. Long day is long, and, honestly, the extent of my uncharitable thoughts were directed at my fellow competitors during DL warmups for dropping the damn bar after every rep. C’mon, folks, respect the equipment, and the fact that we’re in a giant, echoing, concrete box. The judges took notice, because there were pointed reminders to “Control the bar on the way down; this ain’t Crossfit.” Somewhat amusingly, the other competitor who trains under my strength coach lowered his attempts with such care that I accused him of showboating with his manners. :-)

Since the DL is my strong suit, I didn’t miss any lifts, but by the end, I didn’t feel like I had quite enough in the tank to shoot for a really big finisher, and went 225kg (496#), 237.5 (523#) and 240 (529#), which was about 15# under my PR. I had kind of vaguely hoped to pull 550+, but decided to rein it in after 523 felt slow… and then I saw the video of the 529 and kicked myself, very gently, for leaving weight unlifted that I probably could have moved.

Deadlift @ 529#

The guy who took top overall lifter (based on Wilks score, which is, for the less-enthusiastic, basically “strongest in proportion to bodyweight”) was also in my weight class, but he honestly looks about twenty pounds bigger than I am because he’s that goddamned muscular, and was a really, really nice guy. Honestly, everyone was very congenial, the folks running the meet set a very high bar (pun not intended), and it was just a really good experience. When my biggest complaints are the cost of grub at the expo, the kilometer-and-change hike to the parking lot, and having a little trouble getting traction because of chalk dust because I didn’t bring a towel to wipe down my shoes, there’s honestly nothing to fret. I’d have liked to make all my lifts, and see the other folks on the platform make all of theirs; when you watch someone grinding out a rep, it’s all but impossible not to holler encouragement.

So, I’d like to also take a few moments to thank the folks who, wittingly or otherwise, contributed to my getting up there and doing the thing. Xany and Daven, for getting me into lifting in the first place; Josh Bryant and Alex Viada, my strength coaches at various points along the way; the hordes of weightlifting experts whose blog posts, articles, or books I’ve read; the folks at Fitocracy and JackedPack for providing insight, swag, and assorted other opportunities to contribute to what they’ve had going on; and the various friends who have come over to work out, swap gym talk, and generally been the kind of folks that good friends are, even if one’s hobby is on the weird, clanky, and sweaty side. :-)

Oh, and how’d I do? Well, I totaled 550kg (1212#), got this lump of metal on a blue ribbon…. and that little spot in the record books, at least for the time being.

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