The Georgia Games and my first Powerlifting Meet.
This probably isn’t so much a meet report as it is just a personal account of my experience. It was my first time competing and I intentionally didn’t pay much attention to what was going on outside my own world. So here it is:
As part of the effort to win the bid for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, the Georgia State Games were created in 1989 and have continued ever since. Among the roughly 40 events in this Olympic style festival is Powerlifting. This year the powerlifting was hosted by USA Powerlifting (USAPL) and took place at Iron Beast Barbell in Gainesville Georgia on July 7. This would be my first powerlifting meet.
I got to the gym early to watch one of my training partners compete in the first session. She did great and the energy was really high. There were several competitors from a local crossfit gym and they brought quite a cheering section. The nerves were kicking in and I had a difficult time sitting still but for the most part I managed.
I registered for the 242 weight class for both Open and Master I (40 – 44 age range) raw divisions and weighed in at 236 – That was a 21 pound drop in about 15 weeks. My gear all checked out and we set my rack heights. I was good to go. Now it was time to wait. I tried to eat but my nerves had other plans. The fact that I was trying to eat cold baked chicken tenders and sweet potatoes didn’t help much either but I did what I could.
My session was supposed to begin at 2 with rules briefing at 1:30 but the early session ran over and they pushed it back 30 minutes. More waiting.
Throughout this process I’ve been working with an awesome coach and friend that just goes by the name Callahan as well as a handful of other “handlers” – All of them VERY experienced in the powerlifting world. Callahan had it all down to a science and was determining when to start warming me up and what weights i would use for warm up and on the platform. I’ve trained with him off and on for 4 years and completely trust his experience. This was his world and it showed. My job was to do what I was told and just lift.
I took my time warming up and worked the bar up to 385. It felt good… really good.
Our session was broken up into two flights. I was in the second. The first flight ended and I was about 6 deep in the second flight. When I was on in the hole i took my place in line and got a final pep talk from Callahan – a reminder – “This is what we came here to do! Focus, Listen, and have a good time! Trust the training!” I was on deck. “Chalk it up! Eyes Up Chest Up! Big Air! Stay in those heels!”
BAR IS LOADED!
Holy Shit! I’m actually here.
My squat opener was 393. I walked it out, settled it and looked at the judge. Got the command and went all out. No problem. 3 white lights and just like that I was in the meet. My nerves immediately turned into excitement and I was ready to do it again. My second and third attempts were also met with 3 whites at 408 and 424. I had an idea what my openers would be but I didn’t know what kind of jumps i would be making. My third attempt took some work but it still went up pretty easily. In retrospect I think it may have been a good second attempt with a heavier third. Being my first competition Callahan was playing it a little safe.
My mind went blank when I got out on the platform. I when I squatted I was on autopilot, the technical training kicked in and did exactly what it was supposed to do – it was almost Zen like. That served me well in both the squat and deadlift but would prove to be a problem on the bench.
Feeling confident and a little more relaxed from the success of my squats I returned to the warmup area and started getting ready for my bench. A guy named Tim Moon was warming up and using the bench so I worked out of the power rock. Tim was entered in the 275 Bench Only and would go on to press 633 in single ply. It was impressive to say the least.
The bench in the power rack was higher than a standard bench and it was really messing with my head. It didn’t feel right. In the last couple of weeks we had to do some serious tweaking to my form and technique on the bench. I’ve been capable of putting up some pretty good numbers for a while but have been really struggling to keep my ass on the bench and my feet flat – both required for in USAPL. On top of that my lower back was screaming at me anytime I arched and with the high bench in the warm up room I couldn’t ever really get into position. Nonetheless, I had nailed my squat so bench would be a breeze right? Wrong.
When I went to get in position on the platform it just didn’t feel right. I tried to push into my arch and was afraid my back would light up so i didn’t really get into it well. I went on with it anyway. My opener was 297 and it went up easy! Again, 3 whites. No sweat.
Second attempt rolled around and I was still feeling good a mentally. I took my place with 314 on the bar. Old weight. Again my arch was not tight but I went for it. “Start!” I lowered the bar and there was no press command… it felt like it took FOREVER. Looking back at the video the bar was drifting on my chest. Not very much but enough that they waited for the command. Finally, “PRESS”. I pushed the bar and got stuck about half way there. I tried to kick in with the legs and nothing happened. Shit. “RACK”. Three red lights.
Callahan told me what he saw because at the time I didn’t know the bar was still moving on my chest. I went and got prepped for my third attempt. The bar was loaded with the same weight and this time I stopped it on my chest quickly and accordingly got a much faster press command. It came off my chest much faster and was looking good but by this time I was gassed and couldn’t lock it out. Three more reds.
Time to move on.
When it came time to start warming up for my dead lift my bench was still in my head and I think Callahan was a little worried. My deads have not been looking very good in the gym the last few weeks.
When I stepped up to the bar to warm up my mind went blank. As I reached down to grab the bar I tried to remember, “do i go left hand over or under? Fuck. I should know this!” The nerves came back. I stepped back, took a deep breath and went in again, this time not thinking about it and just pulled. This time it was much better. As I warmed up it continued to feel better and the nerves subsided a bit.
Being that my first initial and last name spell SLASH, most people use that as my nickname. Callahan on the other hand, has been calling me SLACK for the last 4 years. We made a deal. WHEN I total in a meet, he would no longer call me that.
I opened my deadlift with 402 and it went up easy. Back on autopilot and three white lights again. I had just totalled in my first powerlifting meet! After making Callahan say it, “Slash!”, I went on to pull 424 and 452. Not sure why but I got one red light on my last pull but by that time I really didn’t care. I definitely had more in the tank for my dead lifts and probably could have pulled more but it didn’t matter. It was done.
I totalled 1173 and that turned out to be enough to get a silver in the 242 open. I didn’t know it at the time but I was only competing against 2 other guys. Peter Bush won the 242 with a nice total of 1527 and Matt Lindsey came in third at 1042. It also got me a ‘participation award’ gold in the 242 masters because I ended up being the only one in it. Another guy apparently made weight for it but it turned out he intentionally drank enough water to jump into the 275 bracket leaving him and me both alone in our masters weight classes.
All in all I call the meet a success as did my crew. Anna and I both took home some medals and I currently hold 4 state records for the 242 masters class I. I learned a great deal and will be continuing to process the information for a long time to come. I learned about my strengths as well as my weaknesses and I can now focus my training even more. It’s a long way between the gym and the platform and it was a very long road to that meet. I had to overcome a number of personal demons as I think we all do. One thing is for certain, I can’t wait to do it again!
“He who gains a victory over other men is strong; but he who gains a victory over himself is all powerful.” Lao-Tzu