Monday, March 25, 2013

Thoughts about life, crap, training, and stuff - Hell in a handbasket stimulant overdose weekend

I spent this past weekend in Springfield, Missouri at a USPA meet, coaching up a young lady the wife and I have become great friends with.  A few months ago her and I started talking about planning out her training cycle for this particular meet, and what kind of numbers she wanted to hit.

She's only been training for a year, and in her first meet (just a few months ago) she squatted 225, benched 115, and pulled 275 in the 148 class.  All really good numbers for someone in their first meet with less than a year of training.  She had her eyes on some state records for this fed already, and we set up her training cycle so that we'd be able to have a shot at the squat and maybe the total in that regard.  

Things were planned out well, and then the stomach bug hit and she spent the better part of 10 days trying to recover from that.  So our 6 week plan turned into a 4 week plan, and we had to regroup.  Seeing as how her bench is her weakest lift, I set up her training cycle to bench twice a week, squat twice a week (one heavy, one light), and pull once a week.

We now had 4 weeks to hit certain numbers, some of which I would be taking a bit of a chance on.  Mainly on her bench.  

Things went really well the first three weeks of the 4 week cycle.  She was destroying all of her programmed weights, and feeling fantastic.  We looked to be right on track for hitting all the numbers we had planned for the meet.  

Then the week before the meet, she told me that she had to travel out of town for her company to help open a new store, and would be doing long days of fairly hard labor to get this accomplished.  When I write long days, I mean 12 hour days of doing manual labor.  This was supposed to be her week of "deloading" essentially.  Yet, she would be travelling and doing many long days of hard work.  Definitely not ideal.

On top of this, she also told me her sleep had been in the shitter.  So the week before the meet when she should have been getting a lot of rest and getting ready to crush shit she wasn't sleeping very much, travelling, and working long hard hours.  She also missed her planned single of 125 in her last bench workout as well.  Twice.

Not good.

We all met in Springfield and the morning of the meet when I saw her she looked like death.  Another night of no sleep.  "Maybe an hour." she told me.  Add on to the fact that this meet was huge, over 75 lifters, and I knew it would be a very long day.  To the tune of 8+ hours.

She was already drinking a monster but because of nerves her appetite was in the shitter and ate very little at breakfast.  On top of this, she wanted me to be her handler at the meet, and in order to do this I needed to practice wrapping her knees.  Something I had never done before.  So I just watched a video to brush up on the technique.  We gave it a few trial runs without too many problems, however I did not feel confident about this either.

We arrived at the meet, and like all meets nothing was on time.  So this was going to push the day out even longer.    

She started drinking a NOS at this point.  I told her to "simmer down, pot roast" on the energy drinks.  I didn't want her crashing early in the day.

The goal at the meet for the squat was 242+ to beat the state record.  We had planned to open at 215 (85% of 250) however her warm ups were sluggish, nothing felt "right", so I went over to the judges table and lowered her opener to 195.

She went out and hit that fairly easily, so I notched her second attempt at 215.  I still needed to see how that moved in order to decide what to do for her third.  So here's where the knee wrap conundrum bit us.  The wraps we intended to use for the 2nd and 3rd attempts are very dense and thick.  Well again, I've never wrapped and I offered up to her to let someone else do it, but she insisted I do it.  So fuck it, we were rolling with it.

I wrapped the first knee with no problems, then for some reason the second wrap just didn't get very tight and she kept going "that's not tight enough, it's loose, it's loose." but they were calling her to come squat.  So I told her "it doesn't fucking matter you gotta go, you gotta go."  But she kept saying "Paul, it's not tight enough."

She would tell me later she had this vision of her walking out to squat and it coming completely undone and just unraveling down her leg.  I admit, that would have been funny in retrospect, but not at that particular moment.

So she went out, and nailed it pretty easy.  For her third, I decided not to go for the 245-250 because the truth is, at the end of the day, the total is the most important part.  With the situation I had been dealt, I knew we could still have a good day with many PR's if I picked her attempts correctly.  If I tried to get greedy, she would have a really bad day, and well, I didn't want that.  We'll just leave it at that.

So for her last attempt we went with 237.  I managed to not fuck up the knee wrap this time, and she went out and nailed it.  Would she have been good for more than 242?  Probably.  However it's hard to look a good PR in the mouth on a bad day.  So we took it and then waited around so long that Jesus came back twice before everyone was done squatting and the bench only douchers flight was done.

We warmed up on bench and she downed some Jacked, and another NOS.  I started to worry more about her having a heart attack than missing a lift at this point.  But she assured me she was fine.

We had to play with her bench setup, hand spacing, and breathing.  But she was still doing far too much thinking during all of this rather than it all being natural and second nature.  We were able to get some cues down that seemed to help a little, but bench was going to be very hit and miss.

I opted to open with 110.  She went out and hit that with no problem.  Now the second attempt was the tricky one.  It was 126.  A weight she had missed in her last bench workout twice, and missed in her previous meet as well.  I could already see the fatigue on her face so I was concerned that if she missed it the first time, she'd just BARELY miss it, but spend too much energy to hit it on the third.  But she went out and hit it.  So we went with 132 for her third.  However she did this really strange thing on the descent and let the bar hover about half an inch over her chest for a few seconds before she touched (as if she were wearing an invisible bench shirt), then on the press got totally out of the groove and missed it.  I think the strength was there for it, but the technique was just way off.  Still, chalk up another meet PR with her second attempt.

After the bench attempt she told me she had taken some stimulant pill/supplement she brought before benching as well.  She was pretty wild eyed at this point and I checked her pulse.  It was racing something awful.  I told her to cut the stims out, but she told me that she was exhausted and was worried that her deadlift would suck because she could barely move at this point.

It took many hours for all of the benching to be done, and my trainee looked like the walking dead.  When they let us know we needing to start warming up for deadlifts, she asked me "should I take another pill, or drink more Jacked/NOS/Monster/5 Hour Energy?"  I felt her pulse again, and it was still racing very fast, but her face was one of extreme fatigue.  I thought for a second, and made my decision.

"Neither." I said.  "Let's do sugar."

"Sugar?" she said.

"Yeah, sugar."

I told the wife to run to a store and get some doughnuts.

You see, she hadn't eaten much all day because of the nerves.  I tried to make her but all of the stims had just destroyed her appetite.  At this point, I knew her body was already stimulated as much as any drink or pill was going to stimulate it, so any more would have been a waste.  What she needed was "rush" of something else.  I knew I could get a sugar high going that would probably be sustainable through all of her deadlift attempts, and just ingesting some food, even junk, would help tremendously.  That was my theory anyway.

So while Tiff was gone to fetch the doughnuts we started her warm ups.

She pulled 135, and it looked like a damn near max.  No shit.  I was very concerned at this point.  However I refused to let that show.

"How'd that feel?" I said with a smile.

"Heavy." she said, with a smile that was turned very upside down.

"We'll just keep doing some warm ups until it gets better.  No worries."

So she pulled 135 again, and it looked very hard.

"Better!" I said, lying my ass off.

She still looked tremendously unhappy.  But I kept having her pull 135.  I know this trick.  You can start priming the body a bit, even when it's not happy about it.  Again, I wrote about this before in using extended warm ups when you're having a bad day.

Eventually 135 starting moving pretty good.  So we went to 155 and repeated this.  Eventually we went to 185, but that too looked like a near max.

"I gotta go change her opener." I thought to myself.  I had set it at 237 but I had this awful vision of her missing her opener and then walking over to me and castrating me on the spot.  I would not care for that.

Thankfully Tiff returned at this point and I literally started shoving the doughnuts in her mouth.  Sure enough within about 10 minutes or so, her color got better and she pulled 185 with a bit more velocity.

"Let's do 205." I said.

She pulled it with about the same force that she pulled her last 185.  Then we tried it again, and it moved even better.

"Hmmmmmmm" I thought.

She was fourth in the first flight of deadlifting so I had her pull her last 205 when the first lifter went.  This gave us just 3-4 minutes before she would pull her opener.  It worked out perfect.

The doughnuts and sugar kicked in and she went out and smoked her 237.

"What for my second?" she asked me.

I told her not to worry about it.  That she was not to look at any of her attempts.  She agreed with that, and I walked over to the judges table and marked her down for 260.  I had a planned strategy for her pull.  I knew I wanted a PR for her 3rd attempt, so I split the difference between her opener and second attempt.  I didn't want her grinding out her second.  I wanted to save as much in the tank for her third.

She went out and pulled that 260 very solidly, just as I expected.

For her third, I put her down at 280.  This would give her a 5 pound PR.  This would still be a PR.  But as I started replaying her attempts in my mind, I felt like she might have a little more than 280 in her, and the fact that I knew she'd be a bear if she only pulled 280 persuaded me to change that attempt.  I went back over the judges table and changed it.  286.  Not a lot more, but on a day where she was lifting on 1 hour of sleep, her system tapped out from stimulants, running on sugar fumes, and would pull her last deadlift more than 8 hours after her first squat, I felt like it would be a victory.

After a short pep talk from me, she hit the platform.  The lift stuck at first, then it started to move, and eventually she ground it to lock out.  Boom.

For the first time all day, she smiled a bit.  She walked over and embraced me.  This was much better than the option of castration.  For me anyway.

She would walk away with a 650 total.  35 pounds more than she totaled in her last meet.  Another PR.

I was very very proud of her effort and mental fortitude.  And although quite fussy most of the day, she never questioned anything I advised.  I really do think that not destroying her in training paid big dividends on meet day.  She wasn't able to properly rest her deload week, so if she had been grinding out damn near max squats and deads that week, I can't imagine the kind of recovery hole she would have been trying to get out of on top of everything else.

I'm also proud of the teamwork that the wife and I had.  Tiff got all of her food and water, and was an unbelievable help in it all.  We will be helping her for a meet in July as well.  So here is hoping that we can avoid all of the messes that didn't give us the day we wanted in some ways, but so much better than expected in many others.

Nothing great in life comes easy.  I want to write about her, she was great on a day when things couldn't have been much more difficult.  


  1. I kept reading, thinking "I hope this gets better". What a way to pull PRs out of feeling craptastic. A friend of mine had food poisoning the day of the meet, and it just fell apart. I don't think his coach was as hands on as you were with this young lady, and with no handler he made some strategic mistakes.

    Makes me want to find a good coach in the DC area.

    I've got a different friend of mine, who agreed to do his first competition in October--within a couple weeks of the Marine Marathon he's taking part in. He's set on doing both, currently at a 915 total and he'd really like to hit 1000 in competition. I think it's possible considering he's a beginner, but the marathon training and powerlifting training will be at odds with each other. If you've got any tips I can pass on, I'm all ears.

  2. Em is a thoroughbred fighter. Her determination keeps ME going when I want to throw in the towel. We live hundred of miles apart, but just seeing her training posts gets my ass off the couch and into the weight room. Congratulations to both of you!

  3. Excellent post on the realities of competition when the realities of life hit. Should be required reading on how a good coach makes all the difference.

    Respect to you both.

  4. Sounds like some great lifting and coaching.

    I kept waiting for something terrible to happen though with stim after stim after stim. LOL

    Overall that meet sounds like it took waaaay too long. By contrast, the Relentless/HopeKids meet over the weekend had 93 lifters, 3 platforms, and was done by 8pm!

  5. My boyfriend and I watched her through her bench and as you stated the meet lasted forever and we couldn't last another minute! I hate that we missed seeing her deadlifts! Congrats to both of you on the success after what sounds like could have been a nightmare! I enjoyed reading your post and putting her day and even days before in prospective! I would like to know where the upcoming meet is in July to follow her progress!

  6. Great look behind the veil and insight as to what/how a coach can do for a lifter. Thank you :)

  7. Paul,

    Congrats to you and your student, if you call her that. I assume you just call her your friend. That was an very entertaining story. Best part is that it was real. You did a great job of telling the story. Keep up the good work.

  8. Paul, you have the heart of a lion and a kitty cat. Good fucking job with the coaching. Loved the pics.

  9. “A picture is worth a thousand words.” I can tell just by looking at that pic that you have a real passion for helping people in this sport. You look like you just won the fucking lottery! Good job including the Homer pic…you know, since the meet was in Springfield and all.

    Aaron Machado

    1. I really do. Helping her through that day was just as big a blessing for me as it was for her to hit all those PR's.

  10. Very cool Paul! Enjoyed the write-up man. Congrats to her by the way for a big PR day even with all the less-than-stellar life stuff leading up to it.

    Ben Edwards