I would write here that I did a meet this past weekend, but that really wouldn't give the experience the justice it deserves.
Relentless isn't as much of a powerlifting meet as it is an event, and a phenomenal one to say the very least. If you aren't aware of what Relentless is, it's a charity that uses powerlifting as the vehicle to bring everyone together to raise money for children with terminal illnesses and the families for those kids.
But it's hard to encapsulate what it's like to be part of it in words really. It has to be experienced to be understood. And anyone and everyone involved in it comes away feeling the same way about it. That it's easily the most uplifting and positive thing going on in powerlifting. And all of those in powerlifting that aren't involved in it are really missing out on something very special.
So if you're not involved in Relentless Minnesota or Detroit, I urge you to get involved in it for next year and be part of something that is truly the most awesome thing going on in powerlifting.
Anyone that follows LRB probably remembers that I competed at this event last year. I tore my quad on my second squat attempt. It was easily the most painful injury I've ever had in lifting, and had it been any other meet, I probably shut it down at that point. But it's hard to not lift when you understand what you are there for.
I remember thinking at the time that there was no way I wasn't going to finish. Yes, it's just lifting weights, but that's not the point. There are kids there fighting for their life, and families that wake up everyday immersed in the stress of those real battles. They can't just walk off the platform and call it a day, and say "there's always another." So I wasn't going to either.
But I'd be lying if I said that injury hadn't plagued my thoughts. In fact, the last three meets I've done I've gotten injured and the criticisms I have heard and read haven't been unwarranted. That I couldn't get through a meet without getting injured. Hey, at this point I couldn't argue. And yeah, that weighed on me. I'd grown very tired of putting in the time, money, and effort it takes to compete only to walk away injured and disappointed over and over again.
My training wasn't great going into this meet. The last five weeks of training I had this excruciating pain in my biceps that came on every time I squatted or benched. I had one bench session in that time where I was able to bench over 405 for reps because of the pain in my arms. It's NOT elbow related for those that keep offering up advice. I know how to fix elbow problems. This is a pain that radiates down through both biceps and is so severe it causes my hands to shake and actually makes me nauseous at times. I think I am on the verge of figuring out what it is, and will get treatment for it soon.
So my training cycle going into the meet was very hit and miss because of the pain.
Because of the previous injuries and this nagging ache in my arms, I finally made a decision to do something that I wished I had done all the times before I had competed. And that is, just go in and have fun. No pressure, no worries about numbers. Try not to get inured, and just enjoy my time there with friends and the experience that is Relentless.
Helping to make that happen was my buddy, Kevin Smith. I met Kevin last year at Relentless and he was a guy that, after I suffered my injury, offered up some very encouraging words that really stuck with me that day. Kevin and his wife Mary offered up their spare room for me to stay in while I was there. This took a lot of pressure off of the usual travel bit of getting a cab, or a car, then checking in to the hotel, then finding my way to the meet the next day, etc. Not only that, but I'd get time with someone I consider a good friend, and relax during my time there.
Because it's me, I couldn't get through this process without something bad happening. The day before the meet I felt completely awful. My eye was watering and was hurting badly, and overall I felt lethargic and like I needed to lay down all day. By that evening I knew something was wrong, and asked Kevin if he'd take me to an urgent care clinic to get it looked at. Normally, I'd just suck it up and deal with it, but I didn't want to go into the meet feeling like shit this time.
Turns out I had an allergy related eye infection in both eyes. The doc gave me some drops for it, and Kevin, being the sweetheart that he is, put them in for me. I have never had contacts so putting in eye drops is like fucking impossible for me. I just blink and blink and blink the whole time, and never actually get them in. So Kevin was nice enough to handle this for me.
I will say that I did some things differently this time for the meet, and I do believe they helped play a part in me performing better.
For one, I didn't do a weight cut. This was a huge amount of pressure taken off. Not only from a feeling miserable standpoint, but from a worrying about injury standpoint. Some guys do just fine with weight cuts, but I don't appear to be one of those guys. Instead, I ate UP going into the meet. I was about 262 or so two weeks out from the meet, and on meet day I weighed in at 271. I also didn't eat junk, or stuff myself full of processed food. I simply ate all the clean carbs I wanted. I personally think that doing the whole "let's get bloated - stuff myself full of processed shit" isn't a great idea. Even if it gets your bloated and you weigh more, you tend to feel like shit. My sleep the last week and a half going into the meet was awful so I didn't need to add on something else that was going to make me feel terrible.
The night before the meet, I also felt like my food wasn't digesting very well, and that it was all just sitting right in my stomach. My arms and legs felt "flat", while my midsection looked like I had swallowed a basketball. If you ever get this, the remedy is to do a light workout to get some blood moving into those areas. Which I did earlier in the day. However it didn't seem to help quite enough. By chance, I figured out that a long hot shower helps as well. I took one that night, and within an hour or so, my arms and legs had filled out quite nicely again.
Meet day -
The day of the meet, I ate very little that morning. I used to load up on this big breakfast because you know, I was going to be lifting all day. But in retrospect I honestly feel like that bogged me down and would make me feel quite lethargic all morning. All I had this time was one (yes ONE) egg delight from McDonald's and some coffee.
I was in the first flight of squatting, and we were slated to start at 9 a.m. I LOATHE lifting that early. So I didn't feel good about that either. I tend to lift around 11:30 a.m. or noon most days. Sometimes later. I know 9 a.m. isn't "early" but it's early for lifting for me. But that was the line up, so I had to roll with it.
Another thing I did was go back to my own rule of opening really light. It's a rule I bitch at people about but sort of got away from it myself the last couple of meets. And well, that's dumb on my part. Someone once told me in regards to opening light "that's a wasted attempt." Honestly, that's one of the dumbest things I've ever heard or read about picking attempts. The only wasted attempt is the one you don't get. Opening light has a million benefits and virtually no drawbacks. It allows you judge the lifting environment (platform could be shaky, bench feels weird, etc), and to get the nerves out.
So I opened on squats at a measly 550, and of course crushed that very easily. However, I did get a bit on my toes so it wasn't as fast as it could have been. I chose 600 for my second, and apparently it was faster than 550, as when I got to the table to call my third Donnie Thompson goes "you're going 650 right?" Because I wanted to stay conservative and get out of this meet unscathed, I called for 630 instead. As I walked off, Brandon Lilly came up to me and goes "You call 650 for your third?" I told him I was staying conservative, and he said he didn't think that was a bad call, but that my 600 was so fast that he would have called at least 640.
Before I could get down the hallway, another guy asked me if I was going 650 for my third.....at this point I started to wonder if I had made the right call. But I stuck with it, and came back and squatted the 630 incredibly easy. So much so that after I watched the video, I knew why everyone was saying to call 650. 660 would have been doable as well. But, 630 was still a nice little meet PR, and I got all three squats in with no issues. So I was content.
The only bad part was, my arm pain was back in full force at this point, so I knew benching was going to be rough.
Because the meet was so big, and there were five flights, and an intermission, it was four hours or so before we even started warming up to bench. That was enough time to let some of the pain die down, but even on warm ups it was agonizing. I figured that I could still get in my opener of 405, and call it a day of benching if I had to. My last warm up was 365 and made my biceps feel as if they were going to explode.
A fellow lifter had been dealing with the same issue months before and he and I talked about just getting in the bench opener and if shit felt rough to shut it down. In my mind, I'm thinking this is a good idea. However I know me. And in my head I'm thinking "well, nothing is going to tear, so I might as well just gut it out."
I opened at 405, and for whatever reason, the pain on that one wasn't so bad and smoked it. This gave me a glimmer of hope that it was possible the powerlifting gods might smile on me for the day and let me get in three good attempts. I called for 440 on my second. Somewhere between 405 and 440 I apparently pissed the gods off again because the pain returned full force at 440. I pressed it easily but the pain took quite a bit out of me. I called for 450 on my third, as not to make a big jump and just get all three benches in. The pain on the descent of the third was about a million times worse than the 440 and I was just spent at that point. It came off my chest very fast but I just couldn't finish. I was spent at that point.
This was really the only disappointing part of the meet for me. The way training had gone months earlier I knew I'd be right around 480 or better for the meet. I had hit 405x7 with all reps paused, with at least another rep in the tank. So I knew I'd be very close to 500 based on my training numbers.
Still, I wasn't injured and had a 440 on the books for the day.
Luckily, it was another 100 hours before we deadlifted (I literally think it was 12 hours after we first squatted) so once again I had a chance to let the pain subside a bit before we would pull. Again, warm ups didn't feel great. I pulled 225, 315, 405, 500, then 585 and planned on opening at 635. The 585 didn't move in warm ups like I had hoped so I knew I'd just have to wait and see how 635 moved and go from there.
Fortunately, the 635 flew off the floor, and JJ asked me if I was going to actually put some weight on the bar for my deadlifts. When I got to the table, Donnie asked me "700?". I said "680." Donnie rolled his eyes at me. Why 680? I figured I could pull an easy 680 and get 1750 on the books for the day, and then take a big jump for my third. At that point, Brandon called me over and goes "you're going 700 right?"
"680" I said.
I told him my reasoning and Brandon basically told me I had to go 700. I related him my story earlier about the squat and he said "so you have Donnie Thompson and myself both telling you to go 650, and you ignored it, and now 700. What are you gonna do?"
I walked back to the table and called 700.
Of course I pulled it. I honestly had no doubt in my mind. Regardless of what you have read on the internet or how hard you've stuck to jokes from two years ago because you're an idiot, I've pulled 700+ in the gym several times now.
I probably could have gone 710 with no issue, but getting the 700 actually on the books was fine, and I ended the day with 1770, no belt....no wraps....and most importantly, no injuries.
Most importantly, I did it at an event where it really matters to me. I came back after a year filled with a lot of doubt and trepidation and put together my best meet to date. I have no doubt that without my arm pain and well, listening to a few other people I could have gone 660 - 480 - 710. That's 1850 with no belt, and very respectable in my opinion.
I have so many people I want to thank.
Most importantly, Tommy Westoff and JJ Thomas for putting this thing together. I can't imagine the kind of time and effort the put in behind the scenes to make all of this happen. This event raised 214K dollars for the families in this cause, and while the day is long and grueling, it's really something special to be a part of. As I noted earlier, if you aren't involved in it, do so. You won't regret it and you'll walk away with probably the best experience you'll ever have in regards to powerlifting.
Kevin and Mary Smith for being who they are, and the kind of people they are. To let my sorry ass come and reside in their home for an entire weekend takes a tremendous amount of courage, and taking care of me.
I want to thank Chad Dresden for plotting out his entire day just to hang out. Chad has become a close friend that I care a lot about and we hadn't seen each other since last year. So it meant a lot for him to take that time out just to see me.
I also want to thank Andy Grimm, who had a nice day going until he tore his bicep deadlifting. Andy gave me a lot of mental support as he had been dealing with the same arm pain I had a few months before.
It was awesome to see so many people I know. Donnie T, Scott Cartwright, Matt Kroc, Rob Luyando, Jay Ashman, Shawn Frankle, Marshall Johnson, Theresa Foy, Brian Carroll, Dave Douglas, Brandon Lilly, and a ton of others I am sure I forgot. If I did, I apologize and it's not because you're not important. There's just so many people to remember.
It was also a pleasure meeting Mark Miller, Shana Ratcliff, Weston Riddle (who had a phenomenal day and has a bright future), Dan Dalenburg (who I had met last year but never talked to) who also had a nice day with a 2K total.
I'm sure I'm missing people left and right and I apologize again if I left anyone out.
I would like to say thank you to everyone that came up and introduced themselves. That always means a lot to me.
Last but not least, thanks to the two biggest pieces of shit I know. Swede and Pegg, who no matter what always have my back, always have an ear to lend, and who I love like the brothers I never had.
Furry, we all missed you a ton. Get well soon and let's get the gang back together for next year.