Meet Recap, 2015 Ontario Powerlifting Association Classic Provincials

Well, my last meet as a M1 (40-49) division competitor came and went.  Some bad but mostly good things.  I suppose there will come a point where there is no longer an expectation that forward progress will be made but now is not the time.  Based on my experiences at this meet, I'm starting to get an idea of what it might feel like when I'm just trying to hold on and resist the inertia of the inevitable aging process.

My training leading up to the meet was, for the most part, pretty good.  I didn't have any new aches or pains (at least I didn't think so) and my bodyweight, while not as low as I would've liked, was low enough that I wouldn't need to do anything crazy to make the 105 kg wt class limit.  I was dealing with a weird loss of power in my back but it didn't come with any acute pain or muscle spasms so I really didn't know what to make of it.

Since I had booked my hotel room early to take advantage of a non-refundable, non-modifiable rate, I was stuck arriving an extra day early when the lifting schedule changed to accommodate additional lifters.  It gave me the opportunity to watch some of the bench press only competition on Friday evening as well as the afternoon lifting session on Saturday.  My friend Jenn Dorr was lifting in that session and she was having a great meet, comfortably in first place as long as she made her deadlift opener, until a sudden and surprising deadlift bomb-out.  Powerlifting wisdom says to open with a weight you know you can lift on your worst day but sometimes you don't get a warning that you can't even lift that.   But she kept her head up and even came back the next day to act as my coach, running my attempts to the scorer's table, keeping me appraised of where I was in the lifting order, filming my attempts, and loading my warm ups.  So, much thanks to her for being a great sport!

On Sunday, after waking up at 0630 (I hate lifting in the first session of the day), I proceeded to check my weight and make a few last minute adjustments to guarantee I fell below the 105 kg limit.  I had already been limiting my bulky calories so these adjustments were limited to taking a hot shower and sucking on a lemon and spitting in a cup.  Once I moved my weight on my own scale down a pound, I got dressed and waited to be called for weigh-ins.  I made weight at 104.6 kgs which meant I could drink some much needed liquids.  Not because I was thirsty but because I needed to get some extra strength ibuprofen and caffeine down in order to wake my 49 yr old self up and take away the morning aches and pains.

I was lifting in the second of three flights so I had some time to let the caffeine and ibuprofen take effect.  Warm ups felt fine, nothing out of the ordinary but I decided to drop my opening squat 5 kgs just to make sure I got at least one fast rep.  I had already dropped my bench press and deadlift openers 5 kgs so I figured I might as well stay consistent.  In hindsight, this was probably a good strategy.

My opening squat at 205 kgs was stress-free until I re-racked the bar and got a nose bleed.  I had been sick with a cold for a week and while I didn't feel weakened by it, I guess all the noseblowing had left me vulnerable to the transient high pressures of 1 RM attempts.  Fortunately it stopped quickly so I didn't have to worry about spouting blood with such a measly load on my back.


205 kg first attempt squat


That felt good enough that I jumped to 220 kgs for my second attempt. I felt confident in this number even though it would match my competition PR as a 105 kg lifter.


220 kg second attempt squat

I immediately felt an ache in my lower back when I unracked the weight but not enough to stop the attempt.  I did descend a bit tentatively hoping not to feel it get any worse.  Luckily it didn't but the lift was a bit more of a grinder than would normally prescribe a 7.5 kg jump but I jumped to 227.5 kgs anyways.  My goal for this meet was to finally squat 500 lbs in competition so I decided I'd go for it rather than jump 2.5 or 5 kgs to build a total.  Having had issues with my back in the weeks leading up to the meet, I didn't really believe I had enough of a deadlift to hit a PR total so I wasn't concerned about possibly leaving 2.5 or 5 kgs on the platform.

While the 227.5 kg attempt didn't cause any pain in my lower back, it wasn't really close either.  But I still had a competition PR matching squat on the board so I wasn't too disappointed.

Bench press warm ups were pretty routine and I had a chance to chat with Shawn O'Halloran, one of Canada's best lifters of all-time and holder of the retired, equipped bench press National record with a 320 kg press as a SHW lifter.  He was coaching another lifter, Steve Magistrale, and shared with me some advice about how to let one's ribcage hold some of the weight while waiting for the press command.  It made a lot of sense so I figured I might was well try it a bit.  I had been training with longer pauses anyways so letting 50 lbs or so rest on my chest instead of holding it all myself seemed like a good way to conserve energy.  I don't know if a partial implementation of a technique I had never practiced before made a big difference but I do know that my bench presses all moved faster than ever and I set a new competition PR in the 105 kg weight class.

140 kg first attempt bench press

150 kg second attempt bench press

155 kg third attempt bench press

While I had lifted 155 kg in the bench press before, I had never done it in the 105 kg wt class in a full meet.  So 155 kgs was my new full meet bench press PR.   What's interesting is, it barely looks like it sinks on my chest at all but I swear, when I was under the bar, it felt like it sank a good inch or more.  In any case, much thanks to Shawn.  He currently offers coaching in bench press as well as full meet programming and if his quick tip in the warm up room is any sign, then his programming seems well worth the money.

So, despite missing on my goal of squatting 500 lbs, I was still sitting on a new PR sub-total.  My previous best sub-total was 370 kgs so I was 5 kgs ahead of that pace.  Normally I would've been pretty upbeat going into the deadlift, my best lift, but knowing my back just wasn't right was a big bummer.  Still thinking wishfully, I figured I'd hit my 255 kg opener, jump to 270 kgs, and then try 280 kgs for both a national record in the M1 age group and a new PR total for me.  In previous years, this wouldn't have been very ambitious thinking at all but things were not the same this year.

My 255 kg opener was stuck to the ground.  Or it seemed that way for a second.  Time slows down under stress and I swear I thought I was going to bomb out on deadlifts for a good second or two.  Turns out it was but a split second but it was still a very hard lift that came with a pop in my lower back.  Not a painful pop but a pop nonetheless.  And I got a nosebleed and got the platform dirty.  At least my hookgrip held fast.  Any concerns I had with my weakened left hand were addressed by the excellent knurling on the competition barbells.  Grip wouldn't be the limiting factor today.

255 kg first (and only) attempt

Since I hadn't failed to lift 600 lbs in the deadlift since July 2009*, my third meet back after taking 16 yrs off, I figured there was no way I couldn't at least grind up 270 kgs.  Well, 270 kgs did not leave the ground, just like 272.5 kgs didn't leave the ground back in 2009.  *At least when I missed 275 kgs at the 2013 Classic Provincials, I missed it at the top because I took 11 seconds to grind it up there. My excuse for missing it then was due to being sick for two weeks almost immediately prior to the meet with a very bad gallbladder attack.  I could point to no such easy answer for missing deadlifts this time.  The only thing I can think of is that I have some kind of pre-serious injury injury.  That this weakness is a warning sign that comes before some epic story of collapsing on the floor in a spasm of nerve pain from a hideously protruding disc or something.  So I consider myself fortunate that I got out with just a 10% loss of strength.

Now to rest up and let things heal up.  I've gotten so used to the dull aches and pains in my back and legs that I think I just grew to accept them.  Maybe I should listen to them before the dull aches become loud and un-avoidable roars.

Anyways, big congrats to Roberto Celio for winning the 105 kg M1 division.  We tied at 630 kgs but since he's always been much lighter than I, he won the bodyweight tie-breaker.  All in all, it was a fun meet with some lows but more highs.  There were about 5 masters lifters in my flight (including myself) and the rest were Open division 93 and 105 kg lifters.  These young guys were awesome.  Very supportive of each other and all hoisting big weights.  It was a lot of fun watching them hit PR after PR.






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