Monday, October 5, 2015

October 2-3, 2015 - NAS National Championships

It has been three years since I last competed at Nationals. It was in Tunica, Mississippi in a parking lot of a casino with land so flat that you could watch your dog run away from home for three days straight. The casino is gone now and like that casino, I wanted to make the memory of my first time at the big show to go away as well. Bad thoughts with it. I had been unprepared and left that parking lot in the sun bruised and wanting. I’ve tried to back it back but I either was injured and couldn’t qualify or I was just plain not good enough. So when I finally re-qualified this year, I was ecstatic, especially so when my strength coach gave me the go ahead to pursue it.

Now, this year’s contest was in Davenport, Iowa. I think the only people who go to Iowa intentionally are running for president. Left right after work on Wednesday and had some freaking awesome fish tacos near Pittsburgh (not euphemism for sex) for the first night. Drove the rest of the way with my father (dad is my co-pilot). Read three books before the day was done in the car (spoiler alert; they sucked). Lots of bridges going through Illinois and we were greeted by what I assume to be the state bird; the middle finger. Made it to Iowa and checked in to the hotel that was connected to the convention center. The water fountain outside was on fire. I’m sure that’s symbolize for something but I can’t for the life of me hazard a guess.

The rules meeting was at around 7:30 Thursday night and was mandatory. I weighed in at 267.4lbs with everything on. Since I really wanted to get a shot at an invite to the Arnold, I took of my shoes and shorts and got down to 264.2lbs so I was under 265lbs. I was given a number (505, the same weight in pounds as the stone I lifted with Jenkins, fortuitous perhaps) a gift bag, a name tag lanyard and two contest shirts. Still had about 2 hours before the rules meeting so my dad and I went to a local bar/diner. I got two entrees and then ended up with a bonus entree when the kitchen made one too many turkey burgers. Our waitress challenged me to eat it so I had to. By this point, I was at the tipping point of being uncomfortably full. I was wearing my cats on pizza slices in space shirt and some women competitors there noticed and started talking to me. I answered their questions as politely as I could (I relayed this to my younger sister and was informed I can’t flirt for shit). In my defense, I was very full. Went back for rules meeting and went to bed.

Like clockwork, I was a nervous wreck in the morning. Literally having to shove food down my gullet. Something that normally takes me like 10 minutes took over a half hour as I was fighting the urge to vomit. Big time anxiety but just got to tamp it down. Venue was inside and there were four sets of each implement, with designated lanes. Hefty division had 49 competitors vying for the elusive Pro Card. My chances were nonexistent but I could hope to improve on last time, hit PRs and maybe, just maybe, get a coveted invite to the Arnold. The other big change besides being inside was the monitors. The whole shebang was being broadcasted to the web. Saw people I only knew from Facebook and Youtube as well as some people that recognized me from same. Most didn’t recognize me with the beard. Answered everything with a smile.

But I was still beyond freaking out inside. Calm exterior. I do want to reiterate that point. I used the lavatory about four times in the span of an hour and I only had one meal. I was so out of it focus wise that I accidentally used the women’s bathroom. I didn’t realize that I had done so until I walked out and saw the opposing restroom said “MENS” above it. There is so much waiting and down time with over 220 people competing. Could be waiting an hour after the last warm-up before lifting. I wore my rehband belt and my new copper infused elbow sleeves (not that I believe the mumbo-jumbo) to keep warm and spent my time either pacing, sitting or sipping my jug of water filled with BCCAs.

The first event of the day was log clean and press. 300lbs for as many reps as possible in a 60 seconds time period. Log is a wishy-washy one for me. Just now getting consistent with hitting it for a single in training. This log was weird, rough skin like a shark and handle placement that made the clean a bit tougher. I knew enough in advance about the clean issues and balance and had adjusted my technique in training accordingly. I just told myself that I had to do it, I couldn’t bomb here. I pulled into my lap, scraping up my shins in the process, and got it set deep. I rolled it up and it was there on my shoulders. I drove into it and it went forward but I had the power in my triceps to lock it out. Down command given and I knew I needed to try for another to be viable. Hell, this was a 20lbs contest PR as it was. I took a big breather and went at the log again. Scraped my knees on the log and had so hesitation in the clean but up it went and much the same it went up. A freaking double with 300lbs! There was 15 seconds left so I called it there as I knew I would rush it trying for a triple. Tied with a few people for 28th place.

Up next was a yoke front carry. 650lbs for 60’ with a 60 second time limit. Unlimited drops allowed. Usually, I tend to go last on yoke events due to my height. However, since my arms hang low, I was right in the middle this time. Unlike log, I only got a single warm-up with about half the weight. I felt lightheaded when I did it and this was not good. I have a history of blacking out on conan’s wheel events and I generally have no issues in training. I had no issues this whole cycle but I was using a yoke with a much thinner crossbar. This was not a contingency I had really planned for as I didn’t think it would be a problem. Spent my time just telling myself to breath and not hold my breath. I got under like I practiced week in and week out and started off. It felt fine but then I got lightheaded and my vision went dark and I dropped it. Still a lot of course left to go. The yoke kept hitting my snooze button and it was becoming a battle between staying calm and panicking as time was running out. My last shot had me short with five second left and I just couldn’t get anything more. I ended up completing only 53’6” of the course. Terrible, a 43rd place finish for me here.

Final event of the Day 1 was the farmer’s walk. 350lbs a hand with a 60’ course and a 60 second time limit. I knew this was going to more than it seemed as the handles were known to be notoriously slick. Knowing, this I had made my training harder than the show event, using my slick handles and picking from a lower pick height. This didn’t eliminate the doubts; always buffeting my confidence. Confidence was a bit weakened from the red light/green light with my solar plexus from the yoke. It did warm-up my body so I just had to have minimal time with the handles to prep. I knew I was golden when 300lbs went up easy on a pick. I had to go pretty early due to my poor placing on the yoke front carry. As it was more to do with screwed up physiology then a lack of strength, I figured I’d be the only one to finish my heat. That confidence feels unnatural to me somehow and I even felt like I could still blunder. Got my grip and took off at a steady pace. I didn’t accelerate until the end as I really wanted to keep from dropping (kind of had to not drop them after the MC said I was putting on a grip clinic). As I tend to do, I held the farmer’s for a little bit at the finish before dropping them. Indicates I’m in control. I finished with a time of 13.66 seconds for 20th place here.

After the first day, I was in 34th place overall and 9th out of 15 in the under 265lbs class. I had not expected the disappointment in the yoke front carry and had expected to be higher. Couldn’t let it eat at me as I knew I was better and I knew I could pick-up points and placings in the day to come. I really had to decompress after that day and hope that I can turn on the power for yet another day. Haven’t done a two day contest since Tunica and I wasn’t sure how my body would react. Went out to eat again at a fine dining establishment (crazy lady was getting drunk off of wine and dropping f-bombs by the end) and saw snippet on the local news about Nationals. Granted it was preceded by a charity event at a local school that involved kissing a potbellied pig, it’s not nothing. We then stopped by the riverboat casino (man laws don’t count on the mighty Mississippi) more out of morbid curiosity than any actual need. I was carded walking in. I just turned 30, have a full beard with some white hair so I’m not sure how to take that haha. I think the smoke alone took 10 years off my life from walking around there. Same routine the next day with waking up and force-feeding sustenance. There was also a bounce house in the convention center lobby when I got there so that was new.

First event of the day was a one arm push/pull medley. 200lbs circus dumbbell clean and press into a 300lbs one arm deadlift with a modified farmer’s walk handle with a 60 second time limit. You had to start with the dumbbell and then alternate between the two before time expired. Each successful lift counted as half a rep. I had been putting the work in on the dumbbell and one arm pull. Like the log press, I haven’t hit the 200lbs dumbbell in contest, so even though I hit a double in training, it wasn’t a certainty. The one arm pull had been modified so that it was even easier than what I was prepping for in training so it was an afterthought and I feel most of the rest of the field felt the same way. One of the four dumbbells was damaged in the lightweight class so the lanes got changed to three for this one. I dove onto the dumbbell and hefted it to my shoulder. The one side felt loose and I had to let it settle before launching it overhead. It wasn’t until I got the down signal that I knew I had it. Popped over to the deadlift and just stood up with it. Back to the dumbbell. Goes up just a smoothly but I get no down signal. The judge says I need my feet together and I lose control attempting to get my stance narrower. So much wasted effort. Stay calm, stay in control. I do an instant replay and get told to get my feet together again. I make it so and get the down call. Glad he called it when he did as my left shoulder did not like it and I did a feel test to make sure it was ok. Then another tug of the deadlift and then back to the dumbbell. Just not enough umph to get it locked out this time and I settle for two. Tied with a few people for 28th place.

The final event was an event I had been given me many a late night workout; the sandbag medley. 75 seconds to carry and load three sandbags 60’. Weights were 240lbs, 260lbs and 275lbs. It was initially going to be four sandbags but someone had mercy this day. Due to biceps issues, I had to change how I normally pick up the sandbags and this may have been a blessing in disguise as these bags were really packed tight and my normal bear-hug method would have been irksome here. The only warm-up I needed here was to pick up the heaviest bag and then do a brief sprint. I would have to do quite well here to pick up points as the order was in overall placings. I watched a lot of people slip, fall and fail. Hard to stay focused on the task at hand until you get out there and your heartbeat in your head drowns out the noises. One and done. Time starts and violently lap the bag and sprint toward the flatbed truck (we were loading to there). I attempt to change direction but my feet skid attempting the lateral shift. I’m definitely not the fastest but I again violently pull the sandbag up and sprint back again. Last one. This one is much tighter packed and I miss my mark. I fumble with it. Starting to panic. I remember all the late night sessions with the sandbag; my labored breaths, the cicadas buzzing and my sweat dripping and I roll up the sandbag in a deep lap. Not today. I move but not as quickly and load the last bag. All three done in a time of 47.63 seconds. Good enough for 21st place.

After that, we were on the road again. Ordered five entrees at Cracker Barrel and the waiter didn’t even bat an eye. That is one impressive poker face. As for the contest itself; I didn’t die. I will elaborate; I did things and things were done. I managed to work around an injury (biceps) and keep it together to put in a relatively consistent and solid performance. If we go by numbers, I place 29th out of 49 in the open heavyweight class and 8th out 15 in the under 265lbs class. Better than last time and it would be higher if I didn’t like to sleep during conan’s carry. I feel this time through was cleansing. More mature this time around. Pressing has improved and so has my static strength. Now I didn’t stick around as I figured I was way too far out of qualifying for the Arnold. I may still be invited if more than one person in my weight class declines the invite so still possible. Now that the stress of the competition is gone, I can safely say I had fun and enjoyed myself. Am I satisfied? No, I feel this is a beginning to a new level. As for the immediate future, I’m definitely taking at least a week off and then deciding from there what the plan is. I’m looking forward to what this coming year will bring.

No comments:

Post a Comment