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RAWU NE and PA Powerlifting Championships - 2009

Contest Report

The Bad, The Good, and The Great

By Gary F. Zeolla

I competed in the R.A.W. United Northeast Regional & Pennsylvania State Powerlifting Championships, Saturday, June 13, 2009 in Greencastle, PA. There were 17 lifters competing, 14 of them being full power lifters. The contest was held in a gym called “The Sports Inn” that was adjacent to a Comfort Inn. That made for a very convenient set-up. Once I arrived at the hotel, I didn’t need to move my car until I left three days later.

Also interestingly, in-between the hotel and the gym in the same building was a “Brother’s Pizza.” I remember Brother’s Pizza from Penn State and that they have the best-tasting pizza and subs I have ever had, so I was looking forward to feasting on that after weigh-ins.

I competed in the 114 pound weight class in RAWU’s “raw” division, which allows a belt, wrist wraps, and knee sleeves. I entered the Open and Masters II (45-49) divisions. RAWU is a new federation, so there were no records in the Masters II division, and the records in Open division were very low, having been set by a teenager, so all of my attempts were for RAWU records.

For my final workouts leading up to this contest, see Full Workout Logs: Starting 5/20/09: Drop Reps with Back-off Set: Weeks 9-11 of 11

Weigh-ins (The Bad)

It was over a three hour drive to the contest site. This was the longest I had driven to a contest in four years. I try to avoid long drives as I find them very tiring due to my fibromyalgia. For this reason, I drove out on Thursday, so I could rest all day Friday. Also, by going out a day early I was able to weigh-in as early as possible on Friday,

Official weigh-ins were not until 5-7:00 pm. But the meet director (Spero Tshontikidis) told me beforehand that either he or his contact at the gym (“Doc” Junkins) would be there to weigh people in earlier on Friday. I called Doc ahead of time, and he said he would be there at 8:30 am, so I could weigh-in any time after that. I hoped to take full advantage of that option, but things did not work out as planned.

My weight had not been dropping as I had hoped during the week. This was probably in part due to the fact that I had problems sleeping all week, for reasons I won’t go into here. Suffice it to say, it was a rough week.

I was still more than two pounds over Friday morning. After “moving my bowels” I only had a little over a pound to go. I wasn’t worried as usually I can lose that by taking a long hot bath. But after that very draining bath, I didn’t loose an ounce!

There was a sauna at the gym, so I could have tried that, but I was already drained from the bath, so I figured the best approach was to just wait. I hoped after a few hours I would just naturally lose the weight. But that meant going much longer than I had planned without eating or drinking anything. Mind you, at this point I had not eaten anything or taken more than small sips of water in almost 24 hours.

By 2:00 pm, my weight was down to 114.8 on my digital scale. This scale has proven to be very accurate in comparison to contest weigh-in scales before, with maybe running a few tenths heavier. So I figured I might be good at that point, so I went to weigh-in.

At the gym, Doc had me use a digital scale, and on it I weighed 116.0. Ugh! I almost panicked! There was no way I could lose another 1.5 pounds. But I also knew that just couldn’t be right. I told Doc that and what I weighed on my own scale and how accurate it usually was. He said a big dude had been going back and forth between the sauna and the digital scale all morning, so maybe that threw the scale off.

Doc then had me step on a different scale, a doctor’s-type “balance” scale, and on it I weight 114-3/8. That was more like it! Doc later told me they then used the balance scale for the rest of weigh-ins. Good thing, but what a scare! It was only 2:30 pm, so I still had plenty of time to eat and re-hydrate. But still, it was a lot of stress for several hours when I could have been eating and relaxing.

In any case, I lost eight pounds in six days to make weight. Immediately after weigh-ins, I downed what is my normal pre-workout drink and ate a Protein Plus bar. After I went back to my hotel room, I ordered a roast beef sub from Brother’s Pizza and a pizza later. Good stuff!

I tried to rest as much as possible the rest of the day. I watched “Forrest Gump” on HBO during the afternoon. Then in the evening I of course watched the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Red Wings to win the Stanley Cup! Well actually, I only stayed up for the first two periods before going to bed. But I just knew they wouldn’t blow a 2-0 lead. Way to go Pens!

I slept okay that night. My weight was back up to 118.8 the morning of the contest, which was rather good. However, I still wasn’t feeling quite right the morning of the contest.

Squats (More Bad)

Gear: Crain: power belt, squat shoes; APT: singlet, wrist bands, Convict knee sleeves.

Warm-ups: 45/15, 135/8, 195/5, add gear: 245/3

Attempts: 295 (miss), 295 (good), 315 (miss)

In my powerlifting book I recommend opening on squats very light and sinking it extra deep to be sure you get that first squat passed. I hate it when I don’t take my own advice!

Warm-ups did not go well. I felt stiff and the weights felt very heavy. I thought of dropping my opener but didn’t. Big mistake. However, it really wasn’t that my opener was too heavy; I just didn’t sink it enough. In fact, I knew I hadn’t as I was coming up with the weight.

I had to repeat my opening weight for my second attempt and got it easily. I had planned on going up to 320 for my next attempt but I figured I better be conservative and only took 315. It was plenty easy, but again, I just didn’t sink it enough, which again, I knew even as I was coming up with the weight. And with that, I really screwed up squats and thus my potential total.

I have been racking my brain trying to figure out what went wrong. Part of it was psychological. As I said, it had been a rough week. Add to that the stress over weigh-ins and warm-ups not going well, and my confidence was down. I think I was just leery about sinking it too much and getting buried, even though the weights were plenty light.

In addition, my final squat workout did not go well. Specifically, on my first two work sets, I did not sink the first rep, but then I sunk the next rep or two just fine. But of course at a contest you only do one rep! If I hadn’t screwed up my opener, I would have had a second shot at the 315, and I am sure I would have gotten it. But most of all, I have got to be sure ALL training reps are low enough.

But whatever the case, as someone said to me at the contest, “Put squats behind you and concentrate on benches and deadlifts.” Good advice, and something I wish I had thought of saying in my book.

Benches (The Good)

Gear: APT: singlet, bench belt, 24” Black Mamba wrist wraps.

Warm-ups: 45/10, 95/8, 120/5, add gear: 140/3

Attempts: 160 (good), 180 (good), 190 (miss)

After the problems on squats, I thought of lowering my opener but left it as it was. It ended up being very easy. But I did notice the “Press” command was very slow coming. Also, I was not using a handoff person as I don’t do so in training, but I was having problems getting the bar out of the racks. The end of the rack went straight up rather than being angled out like I am used to. I really could have used a handoff, but I was not prepared to do so.

I jumped up to 180. The lift was very hard, but I felt like I had a little more in me. But it seemed kind of a waste to go up by just five pounds, so I called for 190, which is what I really wanted as it would be a PR. But again, I had problems getting the bar out of the rack, almost lost control of it, and then I barley budged the bar off of my chest. I probably should have just gone to 185. I would have been more satisfied with that, but still 180 was good, but not great.

Deadlifts (The Great)

Gear: Crain: power belt, APT: singlet, wrist bands, original knee sleeves; Nike wrestling shoes.

Warm-ups: 135/8, 210/5, add gear: 280/3

Attempts: 340, 370, 390, 400 (all good)

I was really dragging after benches, but there was not much of a break before I had to start warming up for deadlifts. However, I seemed to get my second-wind and warm-ups went well. But after the problems on squats and benches, I decided to drop all of my planned attempts by five pounds.

The opener was very easy. The second attempt was also rather easy. Only on my third attempt did I really struggle, but I thought I still had some strength left. So I decided to take a fourth attempt, which I could do since, as I said, all of my lifts were for RAWU records.

I wanted to go to 405 for a PR, but I was afraid that would be pushing it, so I went for the even 400 instead, and I am glad I did. It was a very hard fought lift, but I pulled it slowly but surely to completion. And that made for a great ending to what had been a not so good day.

Total (The Bad and The Great)

I totaled 865 (that of course does not include my fourth DL attempt). That is a very poor total for me, but surprisingly, it ended being good enough to win Best Lifter!

I need to explain, RAWU has two divisions: an Ironman division that allows only a belt, and a Raw division that allows a belt, wrist wraps, and knee sleeves. The gear is a minor difference, so I asked Spero afterwards what the reason was for the two divisions. He said the main difference is that the former is drug tested while the latter is not. That is no matter to me as I don’t use drugs; I just need to wear wrist and knee support, which is why I entered the latter.

In any case, there were separate Best Lifter awards for each division. Spero used simple division to calculate the awards. The winner of the Ironman Best Lifter totaled about six times bodyweight while I totaled seven and half times bodyweight, so substrate a few pounds for the knee sleeves if you want, and I still would have easily won an “overall” Best Lifter if there had been one.

I went 7/10, which actually sounds rather good. But I am still disappointed over squats. However, deadlifts and winning Best Lifter really saved the day.

Additional Thoughts and Future Plans

I usually work out in the late afternoon to early evening. So part of my problem on squats and even on benches could have been that I simply was not ready to lift that early in the day. By the time deadlifts rolled around it was getting close to my normal lifting time, and that could account for the “second-wind” and great performance.

Maybe I should try working at in the mornings on occasion, but I really am not a morning person. But more to the point, I am rather stiff in the mornings and would find working out at that time difficult. That is a lingering effect from my formerly very serious Stiff Person Syndrome problem. That could also be why I had problems sinking my squats. At the very least, maybe I need to do another warm-up set for two to be sure I am warmed-up before my squat opener. Or maybe I should get up a little earlier and take a hot shower before the contest to loosen up. That’s something to think about.

Another thing to think about is the timing for my final heavy workouts. Last year, due to an infected finger, I missed my last two planned heavy workouts. That meant my final heavy workout for each lift was about two weeks before, and I went 9/9.

This time, my final squat and bench workouts were nine and ten days out respectively, while my final deadlift workout was 13 days out. Maybe putting all of that together means I am better off planning on my last heavy workouts being about two weeks out (give or take a day or two) rather than just nine days or so as I have been planning things. Given that my final two workouts did not go well, I would have been better off if those had been planned as light workouts.

If I did that, it would also help with cutting weight. As I mention in my book, I like to wait at least 36 hours after my last heavy workout to begin to cut weight. That left me with only six days to cut weight. But if I put in my last heavy workout 12 days before, then I will have nine days to cut weight.

In any case, RAWU is holding another contest at the same location the weekend of November 14th. It will be their North American Championships. Very tentatively, I am planning on entering that contest. I am taking a week off of lifting and then will start a new training routine to prepare for that contest. If anyone is interested in this contest, details are on RAWU’s Web site.


Many thanks to Spero for the well-run contest. Thanks to the personal at The Sports Inn for the use of their facility and for setting things up beforehand. Thanks to the judges and spotters for their efforts as well and to Doc for being there so I could weigh-in early. On a side note, RAWU is a Christian-based federation. As such, this was the first contest I’ve ever been at that there was a prayer said before the contest. Nice touch.

An important part of that prayer was that no one would get hurt at the contest. As far as I know, no one did. My several minor pain areas did not bother me at all during the contest or even afterwards. In addition, I thought after the long drive out and back and the rigors of the contest, I would be feeling rather terrible today (Monday), but I feel reasonable well, good enough to write up this overly long contest report. So thanks to the Lord for that and that despite my less than stellar start to the contest, things turned out rather well.

For pictures from this contest, see RAWU NE and PA Powerlifting Championships - 2009 - Pictures.

For my first workouts after this contest, see Full Workout Logs: Starting 6/21/09: Three Week Rotations: Rotations 1-2 of 6.

Powerlifting and Back Pain

    The first book is geared towards the beginner to intermediate powerlifter. It presents sound training, competition, dietary, and supplement advice to aid the reader in starting and progressing in the sport of powerlifting. The second book details how I overcame years of crippling low back and was able to return to the sport of powerlifting.

Starting and Progressing in Powerlifting: A Comprehensive Guide to the World's Strongest Sport

Overcoming Back Pain: A Mind-body Solution (Second Edition)

See also this series on Amazon (#ad).

The above contest report was posted on this site June 15, 2009.

Powerlifting and Strength Training
Powerlifting and Strength Training: Contest Reports

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