The Canadian Powerlifting Championships of 2010!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Canadian Powerlifting Championships came to Toronto this year, Saturday ( June the 12th), and featured some outstanding lifting. A new set of Canadian Champions were crowned, National and even a few World records were broken, and the level of competition in most weight classes rose substantially.
I was contemplating whether I was going to compete at these Nationals, my concern being that I had pulled back on my powerlifting training. I have been training for 3 Guinness World records, and adapted a crossfit style approach to weightlifting that emphasized muscular endurance rather than strength. The 3 Guinness World records are feats of muscular endurance over a set time frame. This is obviously quite different from powerlifting. It was like going from training for sprinting to a marathon. The day of the event, I decided I was going to compete after all and let the chips fall where they may. I figured with a little luck, I might be able to pull out a win.
My last-minute decision to compete was so last-minute that I actually showed up late and missed my warm up. The lifters were already taking to the platform and squating! I knew something was a miss when I showed up and could hear the crowd cheering the lifters on the platform on. I litterally had to take my last warm up lift on the platform as my first attempt.
In powerlifting you have 3 attempts in each of the 3 events (Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlifting…in that order). Once you attempt a weight you can’t go lighter even if you fail at that weight. If you don’t successfully lift the weight in any of your 3 attempts you don’t progress to the next event. Your highest successful attempt in each of the 3 events goes toward your 3 lift total. The lifter with the highest total wins. There is also a competition for the bench press only (because it’s the most popular of the 3 events).
Having to start the meet basically throwing away 1 of my 3 attempts in the squats greatly set me back. Now with only 2 attempts to work with, I had to play conservatively or else I could bomb out if I shot too high. There was less room for error (and there was not much room to begin with). Having not done powerlifting training leading up to the meet already left me unsure what to set my attempts at. I knew I had to make my first attempt in all 3 events unusually low so that if my strength was way down I did not bomb out. If I chose my attempts as high as I normally would and found out on the platform I was not nearly as strong as I normally am…well, I’d be going home early.
By the end of the squats event I was already trailing by a sizable margin and needed to catch up if I was going to contend for the Canadian title. All was not completely going against me though. One of my chief training partners, Alex Drolc, was coaching me that day and pointed out defending Canadian Champion Shawn Hislop was not competing! For that matter, neither was last year’s second place finisher at the Canadian Championships in the 198 pound weight class Jason Fabbian. I had seen those two battle it out in this weight class the previous year. At the time I was in the 181 pound weight class, and was training with Jason leading up to the Nationals.
I’d seen Jason and Shawn pushed to the limit, with Shawn doing some eye-opening bench pressing (breaking the 400 pound barrier). I was obviously rooting for my training partner Jason to take the title. It all came down to the last attempt in the last event of deadlifts. Jason had the bar loaded to take his total 5 pounds over Shawn Hislop’s for the win. I remember watching as Jason pulled with everything he had. He got the bar up to knees before the momentum stopped. There he struggled for several seconds and got the bar a few inches higher. With the bar within inches of victory, Jason had not enough strength left to seal the win. Shawn had defeated my friend and won the Canadian title in the 198 pound weight class.
I remember thinking I would have to face both Shawn and Jason in the future when I moved up a weight class. No body wants to face lifters of that caliber. As luck would have it for me, neither man showed up for this year’s Championships. The lifters that did show up were new faces to me. Alex and me both figured they would not be as stiff of competition as Shawn and Jason would be. Turns out we both miscalculated…
I entered the bench press event tied for second. My opening weight of 330 pounds went by easy enough. I brought the weight down to my chest, paused it, and when the ref told me to “press” it came up with no interruption. The second attempt of 340 felt much heavier. After the pause on the chest, and the call for the ref to “press”, the weight felt much heavier than it normally did for me. My third attempt of 352.5 was a weight I had pressed in the past fairly easily, and ordinarily I would be looking past it towards something heavier, but finally I would feel the price I paid for not properly training for powerlifting.
Bar left my chest as fast as the previous attempt but when it was inches away from fully locked out it stopped. It stayed there hovering over me no matter how much I poured it on and pushed. For a moment that felt like forever I layed there with this weight hovering over me, moving no closer to lock out, no matter how much I pushed and strained. It was like there was a ceiling as to how high I could press the weight over me and it had hit it. The third attempt was a failed attempt.
Even though I had missed the last press, I had still outbench every one else in my weight class to take the Canadian Bench Press Competition. In fact, I had out pressed every one else by a sizable enough margin to take the lead. Heading into the deadlifts I was now the front-runner. I was also slightly worried about maintaining my number one position. 3rd attempts were usually the attempts were you extend yourself to get ahead of your competition. It was my 3rd attempt lifts I was most worried about not completing due to my slightly reduced strength. When I tried to extend my self for the first time in the competition, I failed.
The deadlift was the final event of the day. I hoped my lead I made in the bench press event was great enough to carry me to victory. I didn’t want to have to try to extend myself in the deadlift event cause I was not feeling as strong as I had hoped. If I had fallen behind in the deadlifts, I was hoping it was not more than the ground I had already gained. If I could just hold on in the last event of the day I might be able to win the Canadian Championship. If I was pressed to extend myself again, I was worried I might not have it in me.
My opening weight of 500 pounds was enough to put victory out of reach for most of the lifters. That is when one of my opponents opened up with a first attempt of 530 pounds! Once that happened the battle for the top 198 pounder quickly boiled down to me and him. My lead had been cut to a mere 10 pounds with only his first deadlift. His second attempt of 575 pounds was also a successful one, and he was now ahead by a long shot. The chips were down.
It came down to one final deadlift. Just like last year’s National’s with Shawn and Jason. I had to be successful in my last deadlift attempt to out total him. Unfortunately, I had to extend myself to do it. It would require a 550 pound deadlift, and would give me a total 5 pounds heavier than my rivals’. If I landed the deadlift the total that had won Shawn Hislop last year’s Championships would have done him no better than a third place bronze at this Nationals.
I paced back and forth waiting for the signal from the judges that “the bar is loaded”. Once I got the call to the platform I could feel my heart beating. The crowd knew I needed this lift to win the Canadian Championships. I needed to dig deep to secure the victory. I could feel the anxiety and pressure. Me and Louis had talked about how if I had won the Nationals it would be a great boost for our campaign to raise money for sick kids. It would also help promote my Guinness World Record attempts.
I grabbed the bar with my chalked up hands and as soon as I got the lift signal every muscle in my body flexed and I pulled with everything I had in me. I shot the weight up to my knees, the same place Jason Fabbian had the weight at the last Nationals, when all of a sudden it was stuck. My eyes were closed as I was pulling the weight, and for a brief second I opened them to look at the crowd. I saw Alex Drolc, my coach, with a worried expression on his face. It was a moment that lasted a second but felt like forever. The anxiety was now at its peak and I could feel my heart pound.
I used the extra energy to my advantage and I heaved the weight until I was upright. Just like that, I had won the Canadian Championship once again. This time it was by the smallest of margins (5 pounds on my total to be exact). I had collected both the Canadian Powerlifting Championships and the Canadian Bench Press Championships (though in that event Shawn Hislop’s absence greatly helped! I defeated his over all powerlifting score, but not his amazing bench press)
At the end of the day I was glad I didn’t pull out of the Nationals, and I was glad I used the anxiety and nervousness as a positive to perform. We all feel the pressure, we all get scared, but it’s those that recognize it’s there because it’s a moment to shine that get the chance to do something special. I got a little lucky that day as well, but when you take a chance and give yourself the opportunity, you make your own luck.
Those Guinness World Records will fall…