One of my most self-inspiring lifting stories might be more of a comeback story. It is the story behind the picture featured on my Lifting Profile page. Either way, it started in November of 2007.
After years of competing and training in multi-ply gear, I decide to get back in to single-ply gear so I trained for and competed in the Unites States Powerlifting Federation (USPF) Southeastern Cup. I was so pleased with my performance that I wanted to keep the momentum going, so I decided to compete a month later at the American Powerlifting Federation (APF) Southern States. The meet was being held in my home town so I was competing more for my family to see me lift than I was for the actual competition. I entered the meet in the 242 lbs. weight class at a body weight of around 233 lbs. instead of my normal 220 lbs. weight class.
I had been training in my single-ply gear for months so I decided to stay with my single-ply squat suit and use it over my multi-ply briefs. On my second attempt, I squatted 1,003 lbs. which went very well. On my 3rd attempt, I tried 1,030 lbs. In the hole, the bar rolled up on my neck and I missed the lift. I didn’t think too much of it at the time and went on with the meet.
During the bench, everything went well. I hit a new personal record.
When it came to the deadlift, things started to go a little wrong. At the time, I blamed it on my body weight. I was having problems setting up properly, so I naturally blame the excess weight. The biggest problem, though, was that I kept dropping the bar during warm-ups. I lowered my opener and was able to finish the meet.
The next day is when I realized what actually went wrong. On my 3rd attempt in the squat, I had bulged two disks in my neck. The problem with my deadlift was that the swelling in my neck started affecting the nerves in my left arm keeping my left hand from gripping the bar properly.
After numerous doctor tests and an MRI, the doctors decided no surgery just physical therapy. January through March of ’08 was spent three times a week in physical therapy, mostly just traction on my neck to relieve the bulges while my neck healed. Powerlifting training was at a minimum and my body weight dropped. Instead of squatting, which were off limits, I did heavy leg presses during those months.
At the end of March, I got the o.k. to start squatting again and immediately was back in the gym with the bar on my back. I was surprised how quick my squat started to come back. At the same time, two of my training partners were getting ready for the APF Master Nationals being held the first weekend in May. I had only planned on going to help but one of them convinced me that I should compete just to get back on the horse. Three days after my 40th birthday, and only a month of training, I easily made the 220 lbs. weight class in the 40 – 44 year old Masters division.
The world squat record for my age and weight was totally reachable, but I was still unsure on how I would perform, being a comeback meet and all, so I opened conservatively. My opener went well and my confidence started to grow so I jumped to the record on my second attempt. At the same time, one of the other lifters was after the same record and he jumped a little higher than me. I broke the record on my second attempt and he broke mine on his second attempt. On my third attempt my handler and I decided that we weren’t going to let the other lifter steal the record again, so we waited until he put in his third attempt and jumped higher. He missed his third attempt but still had the record because of the second attempts. I had to make my third to take the record so the pressure was on. The weight was 942 lbs., the heaviest weight I had been under since my injury. With the pressure on, I squatted the weight surprisingly well and took the record.
Now you may think this is the end of the story, but wait. When breaking a world record on your third attempt, the APF allows a lifter to take a fourth attempt to push the record even higher. I was still out of breath from my last attempt, when my handler asked me if I wanted to take a fourth attempt. I said “Sure, just through 1,003 lbs. on there. It will either go or it won’t.” What neither one of us realized, was that may last attempt was the last attempt of the flight and I had not even sat down before they were calling my name to take my fourth attempt. This actually may have been a good thing. I had no time to think, barely enough time to wrap my knees which in turn cause a nice adrenalin rush. I can remember setting up under the weight; still a little out of breath, hearth pumping, thinking “How on earth am I supposed to squat this?”
The body and mind are funny when under pressure. They either work or they don’t. I setup, un-racked the weight, got the squat signal and came down with the weight. Out of the hole, I pushed hard and to my surprise, the weight just started to come up. I kept pushing until lock-out, got the rack signal, turned around to see three white lights come across the judges board!
This was the second time I ever squatted 1,003 lbs. at a body weight of 220 lbs. not to mention the adversity I endured for the first three months of the year leading up to that moment.