29 Oct The RPS 2017 Florida State Championship Through the Coach’s Eye
By Brian Carroll
Ria and I drove down to Ft. Lauderdale midday on Friday after a nice training session (Fluff & Buff) and as luck would have it our first shipment of GOI (Gift of Injury) books had just been delivered, as we were hoping they would be! So, we grabbed a box and got on the road – it was perfect timing.
The drive down sucked to be honest, since there was some rain here and there and then, of course, we hit the notorious south Florida traffic. The 5 ½ hour trip ended up taking about 6 ½ hours, but we made it safely. We met Danny Bellmore and his family along with Clint Smith for dinner and had a nice time catching up. Then, shortly after a quick trip to Walmart, we called it a night. We headed to the hotel and checked in (more in this later), then got in bed. It was a long day.
The next day, after grabbing us some coffee from Dunkin Donuts, I met Ria downstairs and finished setting up the booth. One thing we noticed right away – it was hot in the ballroom, very hot. Another thing – I have to be honest, Ria pretty much had everything set-up and I just got in the way. She’s good like this and really appreciate the fact she just gets things done. I can always count on her.
For those that have never lifted in/been to a meet run by Bert and Mindy Underwood, they ALWAYS run very efficient and lifter friendly meets. Hell, this one was taken even a step farther with great sponsors like Redemption Powerlifting and CaptainJacked.com (Al gives a lot back to this sport and is someone you should support, in my opinion) giving away $1,000.00 dollars to winners in multiple divisions (over $3,000.00 in prize money from these sponsors). This is HUGE for a meet that isn’t considered a “National,” or “World” level meet! These days, it’s a great payout no matter the level of meet. Kudos to Bert and Mindy and the awesome people/sponsors backing them. This is what makes the sport great.
Bert and Mindy always go above and beyond (sometimes at their own demise) to make sure the lifter has what is needed for them to be as successful as possible. One thing in particular that they cover is also my biggest pet peeve: when meet directors are dead set on blowing through small flights and/or refuse to give sufficient time as flights become smaller, or situations arise (bottlenecks do happen, even at the best meets) and require some time to be given in a reasonable fashion to ensure the safety of the lifter.
Early Saturday, after talking to Bert at the very start of the day, then hearing some complaints from lifters who weren’t served breakfast ,or even greeted, random hotel guests in the lobby and inside the elevator concerning insufficient staffing in the dining area, valet confusion and front desk incompetence, combined with the mounting air situation as the sun was starting to do its thing in south Florida (GET HOT), I was starting to realize there was no way they agreed to pay such a massive amount of money for this mounting lackluster situation. I was correct. My 15 minute check-in process the night before as I was alone in line suddenly made more sense, as did the story I overheard of the group of people who got trapped in the elevator. This place was totally unprepared and everybody was going to suffer for it.
What I didn’t know was not one single unit of air conditioning was working in the ballroom. Bert and Mindy were promised to have all but 2 of the units running at full capacity and those 2 ‘limping’ units were still supposedly to be working at 50% capacity. The truth was, there was zero air conditioning in the ballroom and the meet staff was stuck with doing the best they could as the rest of the hotel was extremely cool (trust me, I gravitated there). I really think they got screwed over and hung out to dry. That much is pretty obvious. To add insult to injury, apparently they were promised water coolers as well as fans for the lifters, but neither were in sight the entire day.
As the meet cranked up and more people entered the room to observe, so did the heat. I mean, honestly, I couldn’t have lifted in this meet. I saw the look on the bigger guys faces as the day got going, as my focus was on Lisa (she’s little so it’s easier on her, but still far from optimal), Jason always sweats bullets and Byrd was soaked before the squat even started. I’ll give the credit though, they didn’t complain and did the best they could. Bert and Mindy were obviously pissed about the situation and were very apologetic the entire day. I feel they did the very best they could with the situation. Mindy, at one point during the day said over the microphone with frustration encompassing her voice, “we’ve been lied to and ripped off, we were told the air would be slightly impacted, (as stated above) that is all. I’m so sorry this is happening, promises were made to us that have not been kept, and if I have to I’ll throw a free meet for all of you to make it up to you, I’m so sorry.” Guys, that’s about all you can ask for. Yes, I get that it doesn’t make everything OK for those who trained for months, but an apology goes a very long way. Sometimes shit just happens.
Back to the meet
I had Clint, Paul, Todd, Paul Key and Bellmore helping handle the crew and of course, Ria on the camera and at the booth. I must say all were a ton of help this crazy day.
Lisa made it through the squat with a nice PR of 363 at 114 (3x bw raw squat!), Jason came up with a nice PR of 633 (33lb PR) on the squat. But, unfortunately Byrd blew his hammy on his second squat with 1003. I have to say, I didn’t think much of it at the time, but it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if a little dehydration was at least PART of the issue. He was also in a bunch of gear, which only makes it hotter and harder in such conditions. It was almost impossible for the equipped guys to stay hydrated and this was apparent watching Ben Sheard (who also had a hell of a day) was drinking like a madman, didn’t piss one time all day until deads and was still cramping up.
Back to Byrd and his injury: Byrd was not going to budge on whether he was going to bench or not. He actually wanted to take a third squat, so I was going to wrap him and push him up to the bar. He wisely decided he was not fit to take a third squat, so we stripped off his gear, he rested and we got him ready to bench when it was time. Right before we pulled his gear off, I heard Lisa give him some sage, motherly advice while he stubbornly lay on his back repeatedly stating that he was taking a third and that she was wasting her time (while on the ground wincing in pain). I watched and saw how that went, so I was going to give him absolutely everything he needed to see his idea through, as I wasn’t going to argue. A wise man once told me, “if you are more concerned with someone’s situation more than they are, you should check yourself.”
Lisa benched a nice PR of 187 and missed 196-ish and was sitting 4/6, Jason hit a 242 PR of 435ish (which was the correct call since it was slow) and was sitting at a nice 6/6 at subtotal. Byrd came out in the third flight and took a pretty easy opener at 738, and locked it out very easily after a little bit of a wobble in the bottom, probably due to his uneven leg drive. He then called for 804, which we put in for him. I knew it was going to be hard to complete this lift due to not only the physical trauma impacting leg drive, but his CNS was compromised by his injured state. It’s a long shot, and nearly impossible to summon maximal strength when the brain is distracted and subdued by pain and injury. The body’s self-preservation safeguards will typically shut down to protect itself. This natural process is hard to overcome, especially when in substantial acute pain with a fresh injury. On his second, Byrd got a PERFECT handoff, super easy touch and nice press off the chest, but as it started to move toward mid-range, it got crooked and we had to grab it. His third he touched a little too low and we had to take it. Very good effort and this will go soon, I’m sure.
After the bench press, I had the pleasure of meeting David Ricks as he was hanging out helping Chad Dunn from VA. I asked him “what in the world are you doing here?” Insinuating the IPF would drug test him, then immediately ban him for life for rubbing shoulders with us heathens. Jokes aside, this was an honor! David is so strong and to be doing so in his 50’s is incredible, competing with the likes of Jesse Norris! Nice guy too, with a sense of humor.
By deadlift time, it was very late. I remember looking at Lisa, and somehow she looked unbothered after the long day. I was glad to see this. She did exactly what she needed to do and pulled a very easy 386 second attempt which locked her in with a 936 total (33lb PR total), placing 4th all-time at 114lbs. Todd took her to 407 for a nice PR deadlift (her best is 402) and would have moved her up to 3rd all-time in total. It was close, but not quite there as it stalled at her knees. Awesome work Lisa, especially considering not everything was optimal and you still hit 3 PR’s.
Byrd took a token deadlift of 145, and started drinking a little bit with Paul and me. Jason was having some issues with his stomach by the end of the day, not surprisingly. He felt like he had too much fluid in his gut and this was, in my opinion, keeping him hesitant and not explosive on the deadlift out of the bottom. He didn’t look too good honestly, and I certainly DIDN’T want was to mess up his great day by being too aggressive on the deadlift, considering all of this. No bombs, no getting stuck with just openers!
He opened with a nice 567, but you could tell he was more than just a deviation off. So, I was very limited in my options. He had already beat his best 242 squat, bench and total, but I wanted to take him just over his best 275 total and not a pound over on his second deadlift as I could tell he wasn’t 100% going by his opener deadlift. Let me preface the following with: I will own this one, I did some rounded-off math and with his 584 second pull, it actually tied his best 275 total exactly to the decimal, instead of going over by a pound. I knew he was gassed and wouldn’t pull his third, but we tried anyway to no avail. By now it was 10pm. My apologies Jason, I really thought I took you just over your best total. I was a little too cautious, but I hope you understand why. Great day regardless with a 1653ish total at 242, matching his best at 275.
I’ll wrap this up with a few final thoughts: I’m glad Byrd isn’t hurt worse than he is, it could have been bad under 1000lbs. This happens to all of us unfortunately, but thankfully it wasn’t a tendon rupture and/or more of a strain/tear, which it could have very easily been with that much weight. I think with some PT/rest/nutrition/soft tissue work he will be good to go sooner than later and right back at it. I think his 804 bench is right there for the taking with a little rehab/recovery and a good prep. Maybe a bench only meet early next year? I know one thing: as the weights/totals get higher/heavier the smallest of details matter all the more. I bet he comes back with an even better plan. Just a feeling.
Now please bear with me. This is not meant to demean either of these athlete’s past. This is only to provide context. Lisa and Jason are a lot alike in many ways, especially through their high school years. Lisa is a self- proclaimed “band-geek” and wasn’t jock, nor did she lift until a few years ago when she got into CrossFit (again one of the major perks of CrossFit – it brings people to strength sports). She started utilizing 10/20/Life about 3.5 years ago with prior best lifts of 220 squat, 120 bench and a 250 deadlift at 114. I’d say with a 936 total and 4th best of all time, she’s shown quite the improvement from a 590 total, which is pretty awesome. She will hit over 1000lbs at 114, mark my words. I’m very proud of her and thankful for Todd, her husband helping coach and program for her. When you are lucky to have a spouse work with vs. fight against you, you’re in a much better positon for long term success.
Jason, on the other hand grew up a “gear-head” and spent his time under muscle cars instead of the weight room. This has really come in handy for me, in particular. I am the stark opposite and at one time, knew far less about cars than Jason ever did about lifting. Until a few years ago, Jason really wasn’t into training, but did his first push/pull in 2012-2013-ish where he benched mid 300’s and pulled 500ish. This is not a knock on Jason, but he is not built like your typical big-time powerlifter, much less a genetically gifted lifter. He is about 6’ tall and very long limbed, so his leverages aren’t great for the squat, certainly not good for the bench and his long arms are nice on the deadlift until they contrast with his long femurs which offset this “advantage.” We don’t even really need to touch on the competitive advantage one has growing up playing competitive sports and the mindset which comes along with it. My point is he has come a VERY long way and is doing pretty awesome if you ask me. Not everyone is going to hit a 2000 total at 242, but I really think that with some more time and adjustments, Jason will go over 1700 very soon, and eventually make a run toward 1800lbs at 242 and continue to improve for as long as he wants to compete. And by our talks since the meet, he plans on competing quite a bit, which I agree with.
To wrap this up: I am happy and proud to endorse, support and sponsor meets put on by Bert and Mindy in the RPS. I’m proud to help teammates like Byrd, Lisa and Jason as I think they represent what I stand for, and do so well. I also enjoy coaching & handling them, while seeing them hit their goals. This also provides me a chance to, when the time comes and I do step away – a way to live vicariously through these athletes and still enjoy powerlifting the way I always have. It keeps me involved even when my days are no longer. Thank you to my Ria for your help as always during these crazy weekends. Thank you and for weekends like this, I am grateful.
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