Bodyweight: 158 lbs
Squat: 386 lbs
Bench: 237 lbs
Deadlift: 451 lbs
Total: 1,075 lbs
Article written by Alanna Casey
This past weekend I traveled over 2,400 miles to compete in the Raw Unity Meet (RUM) 7 Powerlifting meet. This meet is put on by Johnny Vasquez and Eric Talmart, the owners of powerliftingwatch.com. What makes RAW Unity unique is that lifters of all federations are allowed to compete. So, any lifter can qualify to compete as long as he/she has achieved a qualifying total within the last year. Previous champions are also invited back to compete. Raw Unity draws the best powerlifters from every federation and has them compete head to head. RUM is also known for upholding strict judging standards. You must squat below parallel, bench with a pause, and deadlift without a hitch. Since I won the 148 lb weight class in 2012, I was qualified to compete in RUM 7. Additionally, my previous RUM total qualified me to compete at the 148 lb or 165 lb class.
My first decision was to decide what class I would compete in. I have been training at a bodyweight of 155-157 lbs. Up until about 1 and a half weeks before RUM I was still going back and forth on which weight class I wanted to compete in. I hate cutting weight and know that I will have to cut to 150 lb for the Arnold (Strongwoman) Competition in less than three weeks. However, I really didn’t want to cut weight before I have to. While I was very focused on RUM 7, my most important focus is on defending my title and winning the Arnold. I decided that my primary goal was to hit the highest squat/bench/deadlift numbers that I possibly could, and not worry about my weight. About a week before RUM, I increased my carbohydrate intake slightly and, I focused on stretching and mobility.
I cut off heavy squat and bench training 10 days before I competed. I had my last heavy deadlift session 14 days before I competed. I did that as my body takes the longest to recover from deadlifts, then squats, and recovers the quickest from bench. After the 10 days mark I switch gears and hit the gym once every three days and do stretching and very light cable machine work.
I booked my flight to leave in the early AM Thursday morning. Weigh ins were all day Friday and I was scheduled to compete on Saturday around 4:00pm. I wanted to get there a day early because I was looking at two-three hours flights and over eight hours total travel time. Traveling on airplanes really wears on my body and I wanted an extra night to recover.
My trip was off to a great start when I hit unanticipated traffic on my way to the airport and missed my flight by about 15 minutes. The price I paid was 6 additional travel hours. Instead of getting to Florida at 4:20 pm, I arrived at 10:20 pm Thursday night. Streaky Jenn Yates very generously picked me up from the airport and we went straight to dinner.
When I woke up the day of weigh ins I felt very bloated and honestly, constipated. So, I took half a bottle of magnesium citrate. Now, for those who don’t know what magnesium citrate is; it’s something given to patients prior to surgery to clean out their bowls, available over the counter at Walgreens or CVS. I did not know this. I thought it would just “make me go.” I didn’t realize that it would literally last all day and well into the night. Let this be a lesson to you: never take something that you are not familiar with. If you are going to put something in your body, you need to know exactly what it is and what the anticipated effects will be.
I weighed in a couple hours after I took the magnesium citrate and waited about 5 hours at the convention center for Jill Mills to get there. Jill had flown in on Friday and we were sharing a rental car. But, since Streaky dropped me off at the convention center to weigh in (then had to work) I was more or less stuck at the convention center for a while. Now, I never complained about this because I had no reason to. I was grateful to both Streaky and Jill as they were helping me out. Sometimes, you exchange convenience for money. That is what I had done in this case. It was my choice and I was fine with it. I had packed a bagel and some poptarts so I snacked on that until Jill came, weighed in, got her rack height. Then, we went out to the Olive Garden for dinner. I wanted something with red meat, carbohydrates, and salt. The salt would help me to retain more water.
It wasn’t until about 9:00 pm that I realized that my taking the calcium citrate was a very bad thing indeed. I was losing a lot of fluid and I didn’t know when it was going to stop. Literally, every 45 minutes I was running to the bathroom. I talked with Jill and called one of my training partners from home and asked what I should do. I ended up going to Walgreens and getting packets of Pedialyte and Emergen-C. These things had electrolytes and vitamins/minerals that could help force water back into my muscle cells. I ended up not being able to go to bed until around 1:30 am and continuously forced water/electrolytes down.
My saving grace was that the women weren’t scheduled to start lifting until about 4:00 pm on Saturday. I was able to sleep in until 10:00 am Saturday morning and hit up IHOP for a massive breakfast of pancakes, bacon, hash browns, water and coffee.
Honestly, the effects of the magnesium citrate still had not worn off after breakfast. I knew that wasn’t good but I decided not to focus on it. There was nothing I could do to “take it back.” Instead just kept up on the water/Pedialyte and Emergen-C and prayed that I wouldn’t shit myself during any of my lifts.
Jill and I got to the competition venue around 2:00 pm Saturday. We ended up starting the squat around 4:45 pm. An extra flight of men had been added before the women’s flight and slightly pushed our start time back. I was nervous about the squat and most looking forward to the deadlift. Over the past 9 weeks I had put a lot of technique work into all three lifts. But, I did the most technique fixing on my squat. The most I had squatted in the gym was 355 lbs, benched 235 lbs, and deadlifted 435 lbs. But, training at the gym, in your own environment, with your lifting buddies (or on your own), with no official judges, is VERY different from performing all those lifts at a meet. The pressure of a meet is much greater than the pressures at your local gym. Plus, you get to choose your time schedule when you train on your own. You eat a certain time before you train and, you generally know when you will be done. A meet is not like that. You do not know if you will start on time and you have no idea when you will end. By the time I reached my last deadlift, it had been over 8 hours since I had a real meal. That is difficult.
I had planned all of my openers to be very light. My last powerlifting meet was the Olympia and I had bombed out. I didn’t hit depth on any of my three squat attempts and was “red lighted.” I was paranoid about bombing out again and decided that I could not allow that to happen. I picked all of my openers as if they were my last warm-up rep. I opened my squat at 303 lbs, bench at 198 lbs, and deadlift at 380 lbs. These were numbers that I knew I could do in my sleep. Their sole purpose was to keep me from bombing out and give me confidence going into my second attempt. I had decided that my second attempt would be a slight personal record (PR) from my heaviest training lifts and my third attempt would be a “balls to the wall” PR. On the squat I nailed 303 lbs and earned three white lights. I went up to about 352 lbs next; another three white lights. I felt strong, my form was holding tight and decided to go for 386 lbs on my third. I was lucky to have Dimitar Savatinov (recently invited to 2014 World’s Strongest Man) as my handler. He told me to just, “go up faster” out of the whole on my squat. He said that I had the power and to “just do it.” As simple as that may sound, it was just the advice I needed. I took my time setting my squat up. Then, I cleared my head of everything just before I started my descent. I dipped down with 386 lbs and drove up as fast as I could. Three white lights were the result!
About an hour went by before we started on bench. By this point I could tell that I was getting tired. 198 lbs went up fast but my second attempt, 237 lbs, felt heavier than it should have. I put 248 lbs in as my third attempt but, I wasn’t as confident as I needed to be. After I got the “press” command I moved the bar a few inches up and then stalled. I just felt I had no energy. Because I was tired, my form suffered. I didn’t quite have the mental discipline I needed to keep my form perfect. When I lowered the weight, I didn’t hit my “sweet spot” on my chest. I was off by a little, and I didn’t have the power I needed to finish the press. I called “nope!” and the spotters took the weight. I knew I needed to eat. I had brought poptarts, Gatorade, trail mix and banana with me (Jill brought the trail mix and I leached). I grabbed a couple handfuls of trail mix and forced a whole poptart down, along with a few cups of water. I laid down and basically took a 20 minute nap. When I did get up, I felt better. I did about 3 warm up deadlifts and that was it. I felt ready. I opened with 380 lbs and it flew up. 425 lbs on my second felt strong and I knew I had 450 lb in me. The question became, do I attempt heavier than that? I decided not to be greedy and stuck with 451 lbs. It came up pretty quick and after seeing three white lights I finally allowed myself to celebrate.
The women’s flight wasn’t done with our last deadlift until about 9:00 pm. The hardest thing about the entire meet was just trying to keep my energy stores up for the entire 6-7 hours that I was there. Mentally, a meet is exhausting. You must remain focused, sharp, and strong for 3-6 hours, depending on how long the meet takes. You must be very calculated and conserve your energy. I don’t like to talk to anyone besides my handler while I’m competing. You can usually find me laying down with my eyes closed in between lifts. I warm up very minimally and, I make sure I don’t “blow my load” before I have my competition attempts. My warm ups and lifts consisted of this:
Bar x 5
135lb x 3
225 x 2
303 lb (good lift)
352 lbs (good lift)
386 lbs (good lift)
Bar x 5
135 x 3
135 x 2 (practiced unracking with my handler only, making sure we were on the same page)
198 lb (good lift)
237 lbs (good lift)
248 lbs (no lift)
135 lb x 3
225 lb x 2
315 lb x 1
380 lb (good lift)
425 lb (good lift)
451 lb (good lift)
Total: 1,075 lb
Body weight: 158 lb
Overall, I had a very positive experience at RUM. I hit a PR in every lift and felt that I made mostly good decisions and recovered quickly from my poor decisions. It was amazing having a world class pro strongman Dimitar Savatinov in my corner. There were some incredible lifters at RUM and I was glad to be able to hold my own among them. Jill Mills set a new world record as did Dan Green. Jenn Streaky Yates was there with me and very supportive. It was awesome to have my Lift Big Eat Big support. Titan Support Systems had sent me some new gear right before my meet and I was proud to represent them (I designed my singlet and I was in love with it). I wore my Sox Box socks during every lift, and brought my True Nutrition with me to make sure I kept my protein intake high.
I met some great athletes and I was honored when a couple lifters knew who I was and asked to take a picture with me. I was impressed with those women’s lifting and so I was extremely humbled when they said “hi” to me. I do want to give one last shout out. I had a necklace sent to me right before I left for RUM. It’s a 30 inch ball necklace with a little barbell and plate with the word “strength” engraved on it. The owner of 26febrand.com gave it to me as a gift. Looking down and seeing that message or feeling the mini barbell swing against my chest gave me that reminder of who I am and what I needed to be: strong.
Thank you for reading about my experience and I hope you can learn from both my successes and mistakes in this meet. Now it is time for me to change gears and focus on Strongwoman for the next few weeks. I compete in Columbus, Ohio Feb 28thand March 2nd at the Arnold Sports Festival. If you see me there feel free to say “hey.” I will be giving out Lift Big Eat Big wrist bands after each event so be sure to look for me! In the meantime, stay STRONG!