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IPA Pennsylvania State Powerlifting Championships - 2015

Contest Report

By Gary F. Zeolla

9/9 with 27 white lights

Seven IPA Records

Three All-time American Records

One All-time World Record 

Background

I competed in the Pennsylvania State Powerlifting Championships for the International Powerlifting Association (IPA) in York, PA on Saturday, February 28, 2015. I entered the men’s 114 pound weight class, open (all ages) and masters (50-54 years old) age divisions, raw with wraps gear division, Amateur (drug-tested) division. Click any picture for a larger image.

This was my first powerlifting contest in six years (since 2009) and my second “comeback” to powerlifting. My first comeback was in 2003, when I competed in my first full power contest in 21 years (since 1982). In both cases, the reason for the break was health problems. I thank and praise the LORD for enabling me to compete again.

 Hotel/ Weigh-ins

It was a 3-1/2 hour drive from my home near Pittsburgh, PA to York, PA. The IPA has a 24-hour weigh-in rule, so weigh-ins began on Friday at 10am. I made hotel reservations for three nights. I drove out Thursday afternoon, weighed-in Friday morning, then spent the rest of that day rehydrating, eating, and resting, then competed on Saturday, and drove home on Sunday.

I stayed at a very inexpensive Econo Lodge just 2.8 miles from the contest site (the auditorium at York Barbell Company). The hotel room had a fridge and microwave, so I took all of my own food with me to save the expense of eating out and to be sure I’d be eating just what I wanted after weigh-ins. But on the downside, I did not sleep very well Thursday or Friday night; but it wasn’t really the hotel, as I didn’t sleep Wednesday night before leaving either.

This sleeplessness wasn’t due to nervousness about the contest, as frankly I was barely thinking about it. My mind was focused on making weight, so in a way I was glad I needed to cut weight for the distraction. My weight was not coming off as I had hoped, and I still weighed 117.8 pounds Thursday morning. But I ate and drank very little during the day, and I guess the driving and unpacking burnt off any remaining glycogen and dehydrated me, as when I weighed myself Thursday night before bedtime I was down to 114.8. I knew then I’d have no problems making weight. I even ate a small snack before retiring.

In the morning, I was at 114.0, so I ate a small breakfast and drank some liquids, but that was it until weigh-ins. My official weigh-in weight was 113.6 pounds, within a pound of the limit of 114.5, so I was pleased with that. I had lost 6.6 pounds in six days, 4.2 pounds coming in the last 24 hours. So my cut weight plan worked, and that was without being as restrictive as I originally thought I would need to be. That is good to know for future reference.

Out of curiosity, I weighed myself the morning of the contest, and my weight was back up to 117.6, so I had gained back four pounds. That is the value of a 24 hour weigh-in rule. And that was before I ate breakfast and then my normal pre-workout snack shortly before warming up for squats.

The Weather/ Travel

This was the first time I entered a contest in the winter, so I was a little concerned about the weather. It was bitterly cold for most of the weekend, so that made things just a bit more difficult, and then I drove home in first a snow storm, then in rain. 

At one point, I almost loss control of my car; I hit some ice, the back end fishtailed to the right, so I steered into the skid, then it fishtailed to the left, more reverse steering, fishtail to the right, etc.; this happened several times before the car finally straightened out on the shoulder, and I came to a stop. I just thank God there was a wide shoulder and little traffic, so I didn’t hit anything.

I filled up my gas tank before I left home and was planning on doing so again on the reverse trip about halfway home. There was a rest stop on the PA turnpike at just the right place, but it was closed! I was running on fumes by the time I got to the next rest stop. And with the bad weather and other problems, it took me four hours to get home. 

But I must say; my new little red car (a 2012 Chevy Cruze) handled great. This was the first time I took it on a trip since I got it last March. I was going 70-80 mph most of the way out, and I never noticed any shimmying. At one point, not paying attention, I was up to 94, but I didn’t realize it until I looked at the speedometer. It does not have cruse control for some strange reason; the one thing I don’t like about it. But it did handle great in the snow and even very well when I started skidding. 

For those who are interested, I will give further details about the hotel I stayed at and the contest venue (York Barbell, which is also the site of the Powerlifting Hall of Fame) when I post pictures I took of each. But here, on to the contest. 

Contest Arrangement

The contest was originally scheduled for one session, but there were so many entrants they changed it to two: women, teenagers, and men up to 181s in the morning and men 198s and up in the afternoon. I was in the first session, and I am glad they did not change the start of 9:30 am. That gave me time to take a hot shower at my hotel before leaving for the contest. I’ll explain that in a moment.

But here, the rules meeting was at 8:30 am. I was in the first of two flights of 12 lifters each. But for the first time ever, I was last up in my flight. I am almost always first. But this was because all of the women and teenagers were in my flight. This took some adjusting when it came to timing my warm-ups.

Records Background and Goals 

As usual, I was the only person competing at 114s, but I entered both the open and masters divisions just so I could break records in both. Actually, I would be setting the records in the masters 50-54 division as there weren’t any, thus all of my attempts were for IPA masters records. But there were records in the open division. But much more important than these federation records were the All-time Raw Masters (50-59) records I had my eye on. 

For those who don’t know, there are over 20 powerlifting federations, each with slightly different rules and their own set of records. Each federation might call their records “world records,” but they are not what one thinks of when you hear “world record.” Someone with a federation record has lifted more weight than anyone else who has ever entered that federation in a given division since that federation was founded, but there might be others who have entered the same division in different federations who have lifted more.

However, All-time records are for all federations since powerlifting began in the late 1960s. They are thus true American and World records. Many thanks to Johnny Vasquez for compiling these records, as they were my main goals for this contest. He told me via email conversation that he spent over a year doing so, as it took that much time to figure out exactly what lifters from the old days were wearing gear-wise and thus which lifts were raw and which were equipped. 

For those who don’t know, “raw” means lifting without the use of a specialized squat suit or bench press shirt. The term “equipped” means using such gear. Their use enables much more weight to be lifted. That is why there are separate records and ranking lists for raw versus equipped lifers. Equipped is sometimes further divided into single-ply and multi-ply gear and raw into “with wraps” and “without wraps,” but the All-time raw records are for with or without wraps. That is one reason I used wraps, so as to give me the best advantage to break the records. 

It should also be noted that records are divided by ages. “Open” refers to all ages, while “masters” is for over 40 years old. Masters is usually divided by five year increments for federation records but by 10 year increments for the All-time records. Thus the All-time records I was hoping for at this contest were for the 50-59 division, but I was in the IPA’s 50-54 division. There are also separate records for teenagers (by two year increments), and for women with all of these categories.

It is because of there being so many different federations, gear categories, and age divisions that I was able to accumulate 48 different federation records in my 40s. By breaking all of the IPA records I hoped for at this contest, it will bring that total to 55. And a little over a year from now, I will move up to the 55-59 category and have a whole new set of records to go for. 

Finally, with lifting raw with wraps, I used limited gear, but what I used was very important, thus I am indicating what I used with each lift. Many thanks to Ricky Dale Crain, who supplied the Crain gear, and to Alan Thomas, who supplied the APT gear (along with a large APT gym bag to hold all of this stuff). This was back in my 40s, but the stuff is so good, I was still able to use the same gear now. 

Squats

Gear: Crain: singlet, squat shoes, power belt, Genesis wrist wraps, 2.5 meter Genesis knee wraps.

Warm-ups (all weights are in pounds):
Planned: 45/15, 135/10, 185/7, add belt & wraps: 225/5, 255/3
Actual: 65/15, 155/9, 205/6, add belt & wraps: 255/4

Attempts:
Planned: 285, 300, 315
Actual: 280, 300, 310

A monolift was being used for the contest, and there were two monolifts in the warm-up area (the gym at York Barbell). But I was planning on walking the weight out since that is I what I am used to in training. My plan was to space my warm-ups about 5 minutes apart, taking the last one just as the contest was starting and thus would only wait about 10-15 minutes for my opener, so I started about 9:00 am. But I got confused on the weights for my warm-ups. 

The problem was, the Texas power bar I have in my home gym weighs 45 pounds, and I use Lock Jaw collars, which are plastic and thus have a meaningless weight. I had planned my warm-up weights so as to need as few small weights as possible, as they are often hard to find in a warm-up room. But for both the contest and in the warm-up room York squat bars were being used and heavy metal collars. I thought the bars weighed 55 pounds and the collars five pounds each. To account for the difference of bar weights, I figured I’d do one less rep and try not to use the collars. 

That said; I was very concerned about hitting depth, as I’ve been having problems doing so in training. This is due to remaining stiffness from my previously very serious Stiff Person Syndrome. In training, it usually takes me about ten reps with the bar before I am hitting depth, and I continue to struggle to do so thereafter. But that is why I took the hot shower in my hotel room before leaving for the contest as that usually loosens me up, and it worked. I hit depth on just my third rep. I knew then I’d have a good contest, and the next two warm-up sets went well. 

But then on what was supposed to be my next to last warmup set and my first with wraps, as I walked the weight out, the plates began sliding, so I had to re-rack it and put on the collars. When I re-set and did my now planned four reps, it felt very heavy, and I was a bit concerned. But it was then that I found out the bar actually weighed 65 pounds. And with the last-second collars, once I added it all up, I had just done what was supposed to be my last warm-up and for one more rep than originally planned. 

I was now in a bit of a quandary as to what to do. It was only 9:20, and I had just done the weight that was to be my final warm-up. I thought of doing it again for a single at 9:30, but thought it best to leave well enough alone. That meant I had about half an hour between my last warm-up and my opener. But no matter, as my opener felt very light, almost too light in fact. This was probably because my original plan was to open with 285, but with my problems with depth of late, I thought it best to drop it five pounds.

I then went up to my planned 300 for my second attempt. It felt much heavier than I had hoped. In retrospect, this might have been because of lowering my opener. I thus jumped 20 pounds rather than the 15 I had been used to in training. But as a result, I thought it best to lower my planned third attempt by five pounds. That lift was very hard but with some strength to spare. I might have gotten the 315, but no matter as 310 was my original goal for this contest when I first thought of entering it months ago.

My opener was more than enough to break the IPA open record and the All-time American master record (previously 185 and 209, respectively), but it was with my second attempt that I broke the All-time world master record. It was previously 286 and held by a lifter from Israel. I had considered only going to 290 just to be sure I broke that record, as it was the most important one of the day. But it didn’t make sense to jump just ten pounds, and I knew I’d be good for 300. The 310 then added to that record. 

On a side note, my best estimate is my 2.5 meter Crain wraps add 30 pounds to my squat. So if I had been lifting raw without wraps, I would have only squatted 280 and thus wouldn’t have broken the All-time record, hence why I said above that I used wraps to give me the best advantage.

This is either my first or second attempt, as I didn't get my knees wrapped quite right for both of them, but I did so for my third attempt.

Here is a video of my all-time world record squat.

Benches

 

Gear: Nike sneakers; Crain: singlet, power belt, Genesis wrist wraps.

Warm-ups: 45/15, 80/10, 100/7, add belt & wraps: 120/5, 135/3

Attempts:
Planned: 150, 160, 170
Actual: 145, 155, 165

It took about 45 minutes for squats for my flight, so I figured it would take about the same for the second flight, and thus I’d have about that much time before benches. I quickly changed my gear around and then ate another of my normal pre-workout snacks and rested a few minutes. It was at this point that the sleeplessness of the previous three nights caught up to me. I felt terrible as I prepared to warm-up for benches. I was ninth up for benches, so my plan was to time my warm-ups to do my final warmup as the second flight of squats was finishing. 

I had noticed the contest bar for benches was longer in the area where the weights were put on than my Texas power bar, and that was also the case for most of the bars on benches in the warmup area. This time I asked around to find out what they weighed, and it was 55 pounds. But I really wanted to only do 45 for my first warmup, so I found a “regular” bar and used it for just that set. But for the rest of my sets I used a 55 pound bar to get used to any difference in feel there might be due to the longer length. But this time I hunted around as need be for change so as to use my exact planned weights. 

My final warm-up set felt very heavy and had me very concerned. I know from experience that benches take the biggest “hit” from cutting weight, and with the sleeplessness, I began debating if I should drop my opener. I did not want my All-time world record squat to be erased by bombing out on benches. 

I made my way to the contest area at the time I had planned, and I had timed it just about right. The final second flight squatter had just taken his final attempt. But then he called for a fourth attempt. It took about ten minutes for him to prepare and finish that attempt. That gave me more time to think about my opener and to decide to drop it five pounds. As it turned out, that drop was unnecessary as my opener just flew up.

I could have jumped to my originally planned second attempt, but that would be a 15 pound jump, twice what I normally jump in training, so I went up ten pounds. That attempt was hard, but not too difficult. So I went up another ten pounds. It was very hard, but like squats, I might have gotten my originally planned weight. But unlike squats, the 170 was my original goal, so due to the last minute change I missed my goal by five pounds. The worst part is if it wasn’t for that fourth attempt, I might not have changed my plans, and he missed that attempt anyway.

The picture below is of my third attempt.

Deadlifts

 

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

Warm-ups: 45/15 135/10, 195/7, add belt & wraps: 255/5, 315/2 (310/3)

Attempts:
Planned: 345, 365, 380
Actual: 345, 365, 375

There was to be a 20 minute break between benches and deadlifts. So after I changed my gear around and ate my third pre-workout snack, I laid down on one of the benches for 20 minutes before starting my deadlift warmups. As I lay there, the lack of sleep was again really hitting me. But it was now time to warmup. Once again, the deadlift bars were longer than normal and weighed 55 pounds, but I again got a regular bar for my first warm-up set and found small plates as need be to hit my planned warm-ups.

I was last up for deadlifts. But this time I timed things just right. I pulled my last warm-up just as the first lifter in my flight was pulling her first attempt, so I only waited about 10 minutes for my opener.

One thing though; even though 310/3 is what I wanted for my final warm-up, I had done 315/2 in my final light deadlift workout when I just did my planned contest warm-up sets and opener thinking that way I’d avoid all of the change here. But with the 55 pound bar, it didn’t matter, so I did the 310/3 that I actually wanted. But it felt very heavy. But this time, I could not change my opener. 

The IPA open record was only 300, so I’d break that with my opener no matter what. But the All-time American masters record was 360. I wanted to try that on my second attempt, and I did not want to jump more than 20 pounds between attempts, so I had to stick with my planned 345 opener. And good thing as it ended up being very easy. 

After all of my concern about timing my warm-ups, it really made no difference if my final warmup was 30 or 10 minutes before my opener, as all three openers were very easy. But here, the opener was so easy that I thought the 365 would be a breeze; it wasn’t. It was very tough from the ground up. The bar moved very slowly throughout, but I locked it out, and it was good for the record. 

But with that lift being so difficult, I knew I wouldn’t get the 380 I had planned on, so I called for 375 for my third attempt. This time, the five pound drop was correct. I barely got the weights off of the floor, almost stalled about an inch above it, then pulled the bar very, very slowly up past my shins to my thighs, then very slowly pulled it up my thighs. I was only barely able to lock it out and stand upright. But there was a quick “Down” command and three whites. And that was with five pounds more than my original goal for this contest. 

I had celebrated after my previous two successful third attempts, but his time I really did so. 9/9 in my first contest in six years! I was so excited, but then I collapsed into a chair and could barely breathe. It took a few moments to catch my breath. That was one of the hardest pulls of my lifting career, but it felt so good and will be the lift I most remember from this contest. Below is a pic of the lift. You can see how much I am straining.

 

 

It was nice to get all three attempts on squats and benches, but not quite as exhilarating knowing I might have left a little on the platform. If I had stuck with original plan, those attempts might have been the same as this one. But then, I might have missed one and not have gone 9/9 and thus have totaled less. Below is a pic of me showing off after my final successful attempt and going 9/9.

 

Total

I successfully completed all nine of my attempts, with all of them being passed by all three judges, which is indicated by a white light (a failed lifts is indicated by a red light). That is what is meant by the “9/9 with 27 white lights” in the opening of this article for those who don’t know.

I totaled 850. That bettered the IPA open record by 245 pounds and the All-time American masters record by 73 pounds. It was also my original goal for this contest. I had met my goal on squats, was off five pounds on benches, but I made that up on deadlifts. Those goals were set months ago, so that was rather good figuring on my part as to what I might be capable of despite the six year break.

 After Lifting

After I caught my breath after my final deadlift, I went back into the warm-up area and did what I normally do after workouts but never bothered to do after a contest: I stretched for several minutes, and then drank a glass of water with glutamine mixed in. I find both of those help to reduce DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscular Soreness). And it seemed to have worked. Usually, the morning after a contest I would feel like I got hit by a truck, but this time I was only mildly sore. Of course, that could also be because I only had one full max lift. If I hadn’t reduced my final squat and bench by five pounds, maybe I would have been sorer.

 The Contest Itself

The contest started right on time at 9:30 am. It ran very smoothly with no mishaps. But it was still 3:30 pm by the time the second flight finished their deadlifts. It then took 30 minutes for the scorers to figure out all of the results and then another 30 minutes to hand out all of the awards. I left as soon as that was finished as I was getting very fatigued, and went back to my hotel room and crashed. The second session started just as I was leaving. I am guessing that meant they did not get out of there until midnight. I am very glad I am a lightweight, as I would really not like lifting that late in the day. 

But I would like to take a moment to thank Ellen and Mark Chaillet and the rest of the contest personal. It was a very long day for them. Having judged and announced at contests before, I know how draining that can be, and I am sure it is even more so for the spotters/ loaders. So many thanks to all of you; your efforts are much appreciated. 

I would also like to thank the announcer for mentioning when I was attempting an All-time record. But by way of correction, he said that my final two deadlift attempts were for the All-time world record; they were actually for the All-time American record. That is important as the All-time deadlift world record will be one of my goals for next time. 

My Health/ Next Contest/ Goals

By the time I got home and unpacked, I was exhausted, but not as bad as I thought I’d be given my fibromyalgia. I also did not have as difficult of a time as I thought I would from my allergies/ multiple chemical sensitivities in the hotel room or at the contest, but still, that is probably why I had such problems sleeping and was so tired at the contest.

I am now in the process of washing everything I had with me at the hotel or contest to remove any smells that might bother me at home. It will take me a couple of days and multiple loads to get it all done. And anything that could not be washed, I rinsed or wiped off while I was unpacking. It will not be until I get all of this done that I will finally be able to rest before resuming training. The point is; entering a contest is very difficult for me due to my various health problems. In addition, when I added everything up (the cost for the contest registration, the hotel, travel, and miscellaneous expenses), it came to $448. That is a lot of money for me.

That said, IPA Worlds are in June, and then there are a couple of RPS and other IPA contests I was looking at later in the late summer and early fall. But I don’t think I would get my lifts up sufficiently to make it worth the difficulty and expense of competing again that soon. Thus very tentatively, I am thinking of waiting to compete again until IPA Nationals, November 21, 2015 (the weekend before Thanksgiving), also at York Barbell. I met all of the goals I had for this contest. By waiting until November, God-willing, that will give me time to get my lifts up to meet my new goals.

 The first goal would be to increase all of the records I just broke. Second would be to break the All-time masters world records for deadlifts and total. Third, on the All-time raw open ranking lists for 114s, I am currently #15 on squats and #12 on total from lifts done back in my 40s. My goal will be to move up into the Top 10 for both. If I could do that in my 50s, I think that would be something. Let me take this opportunity to thank Michael Soong for his efforts in compiling those ranking lists.

As things stand right now, I will need something like: 355 – 190 – 405 – 950 to meet all of these goals. Of course, the current records and rankings could change, but those numbers will still be my goals. The squat goal is especially ambitious, but I really think it is the lift that has the most room for improvement. [For an update on these goals, see Routine Review/ Revised Goals.]

Conclusion 

I have thanked so many people in this report as I know it is only by the efforts of such people that powerlifting and thus my success in it are possible. I would also like to thank my parents, who have always supported me in my powerlifting going all the way back to when I was a teenager. But most of all, I would like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for not only enabling me to compete again but to do so very successfully. All the glory goes to Him. 

The pictures below are of the awards I got for first place in open and masters 114s. These are rather meaningless since I was the only person in my weight class, but they are rather neat looking. The mini-dumbbell in the middle was given out to all lifters at weigh-ins. I am now using it as a paper-weight to hold down my workout sheet. (I keep track of my workouts on a chart in MS Word on my PC, but then write down on a sheet of paper the exercises, weights, and planned reps for each day's workout).

 

The full contest results are posted on the IPA’s Web site.

IPA PA States – 2015: Hotel and Contest Venue Pictures.

For my first workouts after this contest, see Full Workout Logs: Starting 3/6/2015 – Two by Two Plan (Variation A); Routine A, Weeks 1-6 of 12.

The above contest report was posted on this site March 3, 2015.
It was last updated March 28, 2015.

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