Don’t Call It a Comeback

TAGS: Boss of Bosses V, Ulcerative Colitis, Dan Green, yessica martinez, Eric Serrano, Casey Williams, stress, weight loss, bench, deadlift, squat

ATHLETE

On August 25, I made it to the mecca in Mountain View, California, for Boss of Bosses V. I had spoken to Dan a number of times about doing this meet, but health issues prevented that from happening the past two years. So I was beyond grateful that he still welcomed me to this fantastic event. I’ll get to the whole “how’d it go” portion eventually, but for the next few minutes, strap in and pay attention if you like a good drama.

The Fall

This was my first big meet after coming back from a bad bout with ulcerative colitis (UC). I was preparing for the Arnold in March 2017 when some “minor” health issues I was experiencing became something major. I lost 10 pounds the week of the meet—mind you, I wasn’t cutting weight. The frustrating part was that I was still stronger than I’ve ever been.

So, I showed up at the meet and met Dave. His advice was to shut it down for the day as he could tell by looking at me that my body was not ready for the platform. In the following five weeks, I lost 50 pounds (60 in six weeks). I was diagnosed with UC and, according to my doctor, I was dangerously close to losing my colon. This challenged my identity as a powerlifter.


RECENT: Ego Is the Enemy


After mixing and matching medications, I stabilized, or at least my bodyweight did. In September 2017, I did a single ply meet just to get back on the horse. I totaled 2,100 (200 pounds less than my best), but I really have no idea how I even did that. Sheer grit and determination, I suppose. I don’t pride myself on that as there’s a fine line between tough and stupid. But I did what I did. 

Still Reeling

After that meet, I had another bad bout of a UC flare-up. I probably dropped another 15–20 pounds during that time. I started to realize that my symptoms were mostly based on my stress levels. Well, great bummer luck because as fun as powerlifting is, it’s interpreted purely as stress to the body. So, armed with that little nugget of information, I came up with a plan.

I visited the brilliant Eric Serrano and got a ton of advice along with some food allergy tests. I cut out anything that was even potentially inflammatory. What was I left with was beef/chicken/fish, potatoes, carrots, and cantaloupe. I ate these items at every meal for months and it helped. My body started to feel good, inflammation in my joints dropped dramatically, and my strength was coming back without pushing too hard.

I had hopes and wishes to do the U.S. Open and then Boss of Bosses. A couple months out from the U.S. Open, I realized I wasn’t ready. That was tough to admit, but I refocused. Boss of Bosses was the ticket, so I purchased flights and Yessie and I were going, no matter what…right?

Stress

Despite my focus on Boss of Bosses, the universe showed me who’s the real boss. Yessie and I were going through a lot of reflection, therapy, and rebuilding in our relationship. That was a big focus over the past year. She stuck by me while I was sick and through times of complete selfishness on my part. So, it was important for me to be there for her to rebuild the things that I had broken and I’ll circle back to this later.

In January or February 2018, my first dog, Lily, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and was given two months to live. She made it five months in good health and spirits up until the last two days. So, eight weeks out from the meet, I had to make the decision to put her down. It wasn’t easy, but it was a relief as I couldn’t watch her suffer anymore.

My second dog, Odi, didn’t take this very well. We gave him a few weeks, and he was so sad that it was impossible to ignore. He didn’t know what to do with himself. So, we started looking at adoption. We had four choices and they all got picked up immediately.

Fed up and worried about Odi, I called my breeder on a whim. He said, “Oh that’s funny I’m picking up puppies from a friend that I sired today.” I believe nothing is worth doing if not in excess—sometimes. So, I took two puppies and surprised Yessie when we picked them up on the way back from the Learn to Train at elitefts.

I also bought a minivan. In a short time, I’ll have about 450–500 pounds worth of dogs and I need transportation for them, so it was a minivan or a trailer. Minivans are the most comfortable thing on the road, so that’s what I’ll be rocking.

All the while, my meet preparation continued. In training, I squatted 815 and benched 545, both training PRs. Typically, I get a nice super compensation going into the meet and can add 3%–5% to those numbers. My deadlift technique was a big struggle during this time. I hit 750–775 a few times, but missed 800, which I had crushed going into the Arnold (815 actually).

So, I was feeling pretty good despite all of the outside factors swirling in my life.

The Real Stress

Eight days out from the meet, I woke up with a terrible stomachache. I saw blood in my stool and I was going to the bathroom every 30–45 minutes. It was a Friday so no doctors were around to help. I would have to get a stool sample tested (48 hours) before I could go on steroids to combat the symptoms if it was a flare-up. I was in trouble and lost about 8 pounds in the next 36 hours as my body held onto nothing and I couldn’t eat. My ailment ended up being a stomach bug that just hit me hard because of my condition.

I worked the next few days to get back to a normal bodyweight, but it was a struggle. I trained at 238–240 pounds most of the cycle, but was sitting at 235.

Two days out from the meet on the day of our flight, I woke up with cold sweats and puked in the toilet. Another bug. I couldn’t eat or drink. At that time, I wasn’t even sure if I could get on a plane, let alone if I should. What if I got really sick in California? What if I need to go to the hospital? The downward spiral started.

Making matters worse, I screwed up and booked a flight on Thursday instead of Wednesday, thinking the meet was on Sunday. I’m not one to make those mistakes, but I paid for it in this case.

At the airport, I kept some water down and actually ate a meal. We arrived at our gate and got hit with a two-hour delay. The smoke from the wildfires that were running through California reduced visibility to the point where the airlines had to reroute flights.

So instead of landing at 7:00 p.m. West Coast time, it was 9:00 p.m. After we landed and got our bags, the tram to the rental cars was down, so we got on the bus with all of the airport staff plus passengers. It was crowded.

We got our car, found a place to eat, and headed to Harry Selkow’s residence. I love Harry as he’s an amazing human being and has been a great mentor to me, except when he put me on an air mattress that night.

Recovery Attempt

Yessie and I woke up and headed to weigh-ins. I was a solid 231.8— again, not on purpose. I would have preferred to weigh my normal 238–240. We ate all day. She took care of me by scheduling an IV and a float session. So I went to bed rested but still light. I imagined that I had gotten back to about 233 pounds.

The Big Day

In the morning, we got there early and found Chad Aichs and Steve Goggins. Both have been a huge help to me in training over the years and during meet days. It was nice having their support along with Yessie.

I warmed up for squats and they felt okay. I was definitely feeling some nerves. Those feelings were familiar, but I didn’t have quite the control over them that I normally had. The moment felt bigger than me.

My psoas were extremely tight likely from travel. Learning RPR from JL has been extremely valuable, but I couldn’t get my psoas to release. So, everything in my squat felt unstable and that was evident on my opener.

I took 750 pounds really slowly, but I moved the lift okay and I was in the meet. I went to 800 (after 815 in training), but in all honesty, I didn’t have the confidence I needed for it based on how the first one felt. Why jump to 800? Because I wasn’t going to take three squats. I knew I was already gassed. It was 800 or bust. The unrack felt fine. I hit the hole and my hips were nowhere to be found. I didn’t even get a stretch reflex. The spotters did a great job and brought me to my feet.

I knew then and there that my vision for the day was shattered. Based on my training numbers, I should have hit about 2,100 minimum that day, assuming good health. Yessie was cool, calm, and collected, minus some tension she and I were dealing with, so I just sat down, shut up, and ate.

Bench warm-ups felt strong, but again I was gassed after my first attempt. I was lucky to hit 540 on my second after a 500 opener. It was the biggest bench in the 242s, so at least I wasn’t a complete bitch that day.

Deadlifts are the bane of this training cycle. My hips were shot after squats, so I pulled conventional. Yes, it’s cool that I can pull both. No, I’m not good enough at either one right now. They both need technique work because they are holding me back.

I opened with 700 and it moved about as well as I predicted. I really didn’t want to take another deadlift. What for? Well, I was at a 1,990 pounds total. So, suck it up, Buttercup, I took 744 and finished it. It was heavy.

There was a feeling of relief when I put the bar back down. I was physically and emotionally exhausted, yet I made a comeback by defying my body. I showed that I can still hang with the big dogs even when the odds are not in my favor. But there were still some doubts: Do I have what it takes? Will I get to where I want to be in this sport? Questions that have answers only in due time.

To circle back, Yessie and I are not together anymore. I won’t get into the details as this is neither the time nor the place. But I will say it was because I was dishonest and I’ll always regret that. No one deserves half-truths, especially those that are closest to you.

I’ve always struggled to be completely open and honest in relationships. I have plenty of insecurities and walls up that make half-truths easier. So, my challenge moving forward is to address those head on.

I don’t know how Yessie and I will work things out. We’re both passionate and stubborn with good days and bad days since this trip. I want to publicly thank her for her support while I was sick and during the times of distrust where I really didn’t deserve having her in my corner. She’s a cool human being and I want to see her succeed in everything that she does.

What’s Next?

My primary goal over the next three to six months is to get my bodyweight up to 250 pounds. This will give me a cushion going into a meet where my stress naturally rises and my bodyweight tends to drop dramatically.

I also need to overhaul my deadlift technique and continue to hammer the things that I’ve improved in my squat.

I had a conversation with Dave during the LTT UGSS. I always go to him with the big picture questions because he gets it. He’s been there. He’s seen it time and time again through countless lifters. I don’t know anyone better than him, so why pretend like I do?

I explained to Dave what I thought I needed to do after this meet. I typically reflect on the past training cycle during the last two to three weeks before a meet because everything is so fresh. You know what you did well, and if you’re honest with yourself, you know what you could have done better.

Something along the lines of me saying, “I need to gain weight and get my explosiveness back.”

D: “What’s your endgame?”

C: “I think I can total 2,300 pounds and leave the sport on my own terms.” What I meant by that was I know what I CAN do, but will that be enough for me, or my ego? We’ve all seen those guys who are holding onto the dream, which is fine, but it’s not for me.

D: “So how long do you think you have left in the sport?”

C: “Conservatively, five years. Maybe more.” I’m 30 and have been lifting since I was 14 or 15 years old.

D: “So, what do you need to do NOW, to get there in five years?”

Lightbulb. End of scene. Say no more. #ciffhanger

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