A First Time for Everything

As a child, I loved the game of baseball. I played Little League, but not for very long and not particularly well. It was the last organized, competitive athletic activity I would engage in for a very long time.

I started lifting weights in 1986 as a chubby 23-year old. I quickly lost the blubber and muscled up a bit (ah, the joys of youth) and have never stopped lifting in one form or another. While I tried all types of “routines” from the muscle mags, I never developed the massive, muscular physique I saw in the glossy pages of Muscle & Fitness and FLEX. As it turns out, I wasn’t supplementing correctly, but as it also turns out, that’s a good thing. I recently read an article about steroids and bodybuilding and the list of names was a who’s who of the magazines of my day. I recognized almost all of the names in the article, and the bio for each man ended the same way: dead at an early age of either heart failure or kidney failure. But I digress….

In Feb of 1987, I signed up for a 4-year stint in the US Army and while I occasionally had the opportunity to lift some weights, it was random, chaotic and inconsistent as the government had their own ideas as to how I should spend my time. After leaving the services of Uncle Sam in early 1992, I thought I’d transition back into civilian life by challenging myself with something physical. I thought I’d run a marathon, but discovered triathlon in a local periodical advertising the coming Coca Cola Sprint Triathlon. Triathlon is quite popular now, but it lived in relative obscurity in the spring of ’92. As is my way, I sought out the optimal way to train for such a seemingly impossible event–after all, you have to be at least competent at 3 distinct sports–and found Dave Scott’s Triathlon Training manual. I worked very hard, spent some money on a racing bike, lost a lot of weight, and got fairly decent at two of the three events, .Swimming was my nemesis, but I remained determined to at least get out of the water in decent time without being exhausted, and then make up time on the bike before giving it all I had on the run. I have a tendency to not want to do something unless I’m going to do it well. I can’t just half ass my way through something, so I put off competing until I could get my swim to a respectable level, which for me was to be able to swim the full 1/4 mile, open water distance without having to take a break. Unfortunately, in August of 1992, nature dropped Hurricane Andrew on the residents of southern Dade county, of which I was one, and the streets became impassable for my bike, the pool at MIami Dade College where I trained was shut down, and I lost my job. Before you knew it, my triathlon dream died.

I continued lifting weights on and off for another 20 years until one day, while doing alternating dumbbell curls with 25-lb dumbbells, it dawned on me that I had been doing alternating dumbbell curls with 25-lb dumbbells for half of my life. I stood there, looking in the gym’s wall of mirrors, and saw a relatively lean, slightly muscled man who was stuck going through the motions of moving weights around with no real direction or purpose. At that moment, I knew something had to change.

I had a lot to learn as everything I read on powerlifting seemed foreign to me. I assumed, since I’d been lifting weights, I would naturally be able to easily transition into lifting weights for the purposes of powerlifting. I was sadly mistaken and, as Yoda once told Luke, I had to relearn what I had learned. My son James had been a competitive powerlifter after high school, so I called upon his expertise and his willingness to aid his father and set out on a course to compete. So it came to pass that in October of 2008, at the young age of 45 or so, I once again competed in an organized, athletic event. Without James, I’m confident it would not have happened:

Thus began my competitive lifting career. It would take some time before I ventured out onto the platform again, but I did, this time assembling a new team of assistants with all new Metal powerlifting gear and some guidance from Elite FTS powerlifter, Jo Jordan. If you didn’t know, powerlifting gear is very challenging to put on:

In April of 2010, I took Team Joe on the road and improved upon my performance from 2008.

Which brings us to the current date. It’s been a long time since I competed and I am itching to do it again, however I don’t want to compete equipped again. In other words, I will compete without assistive gear, which in powerlifting circles is called RAW powerlifting. But my numbers are not where I want them to be for a competition. While I could certainly go compete and put up the best numbers I’m capable of, some things never change. I still don’t want to do something unless I can do it well. Like my attempts at triathlon 23 years ago, I just can’t get on the platform without being able to put up a respectable total. So while I don’t know exactly when I will do it, I know that I will, and it will be yet another “first,” for RAW & Equipped Powerlifting are related but different beasts.

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