Location: The Clark Sports Center, 124 County Route 52, Cooperstown, New York 13326.
Date: Saturday, April 7th, 2011
Start Time: 11:00am
Cost: $25 with a T-Shirt if Pre-Registered. $35 if registering on the day of the event.
Men & Women: 14-34 years old, 35-49 years old, 50 and over.
Men: Under 133 lbs., 133-148 lbs., 149-165 lbs., 166-181 lbs., 182-198 lbs., 199-220 lbs., 221-242 lbs., 243-275 lbs., Over 275 lbs.
Women: Under 130 lbs., 131-160 lbs., Over 161 lbs.
Rules: This was a touch and go event. No pause was required, but the bar still had to touch your chest in order for the repetition to count. Both shirted and non-shirted (benching shirts) had their own separate divisions.
Weigh-ins opened Friday, April 6th, 2011 all day and closed at 10:00am the day of the event.
After copious amounts of “Cycles” on Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program, I decided to challenge myself and participate in the Monster Bench Press competition at the Clark’s Sports Center in Cooperstown, New York. Aside from youth baseball in elementary school and bowling in high school; I did not have much experience with competitive sports. To say I was nervous would be an understatement! I competed in the RAW (no bench press shirt) 20-34 year old / 166-181lbs weight class. I weighted 175lbs for this event.
Although I was slightly nervous leading up to the event, the nerves did not fully hit me until I went to warm-up before I bench pressed. Even though the area was blocked off by walls and I was the only one there at the time, I still felt as if the entire crowd was watching me. Normally when I bench press I am alone or with a friend or two in a private home gym so this was a wildly different experience for sure. I worked up to a single repetition of 180lbs and then went to tell the judges how much weight I would be pressing for my first attempt.
Having never done this before I was a little unsure about the amount of weight I should start with. I ended up asking one of the judges for advice and he told me to attempt a weight that was easy. Selecting a weight that is easy would help to quell my nerves and give me a score in the books to build upon. In these types of events if you miss your first attempt, you cannot lower the weight on your second attempt (so it is best to start low). When my turn came around, I went up on the platform and bench pressed 190lbs, successfully. That was not so scary after all!. In fact the worst part up to this point was waiting on deck to make my first attempt. I did not even notice the crowd of over one-hundred people at all…
I decided to go for 205lbs for my second attempt. This was a five repetition max for me at the time; it was something I definitely knew I could complete. I was however a little unsure about un-racking the bar on this bench. During my first attempt it felt like I had to really stretch my arms (more than usual) to reach the bar, so I wanted a lift-off (they were legal at this event). I asked my friend who came with me to the meet to help me out, but he refused (pretty lame).
This is where all the trouble began for me. Since my friend was no help, I asked one of the judges if anyone was available to help when I went up to the platform for my second attempt. He motioned for someone to come over, but the time it took for me to talk to him and for someone to come help felt like an eternity because I made a big mistake while I waited…I looked at the crowd!. I had barely noticed them during my first attempt because I was so focused, but now I was very well aware of their presence and the nerves came flooding back. I started breathing heavily and possibly hyperventilating.
Finally the guy who was going to give me a lift-off showed up and I set myself up in position on the bench. Before we started he told me to not begin lowering the bar until his hands were away from the bar. I told him I was ready, put my hands in place and together we un-racked the bar. *This is where some things start to become a little fuzzy.*I felt like I was waiting a little too long for him to take his hands away from the bar and during that time I made the mistake of holding my breath.
Once the hands moved away from the bar I lowered it under control down to my chest and immediately started pressing it back up again. Unfortunately as the bar was half way pressed, I blacked out and 205lbs came crashing down on my chest. The impact of the bar woke me up again right away and all I remember hearing was the crowd yell “oooooh!.” The spotters (who were not ready for this) picked up the bar and I walked back to my seat in the stands. It all happened so fast, but then again accidents normally do. Luckily I walked away unharmed.
While I was waiting for the next round, one of the judges found me to make sure I was okay and asked if I would be continuing in the event. Although my confidence was at a very low point after my disaster of a second attempt, I decided to continue and finish the competition anyway. I definitely wanted to keep competing, but I was now worried that I could potentially black out again and I did not want that happening with an even heavier weight. Instead of going any heavier, I decided to attempt 205lbs again and redeem myself. When it was my turn again, I went up to the platform and easily completed my repetition of 205lbs. This time the crowd cheered! And I was famous for a little while.
Even with the minor hiccup of dropping the bar on myself, I was very happy with myself for making the leap from training at home to participating in events like this one. It was fun seeing some of the guys like Richard Putnam bench press over 800lbs! The 225lb max repetition event at the end was also cool to watch. In the end I placed 4th in my weight class. Technically it was last place because there were only four people in the 20-34 year old / 166-181lbs weight class, but I still received a medal!
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