On Feb 8 and 9 I had the opportunity to compete at Raw Unity Meet 7 (RUM7). RUM was originally created to be “tournament of champions” where only the best of the sport could compete. In order to attend you were required to hit a elite total to meet the qualifying standard. This year was by far the biggest and best meet yet and played host to a literal who’s who of the greatest powerlifters in the world. I personally saw 8 world records broken during the competition, records were falling at such a rapid pace that there are likely several I missed.

We arrived Friday morning to weigh in and I tipped the scales at a comfortable 216.5, well under the 220 limit for my weight class. Off to Perkins for a hearty breakfast then I went back to the hotel and chilled out for the afternoon.

Saturday morning I woke up early to get to the venue for 8am, they were running behind schedule so I had a little time to relax before I had to start warming up the squats.

In my weight class there was Dan Green, all time world record holder, Jeremy Hamilton, #3 all time, Jay Nera, #4 all time. And myself.

The first thing I notice when I walk in is that Dan Green is a monster, there’s no way a guy that humongous can possibly be 220. I’m told he’s walking around at over 250 and nearly passed out cutting weight the day before. I can believe it, he looks at least 2 weight classes heavier than anybody else.

I call for a first attempt at 250kg (551) and smoke it. Easy lift. The squat is feeling good so I make the jump up to 262.5kg (579). This will be a 5 pound personal best in competition. Another good lift! At this point I’ve got a tough choice to make, 262.5kg moved well and I’m tempted to go for 272.5 (601) but I decide to play it safe and ask for 270kg (595). This is a tough lift but I stand it up and get white lights, a good attempt and a PR!

As this is going on there is a class of the titans happening. Jesse Norris, the 198 world record holder has attempted a new World Record squat of 705 on his second and missed it, he asks for it again on his third and crushes it. One world record down. In the 220s Jay Nera finishes with a 722, Jeremy Hamilton tops him with a tough 733 but no one can hold a candle to Dan Green. He hits 705, 740 and 771 in quick succession and puts himself in the driver’s seat. He then calls for a 4th attempt. The world record at 220 is 783 pounds and Dan asks for 784, just enough to break it. Since this happens immediately after the last squat (Dan’s 771) he has 3 minutes to rest and then he has to follow himself. I watch him walk it out and squat it as easily as 135, a huge lift and another world record is broken.

We have a short break and then it’s on to the bench press. I warm up to an easy 335 in the back room and I’m ready to go. My first attempt is an easy 160kg (353), I then go to 167.5kg (369) and make that as well. It’s not feeling phenomenal but the bar is moving well, my PR is 380 so I call for 385. It’s a good fight but I just don’t have enough juice, the bar gets half way up but I can’t lock it out. Red lights. No lift.

The best in the world are moving some big weights. Dan goes 501 but Jeremy tops him with 507 to take a very narrow lead in the bench.

Another short break and it’s time to deadlift. I warm up sparingly and my first attempt is 295kg (650). I pull the weight easily and slam it back down but I’m greeted by an unusual sight. I’ve been given 3 red lights (no lift). I ask why and I’m told I put the bar down too hard, which is an interesting call since this isn’t a rule…

Oh well. I take 310kg (683) for a second attempt and lower it about as slowly as humanly possible and place it gently back on the platform. The judges can’t argue with that and it’s a good lift. For my final attempt I ask for 320kg (705), a PR and my first lift ever above 700 pounds. I set up, grab the bar and pull and... it moves easily! I place it down gently to make sure I don’t lose credit. I’m feeling very good, I know there’s more in the tank for next time. My total (combined best squat, bench and deadlift) is 1670, a solid PR and I’m very pleased.

The clash of the titans is coming to an end. Jeremy rips a nickle sized chunk of skin off his hand on his first deadlift attempt and has to withdraw. He’s out and won’t be credited with a total. Jay makes 727. In the 198s Jesse Norris hits a strong 780 but misses 804 about half way up. However, it’s all about Dan Green. On his last deadlift Dan takes 826. If he can make it he will break the world record total at 220 both without knee wraps and with knee wraps optional. Two world records hang in the balance of one deadlift and he crushes it, cementing himself as one of the greatest powerlifters of all time in the process.

Due to Jeremy’s hand tear I take 3rd place in the weight class. While I’m not at the level of these juggernauts yet it’s a honour (not to mention a humbling experience) to share the podium with two of the best lifters the world has ever seen.

I spend the afternoon basking in the glow of my success and watching Leah lift. Afterwards we hit up some dinner and head back to the hotel. I’m so excited I manage maybe 4 hours of sleep before it’s up at 7am again to return to the venue.

This year RUM is holding two meets, one on Saturday for traditional raw powerlifting and one on Sunday for “modern”, where lifters are allowed the use of knee wraps in the squat. I don’t own knee wraps but I can’t turn down the opportunity to compete twice so I signed up for both.

I wake up feeling like I’ve been beaten with a sack of hammers. Literally everything is sore. What’s worse is they’ve learned from yesterday and everything is moving fast so there’s no time to chill out. I warm up the squats, even the bar feels heavy, but there’s no time to worry about that as I get ready to take my first attempt.

The buzz on this day is all about Andrey Malanichev. A Russian super heavyweight who recently broke the all time highest total in powerlifting (a record that was set in 1975!). He has some tough competition, Derrick Kendall is a giant of a man from Iowa who’s squatted 975 in training and hit an 800 front squat, unofficially the heaviest front squat ever performed! I’m most excited to see Steve Goggins. Goggins dominated in the 80s and 90s and was a former world record holder in the squat and one of the guys I looked up to getting into the sport. At 52 he’s past his prime but he has come out of retirement for this meet and I’m interested to see what one of the sport’s living legends can do.

Since I imagine I can’t beat my total from Day 1 I decide to squat without a belt just to see where I’m at. My best “no belt” squat is 570 in training but with the way the warm ups feel I’m not expecting to match that today.

I open at 240kg (529) and make it, not easy but not a max either. I jump to to 250kg (551) and have to fight for it. That feels like about all there is but I have one more attempt so I ask to go to 255kg (562). This will be tough but should be there. I tell the head table what I want and head to the back to wait my turn.

My name is called, the bar is loaded but as I walk up to it I realize there’s been a mistake. They’ve loaded 265kg (584), 22 pounds more than I asked for. I run to the head table and the conversation goes like this:

Me, “that’s too heavy, I asked for 255”

Them, “well we wrote down 265”

Me, “I’m pretty sure I know what I asked for…someone must have misheard me, can we drop the weight down?”

Them, “no it’s too late”

Me, “screw it, let’s go”

I take a second to remind myself I didn’t come here to miss lifts, I get serious, unrack the weight and actually it doesn’t feel too bad. I set up, go down and it’s a grinder but I make the lift! A big beltless PR and much better than I was planning.

Goggins hits a strong 722 in knee wraps and then calls for 805. I’m not sure there’s ever been a man in his 50s squatting over 800 but unfortunately for Steve he gets too far forward and misses about ¾ of the way up, he tries again but overcompensates and falls backwards this time.

In the superheavies Kendall and Malanichev are putting on a show. Kendall squats 948 with alarming violence and Malanichev tops him with a speedy 970. The go for 3rd attempts and both men ask for over 1000. Kendall is up first at 1003, this will be a world record and make him the first man to ever squat 1000+, he goes down strong but just doesn’t have it and misses. Malanichev is up next, he calls for 1014. He steps back with the titanic weight and I’m expecting to witness a battle, but instead he blows it up like an empty bar! This guy is on another level, I’ve just watched the greatest squatter in human history put on a clinic.

Benches are up next. I realize that with my unexpected squat if I play my cards right I can hit a PR total. The name of the game with the bench becomes improving from yesterday. I open at 160kg (353) and get it, I then take the conservative jump to 165kg (364) and hit that too. Benching doesn’t feel as strong as yesterday but that’s ok. I ask for 170kg (374), enough to beat what I did previously. It’s a fight but I have just enough juice in the tank and I nail it.

At this point the accumulated fatigue from 2 straight days of competition is catching up to me. My lower back is fried and cramping and I’m exhausted. I sit down in a chair and I must have dozed off for a bit.

Next thing I know Leah is talking to me, I guess the deadlifts are starting soon so I need to warm up. I don’t have much left so I grab my belt and warm up sparingly. I hit one rep each at 155, 265, 395, 485 and 530. Done, I sit back down until my name is called.

I open with 285kg (629), my lower back is tight but the strength is there and the weight moves easily. I feel like I have one big pull in me and I need 325kg (716) for a PR total so that’s what I ask for. I set up and pull for all I’m worth and the bar moves quickly. Actually it doesn’t feel that bad, a new PR in the deadlift and the total and I’m done for the day. I finish with 1675, 5 pounds over what I did the day before and even better since I didn’t use a belt for the squats.

The only thing left to do is watch history in the making. The Russian giant asks for 881 on his last deadlift, enough weight to break his world record total. The crowd is on their feet screaming at him while he cooly pulls the massive weight off the ground.

At that point we’ve been through almost 18 hours of competition in two days and we head out. We have enough time to grab a quick lunch before we get to the airport and head home.

Overall this was a fantastic experience, competing is this kind of world level atmosphere is hard to describe and as a fan of the sport it’s something of a dream come true. Add to that two solid performances and this was definitely the best experience of my competitive career!

Dan Green's Total from RUM7: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJSDAHWUilk

Andrey Malanichev's Total from RUM7: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqNykCo1gCw