I just returned home from Ireland this past Monday. It was a hell of a trip, in the best ways, and in challenging ways as well. Here's the rundown: Before I left Austin, TX on Monday, October 21, I had come down with a terrible head cold–a sore throat, sinus congestion, a cough, and occasional fever. Perfect timing, right? It didn't help that I only got 3 hours of sleep on the plane, either. I arrived in Dublin on Tuesday morning, October 22. I rented a car and got out on the road, driving on the left (!) right away. I spent most of that day wandering around Dublin city center, where I walked down the boulevard of revolutionary heroes (O'Connell St.) near the General Post Office (site of the 1916 Easter Uprising).
I walked down to Trinity College, where I saw The Book of Kells and the wondrous Trinity College Library. I then caught a solid meal at Cornucopia, a vegan restaurant that friends recommended.
On Wednesday, I drove through Belfast, all the way up to the north coast of Northern Ireland to the Giant's Causeway (a UN World Heritage site).
Nearby was also the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, which boasted a beautiful hike along coastal cliffs, leading to the rope bridge which hung about 100 feet over the water, and connected the mainland to a small historic island where fisherman used to launch their boats.
I drove back over the border to Ireland, to the town of Letterkenny, that night, where I happened to stay with a really kind vegan couple, Bonnie and Kristy, who were artists and lived in a big house in the woods just outside of town. We stayed up talking about veganism and protein. On Thursday, I had a long haul down the west coast to ultimately wind up in Limerick for the night, as I was scheduled to weigh-in for my competition early Friday morning. Bonnie and Kristy told me about poet William Butler Yeats' grave at Drumcliffe Church (near the town of Sligo) which was to be right on my way down the highway. I was ecstatic about this, and also took a detour to the nearby Glencar Falls (a waterfall which Yeats referenced in his poem, "Stolen Child").
On the way down to Limerick I also stopped in Galway to get my final deload workout in to try to stay fresh and ready for my competition on Saturday. I was feeling horribly beat up from eating very low carb, traveling so much, and sleeping poorly (mainly due to the time zone differences). Even my deload lifts felt heavy at the time, and it was not good for my confidence going into Saturday's competition, but I figured it was all conditional on my highly restricted diet that week, being sick, and sleeping poorly. I spent two sessions in the sauna at a local gym in Limerick before going to weigh-in for competition. I did sweat a lot in the sauna, but things did not go as well as I needed regarding water weight loss. I think the stress of travel, poor sleep, and illness had screwed up my metabolism and hormones so drastically that my usual methods for shedding water weight were proving ineffective.
I weighed in Friday morning at 75.7kg (.7kg over weight, about 1.5 pounds). I was dehydrated, weak, and shaky from not eating or drinking anything for the past 13 hours. The judges who weighed me in advised me to come back for the evening weigh-in session, as 1.5 pounds shouldn't be impossible to lose via water weight. I felt so lightheaded, however, that I drank an electrolyte drink, and went back to my airbnb to sleep all day. I awoke 5 hours later and went right back to the sauna for one more round of water weight loss.
Back at the gym, for my second attempt at weigh-in, I had only lost .1kg (.2 pounds) of water weight. At the point the judges determined I would just have to compete in the 82.5kg weight class (181 pounds). I felt as if i had bungled all my best chances of putting up a good performance at this world championship competition. After weigh-in was finalized, I went out to blot out my misery with carbohydrates in the form of vegan pizza at a local pizzeria called Milano, which has a fully vegan menu (!) when asked for.
Saturday, October 26: the big day. Thankfully, it went far better than I expected, considering my whole weight-cut failure debacle. I went very conservatively on squats to get my bearings. I hit my first two attempts perfectly: 408 pounds, then 419, and felt relieved that at least I had a decent squat number on the board. I missed my third attempt at 425 pounds.
Bench Press was up next, and I feared the greatest loss of strength on this lift, as it is well known that bench press is the lift most often compromised by bodyweight loss. I had lost about 6 pounds of water weight in the previous week, on top of being sick and sleeping awfully.
My first bench attempt was for 281 pounds, and it flew beautifully and smoothly, except the judges called me for having my grip slightly too wide for regulation (a rule I was unaware of, as my thumb was on the knurling ring–it turns out that you must keep pointer fingers on the ring or within it). Anyhow, my next attempt at 292 (previous Meet PR), was also smooth and got 3 white lights. I went for a Meet PR of 303 pounds on my third attempt, but I got stuck at the sticking point, unfortunately. My previous gym PR was 310, so I found my bench performance to be the most disappointing at this meet, but given the circumstances it was not surprising.
Finally, it was time to put on the VEGAN socks and crush deadlifts, and crush them I did. My opener was 469 pounds, and it felt like nothing. My second attempt was 497, and it felt even better, somehow. I decided "fuck it, let's go big" for attempt three, and I was elated to nail a big Meet and all-time PR of 507 pounds (!).
My final total was 1218 pounds, my personal best to date.
All meet long, I had actually been in position to win second place for my weight class, but my closest competitor showed up with big deadlifts and began to close the gap on me. His deadlifts actually beat me by about 20 pounds (if I am correct), but since I was able to put up my biggest deadlifts ever, I maintained my early lead, and went on to win Second Place in the 181 pound (82.5kg) weight class at the IPL World Powerlifting Championship (Drug Tested)! It was definitely a surreal and joyous feeling, especially after so many mishaps leading up to the meet with my health and bodyweight. It just goes to show, it's best to step up and do your best anyway.
On Sunday morning, before sunrise, I got up early and drove out to The Burren National Park, and then on to the legendary Cliffs of Moher, where I seemed to be the first person out on the cliff trails, just as the sunlight was finally reaching the cliffs as well. It was magical and serene.
From there, I went back into The Burren to find Poulnabrone Domen, an ancient portal tomb, and hike among the unique rock formations of The Burren's moonlike landscape.
Then I went back to Limerick to watch the heavyweights compete for the final day of the world championship, and there I saw my buddy (and fellow vegan lifter) Nick Squires deliver a massive deadlift of 666 pounds. He finished with a big 1600+ pound total, and took First Place in the 242 pound weight class. Way to go, Nick!
After Nick finished his lifts, I hightailed it out to the town of Cashel to experience a famous castle there, the Rock of Cashel, before sundown. I had the castle grounds all to myself, and there I watched the sun go down over the castle walls to the west.
My trip to Ireland was a massive success in terms of vegans showing up and representing on the powerlifting platform for the animals, and also in terms of just being a memorable vacation in an enchanting land. I am deeply grateful to have had the opportunity. Thanks to all who helped and supported me along the way!