Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My Experience with Team Plantbuilt 2014!

PictureBack on the platform! Photo by Stic of Dead Prez
I know I’ve been missing from the blog-o-sphere for a little while now and I apologize. I promise it was for good reason.

Remember 7 years ago when I said I am quitting powerlifting? Well……..

As many of you know I am a big proponent of a plant-based lifestyle and am a huge supporter of animal welfare. In fact, the book that I published last year, Plant-Based Performance: A Compassionate Approach to Health and Fitness, was written specifically so that 100% of sales revenue would go to benefit Mercy For Animals, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting compassionate food choices and policies.

If you would like to get a copy for yourself and read chapters from myself and 18 other plant-based athletes and health & fitness professionals like former UFC fighter Mac Danzig, former WWE superstar and Hall of Famer Amy “Lita” Dumas, from the hip hop duo Dead Prez, endurance athlete extraordinaire featured in the documentary Forks Over Knives and the book Born to Run Dr. Ruth Heidrich, and many others; click here!

That book is where this whole thing started.

Team Plantbuilt 2014!
Powerlifters Kelly and Sara bringing home the hardware! Photo by Donovan Jenkins
Some of the ladies of Team Plantbuilt!
Scott, Bonebreaker, & kickin' it at the after party!
Vegan bodybuilders proving you don't need animal protein to build muscle!
Jason Morris went 8 for 9 and hit personal records in the squat and deadlift in his first powerlifting meet! Photo by Donovan Jenkins
At the 2013 Atlanta Veg Fest, I met Giacomo Marchese, who along with his fiance’ Dani Taylor, own the an online sports supplement store that specializes in vegan nutrition products. Together they had formed Team Plantbuilt, a group of vegan physique athletes (bodybuilders, figure and physique competitors) who competed together at the 2013 Naturally Fit Super Show in Austin, TX to show the world what could be accomplished by following a cruelty-free diet. Did they succeed? They only represented 10% of the competition, but came away with 40% of the awards, I’d say that was a massive success! In addition to winning numerous 1st place and overall awards a few of their athletes even won their pro-cards!

Giacomo had inquired about purchasing the Plant-Based Performance book to sell through his web-store and support our similar goals. As time passed and he and I talked more, he asked if I would join Team Plantbuilt for 2014 and that they were going to have athletes competing in the 2014 Naturally Fit Games in Austin, TX in physique (that was a fast NO for me!), CrossFit (again, sorry but that’s not my cup of tea), and powerlifting (well heck, I used to do that) and that’s all it took, I was in for the powerlifting squad. But wait, I hadn’t trained seriously for powerlifting in over 7 years and was currently in the middle of my training cycle for the 2014 Florida State Kettlebell Sport Championship. As it turns out, following the FL State kettlebell meet, I would have exactly 12 weeks to prep for the Naturally Fit Games.

After the kettlebell meet, I got back in the gym and tested my three powerlifts. For not training them in over 7 years they weren’t horrible, but as to be expected they were way below what they used to be. I made a 335 squat, a 225 bench and a 365 deadlift and my previous bests were 450 / 315 / 463 respectively, albeit weighing 220 and not the 183 I was currently at.

After pushing the big-3 for 4 weeks I took some heavy singles again and was sitting at a 365 squat, a 230 bench (with a massively aching shoulder), and a 425 deadlift. These were pretty good gains, but the pain in my shoulder was constant and lasted days after that bench. I decided to play it smart and not do the full meet, opting for the deadlift-only division instead. (Side note - in powerlifting most full meets offer bench only and deadlift only divisions for specialists.)

This put me about 8 weeks out from the competition and this was right about the time our fundraising campaign was starting. Granted one of the reasons we compete together as Team Plantbuilt is to show people that you can accomplish health, fitness, and athletic goals while following a compassionate lifestyle, but above and beyond that we do what we do to support animal welfare. Our fundraiser was put together through Indiegogo and the plans were to donate the money we made to vegan non-profits, vegan-outreach, and most importantly animal sanctuaries specifically Pigs Peace, Edgar’s Mission, For the Animals, and Our Hen House.

Our fundraiser was a huge success and when it was all said and done, with all the effort from the 31 members of Team Plantbuilt, we had raised over $40,000.00! We could not have accomplished that in such a short time without the entire team’s dedicated effort and the support of our family and friends. Thank you all for supporting us in our efforts!

After the fundraiser was over we had a few weeks left before our meet up for the Naturally Fit Games in Austin, TX. We continued to do PR work for our team and all began peaking our individual training cycles for the competition.
Some of Plantbuilt's bodybuilding and figure competitors! Photo by Donovan Jenkins
Carolyn Napier in the CrossFit competition! Photo by Donovan Jenkins
Plantbuilt's CrossFit team!
Picture from Dead Prez treated us to a private performance!
Team Plantbuilt's after party!
Plantbuilt's powerlifting team!
Scott, Matt, & Jason after the "Giacomo Pizza Incident"!
Sara Russert - squatting her way to a state record! Photo by Donovan Jenkins
After getting to Austin, the team met up in the middle of the week before the actual competition that was scheduled for Saturday, July 26. This allowed those of us who’d never met to spend some time getting to know each other, as well as gave my fellow powerlifting teammate, Jason Morris and I the opportunity to shuttle various team members all over Austin, including but not limited to, numerous trips to local fitness centers and about a billion trips to Whole Foods. Well, really it was more like 7 trips, but I’m writing this blog so I can exaggerate as I see fit. All it took was one super high calorie plant-based powerlifting meal consisting of crazy awesome BBQ tofu, sweet potato fries and an insane vegan Belgian chocolate cake and Jason was pretty much my new bestie.

In addition we spent the week prior to the competition having team meetings, doing photo shoots with two amazing photographers Melissa Schwartz and Donovan Jenkins, and interviews with the coolest vegan dietitian on the planet, Matt Ruscigno and his partner Sasha Perry who are doing a great series of documentaries on vegan athletes for their project called Strongest Hearts which you can check out here: a side note - Sasha and Matt made this week way more enjoyable for the powerlifting team, thanks you two! 

The location of the official events was at our teammate Chad Byers' training center, Beyond Fit. Over the two days of team meetings we received all the amazing donations from our sponsors, including: Vega, Health Force / Warrior Force, Plantfusion, Vegan Proteins, Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness, Upton’s Naturals, Clean Machine, and more. One of the highlights of our team meetings for me was to hear my powerlifting teammate, Mike Wolf, talk about the work he and his wife have done for animal welfare. It really drove home why we do what we do and it is great to know there are people out there like those two who devote their lives to helping animals.

Saturday, July 26 was the day of the Naturally Fit Games. This was a huge fitness expo and competition with events ranging from bodybuilding and various physique competitions, to CrossFit, powerlifting, MMA, jiu jitsu, weightlifting, roller derby and more.

Plantbuilt had athletes competing in the physique events, powerlifting, and CrossFit. For many it was their first time competing. To say that Plantbuilt did well would be a complete understatement. The CrossFit event was huge and extremely competitive. The powerlifting event had 125 lifters competing in different events. The bodybuilding and physique competitions had a huge turnout as well, but it seemed like Plantbuilt just kept winning!

By the end of the day the results looked like this:

CrossFit - Wodapalooza

Amber Sperling - 2nd place women’s Rx

Carolyn Napier - 5th place women’s Rx

Ed Bauer - 12th place men’s Rx

Billy Prusinowski - 13th place men’s Rx

Powerlifting - USPA Simply Fit Championships

Sara Russert - 2nd place women’s open, and set Washington State records for squat, bench press, and deadlift

Kelly Colobella - 1st place women’s sub-masters, and set Utah State records for squat, bench press, and deadlift

Crystal Moulton - 1st place women’s open, and set Utah State records for squat, bench press, and deadlift

Mike Wolf - 1st place men’s open 242lb. class, bench press only

Jason Morris - 3rd place men’s open 198lb. class

Scott Shetler - 1st place men’s sub-masters 198lb. class, deadlift only

Bodybuilding / Physique / Figure / Model / Bikini / Transformation

Austin Barbisch - 2nd place men’s masters physique, 1st place men’s masters bodybuilding

Chad Byers - 2nd place men’s open physique

Christian Garcia - 3rd place men’s novice bodybuilding lightweight division

Giacomo Marchese - 4th place men’s open bodybuilding middleweight division

Dani Taylor - 1st place open figure tall division

Athena Iglesias - 2nd place novice bikini short division

Jehina Malik, IFBB PRO - did not compete due to current pro status in the IFBB

Korin Sutton, PRO - 1st place men’s open bodybuilding light-heavyweight division

Torre Washington, PRO - did not compete but came to support the team!

Will Tucker, PRO - 2nd place men’s masters bodybuilding, 4th place men’s open bodybuilding lightweight division

Robert Cheeke - 6th place men’s open physique

Derek Tresize - 1st place men’s open physique *qualified for pro card!

Erin Fergus - 1st place open fit body, 1st place open women’s bodybuilding

Elana Priesman - 4th place in the transformation competition

Mindy Collette - 2nd place fit model search

Samantha Shorkey - 1st place open bikini tall division, and overall open bikini champion *qualified for pro card!

Ashlee Harrison - 1st place novice figure short, overall novice figure champion

Melissa Hauser - 2nd place open figure short division

Pam Kalstad, PRO - 4th place figure

Sally Andersen - 1st place novice figure tall division

Tiffany Burich - 3rd place open figure tall division, 3rd place open fit body

We wrapped up a long day of grueling competition at the Austin Convention Center by hitting Arlo’s Vegan Food Truck on the way back to the hotel to pick up a massive pile of plant-based burgers and fries to take back along with all of our trophies for our post-competition celebration. These were easily the best vegan burgers I’ve ever had! If you’re in Austin you need to make it a point to stop at Arlo’s Food Truck, you won’t be disappointed!

On Sunday we all headed back over to Chad’s gym for our team after-party which started out with a vegan barbeque catered by BBQ Revolution. The food was amazing! After the lunch we were treated to a private performance by from Dead Prez! Stic came out to Austin with his wife Afya, and son Itwella to hang out with the Plantbuilt crew at the expo on Saturday and donated a private performance and meet and greet for Team Plantbuilt and our family and friends who attended the after-party on Sunday.

After the amazing food and performance, the team headed over to Austin’s kick ass vegan ice cream shop, Sweet Ritual for dessert. All I can say is wow. Sweet Ritual was killer and a great way to unwind and wrap up a long and busy week.
PictureWe do it for the animals who don't have a voice of their own... Photo by Donovan Jenkins
Finally Monday morning rolled around, and just like all good things the 2014 Team Plantbuilt event sadly came to an end. Way too much other cool and fun stuff happened this week, as would be expected when you put 31 like-minded vegan athletes all working toward the same goal together for five days.

Bonds were formed, friendships were made, and team camaraderie was built. There was the infamous Giacomo pizza incident, the powerlifters having fun with forbidden foods at the bodybuilder’s expense, the Jason / Mike / Austin ammonia cap experiment, the knuckle bumps, the conversations, the pep-talks, the support, the chalky hand slaps on the back after the announcer calls out “the bar is loaded”, the selecting of the attempts, the personal records, the missed lifts, the weigh-ins, the spray tans, the asparagus-TONS of asparagus, the posing practice, Robert’s George W. impression, the Sara vs. Stic push-up challenge, the Scott vs. Austin posedown in the middle of Sweet Ritual, the numerous trips to Whole Foods, the powerlifters finding out what Sasha really thought of them, the powerlifting team's post-weigh-in donuts, Matt sleeping in the laundry room, the smiles, the tears, the hugs, the plans to get together at future events, and something about a junk sock.

Above and beyond all of this our teammate Austin Barbisch, after winning his bodybuilding division summed it up best, and I am paraphrasing, “We don’t do this for ourselves, we do this for the animals who have no voice of their own.”

After everything was said and done one thing is certain, Plantbuilt will be back in Austin for the 2015 Naturally Fit Games; bigger, leaner, stronger, more conditioned, and ready to show the world that the only thing we kill is the stage.

Stay Strong and Healthy!


Team Plantbuilt 2014 - The only thing we kill is the stage!

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