I'd been training for around 20 months full time waiting for a day like this to come and it was less than a week away. I was soon to be attending an open trial for a professional football team.
I was pumped.
After a 6 hour overnight coach ride with a decent yet pretty uncomfortable sleep and a bit of breakfast, I rolled into the gym at 7am to do my last resistance training session before the trial.
You remember I said I was pumped? That was a gross understatement.
After an energetic warm-up, I started my training doing split jerks (what you would see most weightlifters do to get the bar from resting across their collarbones and shoulders to the overhead position - a big power builder). They felt stupidly easy even as I equalled my personal best of 100kg. It still felt like a warm-up weight.
I felt like the Terminator on bionic steroids so I decided to go heavier. On a power exercise, a new PB 2.5-5kg heavier is a quantum leap. So I put 10kg extra on the bar...and blasted it overhead.
I think I roared like the T-Rex from Jurassic Park.
I decided to stop at this with the trial beckoning - I didn't want to risk injury marauding too far into unfamiliar territory.
Next on my list was split squats.
Rolling off my testosterone-fuelled power frenzy from jerking off the scale (pun intended), I powered out some 165kg split squats. Another 10kg PB that I stopped myself going beyond with the trial ahead.
If you can embody the feeling that an 8-armed Rambo would feel riding King Kong through the hostile jungle with an automatic weapon in each hand, I felt about twice as psyched as that.
Nobody would be able to stop me come that trial.
I was right but not in the way I'd hoped.
The first thing we did at the trial 4 or 5 days later was a running test. Having trained very well, I was confident I would perform well.
I was sluggish and had mild cramp in my calf that persisted for the full two day duration of the trial. I was a yard off my usual pace. Come the gameplay, I felt spent. Dead on my feet.
The coaches commended my performance enough to encourage me to come back again but I was disappointed with my performance. I knew I was capable of better.
A friend who came to observe me commented that I looked like I had played "within myself".
For the longest time, I thought I had underperformed due to the pressure I had placed on myself in the situation but through lots of subsequent reflection I have came to a different conclusion -
I peaked too early.
I spent months and months building up "savings" of strength, speed, agility and conditioning for days like this and I made my "withdrawal" a few days too early. I was "broke" when I needed what I'd been saving for the most.
If you go peruse the literature, you will find that after maximal performance and reaching new personal best levels, athletes take weeks to recover. One of the more conservative estimates I have read is 3 weeks. My 4 days recovery before a crucial event was not enough to recharge even though I didn't hit my absolute maximum and felt no soreness or ill-effects post-training. If my excellent coach at the time had been present that day, he would have never allowed my super-hyped, ego-boosting, energy sapping exploits.
Learn from my naivety.
Maximal efforts take a lot out of you and should be saved for special occasions.
Killing it in training, although satisfying for your ego in the short term, will kill your competitive efforts.
Training is saving. Spend wisely. Be a freak beast in competition.
Arton "The Jerk Off" Baleci
Float Sting - Sports Injury Rehab and Performance, Harley Street, London W1