Two weeks ago I traveled to Dallas, TX for my first strongman competition in over a year. I was incredibly nervous and excited about my return to competing in the sport. Especially with the potential to qualify to compete at the 2013 Arnold Fitness Expo.
It had been over a year since my last competition at the 2010 North American Strongman National Championship. I was going to be competing against a couple of guys, Kalle Beck and Mark Taysom, I had competed with then. And since then have watched their training logs and videos improve steadily. There were also some new competitors in the mix and my internet stalking proved to me they were no slouches either. Needless to say I didn't wanna embarrass myself and have my ass handed to me.
Nerves aside, I was as excited as I'd ever been for a competition. The combination of some great training days leading up to the contest and having my strongman family travelling with me to compete alongside and for support made me an incredibly happy competer (I know this isnt the correct word).
Arrival and Weigh In
I arrived late so I didn't get to weigh in until about 10pm. I was HUNGRY! But aside from reducing some carbohydrates and sodium I didn't really have to diet for the contest. First weigh in was about a pound over so I got down to my skivvies and weighed in at 174.6 pounds. Easy, done, and time to pig out a bit before bed.
Day 1 Strongman Events
The first event was the Axle Clean and Press for reps. I think we were all a little thrown off because this was changed from the original event of the Giant Dumbell Clean and Press Medley. I was placed into the last heat and knew I had 6 reps to beat. This was about what I'd hit in practice so I knew there would be little to no slowing down to beat it. Once I started the event, I surprised myself at how fast I got the first 4 reps and was able to punch through three more for a total of seven and a first place start.
The second event was the Axle Deadlift for reps. I knew this would be a weak point for me and had hoped I'd just manage to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack. I pulled two reps, but the next spot up was nine, so I decided to save myself for the next days events rather than go for broke on my weakest event. I prefer to pick things up and move them, not just put them back down. Mark Taysom pulled a great 13 reps followed closely by Peter Hamilton with 12. This was a nice slap in the face that my weak deadlifting will no longer be tolerated in competition.
Day 2 Strongman Events
Going into day 2 I was feeling good despite my getting less points than anticipated in the deadlift. The first event would be the Giant Dumbell Clean and Press Medley. I would have to press two dumbells twice each weighing 120# and 140# respectively. Additionally, the dumbells were a large 11 inch diameter in the ends with a 3 inch diameter handle. A couple slip ups here lost me a bit of time and I took second to Andrew Babcock finishing the medley in about 37 seconds. Watching Babcock I also picked up a couple things that I think will help me improve my speed in this event.
The Yoke Walk was next. I was heated up with Taysom head to head finally for this 630# carry. I got a great start to be out front, but his legs were moving quicker and he made up the ground to pass me. As I saw him pass I wanted to speed up, but felt wobbly as I did and wanted to avoid any drops or slide penalties. So I cruised in right after him for a 2nd place finish.
I knew at this point there was still a chance I could catch Taysom on points, but I would have to go all out on the last two events. The next event was the Farmers Walk with 250# in each hand for 50ft. I was ready to go and perhaps a little overly so. I got a fast pick off the ground and was moving quick, but got wobbly and dropped the handles to slide them over the line the last few inches. This earned me a slide penalty dropping me from 1st to 3rd in the event.
Chances at first place were looking nil, but I felt like I had something to prove if I was going to finish second. The final event the suicide medley had been one of my biggest fears going into the competition because I could remember how I felt as my legs ran outta gas at Nationals in 2010 when I was dragging a sled to finish a carry and load medley. This particular medley involved carrying a 180# sandbag loading it into a sled, running back, carry a 230# keg to load into the sled, running back again, duck walking a large 260# canister with a handle on top back to the sled (no loading) then dragging the sled back. All for 50 feet each. Taysom and I were once again heated up. I love competing with this guy because its all fun between events and all rage during the event. My sandbag carry felt like greased lightning, it was in the sled and I was back to the keg before I even had a chance to start breathing heavily. The keg was quick but a bit slower, and the duck walk was surprisingly brutal. I struggled mentally not to drop it as I waddled my way back to the sled. Once I got to the sled I took my time and wiped my feet on the wet cloth provided (game changer) as I had seen others struggle to get traction on the concrete without doing so. The sled got moving and I was on my way; mind just churning out:
"Left, Right, Left, Right, Don't stop, Can't stop, Pain is temporary, Will finish, Left, Right, Left, Right, Oh God, am I there yet? Left, Right, Left, Right."
And then I finished. I screamed. My legs crumbled. And I smiled. I knew I had been pretty quick and I was the only one to fully finish. So i was incredibly happy to conquer one of the events that had put my stomach in knots for the months leading up to the competition.
When all the points were tallied I ended up with a hard earned 2nd place. I have my drop on the farmer's walk to thank for that. Lesson learned. But, this was enough to qualify me to compete in the Arnold Fitness Expo at the first ever 175# Strongman Fitness international competition. I think more importantly though, I feel reconnected with strongman and competition in general. I crushed my fears that I wouldn't be up to par after my time away.
Thank you to my training partners & fellow strongman competitors
I want to thank my training partners. Without whom I would never have even found my way into this sport let alone do this well. I find the time we train together and the support for each other priceless. You guys are like an extra family. Congratulations to my training partner, Jennie Cwikla, who took first place in the Strongwoman Fitness Division securing her place at the Arnold as well. I also want to thank all the 175# competitors. We're a growing group of and I appreciate all the incredible sportsmanship and comradery. I can't wait to see you guys again. And a final thank you to the American Strongman Corporation for putting on a great contest.