Having just come off of a second place finish at the Royal Cities Strongest Man 2016, I felt pretty good about the start of my Strongman 2016 season. Just a few days later I received an invitation to compete at the “Hostyle Takeover - Eastern Canada Natural Strongman National Qualifier.” I was unsure at how I would perform given that by the time I got the invitation I had one weekend to prepare for the competition and then one week to recover prior to the competition, but I knew I had to take the chance…. As I am writing this the ache in my calves is still incredible and has me hobbling around the house like I was donkey kicked in both legs. This past weekend I finished tied for 5th place in the Eastern Canada Natural Strongman National Qualifier, but due to a count-back ended up 6th overall. The following is a recap of what I learned from each event in the competition.
Event 1 - Truck Pull
I can’t recall ever having a legitimate truck pull as the first event at a competition before. Nerves and adrenaline are at their apex for the day right before the first event. As I wiggled my way into the harness attached to the 18,000 lb. truck, I felt amped and prepared. Truck pulling requires full steam ahead firing from literally every muscle in your body and in turn results in the most intense 60 - 90 second burst of cardiovascular demand you’ll ever experience. I finished in 2nd place in this event and it just about killed me. Something felt way off after. Maybe it was because it happened to be the first event of the day and the extra adrenaline caused my body to burn through more fuel; maybe it was from pulling the truck up a slight incline; or maybe, as you’ll see from the video, when I stumbled that extra push to keep the truck going did me in.
I don’t know how long it was before I had somewhat recovered from that truck pull. I went and flopped into the trunk of my car while trying to find water and sat there with my head spinning until the rest of the competitors were done pulling the truck, and then some. The sports therapistthat we had on site said that my blood pressure was super low, which is why I felt like passing out and throwing up at the same time. (Lesson to be learned: I didn’t try it this time, but if you start feeling this way after an event, get your legs elevated above your head so that your brain is getting enough blood flow to avoid trying to tell you to pass out). I think my body was putting everything I had into trying to clear the lactate build up that was burning my quads like hell. I was cursing at myself to recover so that I could go on and perform at the next few events, which I knew were already going to be a challenge without feeling sick.
Event 2 - 500 lb. Deadlift for Reps
My head was still spinning going into the deadlift. I stumbled from the sports therapy tent to complete a few warm up repetitions before they loaded the bar all the way to 500 lbs. I think there was 315 on the bar by the time I got over there and joined it. It didn’t feel easy, but my body was starting to settle back down and I was starting to recover.
I like the deadlift. Typically deadlifting is one of my stronger events, but in the past half year I haven’t had many opportunities to go very heavy with an olympic bar deadlift and so I really wasn’t sure what I was going to be capable of. I managed to hit 9 reps and missed my 10th rep, which I think is somewhere around my all time best for a 500 lb. deadlift. Not bad at all for the day. I was very impressed by the number of guys who got around 13 reps for the event. Lesson to be learned: When taking a break before the time runs out and you’re strapped in to the bar, get down on both knees to give yourself the ability to breathe in more deeply, instead of trying to recover while hunched over (This one is from Ontario’s Strongest Man Ben Ruckstuhl).
Event 3 - Log Press
There’s not much to say about this one. I still suck at overhead pressing and I’ve gotten worse in the past year due to a shoulder problem. However, I will still include the video footage, because I swear that one day I won’t suck so much at pressing. We warmed up with the empty log which was 200 lbs. and it was a grind for me, which really wasn’t a good sign. I zeroed the opener of 220. Lesson to be learned: don’t be negligent with any injuries holding you back. If you can afford it, get treatment as soon as possible and get back on the road to progress. And always, always attack your weak points with a vengeance. Moving on…
Event 4 - Farmers Walk 285 lb. per hand max distance
Historically farmers walk has been one of my better events as well, but today not so much. A lesson to be learned here is that it is paramount to continuously train and improve your grip strength, or else you will lose it. These farmers handles were thick and I was not prepared for it. I think the heaviest I’ve ever gone in training was somewhere around 290 or 300 for 50 feet, so I shouldn’t feel too bad that I got 75 feet on this event, but I’m disappointed, because somewhere in my mind I feel this slight inclination that I could have kept going around the turn a little further…
Event 5- 920 lb. Tire Flip for Reps
This is by far the hardest tire that I’ve ever had to flip. I even have a tire that’s a couple hundred pounds bigger than this and it doesn’t feel as heavy. Mind you, the surface does affect the flip and I’ve only attempted my bigger tire on grass, which gives you a lot to dig in to and get under it with. Lesson to be learned: practice on the implements, as close as possible to the ones used in competition, prior to competition. I had the opportunity to practice flipping this exact tire the week before competition. I figured out the best way I could tackle it, considering how heavy it was, and that’s what I did on competition day. I got 4 reps and tied for 2nd place. I think I stumbled on the third rep and had to reset. If I had gotten into proper position the first time around on that rep, I feel like I may have gotten 5 reps. I do remember hearing a call of 20 seconds left just as I was getting my third rep off the ground and knew I had to hurry up. I blasted through the third flip and got under the tire for the fourth flip as the 10 second count down was on. I drove through with everything I had to get that tire flipped over before the time ran out and it felt like a little bit of redemption after the previous three events.
Event 6 - Loading Medley
The loading medley consisted of a staggered start with a roughly 200 lb. field stone at 10 feet, 250 lb. sand bag at 8 feet, 300 lb. keg at 6 feet, and 320 lb. keg at 4 feet. The platform was somewhere around 50 inches in height. My height advantage came in handy for this event. By this point in the day, I’m sure all of our backs were close to seizing up (I know mine was), but I was determined to finish strong with a good time. I swiftly moved through loading the implements without any real hiccups, while strategically placing them to leave enough space on the platform so as to not have to struggle with placing the two kegs at the end. I finished second place with somewhere around 33 seconds and then promptly went to the guys from Burger Revolution who were there to get a cheeseburger.
Video footage from all the events: