2016 Northern Giants Strongest Man

This past weekend I competed at the Northern Giants Strongest Man competition. This is a competition recap and and a review of what I learned and why I chose this competition over the concurrent Ontario's Strongest Man competition. Unfortunately I did not get any video footage of this competition, so I will be more detailed with my competition review. 

N-OSM This Year

July 1 marked the date of Ontario’s Strongest Man this year, as well as the Northern Giants Strongest Man. Earlier in the year I set the goal for myself to compete at OSM, if I could approach the announced weights being used for some of the lifts in the competition. Particularly I wanted to make sure that my overhead pressing strength and deadlift were closer to the competition weights being used, as I first and foremost don’t want to get hurt while competing for fun. As I have mentioned before in seeking to improve my pressing strength, I suffered set backs throughout this past winter’s offseason with shoulder injuries. I am happy to say that my shoulder is doing much better now and as I’ve been working hard on making improvements, I’ve set new personal bests recently with overhead pressing. Alas, deadlifts and overhead pressing did not quite hit the mark to where I needed to be to stay safe at OSM this year. 
As my strongman team was training the events specifically for Northern Giants, I was much more prepared to compete and not get injured there, so it was an easy alternate choice to make. 

Northern Giants Invade Canada Day Celebrations

It was a near-perfect day for competing. Overhead we had cloud cover announcing an impending thunderstorm, but also making the summer heat much more bearable. Updates from the OSM competition, which started before us and competitiors arriving from afar stated that heavy rain was merely an hour away. 
We had a tight race for placings, as only 6 competitors showed up, others were either enjoying the holidays or spectating at OSM an hour away. 
The risk of thunderstorms pushed us on fast and hard. Most of us were still catching our breath when it was our time to lift again between events. Nerves were high travelling to the location, but as soon as I arrived all was calm and focused...

Event 1 - Fire Hydrant Press 200 lb. 

Zach hit 3 flawless reps with the hydrant.  

Zach hit 3 flawless reps with the hydrant.  

The first event of the day was a very interesting pressing event, as we used a 200 lb. fire hydrant and the rules were clean and press away for 60 seconds and if it dropped below chest height you were done. It was pretty much known going in to this event that nobody would actually be holding the hydrant in the rack position for 60 seconds and it was more simply who would do the most reps and if there was a tie, the time it took to complete those reps. 
Still my weakest event, I was very fortunate to have practiced a number of times with this fire hydrant before competition day and learned how to properly clean and press a fire hydrant. After many attempts in practice and figure our how to even manage 1 rep, I finally got the technique down and knew I was good for at least 3 reps, which would be a decent injury comeback for me. I managed to hit 4 reps in the competition, which I was happy with. My goal was 5, but I was ok with taking 4 as that put me in 3rd place for the event and was my lowest placing of the day...
Today I Learned: Practicing with odd implements prior to competition is essential if you want to avoid making a mistake in competition. Also, olympic lifting shoes are no good on grass surfaces for pressing, but don’t change your footwear on the day of competition to something you’re not used to. 

Event 2 - Tire Carry Medley

The tire carry consisted of moving a 100 lb., 200 lb., and 300 lb. tire 50 feet for the fastest time. Scouting the tires out before the competition, I considered trying to pick all the tires up over my shoulder and figured some competitors would choose to flip the third tire the distance. After watching the first couple of competitors run through it, I knew a spectacularly fast time would be required to win it and I was right in the middle of the pack after my placing in the first event. Watching the competitors ahead of me go, I saw them all jump into the centre of the 200 lb. and 300 lb. tire and carry them with a reverse grip. This seemed to be the fastest way to complete it and so I followed suit. The first tire I picked up with one hand and sprinted with it trailing behind me instead of taking the extra second to worry about shouldering it. The second tire I hopped into and picked it up really high which allowed my stride to be a little bit quicker than everyone else. I got to the 50’ mark set it, hopped out, and hopped right into the 300 lb. tire and took off with it. Quick, short steps got me over the finish line without stumbling in about 23 seconds. I was now sitting in first place with some very quick and strong competitors about to go. A bit of luck got me first place in this event as the following athletes stumbled a little between tires and I think the closest time was about a second off my time, sealing me with first place in the event.
TIL: Sometimes if you’re not sure the best way to pick up an implement, following suit with how other athletes are doing can be a good way to go. 

Event 3 - Conan’s Wheel

All athletes were extremely fast on all attempts with the Conan's wheel. Notice me anxiously creeping in the background...

All athletes were extremely fast on all attempts with the Conan's wheel. Notice me anxiously creeping in the background...

Ontario has not seen a Conan’s Wheel at any competition in many years, so Giles Sharpe, the organizer of this competition approached Conan’s Wheel cautiously for newer competitiors at this event. The weight started at 350 lb. and increased as follows: 450 lb., 500 lb., 550 lb., 600 lb. Each competitor had to take each attempt and complete a 360 degree turn with the wheel in under 20 seconds. Cumulative time dictated who would win the event. Having practiced up to 650 lb. in training, I knew the top-weight wouldn’t be an issue for me. Knowing that the time was cumulative, I had to be very fast on every attempt. It was good that I had the opportunity to practice the event, as the speed I pushed each attempt with made it very precarious as any little stumble could have cost me placings.  There were also some other athletes who were pushing the pace incredibly fast through all the attempts as well. The hardest part of the Conan’s Wheel for me is the initial pick, as I literally have to do a super-wide stance squat just to have bar start at a parallel squat. This causes the pick to be quite slow for me and takes a few seconds to get the bar lifted and into position to start walking with. Some of the other athletes had significant advantages on the pick height and got off to a faster start than me. I still managed to be fast enough by getting off to a good, fast start on earlier attempts and keeping the time short when the attempts were easier. I ended up in 1st place with a time of just over 50 seconds total, or about 10 seconds per attempt. 
TIL: Knowing when to ramp up fast or slow depending on the rules of an event. It’s not always best to ease into the lighter lifts on ascending bar. 

Event 4 - Carry and Load Medley

Three objects: 170 lb. anvil, 200 lb. keg, 200 lb. fire hydrant had to be carried 50 feet and loaded over a 50 inch bar for fastest time. 
The first time I practiced this event we did it for a carry distance of 30 feet. I blazed through it by picking all objects up two handed and using a hip-pop to launch each implement over the bar.
The second time I practiced the event, we did it from 75 feet away. Obviously much more cardio intensive and the keg required a lap and load over the bar and then I dropped the fire hydrant twice while carrying sideways in both hands! This was a much slower time and I was a little apprehensive about my method going into the competition. I did not want to lose time having to readjust the fire hydrant after dropping it. 
I noticed that the other competitors were shouldering the keg and fire hydrant.
When it came to my attempt, all the times were very fast and close together at around 50 seconds, I believe. I knew I would be ok with running with the anvil and tossing it over and popping the keg over with hip drive like I had practiced, but I wasn’t sure what I would do when it came to the fire hydrant. After a fast and flawless pace through the first two implements, I got to the hydrant and tried to follow suit with everyone else and shoulder it, but getting it up to my shoulder wasted precious time. I didn’t have it all the way up and my pace carrying the hydrant was significantly slower than with the other implements. Fortunately I had it up high enough and the hydrant is top heavy, I didn’t have to do any readjusting and I just ran it through the bar and the hydrant toppled over top of it. For some reason I thought that I had completed it in 36 seconds and that the next best time was around 39 seconds, but I wrote down that I did it in 45 seconds, so we will say that 45 seconds was good enough for another event win. It felt like a close one with the time it took me to handle the hydrant and I think I would have been better off going with my initial two-handed method. I just didn’t want to risk losing my grip on the top of the hydrant, which is a square piece that’s really tough to grip.
TIL: Sometimes the best way to pick up and load an implement is not the same way everyone else is doing it. (Yes I know this in direct contrast to what I learned from Event 2. Get out and compete as much as you can and you’ll gain the experience to know the fastest way to move with whatever object gets in your way).

Event 5 - Bus Pull

A classic event when it comes to any competition being held in this park, as the driveway is slightly uphill. Having placed first in the previous event, I got to watch everyone else go before me.The bus started in a slight divot and the first athlete got off to a good start before another divot in the road stalled him. The second athlete blasted through the entire course by some divine inspiration and then I watched the rest of the athletes be unable to budge the bus from the starting line.  I didn’t know what was going to happen when I was up, but my goal was to pass the more attainable line about halfway down the course. The bus got off to a heavy start and I didn’t think it was going to move, but then as I took baby steps and tried to keep the tension in the rope, I heard everyone around me yelling about how it was moving and I got it going to a pretty good pace. I seriously stumbled and didn’t keep a straight-forward tension at my last truck pull event and I wanted to try to maintain better control this time around. I made it past the mark to beat (other than the finish line) and got about another 7-10 feet further and ended it there. I was pretty gassed, as this entire day was pushed to a blistering pace and remembered the feeling of death from my last competition. The recovery from this truck pull was still pretty rough, but it abated much quicker than the last time. We didn’t measure distance, but I clearly got second place in the event and was comfortably enough in first place overall.
TIL: You don’t always have to kill yourself on every single event, if you’re competing for fun, or know you placing won’t change any by pulling back the reins a bit. 


I was very happy with winning this competition and had a great day of competition against friends and training partners. I will have to see what’s next on the competition agenda, but I know that Kingston’s Strongest Man in August will be a good competition and there are still quite a few other competitions to consider before the season comes to an end. 

OSM 2016 ended with Paul Vaillancourt 1st, Karl Hjelholt 2nd, and David Jennings 3rd. I look forward to seeing more competition footage from that event!

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