One afternoon; thirteen events.
Having the good fortune to compete in a strongman competition in the winter in Canada is a rare treat indeed.
The Sons of Samson 2017 was a charity event run for Big Brothers and Big Sisters and took place in the mall in Brockville, Ontario. As it was meant to be a demonstration of the sport of strongman and the broad range of events we often compete in, we were subjected to the mentally gruelling and physically draining task of thirteen events. Admittedly, for the preservation of the mall floors and to make it a good show the implements we used were all pretty light. The challenge with light events is that everyone is going to perform well, so it becomes a matter of milliseconds who will come out on top for most events.
Due to the number of events we had, I won’t belabour the minutiae of each event, so instead I will do a brief recap of the competition.
The thirteen events were as follows (if my memory serves me correctly):
- Seated Vehicle Pull
- Log Press
- Nail Bend
- Overhead Object Press
- Farmers Walk
- Yoke Walk
- Tire Flip
- Farmers Walk Hold
- Phone Book Tear
- Anvil Deadlift
- Object Load over bar
- Stone Load over bar
- Man v. Man Harness Pull
The first event of the competition was a vehicle pull. Kia has sponsored the event and wanted us to pull a Sportage. I know what you’re thinking and yes, we were all scoffing at the idea of this being the headline event too. We changed it up a bit to make it a little more interesting for such a light vehicle pull. You were only allowed one pull on the rope tied to the vehicle from a seated position and then we let it roll to a stop to measure the distance of the pull. I got off to a good start with a win in the event. Fellow Clydsdale Power Team member Andrew Roach was competing against me for the first time and it was an extremely tough battle on every event. I set a PR on the log press event, but Drew is an extremely good presser and started to pull way ahead of the rest of us for the lead. I really messed up the nail bend coming in second last and then took second to Drew in the object overhead press, which included a 170 lb. anvil, 180 lb. keg and 200 lb. “widowmaker” fire hydrant. At this point Drew was now holding an 7 point lead over me and I knew I would have to pull out all the stops to catch up, especially because he is extremely fast and all the events were light, leaving no room for error. Unfortunately on the next event I did make an error that cost me another point and set me behind by 8 points. Determined to move as fast as possible, I jumped the gun on the 240 lb. farmers walk and the time penalty I faced cost me first place in that event. I came back with a vengeance in the 500 lb. yoke walk though and had an ever-so-slightly faster time than Drew. I only gained one point on Drew, but this was still a good start, because I wanted to hold an advantage with knowing how many tire flips would need to be done in 60 seconds to win the next event.
I was confident in the tire flip, as I had practiced it and knew how many I could get in 60 seconds, but the tire was light, so everyone was flipping it at 1 flip under every 5 seconds. Due to being in the mall, it was also a precarious event because we had to stay on the rubber mats we laid down and go back and forth with the flipping. This left little room for error, because you didn’t want to be disadvantage from trying to flip the tire on the slick mall flooring instead of on the mats. I did manage to pull out another win with 15 flips in a minute, besting Drew by only 1 flip. I was nervous now, as I was still behind by 6 points and only had 6 events left and it seemed like Drew and I were going to be 1st and 2nd on every event. The next event was to hold the farmers walk implements for max time. I thought I could pull this one off, but Drew had an incredible hold of 58 seconds. I was up after him and was feeling pretty gassed (as we all were) after the onslaught of lower body events we had just gone through. Things became desperate when I heard the call that I had only hit 30 seconds I thought I had gone much longer. My grip unraveled on me at 50 seconds and I really thought there was no way I was going to be able to win at this point. Drew seemed unbeatable.
Admittedly, the last few events were in my favour, but I still had a lot of ground to make up. The phone book tear was something that I knew I could do within the time limit, but I wasn’t sure how Drew would and I knew that we had some experienced phone book tearing competitors. I watched the phone book tearing expert Mike Martelle go and cleanly split the phonebook in 7 seconds, which looked like it would be a solid event win. The next couple of competitors had never done the event and couldn’t figure it out in the time limit. Zach has also practiced a lot of phonebook tearing and I think he came in just a few seconds behind Mike. I was ready to give it my all and make sure I at least finished the phonebook tear in the 60 second time limit to score some points. Miraculously, practice in this event has gone favourably for me and sheared the phonebook straight through in 2 seconds! I then saw that Drew hasn’t developed the knack of the phonebook tear and didn’t manage to get it. This was a huge jump in points for me and I was fired up again.
Up next was the anvil deadlift where we had to deadlift the 170 lb. anvil with one hand only grabbing the horn. Getting to go last I watched most guys struggle to budge it off the ground, Drew hit a couple of reps and I think CP got one more than him. I had a great performance on this one and effortlessly hit a couple more reps than them and left it there. The points were close. I think I was just behind Drew by a few points now going in to the object loading and it was my event to lose. The bar was set pretty high for the object load and I had a significant height advantage. We didn’t have to run very far with it to preserve the floors, and I blistered it in 9 seconds. Drew still had a very close time with something like 12 seconds and I think I was behind him by 1 or 1.5 points now. I had caught up with 2 events left.
The stone loading went pretty much the same way. We were all super exhausted by now, but the stone was a small 220 lb. one, and we all agreed to not use tacky, once again trying to keep the floor of the mall intact. Drew hit a couple of reps, but his legs were pretty much spent by now. CP came in with 5 reps and was still in the lead. I hit my 6th rep and coach Giles told me I still had to hit another one to win the event. I was a little thrown off by this and confused, but still hit another rep to be sure.
The final event was the man v. man pull. I was nervous after having completely botched this event back at Kingston’s Strongest Man in August. I was ahead of Drew by 1.5 points and so it all came down to our performances on this last event. We discussed possibly doing just one face off each for placings, but the race for third place was very tight so we all agreed to go through the full round robbin for placings.
I put on my rock climbing shoes to hopefully get the best traction I could on the floor, but I wasn’t sure if it was a good decision or not. Some of the guys thought it helped and others didn’t like it. More of my strategy came from staying on the balls of my feet and not on my toes and keeping a little bit higher to get better hip involvement, which were the mistakes I had made at the last competition featuring this event. My first and most important battle was against Drew and when I got the go command I clawed with everything I had to get the advantage. I had done it! I won my first round and was off to a good start. I faced off of the very strong Jean-Paul and jumped the gun on him a little bit, but on our do-over I waited a little longer and still dug in with everything I had and had won that battle too. Next up I faced Zach, who always dominated me in practice in this event, but I managed a win over him as well. The final face-off was against the immovable juggernaut CP and he had beaten me, so I ended up in second place for this event, but took the overall win in the competition.
It's great to keep the competitive spirit alive during the off-season by doing some different types of competition. We were all brothers in iron on the field that day and there were a lot of laughs to be had along with tight competition.
I’m looking forward to whatever the next strongman adventure this year brings.