2018 Canadian Stones of Strength

When you envision the picturesque strongman competition put on at a highland games festival it likely includes the background sounds of bagpipes and marching bands coupled with heavy stones being lifted.

Nestled under the trees and surrounded by the droning of hundreds of bagpipes and the rat-a-tat of marching drums is how we found ourselves as the 2018 IHGF Canadian Stones of Strength got underway. With the backdrop of Lake Ontario visible and sword fighting lessons going on across the park from us, we couldn’t be in a better position to compete while still being shaded by the trees. 

Run by the IHGF, the Canadian Stones of Strength competition is a unique all-stones strongman event. The winner of the competition qualified for the international competition to be held in Norway and this was the last year in which that Canadian competition was open to any entrants - next year there will be regional qualifiers for the Canada-wide competition. 

I was pretty beat up going into this competition. My wrist still hadn’t healed from the injury sustained during the Eastern Canada's qualifier and my back was hurting so bad that I took most of the two weeks prior to this competition off from heavy lifting. As most lifers can appreciate, this made me nervous, even though it takes longer than a couple of weeks to lose significant strength. Prior to the competition, there were some events that I felt underprepared for. But I had committed to going and paid the entrance fee so the only thing left to do was to get things started. 

 

Event 1 - Overhead stone press medley.

The overhead stone press consisted of a 200 lb. field stone, 220 lb. field stone, 240 lb. atlas stone, and 260 lb. field stone.

In training, I had only completed the first stone but I wanted to get at least that second one up for the competition. The first stone went up without any trouble and I had the second stone halfway to lockout before it stalled out on me. I still had lots of time and so I took a second to readjust and then patiently got it back up into pressing position. This time with a little more leg drive I was able to lockout the stone overhead for a completed rep. I was happy enough that I started to walk away but Giles was yelling that I had 30 seconds left so I returned to attempt the atlas stone. With my wrist still hurting I had wrapped it well for the pressing and that got in the way of trying to grip the spherical stone. I tried to pull off the wrist wraps in time and pick up the stone but I wasn’t ready to do so and left it with the 2 stones pressed. No one pressed the atlas stone so the results were based on time for the first two stones and I came in fourth since I didn’t get the lockout the first time up with that second stone, which may have put me in a better position. 


Event 2 - 310 lb. Atlas Stone Carry for Distance

Pick up an atlas stone without tacky and carry it as far as you can. Sounds simple enough but the pressure that an atlas stone puts on your diaphragm combined with the lack of grip makes this a gruelling challenge. Being the third one up on this event, I knew I had to go until complete failure to make sure I finished with a high standing on this event. My mark to beat was based on what I had done in training and trying to push as far beyond that as I could. When it was my time to go I took an extra second to ready myself, got the stone to my lap and made sure that my grip was solid. Then it was time to march. The first lap of the course went speedy but when I heard that it was only 50 feet I had travelled I wasn’t impressed. It felt a lot longer than that. The second lap I was still moving well when I made the turn at 100 feet I had started to slow down a little but my grip was still solid. Halfway through the third lap and moving beyond 100 feet was when my pace started to slow to a crawl. I was close to the 150-foot mark though and so I thought that to get it across that line and a few steps further would be good for making sure I got past anyone who made it to 150 and collapsed. The turning points are always places where you’ll find athletes dropping off and regularly in a tie for distance so I wanted to get around the turn once more and take a few more steps. My total distance was something like 155 feet. It was better than I had done in practice and the next best distance was 90-something feet so it was good to push it and not short-change myself. 


Event 3 - 60 lb. Stone Throw

Each athlete was given three attempts to throw a 60 lb. stone for furthest distance. I was off to a pretty good start for this one with a throw over 14 feet. I was somewhere in the middle of the pack with some closer to 10 feet and one or two at 15 feet. Once Brian got a feel for the stone he had a great toss over 16 feet that was now the mark to beat. I incrementally threw better each attempt with high-14s for my second throw and then over 15 feet on my final attempt which was good enough to finish third in the event. Not much more needs to be said about that. 60 lb. is a heavy stone to throw and is awkward since field stones have nooks and crannies that can make it difficult to balance and throw with one hand. 

 

Event 4 - Dinnie Stones Carry

Giles had replica Dinnie stones made up to do this challenge weighing 280 lb. and 300 lb. In training, I hadn’t been able to lift them off the ground. I didn’t want to zero the event and I had even hoped that I would get them up and hold on to them to walk for a bit. Drew had gotten pretty far with a mark to beat close to 20 feet. The ring handles on the Dinnie stones were really small and try as I may, I could not keep the heavier stone in my grip. I made it only a few steps off the starting line in the 75-second time limit which finished me in second last place. The event was won by Brian who I believe carried them past the 20-foot mark to lock in the first in the event and I think at that point Brian was already ahead enough to have the competition win before the final event. 

 

Event 5 - Stone Load to Platform

The stone loading event included the same 260 lb. field stone from the pressing event, a 280 lb. field stone, a 310 lb. atlas stone, 335 lb. atlas stone, and 375 lb. atlas stone. Being the second one up, I knew I had to come out with a fast time on the early stones. I was tied for third with 16 points going into the final event and so it all came down to speed and how many stones were going to be loaded. No tacky was allowed for the field stones, so I had my dad standing by with the tacky for when I might need it on the atlas stones. In training I was getting stuck on the second field stone which has an awkward shape and requires a high extension to load onto the platform. In the competition, I got through the first two stones quickly and ran to the first of the atlas stones without tacky to try to get a fast time. I got it loaded quickly as well and then tried to use tacky for the next stone. I still had a minute to get the fourth stone loaded. My tacky wasn’t smearing well though and clumped on my hands and forearms which didn’t offer much help. I got the stone loaded to my lap but my wrist was hurting by then and I wasn’t able to lock it in tight enough to extend and load it on the platform. Having gone through the first three stones quickly though meant I was holding on to first place to see who would possibly load that fourth stone. My time was still untouched going into Brian as the final athlete on the stones. Having already done enough, Brian decided to leave it at three stones after giving the fourth one a shot. 

Getting another first in the final event meant that I ended up in second place overall for the day, which was nice to see against the level of competition I was up against. The Dinnie stones weren’t very fun to experience, even though I did get them off the ground, but other than that I felt I had really great performances and made improvements with the rest of the events. And to top it all off, I got to eat a delicious Scotch egg from one of the food trucks at the festival.