Canada's Natural Strongest Man 2017
Part of the masochistic badge of honour that comes from competing in strongman is the soreness that is a product of putting everything on the line to do your best during the competition. This past weekend was the Canadian Hercules competition, aka Canada’s Natural Strongest Man 2017 and to say I’m sore is putting it lightly. My body was already sore before I had left the field of battle that day! Each and every event was a physical and mental battle beyond anything I have faced before. to have the opportunity to compete at such a high level against great and humble athletes was amazing and everyone did all they could to show why they deserved to be there.
Preview for the Olympics?
To qualify for the Canadian Hercules competition, athletes had to compete in either the Eastern Canada's qualifier or the Western Canada's qualifier and pass a drug test. It's a unique and excellent opportunity for young athletes and those dedicated to competing naturally to have an organization that is dedicated to having athletes that are not on performance enhancing drugs. It's more relatable for the spectators watching and at the national level still just as impressive as any other strongman competition. The sport of strongman has been selected as a potential test sport for the 2020 Olympics, so I think that the trend for natural strongman will start to rise over the next few years, just like it has recently for natural powerlifting.
The Drawing and Preparing for Battle
It started with drawing numbers. I drew number 1. Not cool, but I was there to do everything I could to perform at my best, so at least this meant I didn’t have to compare to anything. I just had to get it done. The order of competitors stayed the same throughout the entire competition. This was unusual as normally our placings in the previous event determine what order we go in for each subsequent event. Just like any other competitor, I like to be able to see other athletes go ahead of me, at least on some of the events, so this was unfortunate, but each competition is a little different and makes strongman a more dynamic and interesting sport. There was no time to waste, as I was first one up to the plate for event number one.
Event 1 - Farmer’s Medley
The first event, the first ungodly amount of weight to face. The farmer’s medley started at 230 per hand for 30’, the officials stopped the clock for a count of three while adding on the next set of weights, jumped to 320 per hand for 30’, and then finished off with the heaviest farmer’s in any Canadian competition this year at 410 per hand for a final 30'. This was my first mind-blowing experience of the day. I easily ran through the first two stages and even got the 410 up and locked out, but my left hand gave out promptly. This was one of the moments I was most concerned about at this competition, as my sprained finger majorly affected my grip training in the months prior to the competition. Once my hand is fully healed, which hopefully will be soon, I will be hitting my grip training HARD to get better for next year. I watched as every other athlete at least moved the farmers a few inches or feet and some of the lightest athletes did incredibly well with it and moved at least half the course length! I was completely blown away and know I have to work harder. I always considered myself pretty good at farmer’s, so getting last in this event was a tough pill to swallow. The dominant Tim Côté who won the competition and competed at World's last year was the only athlete to finish the course. He's such a powerful athlete and still made it look like he could have done more weight.
Event 2 - Circus Dumbbell
150 lb. circus dumbbell for reps in 90 seconds.
The circus dumbbell went really well for me. It’s about the only pressing event that I am moderately good at right now. Because of the deficit in grip strength with the left hand, I had focused my training efforts on the right arm for the pressing event as well. Lowering the dumbbell and trying to get a solid grip on it were both delaying the recovery process too much to properly train and risked further injury.
I hit 7 reps fully locked out and got close on a couple more reps, but this was a major accomplishment for me and a huge personal best. I knew the winning number would be much better and it was, with several guys in the double digits and the winning number being 15 reps. This was one event that I felt went according to plan on the day though, so I was definitely pleased with it.
Progressive Wheelbarrow Deadlift
The wheelbarrow was loaded up with the competition officials and crew members and was crazy heavy. It started at an empty weight of 500 lb. and each rep another official loaded himself into the barrow, jumping by over 200 lb. each rep and going up to over 1400 lb. I got to rep 4 at around 1200 lb. with each rep going fast and smooth but couldn’t manage the rep with the final person being loaded onto the wheelbarrow. Unfortunately time was not split for all the athletes who stalled out at 4 reps, so we all tied for points. I was amazed at the athletes who were repping out with the 1400+lb. weight on the wheelbarrow. I’ve got a lot of work to do. The wheelbarrow is a new movement for me and I might not have positioned myself as best as possible. I was trying to arc slightly like a forward facing car deadlift, but I think that the range of motion of the wheelbarrow might have been more straight up and down after seeing some of the other athletes manage more reps than me.
The sandbag was a 4-foot tall, 385 lb. monster of a sandbag that we had to carry for 60’ for fastest time. This event did go well and I got second place with 14 seconds and a bit. I tried to push as hard as possible to keep moving fast the entire distance, but man was it ever challenging to keep those legs moving quick! Our lightest athlete competing, the most impressive strongman athlete I’ve ever seen, Simon Benoit did a daring move by diving to the finish line to place ahead of me by 1 second. I'm not sure if it was intentional or just his legs giving up, but it still looked cool as he flew through the air and rode the sandbag onto the platform.
But seeing him run with the sandbag that weighed at least 150 lb. more than him was simply astounding. He performed solidly on every event and finished second overall in the competition. That's the kind of calibre of competitor you face at a national level competition.
The athletes that dropped the sandbag were in a world of trouble, as it had to be picked up from the ground to continue on the race. Only the athletes who didn’t drop the sandbag were actually able to finish back to the starting line.
My teammates and I trained the sandbag an awful to get ready for this competition and loaded up the blue iron mind bags as heavy as we could get them in order to prepare for the strain.
The final medley consisted of a 40’ run with a 500 lb. trap bar, followed by loading two kettlebells and two sandbags onto a 3.5’ platform. The implements were all set at varying distances from the platform and this included loading that monstrous 385 lb. sandbag that we had just seen in the last event. My strategy was to load the first three implements as fast as possible to have a good time going into the final sandbag and to hopefully load it as well. My pace was very good for the trap bar carry and loading of the first three objects. The final sandbag was insanely heavy and I carried it over to the platform, but wasn’t able to get it to my lap or high enough to have a chance to load it. I had first tried to pick it straight up the way I had carried it in the last event and when that had failed my second though was to try to bend it around one knee and then use both hands to get the rest of the bag up onto my second knee, but there was just too much weight to maneuver it like that. None of the athletes were able to get that beastly bag far enough off the ground to load it. Unfortunately this meant we ended with an 11-way tie in the final event, as there were no split times given to the loading of the first three implements. I was hoping for my speed on this event to benefit me and my placing, but alas it did not and so I stayed in the same position I was in going into the final event and ended up in 8th place overall.
The athletes competing on this day were absolutely amazing and I’m honoured to have had the chance to compete against them. Even though I thought I was prepared for the competition, it turns out that I was under-prepared for what all these other monsters had to show for us all. Every athlete deserved to be there and was very friendly and humble, so it was another reaffirmation that strongman has some of the most genuinely good-natured athletes that you can find. Now it's back to the drawing board and I hope to get another chance to compete at this competition in the future and to wherever that may lead me.