Canada's Natural Strongest Man 2018
*Videos for all of the events will be posted on Instagram*
As the adrenaline wears off the pain creeps into every nook and cranny of the body. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of going up against the iron battle when afterwards you start to hurt before the delayed onset muscle soreness has time to kick in. That’s when you know that you’ve left everything you had on the battlefield.
The Canadian Hercules is the ultimate test of strength for natural athletes in Canada. The top-10 athletes in the country challenge themselves with back-breaking strongman events for the chance to be crowned as Canada’s Natural Strongest Man. Like many of the athletes at the competition, this is the pinnacle of my strongman training all year; the point to which all of my efforts lead to. To show up and not perform to the best of my abilities is a very expensive lesson. Travelling out to Calgary and putting everything I’ve got on the line not only makes the trip worthwhile but also the 364 days of training leading up to the big day.
To prepare for a competition of this calibre is a test of both mental and physical prowess. You have to prepare your mind to absorb any adversity thrown your way in competition and nourish and allow your body to recover and prime itself for maximal performance on competition day. There are many factors that go into performing your best in strongman and the more that you can fine tune, the better and more consistent your performance will become on competition day.
With my body resonating at an optimal frequency I was ready to fire on all cylinders and perform to the level I knew I was capable of.
And I would have to be ready. This competition is run so efficiently that all is said and done in under two hours. A blistering speed for a competition of this calibre.
Event 1 - Farmer’s Walk
Due to space constraints, the farmer’s walk, which was supposed to be three rounds of 50 feet with 275 lb., was adjusted to stretches of 30 feet with a drop and turn after every lap. Even with the impressive weight being lifted in this event, it was a footrace for who would take 1st place in the event. The times were all extremely close. I’m not sure what my time was for the event but I think I took 3rd place. My time was fast and I had no slip-ups. I made sure to control the drop on each turn to avoid wasting time on the pick up with lopsided grips. The placings on this event were determined by milliseconds.
Event 2 - Yoke Squat
This event was a brutal challenge for me. We all established the height we would squat from by sitting on a 20” box. Strongman is fun in that there are advantages and disadvantages thrown at every individual based on body types. Having about a 2-foot range of motion versus inches for some of the shorter athletes did not make the yoke squat very easy for me. I knew based on training that this was something I wanted to at least complete a rep for and not zero. I had struggled for a single rep in training. When it came time to do it in competition I managed to grind out 5 long and painful reps. I was happy with it. There was nothing I could do to reach the guys who hit 15 or more reps.
Event 3 - Circus Dumbbell Medley
I was looking forward to doing the circus dumbbell but the yoke squat left my legs feeling very weak. It took me quite a while to recover but I finally got back to normal and was ready to go.
I was really hoping to hit the 170 lb. circus dumbbell, especially with a lot of guys struggling to hit it. I was confident that I would be able to do it, having hit 170 lb. in the gym with a loadable dumbbell - usually harder than the leverage you get with a circus dumbbell.
I threw the 125 lb. DB up easily with my left hand and then switched to right for the 140 lb. one - a strategy based off of testing the limits of my injured wrists. I thought that I had a clean lockout on the dumbbell and was ready to move on so I started to bring the dumbbell back down from lockout but I hadn’t received a down signal. I lowered it to my shoulder instead and pressed it back up to lockout but all of this confusion extended my wrist in a way that it shouldn't have and messed up my rhythm. I was close to getting the 170 lb. locked out by with my wrist hurting I was unable to complete the rep. Because I didn’t get the down signal on my first press with 140 lb. either I don’t think I had a very good standing in this event based on time splits.
The pressure was now on to not mess up again.
Event 4 - Deadlift
This event was a rising bar deadlift with wagon wheels set at 16 inches. I had to separate myself from the pack in this one and knew it would be a struggle, having only gotten to 630 lb. in training. I figured 630 would be where a few athletes would drop off.
The first few reps came and went for everyone with little challenge.
Once we got to 630 lb. we saw a couple of athletes struggling, a few still blasting it up like it was nothing, and some of the athletes dropping off. When it came time for me to lift it, it went up smoothly and still felt pretty good. I knew I could grind out the next weight.
680 lb. was next. We were given a few minutes to recover before making this attempt.
A few more athletes were eliminated. It would be important to make up lost points here.
As I strapped in and drove through the floor with the weight, it came up off the floor smoothly and I got it past my knees. It was a bit of a grind from there but I got it locked out for another good rep.
Now there were 6 of us left. We got to choose our next weight above 700. Most of us would go with 700 on the dot. Brian and Nolan skipped, saving their energy for heavier attempts.
I watched as some more guys were eliminated on the 700. Now it was my turn. 700 was a big jump from the 630 I had got in training. It seemed unlikely that I would get it based off of that alone. But the 680 came off the floor with some speed so I felt there must be a little more left in the tank. It was game time.
If my lift was perfect it just might be possible… I approached the bar.
I strapped in evenly and lined up the plates to avoid the groove I felt in the ground. I rolled it back and forth a bit and pulled the slack out of the bar a few times. As I pulled it into my shins and drove into the ground I closed my eyes and focused everything I had on breaking the bar off the floor.
It came up and cleared my knees.
I still had a long way to go.
Every muscle in my body was firing towards the sky. I still kept my eyes closed because I still had a long way to go. I squeezed with everything I had and slowly but surely the bar continued to creep inch-by-inch.
This felt like an eternity. I opened my eyes as I was getting close to lockout. I hadn’t received a down signal yet so I kept squeezing, kept firing every muscle I could to get locked out.
I received the command and the bar quickly returned to its earth-bound resting place.
700 lb. was an awesome achievement and tied me for third in the event. I was stoked. We only had one event left and it was the one I was heading into without a doubt that I could win.
Event 5 - The Medley
Because of the space constraints, the medley was adjusted slightly from the original plan. We were to carry 275 lb. farmer’s walk for 30 feet, followed by loading a 176 lb. and 203 lb. kettlebell onto a platform 30 feet away, and finishing with a 275 lb. sandbag loaded from 15 feet away. I was in the third last pairing for this head-to-head event but knew that I could make up some points here with a big finish. Most of the guys ran through the event pretty quickly. Kettlebells that big can be a little awkward and sandbags always have the propensity to slow guys down as they fumble to get purchase.
When it was my time to go nothing was going to stop me from running through the entire thing. I got my grip and heard the whistle.
The farmer’s handles were done and dusted in no time.
I grabbed the first kettlebell from the horn. It was a little low and I felt that my pace was affected by it bobbling against my legs but it was up and on the platform with a little pop. Now, sprint back and do it again. The second kettlebell went up in a similar fashion but I had placed it too much into the centre of the platform. I took notice so that I would adjust my trajectory with the sandbag enough to not run out of space on the platform.
The only thing between me and a fast time now was the sandbag. I ran back for the final object. Flopped the top over into my awaiting hand and grabbed the bottom. A quick lap to get it set a little above waist height and then I was carrying it over to the platform. I thought maybe I had grabbed it too low but with another quick hip pop it cleared the platform and was up.
I removed my hands and the bag stayed put.
27 seconds was my time. The second place time was 31.
This event secured me huge points in the final tally and I ended up placing 4th in Canada when the day was done! This was a huge climb up from my ranking last year and I look forward to making improvements and battling it out again next year. Den always puts on a great show so it will be fun to be a part of again.
I am also grateful for my parents joining me for support on this trip out to Calgary as well as my sponsor McWilliams Moving for the help with the expenses of getting out there.