The venue for the Eastern Canada’s Natural Strongest Man 2017 competition was like something out of a strongman fairy tale. Set up on a grandstand by the water in Gananoque drew lots of attention our way, even though it was a rainy day, less than ideal for competing.
It was unfortunate that the turnout for the competition wasn’t better, considering that this is the one shot for Eastern Canada athletes to get to compete at the Canada-wide Canadian Hercules competition for the year. It was sad to see several forced to withdraw due to injuries in the days leading up to the competition and I don’t know what caused other prospective athletes to miss the event.
It was great to have a venue like the one we were in, because the grandstand allowed for the events to be held under cover from the rain we saw all day. While some events fare well in the rain, the lifts we were doing would have ended up being precarious, and underwhelming for the audience, if held in the rain.
Last year I placed 6th at the ECNSM competition after receiving an invitation on last-minute notice. Top 5 last year qualified for the Canada-wide competition, so I just missed the cut. I was highly motivated to perform better this year, given that I had more time to prepare and that I had scheduled my work holidays around the competition dates this summer so that I would be well-rested for competition day.
The week leading up the competition still proved to be tense, as I sprained or strained something in my finger a week out while training the tire flip in the rain. As I was flipping the tire, my grip probably was not very good and I felt a pop in my finger. A lot of rest and ice ensued in the following days, but I was concerned as things had not improved as much as I had hoped by competition day. I at least was able to make a fist again and I hoped to try to keep the finger out of the way and utilize the rest of my hand more. There was also competition adrenaline to count on…
Event 1 - Deadlift 495 for Reps in 60 seconds
If you’ve read my write-up on what my strategy for planning my training leading up to this competition was, you’ll probably have some idea already of what events were being held at the competition.
The first event was the deadlift for reps and after drawing cards for initial order, I was to go 5th, which was also second last. A good place to be for pacing yourself on the first event. The warm up reps didn’t feel great on my hand, but I figured once I strapped in that would be of minor concern. The reps started to tally up, as each consecutive lifter hit more reps than the previous lifter. More important to me though was hitting more reps than the 9 I did last year with the same event at this competition. 8 was the mark to beat to take the lead. I hit 9 reps and then took a bit of a rest before continuing. I didn’t know how much time was left and I should have asked. I got up again and hit rep 10 and was almost to lockout on rep 11 when the whistle went, and the rep didn’t count. The rep did count for me though, as I had made progress from last year and was happy with it. Sebastien was the last to go on the event and I knew that he was going to hit a big number after seeing him deadlift last year. His number was 12 for the win and I think he would have gotten more if he had paced himself with Giles' up command on each rep (as these were dead stop reps and not touch and go).
Event 2 - 225 lb. Axle Clean and Press for Reps in 60 seconds
Coach Giles Sharpe is super strict on how the axle clean and press is performed, and for good reason, as equipment is expensive to maintain and venues also don’t want their property being damaged. This cost a number of lifters quite a few reps, as dropping of any kind would result in the rep not being counted. The same rule was upheld for any resting on the belt with continental clean. My teammate Drew was the first one up and hit an amazing 7 reps for the win in the event. I was trying to hit a personal best on the event as well and ended up getting too amped up for it. The adrenaline cost me in the end, as I felt over-charged and after stalling on my press halfway through rep 4, I decided to stop there and reset for the rest of the events. This still worked out ok as I was in third place on the event due to a tie for second place.
Event 3 - Tire Flip and Yoke Walk Medley
I was doubtful about many athletes completing this event when it was for the full 50 foot course as planned, but it was my goal to complete it. The weather shortened the course to keep it under the grandstand, so it ended up being 4 tire flips with the 900 lb. tire (versus what amounts to 6 flips for 50’) and 35’ for the 750 lb. yoke. The tire felt very heavy, but my pace was good getting through the four flips, while wearing my heavy belt. I chose this strategy and trained it in the end, because Giles’ yoke is very rickety and feels horrible to carry, so I knew it wouldn’t be possible for me to try to carry it with a softer belt only. The yoke felt spine crushing. I got it a few feet before it dropped me back down to Earth. I didn’t want to give up yet though and I was able to pick it back up and continue to pace myself. It felt terrible on my back, and I could feel some serious pain, but I managed to cross the line and finished in 49 seconds. My back didn’t feel good for getting through it, but I had done it.
Event 4 - Farmer's Walk Medley
250 lb. one way, 300 lb. back. The course was shorter, but that didn’t really change anything, as the fastest times would still have little issue carrying those weights. This was another event I knew Sebastien would be very good at having seen him carry the farmers last year. Some of the athletes struggled when it got to the 300 lb. handles, but when Seb was up he blistered the course in 17 seconds. My finger was on ice at this point to keep it from distracting me and I was belted up to save my lower back from any pain, but these would become minor issues once the whistle was blown. I felt a little lapse of doubt when I was up for the event, but had to let it pass from my mind. I did take a little extra time to get my full hand under the weight, instead of having it put any pressure on my fingers. Getting to the finish line with the 300 lb. handles was nerve-wracking as I felt the weights slide closer to my fingers by the end of the course. I wasn’t sure if my hand would hold up, but fortunately the adrenaline saved me from any kind of pain signal that would caused the weight to drop. 19 seconds was still a good time for second place in the event.
Event 5 - Loading Medley
The loading medley consisted of a 200 lb. fire hydrant, 220 lb. keg, 260 lb. atlas stone and 260 lb. keg.
I knew that the limiting factor for the event was lifting an atlas stone with no tacky as the second last object and still having to move a keg after that for the fastest time. This was also what I considered to be the most critical moment in the competition for me, as I had tried to move the stone the previous weekend with my finger being injured and the requirement of splaying your fingers to lift the stone caused me too much pain to lift. I figured either competition adrenaline would get me through or else I would be pinned on the implement and be left trailing behind. I won’t belabour the pity party any more though, because fortune and adrenaline was with me and I felt no issue, no pain during the event.
Any type of moving medley is usually my bread and butter event, having worked for my uncle’s company Mcwilliams Moving for many summers throughout university. I also have a height advantage when loading onto a platform or over a bar. All was in my favour here, as I blasted through all implements in 37 seconds for the win in the event and to seal the win overall in the competition.
I made it through the qualifying competition relatively unscathed and have the honour of joining the 5 other athletes from Eastern Canada competing Canada-wide at the Canadian Hercules event in Calgary later this summer. I know this is a huge accomplishment for myself as well as all the other athletes who showed up and put in the work to qualify.
I would also like to place a special emphasis on how enjoyable and valuable it was to have a great group of teammates to train with leading up to the competition, as well as compete alongside on competition day. Drew, Cor-Paul, and Zach also qualified for the Canadian Hercules event and so we will be able to continue to train together and support each other in the competition later this summer. Strongman is an individual challenge first and foremost, but the more that you can get a team involved, the more rewarding it will feel.
For any athletes in the Kingston area reading this, reach out to me or the Clydsdale Power Team on Facebook or in the section in the footer of my website if you would like to come and train with us. We are always accepting of new teammates.