The alternative title was “Dr. Bananahands or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Piss in a Cup.” It’s kind of funny to me to see that the day after this show when I woke up; the first thing I read about is how what I did (by competing in this show) is “bad” for strongman and an ego trip. Awesome, I always wanted to be a bad guy wrestler so I guess a bad guy strongman works fine too. Competition is healthy.
This contest was in Ohio and would be the furthest I’ve gone for a contest clocking in at around five and a half hours or so. Rode out there the day before with Andy Deck and my dad. Not going to name names but his initials are Lou Costa, was also supposed to tag along but he went separately and ended up arriving at around 1:30 in the morning. Talked shop, bullocks and whatnot until we reached our destination. We ate at the restaurant sponsoring and holding the contest, the Quaker Steak & Lube. The fact it looks like a gas station is and has “lube” in the name is supposed to be a joke. Andy and I also think the steak part is also a joke. But damn do they have good chicken. I should have listened to the bellhop at the hotel and just got chicken. When a bellhop tells you things, you listen. That kind of thing saved Danny Torrance’s life in “The Shining” and I’m better for it. Most of my conversations revolved around how good that chicken was to other competitors or whoever was near by. I feel I should beat the owners up for not telling me how good that chicken was. But I digress. We walked around the parking lot and got a good idea of the possibly terrain we’d be pulling the fire truck and walking the yoke. I was still hungry after the restaurant and got two sandwiches at Sheetz and then had a shake and went to bed.
This whole week, I have been feeling this silent stress. I don’t think I’m thinking about it but my heart races and my hands get sweaty. Just waiting for the Great White Stress Shark to erupt and attack the Sea Lion of Confidence. I slept well though so maybe this wasn’t entirely the case. Or maybe I don’t care at this point. So I’m up and make it down to the show with my dad and Deck. I do my typical tourist thing of walking around and taking photos of the things I see. They had the Inch Dumbbell out and boy is that different than the thick handle dumbbells I’ve used. I could barely break it off the ground with one hand. John Dennis was able to pull it close to lockout before his grip gave out. Andy and I both noticed a large stack of tires and were a little concerned since no one has practiced tires in months. Turns out they were for an intermission thing for the crowd where they could try to flip the heaviest tire (970lbs) for a $50 gift certificate to the Quaker Steak & Lube. My stomach was considering dropping out and doing that so I could get 100 chicken wings but my brain tricked it back into doing the contest saying if I got at least third place, I could get 200 chicken wings and that’s like 100 more chicken wings. So we had the rules meeting and I weighed in at 263.6lbs (with my thick shoes on). While there were only four heavy weights (Scott Weech, Lou Costa, John Dennis and I) I was the lightest competitor of the heavies. We were told it was going to run fast so I got ready and warmed up. Something clicked once the DJ started blaring music and I did my warm ups with purpose.
To start the day off, it was a truck pull. We had to pull Phillip the Firetruck (actual name of the truck) for 80’ in 75 seconds. Andy and I noticed right away this was going to be a repeat of the Iron City pull in that the start was good but it went up hill halfway. The rope was 2” thick and it was heavy to pull and keep tight. I knew it was going to be tough after seeing John Dennis only get about half the distance when he had finished the truck pull at Iron City in the fastest time. Scott Weech went and got only slightly further. This is not going to be good. I chalked my hands and got into the Spud harness. I get tight and I hear Thunderstruck come on the loud speakers (personal songs by the DJ is freaking awesome) and I pulled. I was yelling the lyrics at the top of my lungs as I pulled. THUNDER! My forearms were burning and I just kept chugging along. THUNDER! Still going. THUNDER! It slows to a stop and I try to restart it but no good. Unlike the IronMind harness, the Spud ones don’t have good place to brace your abs for a restart mid pull. I was out of breath and looked over to see if I had beaten 42’9”. I saw my dad nod his head yes and saw the judges mouth “44 feet” and I thrust my fist up. I had successfully beat an ASC pro in an event and not only that, but an event that three months earlier, I sucked at. First out of four and a great way to start the day.
Up next was the Inch Dumbbell press. An actual replica coming in at 172lbs. Compared to the cartoonish looking circus dumbbells, it doesn’t look like much. But placing that bad boy on your shoulder feels like you just shouldered a baby elephant. It’s just so dense. Like none more dense. In warm ups, I was only able to get it with my right arm and that was after three sets so I knew this was going to be tough. I was up on this event literally minutes after the truck pull so my legs were pretty shot and bending over made the water and Gatorade think about evacuating. And not the good kind. Luckily since I was first on the truck pull, I got go last on this to see what I had to beat. Lou put up I believe eight reps which I figured might be doable if I was fresh and my overhead was at its best (which it wasn’t) and then John went and bombed. Of course Scott goes and makes an easy 11 reps. No way was I going to catch that. My goal at this point was to get at least one. One rep got me third place but I knew that’s not what the crowd would want so I kept going but took it slow and managed four reps. I wish I had a dumbbell like this to play around with in PA. At least we got a Slater 10” to play with at Jon’s place in York. So a third out of four.
Again, minutes later it was on to the car deadlift. It was set on a suspension thing so it was quite different than the two contests that have had a lever based deadlift. Honestly, this was the point in the contest (with car deadlift, log press and yoke) that I’d be left in the dust behind Lou and Scott. Our weight was going to be the car plus 200lbs in the trunk. That changed when Rob “All Day” Agnoli and Andy “Vibrams” Deck did 38 and 41 reps with the apparatus with 100lbs in the trunk. Their sacrifice was not in vain as John Dennis asked them to put the 200lbs on the handles as he didn’t want to do a “f***ing repfest.” The setup was a little awkward, especially for the larger guys with the plates. Lucky for me, I have no ass so the plates didn’t hit my tuckus if I was too close. John had got five reps and seeing as how this got tough right as you get to the point you have to push your hips through, I was worried this would be awful. That feeling of becoming a decorative cherub fountain spewing Gatorade? Amplified with the belts. I seriously thought I would vomit all over the head judge. I strapped in and pulled. After I got the first rep up, I adjusted my feet to a more optimal position and banged out some reps. I didn’t keep track. My left arm started spasming and my straps were coming loose. I couldn’t get my left arm to stop so I threw off my straps and pulled one last rep without them before time ran out. I finished with 11 reps which (Scott straight up murdered with 15 reps) was good enough for second out of four.
Thankfully, there was a 20 minute break. The first three events were done in about an hour. My upperback was destroyed, my grip was fried and my calves were cramping. The intermission was tire flipping and H2 pull. Both events were giving $50 gift certificates to Quaker Steak & Lube. Two people actually flipped all the tires so they came up with a “flip off” for the second intermission with reps on the 970lbs tire. First place would get $50 and the second place would get $25.
So after the rest break, it was on to the log press for max. Three attempts but with power lifting three attempt rules. I don’t think anyone really benefited from the rule of going after missing but whatever. The heavies were using a 13” log. Last time I used this kind of log was a year ago and I only got 240lbs. The darn thing weighed 245lbs empty so that became my opener. I rushed the clean but made the lift easy. Did a knee raise and put it down. Really I was trying any tricks to get my legs and triceps to kick in and allow me to be explosive. I called for 265lbs for my next attempt. Much better with the clean and a slightly tougher press. I held it overhead for a bit and walked forward with it before putting it down. Trying to get myself pumped for my last attempt. I knew that there was no way I could get a 20lbs increase so I just went for 275lbs. If I got this, I’d get third out right and if not, I’d tie with John. I gave it two tries but just wasn’t meant to be as I felt my core relax each time I went to get my leg drive. 13” logs are tough. I guess I can’t be miffed with a 25lbs PR on this lift but it’s tough to be happy with that when First place does 400lbs with some in the tank. Tie for last place out of four.
Then it was time for the yoke. Not much to say on this other than it was wobbly and had skateboard tape on the bar. No chance of that sliding down haha. I didn’t get a chance to warm up for it so it was bang, right under 800lbs. We had 75 seconds to go 80’. I totally and completely screwed up my start and made several drops. Man this event needs a lot of work. This wasn’t like at home where I could take some rest and make it a 3 minutes set. Every time I picked it up I’m thinking, go, go, go, finish, you have to finish, you just have to finish. I crossed the line just as time ran out. Really, really sad performance on this. Lou and Scott both made it look like a joke. I swear they run faster with weight than without it, makes them more aerodynamic of something. Fourth place out of four.
The final intermission (10 minutes) went and I got ready for the stone over bar. I was in third and needed to beat Lou to get second. But that wasn’t really on my mind. My goal was to beat Scott. Ever since he beat me by less than half a second on that stone series at Villanova, he’s been the guy I’ve been trying to beat. Before him it was Andy Deck as we would often tie or edge each other out by a few seconds on stones. Now Scott is my end game boss when it comes to stones. The event was a “375lbs” (more on that later) stone would be loaded over a 48” yoke with a time limit for this one was 75 seconds. With the listed weight, I was thinking, light stone. Hell, even before the contest I was thinking that the winning number would be double digits on this one. However, after the whole day of leg destroying events, I was thinking maybe five would be enough. I went first since I got last on yoke and I attacked. It didn’t budge. WHAT? I grab it again, it just slides. Now I’m made I get as tight as I can a lap it really, really deep. I don’t think I’ve ever got that deep to lap a stone. I extend and get it over. Balls. I try again and I try to lap it again and it rolls off my lap. I swear this thing was polished glass or something. I get some fresh tacky from Andy (I was using my old stuff) and managed to get one more rep (really freaking tough). Crap, I must be weak was my thinking and then both John and Lou bomb it. Scott comes up and gets two in a much faster time than me and pulls off the win with one more. If I had been using fresh tacky from the start, I could have got three but Scott would have done four. He was definitely the better and stronger stone loader today. A second out of four.
So we’re all talking around a trash can as we’re cleaning the tacky off our arms and all the heavies agree that the “375lbs” stone was much heavier than that. As all four of us have done +400lbs stones for reps and Scott said it was much tougher than the 410lbs stone he did in Orlando and that was over a 54” bar. It turns out that the weight was a guess as the scale they had only goes up to 330lbs and the stone has a lead insert (21” mold) and they asked Steve Slater how much it should weigh. There was a little kid that wanted to get his picture taken with us (Lou, Scott, Andy and I) but he was a little shy. But he came back a little later with his shirt off and did a “most muscular pose” for the camera. That had to be the highlight of the day for me haha. We cleaned up and they gave out the awards. I placed second behind Scott. Being top three meant I was invited to compete at the show in February/March where I could qualify to represent the USA at the WNSF championships. I thanked them and I got a big check made out for $200. I felt a little like Happy Gilmore with that thing haha.
Then came time to provide a “specimen” for the “test” haha. Oh sure, now they want my pee. Should have asked for it when I was nervous not when I’m dehydrated haha. I tried drinking a lot of water but it did no good but, it did come back to bite me a few hours into the trip home when I had to have my dad pull over so I could run into a ditch and piss from like three minutes straight. No idea how truckers do it into a bottle. I’m not sure if it was enough but oh well. Next time, I’ll provide a gallon of pee. Ok, back to the contest. So Andy and I talk with Bryce and the rest of the Gorilla Pit Crew and it appears that there will be a show there at the gym in November (date not yet set) that’s going to just be like a heavy, heavy training day type contest (top three qualify for the February/March show) that will have a DJ, beverages and be catered by Quaker Steak and Lube (CHICKEN!!!) which I’ll probably do too. Drove home and listened to comedy CD’s. Not much time to rest as my next show will be the Hudson Valley Strongman/ Masters Nationals in Wallkill, NY. Upstate New York shows are just the best.
I told you its name was Phillip.
The Impressive Areas - John McCallum (1968)
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