Monday, May 26, 2014

Fit For Life American Strongman Show - 05/24/14

It’s a numbers game. For example; 2,490 miles of traveling, $1,064 in expenses, 133 days of training for 5 minutes to show what I got. I’ve now been to Shreveport Louisiana as many times as I’ve kissed girls named Jennifer (2). Coming up on six years of competing so while I’m still considered a youngster, I’ve been putting time on my body. As I’ve mentioned earlier this year, I was treating this contest as my National’s because I was coming back from yet another back injury and knew my chances of making it out to Reno Nevada, let alone qualifying, were minute. Plan going in was compete with high caliber competition and not get injured.

Last year, the drive was obscenely long. I really did look into flying down this time but my return flight would have had me spending over 13hrs on lay-over in Dallas Texas so that was not an option. Just trying my best to keep busy, listening to music, comedy CD’s and reading books (one I finished out of spite) while in the car and then keeping track of bathroom graffiti at the different state welcome centers on restroom breaks. On the food front, I either horrified waitresses at sit-down joints by ordering a family worth of food or caused a screeching halt in kitchen output at fast-food joints. During the times I was unconscious, I was in the back, feeling like my father was Reinfield, transporting Dracula across the ocean that is The South. There was daylight when we arrived and the city didn’t look so bad. Larry Flint’s Hustler House still there but it wasn’t offering “live, beautiful, classy ladies” this time. I guess they couldn’t guarantee that this year.

I signed in and weighed in at 280.6lbs. Heaviest I’ve weighed in at a contest. And 17.8lbs heavier than last year. I was asked to put down some interesting fact about myself that no else would know so that the MC could use it during the contest (he didn’t). I put down that I lifted a 505lbs atlas stone in training and that I once escorted Chubby Checker at Hershey Park. That story is for another time. The heavyweight class had 14 competitors including myself, which is the largest I’ve been in at a pro/am. I didn’t bother taking any photos this time around as the equipment wasn’t setup and it had been done before. I think the realization that I was going to be competing hit me at like 6:00AM the day of the show and I was having a hard time keeping my breakfast down. I’m truly a bundle of nerves.

The first event was the yoke. That’s right; no pressing event to start this off but the heaviest event of the day right off the bat. 900lbs implement with a 60’ course and a 60 second time limit. Initially, this was going to be one drop and done but the powers that be relented and unlimited drops allowed. I was not confident in my yoking abilities going into this event. The most I did in training had been 850lbs for 40’ and I ended up dropping it on that short run. Granted the Biggdogg Strongg yoke is easier than my own yoke. Surprise, surprise, we actually had time to warm-up on it! I did all the warm-ups I had planned on hitting and I was feeling comfortable with it. I was the tallest competitor so I was going last and since my yoke is not that good, I knew I’d be going pretty early in the next event. Unlike last year, I didn’t forget my good shoes or screw-up my yoke height. I did however, forget my gloves. I started off slow and steady but never felt like I could pick up speed. If anything I slowed down to deal with the sway (they couldn’t tighten the yoke) and I ended up dropping it. Good thing they didn’t do the one drop thing or I wouldn’t have finished the event. I dropped it a few times and ended up sliding it, costing me a 2 second penalty on my time. I eventually made it across the line at 38.82 seconds (including the slide penalty). Just like last year, I was the slowest of the people to finish the course. But I finished and that put me ahead of some people to give me a eleventh place finish.

Up next was the carry and deadlift medley or “Dione’s Deadly Deadlift” (alliteration for the win). To start, it was a 225lbs sandbag for 60’, 250lbs sandbag for 40’and a 275lbs sandbag for 20’ tossed into the bucket and then deadlift away until 60 seconds expired. Mixed feelings about this one as I’m good with carrying odd stuff but stink a deadlifting stuff. On the plus side, no straps or suits allowed on the deadlift, so grip was going to be a factor for everybody. Now this event had been tested out at the Amateur World Championship in February, with the winning number being 20 reps on the deadlift. Yeah, they were having none of that this time around. The time limit was shortened to 60 from 75 and another sandbag was added (from two to three). With that change, I was worried I would bomb the deadlift. No doubts I would get the sandbags for sure but the deadlift had me worried. My goal was to get through the sandbags as fast as possible so that I could take my time with the deadlift to psyche myself up properly. One of the things I did was place my belt down at the deadlift bucket, rather than run with it on for the sandbags. I remembered from last year with the keg carry and wheelbarrow medley that I almost passed out running with it on. I didn’t want to chance that. They announced that the weight in hand was 780lbs. The whistle blew and I was off. I took time to get the sandbags high on my body so that I could move as fast as I could without the implement impending my legs. Made it through the sandbags easy and then took time to put on my belt, chalk up my hands and shout at the deadlift apparatus before attempting the lift. It was slow going but up it came. Down signal given and then again attacking it as I was given the up signal command. Again, slow going but up it came. I tried to build up the nerve for a third but time was up. Granted I only go two reps, it was a little victory for me and it was a blast. Ended up with a tie for tenth on this.

The third event was axle clean and press. Fixed bar with tires filled with sand, loaded up to 310lbs with 60 seconds to get as many reps as possible. I’ve been working hard on this lift all this time, hitting 305lbs for five out of the rack and 310lbs for a double with a clean every rep just the week before. But that was fresh, with a revolving bar, not after 900lbs of yoke or lots of sprinting with sandbags. The fixed bar was definitely giving me troubles in warm-ups as I kept pulling the bar too low and would hit my belt buckle. But I got plenty of warm-up time to get used to it before going so I was ready for it. Or so I thought. The whistle went and went for my first clean and the axle spun out of my hand trying to pop it up to my chest. It won’t be perfect, got to deal with things as they come. This happened in training last week with 290lbs but I knew it wasn’t the end and went back at it. Took a bit for the weight to settle on my chest but I was able to launch it up to lockout for a rep. I still had plenty of time and went for another. Little more effort for me to get it to the shoulders and it definitely took it out of me. I took some deep breathes and went for it but my upper body just said no thanks. I still had time but I knew my upper body was done and continuing to try for more was just going to waste energy for the remaining events. This result tied me for last place.

Next was the farmer’s walk. High pick implements loaded to 320lbs with a 60’ course and a 60 second time limit. No real doubts of not finishing this event as I had done more in training with low pick handles for quite a few sets. I was sure this would be a strong event for me as my grip is strong. Granted I never trained on the Biggdogg Strongg handles before so they were a little weird to me. Top loaded implements that were much like doing oxygen tank cylinders as they bang against your sides. So not too sure how that would affect things but like I said, we got plenty of time to test out the stuff and got familiar real quick. I think my only concern on this event really was tearing a callus with how much hand work had been done so far and with another event to go. Whistle blew and I was off. My pickup was slow but I started moving. I started to bang my thighs and I slowed down a little near the end, crossing the line at 13.71 seconds. Similar to what I was hitting in training but only good enough for twelfth.

The final event was the sandbag load and wheelbarrow medley. Sandbags of 225lbs, 250lbs and 275lbs were spaced out about 20’ apart along the course. Not like last year’s wheelbarrow medley where they were carried like the deadlift medley from earlier but closer to what we did at the Hartford pro/am in 2012. The competitors were advised that this was done because the last year’s style built up too much momentum with the wheelbarrows from the longer course, hence the stops. Load a sandbag in the wheelbarrow (with 500lbs of plates at the handles) move the wheelbarrow to the next sandbag and repeat until done. I was sure this would be a strong event for me as I’ve placed fourth both times I’ve done a wheelbarrow medley event. I needed 4.5 points more than the guy I was going against to move up in the final rankings. Last event of the day, got to make it count. The whistle went and we were off. We started off pretty close but he was faster with getting back to the front of the wheelbarrow. His speed definitely surpassed mine but I kept my pace, loading the sandbags to the front. He was on the third sandbag when I got back to the front of the wheelbarrow after loading the second one. He was then moving before I got the third one in the bucket. However, my planning worked in my favor as my competitor had loaded the bags in with speed but not with precision as the weight in hands was too much for him and he dropped it. Spurred on, I picked up speed and easily finished the course. I felt good with my time as it was my best yet on this event by about a second and I had the lead. But everyone else was also good and my time fell from the top. I actually ended up with tenth on this event.

I stayed in the bottom third the whole contest and that is where I ended up, twelfth out of fourteen in the heavyweights. I didn’t fail to complete any event but that isn’t enough now. You got to crush each event. Compared with the top, I’m not very fast, and it really shows on lateral movements. Overhead is still a weakness but it doesn’t feel like I’m possibly far behind. Looking over the videos, I can see spots where I could have picked up points but that is in the past and I did my best.

For the show itself, I have to put up some additional observations. I’ve been to three ASC/NAS pro-qualifier shows and this was the smoothest run one I’ve been too. Even with the events going by in about an hour each, we all still had plenty of time for warm-ups on every event. Scores and competitor order were up quickly as well. The only bad thing I can think of is that the convention center was nearly empty but that’s not really something that ASC/NAS can control, that’s the promoters of the fitness expo concern. The new MC took a while to get into a groove but he did at the end and hopefully that enthusiasm continues in the following appearances. Can’t say enough about the competitors this show as there were a lot of injuries that happened during the show but there was no quit in any of them. No body pulled of the show due to injury and that was just kind of crazy considering the injuries that happened to some of the guys. I might make an appearance on tv but I can’t go into any detail because I signed a nondisclosure waiver. My favorite moment of the whole weekend had to be when my friend Jimmy Dart won his LW pro card and his girlfriend came out of the audience to embrace him. It was a cute, tender moment.

I was on pain medication 5 months ago and now I’m back competing with top competition. Nothing broken, just tried and in need of some time off. My plans are to work on my off season strength (specifically deadlift and overhead) while working on getting better at transitions between implements. Not too sure if I’ll be doing any more competitions but we’ll see if the bug bites me again this year. I want the rest of this year to be a building block for big things next year. Hopefully the big shows will be closer.

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