Sunday, May 24, 2015

Kumite Classic - 05/23/15

I didn’t expect for this much time from my last contest to transpire. 364 days since my last contest. This was not planned mind you as I had every intention of competing at Maryland’s Strongest in November last year but some of my rib heads decided that this was the perfect time to become subluxated. Thankfully, coming back from this wasn’t as intense and humbling as “the back issue of Christmas 2013” but I knew I needed to put a mark in the win column. I handed over the keys to my training to strength coach Josh Bryant to get me back to the shape I had been in when I was having fun and not being injured. This involved 12 weeks of hard training to get back to form followed by 12 weeks of more hard training prepping specifically for this show. Those two intense cycles involved a lot of blood and sweat (no tears, I cry on the inside only) and lots of bitter pills to swallow. I was as ready as I was ever going to be.

It was a short drive this time as the show was just about 189 miles. This meant I could sleep in my own bed the night before but the negative side was having to wake up before the sun to get there. I spent the week getting used to waking up early to have it not be such as shock. It was one of my more restful pre-contest sleeps but I still kept waking up like every hour to check the clock, trying my best not to visualize the events in my dreams. This is only the second contest I have gone to without my father attending. My little sister filled in his role this time around. She was in charge of my life between 5:00AM and 7:00AM. The 3 hour trip was made in about 2 hours and some change (“I didn’t know I was going that fast Craig”) with me semiconscious and my driver on 4.5 hours of sleep, a fractured foot while contemplating whether the colors she sees are the same as the ones I see (grad students, am I right?).

We made it there no issues. The last time I was out near Pittsburgh, I had stated that the place smelled of “ash tray, cheeseburger and Vaseline”. It didn’t this time so way to go Pittsburgh, it only took you five years. Waited outside the place for a bit waiting for the guy to check us in. Turns out he was just inside the doors. Lardass class didn’t need to weigh-in as it wouldn’t come down to a tie [foreshadowing intensifies] but I did anyway to see where I was at. Down to 267.4lbs. If half marathons were measures of weight, I’d be down a little over one. 13.2lbs, that’s how much less I weighed verses a year ago this day. I was 275lbs on the nose just two weeks ago and it wasn’t like I was skipping meals. As long as I’m strong I guess. The strongman area was over near the center stage where there were small children doing martial arts and figure competitions. Lots of little gis (don’t know if they were karategi or judogi), lots of tanned exposed buttocks. Also a bunch of kids singing with two adults dressed as a cat and a dog playing air guitars. 9 competitors in the heavyweight class; I knew three of them from previous shows (and they were good) and the others were unknown quantities. Warmed up and rules meeting were done and after two trips to the restroom to evacuate my fear, I was ready(ish).

The first event was log clean and press. New equipment, 275lbs with 60 seconds to get as many reps as possible. Slightly more than the planned 270lbs. Only one clean needed ( #YOCO) but I knew I would need to make multiple cleans to get as many reps as I could. Now, I’m marking the log as 12” but really, it was 12.75” but much like an aspiring fashion model who is just under 6’, I’ll be damned if I’m marking it as 13”. Out of the past 26 weeks, I’ve only done the cleans the last four weeks but it came back to me no problem. So much overhead log work that I knew that I wasn’t going to bomb on this. I got in most of the warm-ups that I wanted. I setup and got difficult double and put the log down to catch my air. Recleaned the log and got another rep and tried for a fourth but just not going so I put the log back down to breathe again. Repeated for another rep. I had five seconds left and I tried to get one more but rushed it and missed (it wasn’t going to be good in time anyways). Even with just the four reps, this was one my best overhead lift performances in a contest. This result tied me for fourth.

Up next was yoke. 800lbs implement with a 40’ course and a 60 second time limit. It had been 50’ but it was shortened as the yokes where sliding and there just wasn’t enough stopping room to allow for the advertised course distance in the allotted space. In past write-ups, I always seem to forget something important for yoke, but not this time. I made darn sure everything was packed two days before. Normally, there aren’t usually issues with the yoke for me other than “oh lord, it is heavy” and “why am I doing this” thoughts as I’m walking with the burden. The yoke didn’t go to my level, as in, I was too tall for the ride. It was Hershey Park all over again! The yoke only went to 10 when I needed it to go to 11. Now, the yoke I train on is a wobbly mess so the weight itself shouldn’t be an issue when moving. The pick was a good 3” lower than I’m comfortable with. This is strongman so no point in complaining. My worry was just no drops as I knew if I did, it would kill my chances and the inevitable slide would cost me even more time. I had missed warm-ups using the restroom (these nerves just kill me) and I had to improve my chances by getting in a pick with the lightweights 700lbs (it felt like death) so that 800lbs wouldn’t just kill me outright. The strain, it was real as I held my breath to stay tight. The yoke crossbar was new, slick and thick so I was even worried that going too fast would cause it to slide off my back, even with chalk. Smooth and steady but never felt comfortable enough to pick up speed. I finished with no issues (I did semi-passout after I finished) with a time of 12.20 seconds. Not the best time considering training but considering the circumstance, it was a valiant effort that got me a 5th place finish.

The third event was the farmer’s walk. Implements loaded to 275lbs with an 80’ course involving a turn at 40’ and a 60 second time limit. As with yoke, the course was shortened. Not really an issue as the turn was what was going to kill people, not so much the distance per se. Initially, it was going to be two lanes but that was going to require hairpin turns with very long implements. The change was made that both competitors would use both lanes, going around like a track in NASCAR (vrmmm noises optional). This would allow for a greater turn radius. I was concerned there would be a pile-ups haha. No doubts in my mind on this, just came down to was I going to be the fastest. I was plenty warmed up from the yoke so I just did some circles with the empty implements and did a pick and hold with about 90lbs less just to feel how it sat in my hands. Whistle blew and I was off. All the training went to use, all the minute adjustments paid off. A near perfect run for me. I held the farmer’s for a little bit at the finish before dropping them with swagger intended. I wanted to do some showboating as this was a good event for me. I finished with a time of 16.30 seconds for first, almost two seconds faster than second place.

Next was max 18” deadlift. Opening weight of 500lbs, allowed three attempts on a rising bar. 50lbs jumps, miss one and you are done. Straps, suits and gypsy tears allowed. I was tied for second at this time and I needed to put in a hell of an effort here to stay afloat. Deadlift events are the bane of my existence (Conan’s wheel is dead to me so it don’t count). My deadlift training for this event had been going well until the last four weeks as the cumulative toll was finally due and I had beat my back into Bolivia. My training for this had been if the idea that my gym work would be tougher than the event setup. Stiff bar from pins in the rack with no suit with the hope that the contest would have the setup be bar on blocks. For comparison sake, my best from the rack is 675lbs while my best from blocks is 700lbs. Most people don’t get anything out of a suit from this far off the ground but since it is still a fair bit below my shins, the suit adds at least 50lbs and I need every pound when it comes to deadlift. My sister thought I looked ridiculous in my black Viking diaper. I had a plan but I wasn’t sure if had the strength to execute it. My last warm-up was 515lbs with loose straps and it felt fine enough that I decided to go with the plan. Opened up with 650lbs with the straps tight. Sharp pain in my testicles when I stand up and the only way to alleviate the pain is to either flexed my glutes or stay bent over like an old man with a hunched back. It went up quick but it felt heavy. Hard to remember how the suit feels as I know the weight is still going to feel heavy but it will move quick. I had the straps pulled even tighter for 700lbs. I may not be able to have children from how tight this felt. Same result as 650lbs and I asked for immediate assistance with getting the damn suit off. I knew I had to get 750lbs to stay alive. Straps pulled even tighter. Probably sterile now. It moved slow and I had to hitch that thing up for a lockout. Good lift and again begging for someone to take the straps down. Granted, first place pulled an easy 850lbs, I was satisfied that I did my planned weights. Ended up with a tie for third on this.

The final event was the keg load over bar. Bar set for 52” time limit of 60 seconds. Now comes the controversy and the foreshadowing that I was talking about. I was tied for second with two other heavyweights and we were all 3 points behind first, while fifth place was 5 points behind us. This was set as a 280lbs keg and it was how it started. Keg was filled with sand and wrapped in duct tape. Order was switched go last place first and first place last in the standings. Things started out well enough but then sand started to dribble out of the keg. Each time, they tried to reinforce it. However, much like many of Kenshiro’s opponents in Fist of the North Star, that keg was already dead. First of the second place guys went and on rep six, a large bit of sand fell out and then and even bigger chuck dropped out as he lapped rep seven. The promoter stopped the event and brought the heavyweights together. The choice was pretty much either have everyone do the event again with the 240lbs keg or scrap the event go with the placings by weight. At this point, I honestly had to preference. My abs and lasts were close to cramping and I was fighting to keep my nutrients down. The guy in fifth said he wasn’t doing it again (he had done an awesome 11 reps with the keg). I could tell that some of the other guys had no interest in going again either; from exhaustion or injury. The determination was then that the top four would go on the 240lbs keg against each other as the others were too far behind to really affect the placings. As I stated, I had no preference; I would do what I needed. I had sat on the porcelain throne prior to the event trying to calm my nerves. I recalled a write-up I had read from Dave Ostlund’s first World’s Strongest Man contest when he was trying to figure out how many points he needed on the stones to qualify. He ultimately decided to just win the stones as it was easier on him and let the others sort it out. This was the attitude I had approaching the keg. I was first to go out of the remaining four. I waited until the handlers were fully focused as this was going to be a repfest and any mistake could cost me. I started as my usual staggered grip for the first rep and then switched to griping the parallel side grips and just tossing the thing over. I had watched people before me do this and with the even distribution of the sand as opposed to the concrete I used in training, it was a viable and efficient option to implement, even with no training. I wasn’t going to lose here; I had done hundreds of reps with that keg. My thirteenth rep went over as time expired. I knew it was a good pace and it would be tough to beat. It held. I got first out of the remaining four but not really sure how that was overall for the event.

In the end, I got the “win” I was looking for. I placed second out of nine, behind Damien Hollis and ahead of Gabe Bonneville. A friend podium sandwich if you will. I honestly didn’t have my sights on first as everyone I knew that was coming were tough competitors and my weaknesses would hamper me too much to walk in and guarantee placing, let alone winning. The most well rounded and least mistake prone was going to pull off this victory. I was so tried and sore (especially from the deadlift) but I was content. I had set a goal and I had achieved it. It is almost sad how pleased I am with a plaque and a piece of paper but I am. Cleaned up and go on the road. Went to have my first Primanti Bros sandwich (double meat with an egg in it of course) and spent most of the drive home singing the songs on my iPod with my sister. I finished up the night with two burritos from Chipotle. Again reference Mr. Ostlund’s mindset, qualifying here has made the planning for the rest of year much simpler. The aim now is for Nationals in October in Iowa. That’s nineteen weeks, enough for sixteen hard weeks of training.