Sunday, March 20, 2016

March 19, 2016 - PA Dutch Strong

Things have changed. I made it clear after Nationals last year that I felt that was a beginning and that I was going to be aiming higher. Improve in strength, improve in performance, get back to Nationals and move up the ranks. Despite the constant feelings of anxiety and doubt that pop up, I have a confidence in me that is telling me to keep going. That in and of itself is unusual for me as I tend to be withdrawn, quiet and in need of alone time after too much exposure to other people. Stuff stresses me out haha. After an offseason cycle, it was time for a competition to qualify for Nationals this year and I chose the one that fit into my schedule and had the best opportunity for qualification. Calculating but not shying from competition mind you. This contest prep was much shorter than previous ones but since I had just completed an offseason strength prep, it would be more of familiarization on the events. This was also going to be unique in that this was going to be my younger sister’s first contest back from dealing with leg injuries and the first time we were both competing in the same contest.

I feel I improved in dealing with my nerves going into this contest. I distracted myself with work and spent the two days prior watching strongman livestreamed from Australia. Also had two really light workouts the week of (usually I do nothing to completely relax or read). It was still lingering as my jaw started to tighten up two days prior. With the contest being just two counties over, it meant I could sleep in my own bed the night before and wake up at a reasonable time. I was so relaxed that when I woke up, I thought I was going to work. Then realization set in as it was Saturday, I don’t work on Saturday, and I had to go and compete. I felt sick right away but I was able to get breakfast down in record time pre-contest and got in the car with my dad and sister. I spent the whole car ride in deep contemplation.

We were there fairly early for the contest. My mom and aunt were going to be coming later in the day when things actually started (this would be a first). I weighed in at 273.2lbs, up 9lbs from Nationals and I think the most I’ve weigh-in at a contest (I seem to lose a bit of weight the two weeks prior to contests from light training and less water intake). Initially, there were to be five heavyweights in the class but one competitor didn’t show up and another decided to drop 40lbs and compete at middleweight. Another competitor stepped in last minute to bring the class back up to four. I wasn’t aware of this until after the first event so I was still expecting a fight for every spot. I got an xxxl for the contest shirt (I was told I had to wear it but I didn’t see everyone wearing them) and thankfully it had a decal on the front that stuck well to stuff. I warmed up a best I could after the rules meeting (my name was mentioned for what not to do on keg toss, I swear you hit your sister one time with a keg). As for the people I knew competing, there was C.J., a 20 year old 355lbs man monster, and Dustin, a powerlifter doing his first strongman contest.

The first event was max axle clean and press. 60 seconds each attempt, rising bar by 20lbs, three attempts, one miss and you are done. This was a tricky one. Well, the event itself isn’t; you lift it. The issue was several factors. I had a plan on what I wanted to hit. This cycle was the oddest to me with training for this event as the heaviest I went was 305lbs for a single. It felt pretty good but it is hard to gauge contest day. I was doing a lot of lockout work the first half of training and a lot of heavy benching the second half. I wanted my 2nd attempt to be a PR and go from there. Since I was opening at 300lbs, there was a lot of waiting. My last warm-up was about an hour and 15 minutes from when I actually would be lifting. Thankfully, they allowed people to get in warm-ups after everyone who was going to take a weight went. My plan had been to do 280lbs for a warm-up. However, it was taking a while and I was worried that I would be too cold and then have to take my actual attempt shortly after so I jumped in at 240lbs for a warm-up and it felt awful (I had easily done 250lbs in the warm-ups). Kind of had me second guessing myself. I did another warm-up with 260lbs and it was better. I wasn’t sure if I should do anymore but I figured I needed to save it. Finally, 300lbs was on the bar. By this point, if I got my opener, I secured 2nd place on this event. Time to put up or shut-up. If I missed, I would look a fool. I popped it up nice to the shoulders and I knew I had it. Not as much legs as I wanted but it went up with authority. I put it down with force. I got a little excited after that and pumped my fists to the crowd as I wanted to put on a show and I kind of needed it (to pump myself up) after the waiting. Little did I know that the pace was about to pick up. I didn’t realize after I went that it was just me and C.J. competing still. He opened with 320lbs and got it easy. I’ve seen him hit 380lbs so this was going to be tough. I’m up again so short rest and time for a PR haha. I had already got second place with the opener so this was to try and get first by pushing C.J. for a miss with the quick pace. If I got this, it would be a 10lbs contest PR and a 5lbs PR over what I did in training. A little tougher but I got it to my shoulders and up it went. Again, not the leg drive I wanted but I was solid. I then did a little showboating by doing a Jesse Marunde leg lift with it overhead. Bigger fist pump. C.J. was then up with 340lbs. He got it up to the shoulders about the same as 320lbs but bobbled with it at first attempt. He then relaxed and through it overhead. At this point, he had won (unless I said I wanted 360lbs) so I figured I’d give this the old college try. Going for a 30lbs PR with short rest. I shouted some random gibberish before I approached the bar. This would be a 20lbs PR for a clean if I got it to my shoulders. I hunkered down and pulled. Up to the shoulders no problem. I took two deep breathes and drove into it. It stalled out in front and there was no way to save it. I bowed out with a second place.

Up next was the frame deadlift. 690lbs implement with 17” pick height and a 60 second time limit. I thankfully got a chance to try this thing out a few weeks ago and I’m happy I did so for two reasons. One was that I found out that my normal grip for when I do farmer’s walk or frame carry wouldn’t be optimal for doing a repetitions on the event. The other thing was that I didn’t get a chance to warm-up on the implement this time. That is my fault in a sense as I was pretty beat from axle and the frames were in use by the women’s class, novice and lighter weight classes to warm-up. All I would have really wanted was to do a single at around 500lbs and then 600lbs with enough rest. Much like axle, I didn’t expect to win this one either. I’ve put in a lot of effort to improve my static strength but deadlift and overhead are still not strong points. I figured that Dustin would obliterate everyone with his powerlifting background and it would be a fight for the other spots. C.J. and I are close on deadlift I feel. Now, I tried to get in a warm-up before I went but it didn’t happen. When it was my turn, I was asked if I wanted to do a pick with 600lbs and I declined because at this point, it would have taken energy away from me. I made sure I had everything right; chalked the strap on belt, chalked both sides of my straps and had the belt on notch below excoriating. I didn’t want an equipment malfunction or a breathing malfunction. Crap did it feel slow and heavy. Not easy to pull this kind of weight cold. I wasn’t keeping track of how many reps I got; all I was doing was catching my breath, grinding out a rep and waiting for the down call. About halfway through, I took a knee as I was getting light headed. I got back up and managed to grind out two more reps. My spine and midsection were not too pleased with that last rep. Dustin was on his way to 12 reps and I knew I couldn’t catch him so I stopped with ten seconds left. I was surprised that I got eight reps. I had only attempted a triple in training. I waited to see how C.J. did (the other heavyweight dropped out after the axle, almost injured himself). He managed to grind out six which meant I had gotten another second place. We were tied going into the next event.

The third event was the sandbag carry and load medley. Three implements (225lbs/260lbs/280lbs) with a 60 second time limit. The course was 50’ with the first sandbag, 30’ with the second sandbag and then 10’ with the last one. All loaded over a 38” high yoke. I felt like this would be a good event for me. Training this like crazy in my garage at night. Doing longer course, higher load heights and more reps. With the preparation, this should be a breeze. I’ve really taken to the row lap method on sandbags. So much friendlier on my biceps. I had already done some familiarization on these a few weeks ago so I knew what I was about here. No need to waste effort, especially since I’ve been coming in cold with the sandbags at home. The only thing I really did to “warm-up” was do some “fast jogging” for short distance and then two short sprints. Don’t want to pull a hammie haha. Time started and I lapped the first bag easy. I felt I was moving slow and started to feel light headed near the end of the course. Maybe I was holding my breath or the excitement was too much pressure. I didn’t pass out and I was back to the next sandbag. Lapped that one much the same as the first and tossed it over the yoke then right back to the last sandbag. Again, easy lap and tossed it over the yoke, turned around and gave the crowd a double biceps flex haha. I finished with a time of 26.66 seconds and to be honest, I thought this time would hold up. To quote the late great Michael Clarke Duncan in the movie The Slammin’ Salmon, “when you assume, you make an asshole out of yourself.” He also said “you have to dominate the swordfish, only then can you sauté it” but that doesn’t really apply here. My camera won’t allow me to play back video after I dropped it a few weeks ago so I wasn’t aware of my speed until much later. C.J. obliterated the course and by time by about 2 seconds. After looking at the video, I was way too slow on that first bag. My speed was actually pretty slow returning to the bags as well. I moved well with the two heavier bags once I picked them up. I will need to work on that. However, this was good for another second place.

The next event for the day was the truck pull. 34,000lbs big rig for 50’ with a 60 second time limit. Pretty much a straight course and another one I should excel at. My training for this was going well the second half of the cycle when I figured out how to train with my parent’s truck as opposed to a sled up my driveway. Weather that hasn’t been seen in 20 years prevented the most optimal training from happening but you can’t stop that kind of snow storm haha. Outside for this obviously. Just a tad below freezing and a few snow flurries starting. I had gotten a chance to test out the truck (minus the trailer) so I knew this was doable. Granted, that was only 17,000lbs. It looked like everyone finished the course so it was going to come down to time here. Who was going to have the best and cleanest run. Dustin went first and set the pace for the day with the fastest time of 28.00 seconds on the dot. I was going to have to have a perfect run, especially with C.J. up next. I got set and pulled. My start was way better than it was last time. I was a little high but I got down low after a few seconds and kept driving. No issues with my ankles and I felt in tuned. I was just waiting to hear them yell stop so that I could stop. I managed to complete the course in a time of 26.40 seconds for the new time to beat. It was short lived as C.J. went through with a time of 26.16 seconds. This was closer than I thought it would be but I think my start was better than his but he still beasted through for the win. Another second place for me.

The final event was the keg toss. Three empty quarter kegs and three empty half kegs thrown over a bar set at 15’ with a time limit of 60 seconds. I put a lot of effort into this event for training. Granted, with my proportions and athletic background, I should excel at this event. But I wanted to come in prepared. Week in and week out doing half keg throws over 15’7” pvc pipe structure. In the dark, in the snow, destroying outdoor lights and my front and back lawn. Over 170 throws leading up to the contest. I had access to only one empty keg and couldn’t get a hold of a quarter keg to practice on. At this point, the only way I wouldn’t qualify for Nationals was if I couldn’t get a single keg over the bar. That wasn’t happening, even if I tore a biceps or something. To win though, I would have to win this event and have C.J. place last and have it go to tiebreaker by weight. Very very unlikely for that to happen. Everyone was talking about me being the guy who hit his sister with the keg so the crowd watching kind of dispersed from the open viewing center. The people across the way were getting very annoyed with the sounds of the kegs being tossed. This was the last event of the day. Pressure was off. Just need to have fun. Dustin was first and managed all the kegs in about 38 seconds after some misses. Then it was me. I arranged the kegs so that all the handles were facing the same way (I wasn’t going to have another mistake). I got the first quarter keg and tossed it over. It was an older style with no handles so I had to throw it sideways. Definitely lighter than the other quarter kegs. I was meticulous and waited until I heard them say “good” before I threw the next keg. I got through them all with no missed in 19.40 seconds. That of course was then promptly beaten by C.J. by almost five seconds. Perhaps I was worried subconsciously of hitting someone again, maybe I just wasn’t used to throw multiple kegs. Maybe I need more confidence but it’s done. Another second place for me.

I got what I wanted out of this contest. I put in the effort and qualified for Nationals for the second year in a row. I also realize I still have things I need to work on besides static strength. C.J. is going to be a monster if he keeps this up and he’s only 20 (I didn’t realize he was that young) so I’m his senior by over 10 years. I need to get stronger, I need to move faster, I need to reach higher. I will say that it was great to be able to joke around with contest staff and competitors. I saw people I haven’t seen in a few years. Also had family watching and supporting me and got to see my younger sister compete and hit PRs on everything. With how close this show was to where I live, I was able to go out to eat dinner with even more family and make silly faces and noises to my nephew (just turned one last week). What I’m doing is working. I don’t know if I’m going to just put my head down and grind to Nationals or do some more competing this year. I need to think on it.

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