Well, another NAS Strongman Nationals is in the books. This is my fifth competition and my second time competing at a National level. Last year I finished pretty middle of the pack at 44th Place. This year, I was fortunate enough to make it all the way up to an 18th place finish. It is a substantial improvement, but I know I can do better and am going to work extremely hard to get to where I want to be.
This competition was filled with many good and bad moments, but I learned a lot and know what I need to do to get better before next year. The following is an event write-up and my thoughts during the competition.
Note: I will be writing up a separate article about things I learned during this competition. There are literally too many to mention, so I am breaking it into 2 different posts.
THE WEIGHT CUT:
Just like always, I started the cut about 5 weeks out weighing in the 245 range give or take a few pounds. I clean up my diet substantially and usually lean out to around 235-239lbs before I begin to manipulate my water. The final week I switch over to distilled, starting out with a gorge and slowly taper my intake as the week goes on. Wednesday, before I left for Iowa, I was hitting the scale at a FULLY hydrated 242lbs.
I cut all of my water intake Wednesday morning, bundled up like I was in Antartica and got on the treadmill to sweat out a few more pounds then headed to the airport. Thursday morning around 10AM I weighed in at 225.2. It was only about 100 feet from the scale to where we had to register our yoke heights with two stops built in to grab a swag bag and pick up our competition T-Shirts... but in that time I downed 2 32oz gatorades, ate 2 honey buns, 2 pop-tarts and 2 other packs of chocolate/peanut butter bars …The weight was quickly returning!
After that, I certified my yoke height and headed to the hotel restaurant where I ate a disgusting amount of food followed by a disturbing amount of water. By the time I got back to my room, I was already back up to 237lbs. The remainder of the day was a lot of laying around mixed with bouts of stuffing myself until I felt sick. This went on until until we had to go to the Athlete Rules Meeting at 6:30 PM.
It was a pretty easy weight cut and the first obstacle was done and over with.
DAY 1 - EVENT 1: 275lb Log Clean & Press, as many reps as possible in :60 seconds, clean every rep.
Warm-ups at Nationals are an event in themselves. There are only a few implements to play with and you need to share them with 200+ competitors…Add in a short time frame and things get crazy pretty quickly. We were using a Beast Metals Log which I had never touched in my life, so naturally, I wanted to get in a few reps with it. The problem was that you stood in line for 20 minutes just to touch it, then you needed to quickly move on because there were 100 other guys waiting to do the same exact thing. Due to this, I only did 3 reps with the empty log before the event started.
My game plan was to not rush my reps. 275lbs isn’t terribly heavy for me, but it is not very light either. In practice, I found that if I rushed, I quickly burned myself out and didn’t perform as well... so I just thought I would take my time and be a smooth as possible. The important thing was to not miss any reps because I didn’t want to clean that monstrosity more than I had to.
Before I really knew what was going on, I was standing in front of the judges and the announcer was saying, “Athletes ready….set…go!” I cleaned my first rep and realized that I probably should have taken the time to touch a Beast Metals log sometime before the competition. It felt like a truck sitting out in front of me and that was a pretty big shock to my body.
In the video, you can see me figuring out the implement as the minute rolls on. I would compete a rep, put the log down and then analyze what I had to do to get another. Unfortunately, there is no room for that kind of nonsense at a National level.
Before I knew it, the announcer shouted that we had, “10 seconds” left. I cleaned the log for the 5th and final time and stared my press. I was 3/4 of the way locked out before I ran out of time, but still, I completed the rep. Sure I was one second short, but what is a second in the big scheme of things!?
In the video, you can see the anxious look I gave the head judge…as if to say, “come on man, you have to give that to me!”. He saw my reaction and said, “I can’t give you that one.” So I decided that I would open the discussion while I held the log in the lockout position. My final argument (that you can hear on the vid) was, “I’ll keep holding it (until you give me the rep)” but it was more for laughs than anything. He was smiling at me because he knew what i was trying to do...I knew I was late and you can see me start cracking up as I put the log down. Everyone laughed about it, I shook the judges hand, and was happy just to have gotten through the event cleanly.
4 reps put me in the top 1/4 of competitors, but 5 would have helped out a lot! I think 7 reps won that event.
EVENT 2: 600lb Zercher Yoke Carry. As Fast As Possible for 60 feet. 2 second penalty for sliding the implement across the finish line.
Warm-ups went about the same. I had the chance to hit a 25 foot run with the empty yoke.
I was in the last heat for the middle weight men, so I had a lot to time to think about what I was going to do. In all of that time, my stellar brain came up with this game plan: Pick the yoke up and move your feet as fast as you can. Yep, I am a master planner...
If you have ever had the terrific experience of performing a really heavy Zercher Yoke carry, you will know that it causes some of the most grueling and horrific seconds of your life. You can’t breathe, it is painful from the first second, your brain starts passing out and all of that happens before you have even gone half the distance to your goal. It is all about how much you are willing to suffer and endure.
When the announcer said, “Go!”, I picked up the yoke and took off… the world started closing in on me pretty quickly and all I could think about was, “don’t slide it across the finish line!” When I put the yoke down, I knew that I was moving very fast and had earned a good time…So good in fact that I ALMOST celebrated. (I NEVER celebrate!) - I looked at the judge's face expecting a smile because I had done well, but instead I received a deadpan expression…This quickly killed my desire to celebrate… but all in all, I was still very happy with that one.
My time was one of the fastest of the day and it was by far the best I have ever performed at a National’s event. When the points came out, I was in 5th or 6th place overall and was elated.
EVENT 3: 620lb (310 in each hand) Farmer’s Walk. 60 Feet, As fast as possible. Only 1 drop allowed.
EVERYONE was talking about these handles. They were saying how the Beast Metal brand was very hard to hold onto and after watching the first few heats compete, it would appear that the rumors were true. Almost everyone was dropping them at least once, and if you dropped them twice, you couldn’t continue. I can honestly say that right before this event was the first time I was really feeling any real nerves in this competition.
I lined up, got a good hold and took off. My left foot has been hurt for a while prior to the competition, so I hadn’t really trained the with the Farmer’s Handles much. You can see in both this video and the previous Yoke one that I keep veering to the left on my carries. I guess that’s because I was babying it at little… I never actually felt the pain during the events, but when I review the videos, I was surprised to see that I almost ran right out of my lane a few times. Given enough distance, I am sure I would have just run around in counter-clockwise circles!
From the very start, I knew I was going to be trouble. My left hand didn’t feel like it had a super tight grip on the implement, so my plan was to move my feet as fast as possible and get as far as I could before I dropped them. My speed was actually very good…If I could have held on, I would have posted a really great time, but it was not to be. Rushing was a mistake.
Apparently moving that fast with 620lbs makes balancing harder. Who knew? I started having stabilization issues and in the video you can see my core start to wobble around a lot. The floor was very smooth, slick concrete and I kind of knew I was going to fall a split second before it happened. One moment I was moving fast, and the next thing I knew, I was laying on a very uncomfortable mattress of metal pointy things and was in considerable pain.
Falling made me very, very angry. I immediately jumped up, re-picked the handles and tried to regain my speed. I crossed the finish line and gently placed them on the ground. But by gently, I mean I slammed them on the ground and said some not so nice words under my breath. I wish I was that angry BEFORE I started because I felt like I could have held onto those things for a year after the fall!
Apparently I was moving pretty well for the first half of the course because even with the fall, I was still able to post a decent enough time that it only dropped me two places on the leader board...
I ended Day 1 in 7th place and was feeling really good (although pretty beat up from the fall) and was looking forward to having a great Day 2.
DAY 2 - EVENT 4: Push-Pull Medley: 160lb Circus Dumbbell Clean & Press / 250lb Single Arm Deadlift. As Many Reps as possible in :60 Seconds.
This is where things took a turn for the worse…Here is where I made my biggest mistakes of the entire competition which ended up costing me a lot of places on the leader board. I had been training with a Slater Circus Dumbbell which is shaped completely different than the Beast Metals version. I hit a few reps with the empty dumbbell in warm-ups, but really should have spent more time familiarizing myself with the implement.
I cleaned my first rep and the weight felt amazingly light, i knew it was going to be a good event… I began to press the dumbbell, but instead of traveling up, it moved backward and away from my body. I was immediately confused. I easily have the strength to do that weight and when it wasn’t going up, I was dumbfounded. Panic set in and I was thinking more about my chances of a good finish slipping away more than figuring out how to remedy the problem. Things just got worse from there.
I ended up only getting a few reps of each exercise before time ran out. To say I was disappointed with myself does not do the emotions justice. I run hot. My highs are high and my lows are extremely low. I like winning a decent amount, but I LOATHE it when I lose because of not perform up to the standard I hold myself to. I sat there and watched my plans of a top 10 finish run away because I did not prepare the way I should have.
I blame no one but myself. The judges were fair and I knew what was going to be expected of me… I simply dropped the ball. It was a horrendous performance that I am actually embarrassed to share, but you have to take the good with the bad. I learn twice as much from something like this than I do when I perform well, so in hindsight, this horrible performance was more valuable to me than the rest of the competition combined. But that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it! I know what I need to fix and take full responsibility for my failure.
My performance was about average for my class, but in order to stay near the top, I had to excel. Since I didn’t, I fell a few more places in the standings. This event REALLY made me angry at myself. A Push/Pull is right in my wheel house and was the one event I felt the most comfortable with, yet performed the worst at.
Like I always say, Win or learn…and I spent a LOT of time learning on this one.
EVENT 5: 220lb, 240lb, 260lb Sandbag Carry. Each for 60 feet as fast as possible.
This is another event I did not prepare well for. in fact, I had never picked up a 240 or 260 pound sandbag in my life.
At Nationals, they change the order of your heat position by your current standings - so that the top guys go last and compete head to head in later events. I was still sitting fairly high and going pretty late so I knew my competition was going to be tough.
I did my best, but the guys I was going against were AMAZING and much faster on their picks than I was. This ended up costing me precious seconds that I could have used.
My first two sandbags went fairly well, but then I fumbled picking up the 260lb bag and that took me out of contention. My finish really wasn’t that bad in retrospect… It still had me in the top half of the competitors, but there is no room for mistakes at Nationals and my position on the leader board fell all of the way down to 18th place.
Watching my chances of a top 10 finish slip away because of my lack of preparation and poor performance put me in a funk like I have not been in for almost 20 years. I was livid with myself and did not want to be around anyone. For hours, I was about the worst person in the world to be next to!
But now, after having time to digest all of my emotions, I am really proud of how I finished up. 18th place at the National Championships is nothing to be ashamed of. I know that if I would have done a few things differently in my preparation and ran the events just a little more cleanly, I would have been right near the top. I saw that I DO have what it takes to run with some of the top guys in the Nation and with some technique practice, I will be there if I put the work in.
No excuses. The other guys just did more things right than I did. Next time, hopefully, they will be saying the same thing about me.
I learned more during this competition than all of my others combined, had a lot of fun, and got to catch up with some friends that I hadn’t seen since last year’s Nationals. My performance has re-lit a fire under me to be better than ever and has me motivated to improve every single day.
I want to say thank you to Dione for putting on a very professionally run contest and to my fellow competitors for pushing me in ways I didn’t think were possible (there are some absolute MONSTERS that showed up)!
Thank you to Dan and Ben for being great friends and teaching me so much all weekend long… Also to Gregg for helping me with my technique and for your support all the way from the East Coast!
Thank you to everyone at NEVERsate Athletics for pushing me to be the best I could be and for being the best training partners anyone could ask for.
My heart is so thankful to all of my Family and friends for their love and support and for putting up with me chasing this dream! I love you guys so much!… Also thanks to everyone online who encouraged me from hundreds of miles away. If well wishes could win an event, I have no doubt that I would have come out on top!
A very special thanks to my sponsor, Dave’s Professional Services, for all of your financial and emotional support! None of this would have been possible without you!
Thank you to Dave and Emily for all you guys did to help me out on this trip! You push me up when I do well, and pick me up when I don’t. I apologize greatly for my attitude towards you guys when I mess up. All of the care and support you guys showed me throughout this whole trip means more than you realize. I love you guys deeply.
And finally, thank you to my beautiful wife. You made this such a fun trip! I am so proud of how you performed and I would be nothing without you!