As many of you know, I competed at the Arnold Amateur Strongman World Championships in March. I have been meaning to get this write up out for a while now, I have just let time get away from me, and, before you know, it is several weeks later. I should have gotten this out sooner and I am sorry. I am especially sorry because I received a lot of support from many people in both a moral and financial aspect. Given the support, this should have been completed sooner….
In case you don’t know (or remember), the World Championships happen at the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio. It happens every March and, this year, it happened March 3-5. It is the biggest sports festival in the country and may be the biggest sports festival in the world.
This year, I was blessed enough to travel with my family; my wife Bethany, Aurora (5) and Adelaide (10.5months during time of travel). We flew out on Wednesday, March 1 with a direct flight (roughly 5hrs total). It was the first time that both my girls have ever flown. Aurora was excited and enjoyed most aspects of flying. She even enjoyed the take off and landing; I’m thinking it’s because she thought it felt like a ride. She practically pressed her head against the window, watching the world move farther and farther away during take off…. Until she got bored anyway; which was only a couple minutes into the flight. Then she wanted to play games and watch shows on a kindle and she pretty much kept entertained by this the whole trip. Adelaide mostly cuddled with Bethany from beginning to end. She had her moments of unhappiness, but she flew quite well. We actually received compliments from other passengers when we landed regarding how good she flew and how she was fairly quiet. Considering the circumstances, we had a pretty good flight to Columbus.
Thursday, March 2 was weigh in day. As I mentioned in a previous blog, I was not able to weigh in until 2pm as only women could weigh in at 8am. In order to make weight, I had to cut a few pounds of water weight. It was a fairly easy cut as I had great guidance and support from the person who has been helping me with training and programming for the past year. I did not have to sweat in any way to make weight and I was able to weigh in with my phone in hand and still make weight. While in line, I met a group of competitors from the U.K. and others from around the country. Despite most of the competitors being hungry, waiting for weigh ins was relaxing and a bit of a hang out time.
Since the family was in the hotel room (the baby had to nap), I was alone during weigh ins and immediately headed to the North Market after I weighed in and got my athlete packet. The North Market is a few blocks away and contains SEVERAL different small restaurants of all types. I ate and bought a ton of water and different food to eat for the rest of the day to help me get my weight back up. Plus, I hadn’t eaten for over a day by this point and I was pretty hungry. My first foods after weigh ins included a savory crepe, chicken and waffles, BBQ, Jenni’s ice cream and a ton of veggies. I continued to eat and drink the rest of the day.
Thursday evening was a mandatory rules meeting. Once again, the baby had to nap around this time, so I took Aurora for a walk and we explored the expo during setup. Since Aurora was getting antsy, we actually went to the expo over an hour early. The plan was to walk around a bit, take Aurora back to the hotel and then go back to the expo for the rules meeting…. That is until Aurora started falling asleep while sitting on my shoulders. She crashed hard, really hard. As a result, I found a seat at the strongman booth and cuddled with Aurora while she slept. We ended up sitting there roughly 45min before the meeting started and she didn’t wake up until the meeting was almost over. Travel took a lot out of her. After the meeting, we met up with Bethany and Adelaide and grabbed some more food.
Saturday was the big day. I packed up my gear the night before, got up early and headed out while the family was still sleeping. I wanted to ensure that I was able to eat breakfast (which was provided by the hotel), find a camp out spot and warm up without feeling rushed. All of the girls met me at the expo later.
Event 1: #220 Keg Carry with Clean and Press event- Carry Keg 20’, Clean and Press x1; Keg Carry 20’, Clean and Press x1; Keg Carry 20’, Clean and Press Away: 3 reps
This event was challenging and very different than others in the past, yet I found it to be fun and was excited for it. Warming up for the event seemed a bit daunting for most people in my class because there were only 2 keg weights available: 130 (empty keg) and 220 (competition weight). Given that I only have 1 keg to train with, I was used to going straight to a heavy weight without much of a warm up at all. A lot of competitors in my class made remarks about wishing there was at least one more keg around 180 to warm up with; I was happy to have any lighter keg at all.
As time got closer for competition time, Bethany and the girls were nowhere to be found. I started to get a little anxious and worried that they would not make the event…. Then the competition started and they were not around…. Eventually my heat started and I had no idea if they were there or not. This was a pretty big mental test for me because the time to do work was here and all I wanted was my support system to be around. Luckily, I learned a lot regarding the mental aspects of competing last Arnold and I was able to put my anxious feeling aside and get into competition mode….
The first event went smooth. The first 2 carry, clean and presses went up smooth and easy. I knew that I needed a few reps at the end of the carry to be competitive and my goals was at least 4 reps. By the 3rd clean and press, my heart was racing and I was breathing hard. The time was ticking as I cleaned the 4th rep. I racked and attempted to press the keg with only seconds left. Unfortunately, I missed the 4th press. My right hand was in the wrong position and I just could not manage the last lockout. I was a bit disappointed, but I was able to hit a PR and did well in my class. The event winners (3 way tie) got 5 reps.
About 5-10 min my heat was over, the girls finally showed up. Turns out that Aurora gave Bethany difficulty when getting ready, causing them to be late (this is why I do not have a video for the event). I was disappointed and very sad to say the least and I had a flood of emotions because they missed the event….. But there was nothing that I could do and the event was over. Once an event is over, there is nothing to do but get mentally and physically ready for the next event.
NOTE: Given the lack of video, I embedded the video from fellow competitor Dain Wallis. He tied for first in this event and placed 4th overall.
Event 2: #640 Yoke Carry, 60’: 16.02sec
The next event was to carry a 640lb yoke 60’ as far and/or as fast as possible. I was excited for this event and was planning to hit under 10sec for the run. I knew that anything longer would not be competitive. Unfortunately, things did not go the way I had planned, nor expected. I got under the yoke and was so excited and fired up, that I did not take the time to setup properly. As a result, the yoke tossed me around a lot and I struggled the whole way. I even had to drop the yoke once and reset. Last year, I was so nervous and scared that I did not setup properly in a couple events. This year, I was overly excited and I did not setup properly. I learned that I need to be fired up yet focused as well as calm enough to go mentally through my setup checklist…. I ended up finishing the course in 16.02sec. This put me back a good amount of points…. The fastest time of the day was 7.63sec…. blazing fast. It was a hard lesson learned, but these types of lessons tend to stick with me the most…..
Event 3: #540 13” Axle Deadlift, 8 reps
Deadlifts from this height are fairly tough for me as I find it slightly awkward. It took me a few weeks of training this event to even begin to feel semi-comfortable with the height. Despite this fact, I went on the competition floor to give it everything I had. Plus, I know that there are a lot of very strong deadlifters in my class; pulling until I died was the only option if I were to try and make up points.
This event ended up being my favorite of them all for a couple reasons: I hit a PR and I was judged by JF Caron. If you don’t know, JF Caron (34 years old) is one of the strongnest men in the world and has been competing at the highest level in strongman for almost a decade. I am a huge fan of his and being judged by him was a great honor.
When the whistle blew, I calmly strapped in and started pulling. The first few reps felt and moved pretty good and easy, but fatigue accumulated fast. After the 5th rep, I could really feel the fatigue start to set in. The 6th and 7th rep were both fairly difficult for me and I had to take a small break. Knowing that I had time on the clock, I knew that I had to pull another rep. I pulled with everything I had and, for a second, I was not sure if I could lock it out. But with JF Caron as my judge, I stuck with it and hit a 4 rep PR. The event winner had 14 reps.
Event 4: #250 Axle Clean and Press away; 0 reps
Of all the events, this is what improved the most. Pressing is a big weakness for me and I have been hammering it hard for a while. As a result, it has been flying up and I was able to hit this wt for a few easy sets of 5 in training. My confidence in the event was high, but I knew that there were a few variables that would make this event more difficult than training; all due to the axle.
The axle used at the event was a true 2” diameter steel axle. It was also very slick and had spacers which pushed prevented the weights from moving. My axle is 1.9” in diameter, which allows the plates to spin just a little. This spin isn’t much, but it definitely helps in a lot of ways.
Warming up for the event, I hit the competition wt for a slightly shaky single, but I attributed this to going from a 180 axle that had no spacers to a 250 axle with spacers. After feeling 250, I knew what to expect and was confident that I would hit several reps. Right before the event, the spacers on the axles were tightened down to be sure that the weights did not move.
When the whistle blew, I attempted to clean the axle and things went ok until it came to turning over the axle. When turning it over, my left side did not pull hard enough and my hand slipped from underneath the axle. At this point, the axle was racked on my right side, but my left arm was straight. My plan was to stick with it and finesse my left hand under the axle, but then the lights started going out…. Yes, everything started to go black and I started to feel wobbly. To prevent a full black out and banging my head on the concrete, I threw the axle off of me. Despite a near black out, I got back on the axle and was going to re-attempt the clean. The judge told me that I had to get the weights onto the mat before re-attempting and this is when I realized that things were much different than I originally understood. The spacers pushed the weights into the axle, causing the axle and weights to move as 1 complete unit (as if they had all been welded together). Honestly, I was a bit confused in the moment because I had never touched such an implement before. Once I got the axle back onto the mat, I re-attempted to clean it, but I just could not do it. I kept fighting but just gassed out and I had to settle for a 0 in the event. The event winner had 7 reps, but there were a lot of 0s.
The spacers turned this event into something that was very hard and many competitors had issues with it- even some of the top athletes. This made me feel slightly better with my issues, but I was still not happy and expected more.
Final Placing: 8th
Between Events and Immediately After the Contest
Besides the deadlift event, between events were my favorite part of the competition because I got to spend it with my family. Cuddling and hanging out with my girls between events really made the competition extra special. Having them there supporting me, cheering for me and making the time between events a bit more relaxed than normal are memories that I will hold onto forever. At the same time, I got to hang out and laugh with other guys in my class. Even though everyone was there to win, there is a camaraderie between the athletes which creates a great environment. This aspect is actually a big reason why I enjoy strongman so much.
After the contest I stopped by a select number of booths at the expo then headed back to the hotel room for a shower before dinner. As the contest highs started to fade, I felt a massive adrenaline dump and I felt queasy. At first I thought that this was due to a lack of food, but I realized that it was more than this once we finished dinner. This feeling felt worse the next morning. I did not want to eat and everything about my body felt off for most of the day. It was a feeling that I had never experienced and I attribute some of the feeling to my hormones being out of whack after the contest…. Leading up to the contest, I was excited and ready to compete. The sheer thought of competing caused my heart to race and adrenaline to rise. I had to learn to keep this down, control it and save it for game day. I think that finally reaching that peak of game day and not making it to day 2 really caused my hormones to be all over the place and then crash hard.
Outside of the Contest
Last year, I watched strongman all weekend- both the pros and amateur. My whole trip was consumed with it and I enjoyed the “meathead vacation”. This year, I did not see much of any strongman outside of when I was competing. Instead I hung out with the family and turned the non-competition days into a family vacation of sorts.
Columbus, Ohio is composed of several different districts- German Village, Brewery District, Arena District, Short North, Victorian District, and Italian Village. These districts were just the ones around where we stayed (Arena District; we were a couple blocks from the Nationwide Arena) and they do not count any areas surrounding Ohio State College. Even though the districts were “around us”, some were still fairly hard to get to via walking, especially when considering the kids. Lucky for us, Columbus runs a free bus line called the CBUS. It runs a route that passes through all districts (we were about 2 blocks from the Nationwide Blvd stop). As a result, we were able to visit a few districts. Besides the district we stayed at (Arena), I think that the German Village and Short North stood out the most. Apparently, people go to Ohio just to visit the German Village.
The German Village is one of the largest privately funded historic districts in the US. It was plotted in 1814 and was settled by German immigrants beginning in 1840. It is a quiet, shaded neighborhood with extremely unique architecture- mostly red brick. There are various shops and eateries throughout the village, with the most notable one being Schmidt’s. This restaurant is world renown for its authentic German food and has been featured on shows such as Man v Food- this was the main reason for us going to the village. Unfortunately, I was not able to partake in such delights as much as I wanted to….. We went to the village the day after the contest and, as mentioned previously, I was not feeling very good. My stomach did not feel well, I was tired and completely drained. Bethany made several comments regarding how I did not look good throughout the day. Anyway, we grabbed a bite and I ate very minimally. In fact, I forced myself to eat only because I wanted to taste the food. They also had cream puffs which were the size of 2 fists…. But we did not have any given the way I was feeling… it was a sad day…..
The Short North is a more modern district with various shops and eateries. It is filled with a lot of “mom and pop, farm to table” restaurants, which I really enjoyed. Mostly because this means that the food is prepared with more care and usually the taste reflects this. We ate some good food, walked around and had ice cream at Jenni’s. Jenni’s is found all over Columbus and was a favorite when we were there. It is an artisan ice cream shop that makes very uniquely flavored ice cream and I love ice cream.
Columbus also had a great coffee shop that I visited everyday (Roosevelt Coffee), delicious artisan donuts which were eaten every day (Destination donuts), a lot of craft breweries (I love beer) and good food all around. Despite the bus, we still walked around a lot- even while it was snowing…. Actually, it was Aurora’s first time experiencing snow, so she was pretty excited…..
The trip home was a little rough because the baby was completely exhausted from the whole trip and she fussed a lot. On the plane, she fought sleep very hard by throwing her body around and I ended up having to “strap” her down with my arms until she finally gave in. On top of that, the trip home took longer than expected due to storms and turbulence…. Bethany and I were pretty excited when we finally landed….
Overall, the trip was great and a lot of great memories were created there. Bethany, the girls and I are extremely thankful for everyone’s support- both financially and morally. The trip was filled with a lot of firsts, a lot of PRs and a lot of great memories. The ability to cuddle with my girls between events and hear them cheer me on are memories that I will cherish forever and I am so grateful to have them. Thank you so much and Cheers!