My excursion to nationals was a pretty interesting one…
Here’s a bit of background information about myself. I hadn’t done strength sports for a full calendar year at the time I attended nationals, and also at the time of the making of this write-up. Me getting into Strongman began when one of my best friends invited me out to his gym in Milton, FL to do some Strongman training—he’d mentioned something about deadlifting cars, throwing some kegs and picking up boulders. Without hesitation I said, “Sign me up!” That was either in June or July of 2014. From then on I went through two competitions before I moved to Tampa to attend graduate school: My first two competitions were NAS sanctioned events in the novice division in which I took 4th (competition #1) and 1st (competition #2). After moving to Tampa my focus was just on playing rugby and staying strong (and school, of course…).
On April 18th, 2015, I decided to attend my first USS sanctioned event in Port St. Lucie, FL. This was a competition I decided to compete in on a whim. At the time I’d finished a pretty good training cycle, in which I had gotten easy PRs of 405 on the front squat (video is on my YouTube page, which can be reached through the videos in this write up…hint hint) and 315 on the push press (a repeat of this is also on my youtube page). At the time, the rugby team I play for in Tampa was still going through its competitive season, and I recently got back into playing rugby after taking a bit of time off to focus on school. In terms of energy system demands on the body, rugby and Strongman are worlds apart—training for one exclusively means that you’re guaranteed to sap your performance in the other, and training for both at once makes it hard to progress favorably in either.
For the Port St. Lucie show, I decided to sign up for it about 10-12 days out from the date of it, and what was funny about that was someone whom I hadn’t even met before convinced me to do the competition, twelve days from the end of my second semester in graduate school. I found places to work on events in Tampa, and with three days of event specific training under my belt, I was able to take first in the Port St. Lucie contest. Not only did I take first, I swept almost every event, and the only event that I didn’t win was the medley event that I lost by 0.4 seconds. About a month later on a random weekend in May, I was scrolling through my facebook news feed. The day before this, I had an intense semi-professional rugby league team tryout in Tampa and I was not only dead tired but injured. On my news feed, I saw an invitee list for the USS Strongman National Championships. Out of curiosity I looked at the list, and when I saw the name of someone else I’d competed with on the list, I got curious and scrolled down to see if I was on it. Sure enough, I was.
I took a week out to think if I really wanted to do this or not. Being a graduate student, I don’t always have a ton of free time nor do I have a ton of money. I talked to friends about it, and they suggested starting a gofundme page for the trip. I eventually decided to do so a week later, while also embarking on one of the hardest training cycles of my life. Everything else I’d planned on doing went on hold for nationals prep—I more or less left the semi-professional rugby league team I’d gotten selected to be on, which would have led to a host of opportunities, to focus on it. The preparation went pretty well with PRs aplenty, but I took on more clients and more hours at work to help pay for the trip. This didn’t mesh well with one of the places I could train strongman events at due to time conflicts, and to make matters worse my main gym was still undergoing renovations to their outside/Strongman area. (They’re also well across town from where I live. Remember, I’m on a grad student budget here!) But I still soldiered on and vowed to do the contest, whether I took first or came in dead last.
The day before competition was insane; I still had to cut weight—eight pounds, to be exact—and time was short. I also had to fly up to Indianapolis this same day. I woke up at 3 AM EST, showered, and threw on three layers of clothing. A funny part of this story was that when I landed in Newark a few hours later, I had to go through security again. I was dipped from head to toe in sweat beneath my clothing, so I set off all of the alarms when I went through the scanner. This led to me getting strip searched… Eventually I reached Indianapolis, weighed in, and saw the competition. Aside from my state’s chairman, Dennis Walters, I didn’t know a single person there from a competition prior—this of course not counting the people I got to speak with through social media before touching down in Indianapolis. I could hardly even sleep the night before; I was so excited and ready to roll that I only got six hours in.
Let’s get to the events!
1.) 700 yoke for 60 ft: