Over the last 10 years I have had the opportunity to train with some of the best strongmen the United States has ever seen (Jared Spybrook and Justin Blake to name a few). Stories of national championships, fierce rivalries and international contests were regular conversations at the Motor City Madhouse, that is when any talking happened at all. September 9th and 10th in Kokkola Finland I was not only able to represent the United States in the U90 SCL World Championship, but continue the Michigan strongman tradition. This was an opportunity I have dreamed about since being a naïve 18 year old training in a Warren Michigan garage simply named the Madhouse. This is where it all started and began... training in negative degree winters with a person that has more tattoos than most tattoo artists and a police officer than would ask, “I thought you wanted to be strong?” every time you missed a lift, which ironically enough was the extent of in-training conversation.
It was that foundation that paved the way for Kokkola, Finland. The contest was a 2 day event with 12 out of the 20 U90 competitors moving on to day 2. The day 1 events were viking press, farmers walk and a carry and drag medley. Day 2 consisted of a max deadlift, press medley, truck pull and sandbag load. The venue was the in middle of a downtown area next to a mall. I cannot say enough great things about how organized the event staff and venue was. The entire SCL organization did a phenomenal job putting this contest together and drawing a pretty large crowd of spectators to watch the competitors. The TV presence was a nice touch too.
We did a lottery style pick during the rules meeting to determine everyone's order. For day 1 I would be going 7th for all the events. The viking press was up first and the weight was set at 120kg. This was an event I was a little unsure about because of how much of a focus they were putting on no double dipping and the fact that every viking press is different.
I ended up with 5 total reps and was maybe a ½ inch away from being able to push through the sticking point on the 6th rep. About a quarter of the field zeroed this event. Several people tied for first at 7 reps, 1 person hit 6 reps and a couple of us tied for 3rd with 5. Coming out of the viking press I was awarded 13 points. Not too shabby for typically not being a strong strict presser.
As we moved onto the second event, I honestly had no idea what to think. The farmer's walk was 30m down, turn around a cone and 30m back. Although the weight was only 120kg, the farmers themselves were pretty challenging. The handles were knurled (yaaaaaay!) and the farmer's themselves rubbed something fierce against the sides of your legs with every step. We were allowed multiple drops which was a bit of a relief, because if anyone knows me, they will know that I like to kick the farmer's out of my hands just before the finish line for fun. To my surprise, only a couple of competitors finished the course without dropping the implement. After a bit of a slow start, I was able to pick up some good momentum and handle the turn with relative ease. If I had to guess, I was about 15 feet from the line when my grip gave out. Luckily I was able to quickly pick them back up and finish the event in 4th place. After being rewarded with 17 points, my point total after the first 2 events was 30 points and sitting in 3rd place.
This past year competing was different than every other year in the past for me due to one reason and one reason only: consistency. If there was one thing I've learned over my ten years in strongman, it is that consistency is king and you have to have it if you want to make some noise in the sport. After feeling that the monkey was finally off my back, the 3rd event, cross carry and airplane tire drag medley, decided to put a big ole' silver back right on top of my spine. The medley was simple, pick up a giant cylinder cross weighing 140kg and walk 20m with it, run back and drag an airplane tire attached to chains back another 20m. By the way, did I say the medley was simple? Perhaps in nature, but that cross was a monster and dang near 5ft tall (which I loved because being 5'8 in this event is ideal). I knew this event and the truck pull (slight foreshadowing) were going to be difficult events for me. I have historically never done well with husafell carry so I imagined this event would not be much different. As I approached the line and the whistle blew I picked up the cross and took a couple steps. I immediately knew something was not right. With how the cross was positioned on me, each step I took, the lip of the cylinder cross kept hitting my Adam's apple. Finally, on one random step it smoked my Adam's apple hard enough to stun me and my body leaned forward. As I leaned forward the bottom of the cross hit the ground, my through fell on top of the cross and my body followed suit... down goes Frazier! I honestly don't remember much because as my throat fell on top of the cross I blacked out. I do remember coming too and trying to get up and put the weights that fell out of the cross back in, but then surprise! I blacked out again.... fun right? Needless to say I took dead last in this event only making it 5m, and was rewarded with 1 out of 20 possible points and nice bruise right across my throat.
At this point I honestly thought my time in Finland was over. It couldn't be possible to make it to day 2 with a last place finish out of 20 competitors. Little did I know, heading into the 3rd event I was sitting in 3rd place. I was completely unaware of how I was sitting and total points. To my surprise when they made the announcement on who would be moving onto day 2, my name was called and I was sitting in 10th place. SCL rules state that the points are erased for day 2 and are new points are given out based on placing. 1st place starts the day with 12 points, 2nd place starts with 11, 3rd place starts with 10, etc. I knew I would start with 3 points and 9 points out of first. Not ideal, but was definitely in a position to make up some ground.
Day 2 started with the silver dollar deadlift. This event was reps to max. The starting weight was 310kg and 20 kg were added after every rep. The top person topped out at 390kg, 2 competitors tied for 2nd at 370 kg and 7 of us tied for 3rd at 350kg. Due to the large number of ties, I was rewarded 6 points and came out of that event with a total of 9. I was not exactly the happiest coming out of this event. I expected to hit one more and should have positioned my body better on the last attempt. That feeling however quickly subsided as I knew the press medley was up next which was going to be my bread and butter.
During the rules meeting earlier in the day, they decided to lower some of the weight due to the rain and slippery surface. The medley was as follows: 110kg yoke press, 110kg 10in log, 65kg dumbbell and 120kg 12in log. The dumbbell was lowered 5kg and the last log was lowered 10kg. I was actually a little disappointed with this as I knew I would be able to do the heavier weights and needed to make some points up. To my surprise, over half the field could not hit the last log. Now I will say this, this log did feel like it had some balance issues and was a little difficult to clean. With that being said, I was able to come out of this event with relative ease. I took 2nd place and earned a much needed 11 points. After this event they re-tallied the scores and the truck pull would go in reverse order of points.
I was sitting in 7th place with a total of 20 points. I was actually pretty pleased, especially knowing I came into the day with 3 points. There were 2 people ahead of me tied at 21, 3 tied at 25 and 1st place was sitting with 28. If you have been reading carefully through this entire recap, you will remember my foreshadowing comment from earlier. Yup, this is where it comes into play. I have never been good (I can't even say great) at truck pull. It seems to consistently be an Achilles heel for me. Luckily, I don't see that event in too many contests, which makes sense that it would be at World's. There's not much to say when it comes to describing how this event went. I took last. I was rewarded with 1 point. It was not close. I did finish... with a very poor time. At this point I had 21 total points and thought to myself, “God knows how many placings I dropped.”
To my surprise, I actually only dropped from 7th to 8th. Down side was I only had 21 points. Plus side, the last event was a sandbag load event and typically sandbag is an event I have always felt comfortable with. We had to load 4 100kg sandbags into a van 7m away. My mindset was pretty simple heading into this event and can best be summed up with a Dan Fouts quote, “Last game of the year Brent, can't hold anything back now.” I finished the event in just over 30 seconds and took 4th place overall in the event. I would later find out I was .09 seconds away from 3rd place. Truth be told, I was unsure of how to feel after this event. I knew I had laid it all out there, but had a hard time shaking off the 2 events I knew would most likely cost me. At the end of the day though, I fell back on how lucky I was to be given this opportunity and be able to compete overseas.
After all the points were tallied, I ended up taking 8th place overall out of 20 competitors. I was 1 point away from 7th, 5 points away from 6th, 6 points away from 5th and 9 points away from 4th. To crack the top 3 I would have needed 13 more points. Walking away from the contest that day I honestly felt, “eh.” I know 8th out of 20 is not bad, but knowing what could have been lingered in the back of my mind. What could have been? 1 more rep on the dl? Pushing through that ½ inch sticking point on viking press? Maybe deciding not
to be a total dumbass on the cross carry and truck pull? It's all good though, because if there is something else that I have learned in the 10 years of competing, it's knowing you can't go back and change anything and there's no point in dwelling. Aside from the 2 last place finishes (being rewarded 1 point out of 12 and 1 point out of 20) I walked away with 2 4th place finishes, 2 ties for 3rd and a 2nd place finish. So really, 8th isn't that bad.
As I think back to all the people who have helped me along this journey it made me realize how blessed I am to surround myself with supportive people who genuinely want to see me succeed. I would like to thank some people who helped make this possible:
The Motor City Strongman Crew: I couldn't ask for a better group of guys to train with over the last 10 years. Many have come and gone, but the core group is still around.
Jared and Dana Spybrook: Without you two, there is no Madhouse and Motor City Strongman. You both have always found a way to stay in the sport and continued to keep the garage door open at times where lesser people would have closed up shop, it is much appreciated.
Barkley: You were there on day 1 and still there in year 10. You and Spy have showed me everything and to that I am forever grateful. You were the original training partner and someone I know that will always have sound advice, even if I don't want to hear it.
Adam Daniels: World's best accountabilibuddy and sensei of how to cut weight. There's no way I would have made it through this last year without ya.
Mike Caruso: I know I've asked you more questions than you probably signed up for, but thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to go over diet, programming and technique with me. Having you as a resource made one of the biggest differences in my strongman career.
George Bullard: Allowing me to train while on vacation and helping keep me focused has huge. I'm looking forward to our rivalry again back at 220.
Dave Pankow: It was awesome to be able to enjoy this experience with you. Just know you were the reason for my painful weight cuts.
Ron Shock: The foundation we started back in Mt. Pleasant that has carried through to today. You've always been there and I know you will always continue to be.
My in-laws: Every contest I have done locally you have shown up to and sat through just about the entire thing. Word's cannot express how grateful I am for your support and continual good luck messages before a show.
My Family: Although I know, because you've told me, you wish I was doing something much safer you have continued to support me and genuinely care about how I do. I know it isn't easy, but thank you for standing by me.
Willie Wessels and John Albrecht: You two both fight for the athletes and have their best interests in mind. You have redefined what strongman is in America and are allowing competitors to live out their dreams.
This final person is who I owe everything too and put the most through, which would be my wife. I cannot say thank you enough for everything you have done for me. From meal preps to dealing with my horrendous attitude while cutting weight, my success starts and ends with you. You have always been at every show, through the good times and bad, never missing one. You're an amazing training partner and wife. As many “thank yous” as you have coming your way, you have just as many “I'm sorrys”. You have allowed me to prioritize Nationals and Worlds, which I know was not an easy thing to do, knowing what had to go on the back burner. Not once did you complain or make things more difficult on me. Instead, you stood by my side, supporting me every step of the way. I love you and look forward to what the future will bring.
This was an amazing experience that I will never forget. Jouni Kivela and the entire SCL organization proved once again why they are top notch. They truly made the competitors feel appreciated and welcomed. I am looking forward to for another opportunity to compete with this organization again, but this time hopefully at a heavier weight!