Train Strongman invades VA!
Written by: Chris “XL” Jackson
Due to surgery earlier in the year, I hadn’t really been able to train or compete since January. I was really looking forward to this show in VA, just to be able to get my feet wet again and get back to doing what I love.
Being in VA also had the benefit of being near my extended family, so my aunt and cousins were able to come see me compete. If nothing else, that was worth the price of admission by itself.
Event 1: Max Log Press
Pressing has always been a strength for me, so I was looking forward to this event. Prior to this contest, the most I had ever successfully cleaned and pressed for the log was 275#. Normal wisdom for a Wessel’s rule event is to take a conservative opener to make sure you get on the board.
I decided I was going to come out aggressively on this event because it was one of the few events I thought I could outright win. I decided to open with 265#. After an awful looking and feeling clean, I easily pressed the weight overhead. In hindsight, I should probably have gone a little heavier in warmups than 165# to get the clean a little better. But, even though the clean was rough, I knew what I had done wrong after talking with the Train Strongman crew who were watching. So, I decided that I would go to 285# next.
This was going to be a 10# PR for me, so I was already mentally amping myself up for it. (Yes, this means I was listening to a remake of a Taylor Swift song. It works for me, leave me alone). I approached the log this time and after a much less dramatic clean, was still able to push press the log overhead. Not only was this a PR, but this also guaranteed me at least 2nd place on this event.
Now shit is getting serious, and fun. For my next attempt, I decided I would go with 305#. I have been chasing this elusive 300# log for a while and as good as I was feeling today, I just felt like the time was right to go for it. I made sure to sit extra deep in the clean, and damn if this wasn’t the best feeling clean of the day for me. Apparently all of that shit Lynn has been telling me for years is actually true. Who knew? Even holding this attempt on my chest felt good. Normally, having the log rest on your chest is a great way to ensure you go “lights out” on the press. Which I am prone to doing anyway. I took this good feeling for a sign that meant today was the day I finally break 300# and pressed with everything I had. The first half of the press went smoothly, but i started to stall about half way up. For a brief moment, I felt the lights going out. Luckily that passed quickly and I was able to finish the press. I can’t even put into words how much this meant to me. I dropped the log (looking back at the video, they totally had cause to DQ me for dropping it. Dodged a bullet there!) and let out a yell that in my head was akin to something you would hear on a barbarian warfield.
I ended up taking second place in this event as the heaviest log of the day was 325#. None the less, I was extremely happy about my performance here!
Event 2: Deadlift Medley
F*@#$ng deadlifts. This is an event that I always assume that I will either Zero, or take last place in. It’s not a good lift for me, and everybody else on this damn planet seems to love this friggin thing, so it’s always showing up in competitions. I know what Jon Pall said, I just don’t agree with it 🙂
My assumption going into this event was no different. I figured I would end up in last place for this event. The medley consisted of a 500# axle deadlift, a 700# 18” deadlift, and a 700# frame deadlift. We had sixty seconds for this event. The kicker here was you can choose the order, but whatever implement you left for last you had to do for as many reps as possible. Considering that both 700# implements were well outside of range, I wasn’t even worried about repping out. I just wanted to make sure I got on the board in this event.
I decided to go with the axle bar first. I have pulled a 515# deadlift on a conventional bar before, so I felt that with the use of straps, this would certainly be a do-able lift for me and at least get me on the board, avoiding the dreaded Zero. And for all intents and purposes, that’s exactly what happened. I feel like now is the time to explain that due to the size of my belly, and existing problems with my low back, I really try to avoid the more conventional deadlift stances. They don’t feel good to me, and I usually end up hurting pretty badly afterward. What this means, is that I have to assume what is typically referred to as a sumo stance to give my belly room to get the hell out of the way of my legs. Unfortunately, strongman doesn’t allow sumo deadlifts. So, in order to avoid doing a sumo deadlift, I have to move my hands way out to the ends of the bar to keep them outside of my legs. Yeah, I had to create some sort of bastardized snatch grip sumo axle deadlift just be accepted in this event. Friggin deadlifts.
I approached the bar and got myself strapped in. Fortunately, everything went as expected on this first lift. I pulled the 500# axle with ease. No hitching. No stalling. It just felt good. However, this is where the good feelings ended. I decided to go to the 18” deadlift next. I got myself strapped in again, and pulled with everything I had. Nothing. Nada. The god damn thing didn’t even budge. Friggin deadlifts.
Somehow, even with only this one pull successfully made, I still managed to take 3rd place in this event. At this point, I was really feeling good about my chances for the day. Sitting in second place after 2 events. I’ll take that!
Event 3: Keg Carry & Load
This event is simple enough in it’s design. I have to carry 3 kegs approximately 30 feet each and load them onto boxes. The boxes were low enough for me that there wouldn’t really even be a load involved. Just drop them onto the boxes. I figured I would do really well in this event. The kegs were 250#, 275#, and 310#. I figured just getting the last keg onto the platform would be enough for top two finish in the event. So, I didn’t plan to hustle from keg to keg. Just make sure I took my time and got through all 3.
The first keg went smoothly enough. Although I will note that I didn’t feel like I was moving as quickly as I should have been. Not sure what was going on, but it just felt off and slow. Because it felt so slow, I decided last minute that I should “hustle” back (we both know I don’t actually have a “hustle” gear). My knee felt it was going to explode, so that ended that real quick.
The second keg felt much heavier than I was expecting it to feel. Not only that, but I felt like I was moving even slower on this one. Probably because I “hustled”. Which meant I was under load for a long time and my back made sure to let me know it was not fond of what was happening. But, despite all of that, I made it to the platform and loaded the keg without any issue. Having learned my lesson on the precious keg, I walked back to the 3rd keg.
This keg felt like a wicked f#$% ton of weight. I barely even got it off the ground and my back lit up like the 4th of July. No way this trip was happening, so I bowed out and called it for the event.
Unfortunately almost everyone else in my weight class finished all 3 kegs, and the one other guy who only got 2, loaded the 2nd keg in less time than it took me. So, I ended up dead last in this event. I was not expecting to do so poorly in this event and that really got in my head for a little bit.
Event 4: Arm over Arm truck pull
I normally do well with truck pull events. But fitting my giant ass into a tire is not a simple task. Watching others do this pull before me, I thought it would be best to not even try to use leg drive and just use arms, hand over hand, as quick as possible.
This method started out well enough. I started in a standing position and gave one good strong, solid pull while simultaneously sitting into the tire. I was in decent position and continued to pull with nothing but upper back and arms. Initially this was working for me, and I was moving the truck rather quickly. But unfortunately, this method also caused me to become completely gassed really quick. Once I was gassed, finishing this event was brutal.
Ok, to be fair, it probably wasn’t so much the method of my pulling that caused me to become gassed so much as it was me being a gigantic fat guy who stopped paying attention to cardio more than 6 months prior to this competition. But I digress.
The rope was marked with tape and a line was drawn on the pavement just in front of the tire. Once the tape mark passed the line, the event would be completed. I could see the tape mark from my seated position in the tire, but not the line on the ground. As the tape was getting closer, I knew I was either two smaller pulls, or one big pull away from finishing. In a last ditch attempt to save precious seconds I decided to give it one big ass pull and be done. And indeed, I did finish the event on that pull. I also flipped my fat ass out of the back of the tire.
When all was said and done and after the mass of concerned volunteers rushed over to unflip my fat ass, I ended up with a time that put me in 4th place for this event. I was expecting to do better in this event as well, but forgoing all cardio training prior to this show cost me here big time.
Event 5: Stone over Bar
Here we are. The final event of the day. Going into this event I was in third place overall, with a ½ point lead on the competitor in 4th place. This competitor also happened to be a good friend and training partner of mine. So, now there was a friendly competition between the two of us for the final podium spot. Whichever one of us did better in this final event would end up in third place.
Our stone weight was 335#, and the bar was set high at 56” (or maybe 54”, I can’t remember now). My friend is naturally better at stones than me, but is also a short little fellow. So, I thought this would be interesting. I had never actually loaded a stone of this weight before, so just getting one rep would be a PR for me. And I figured the bar might be too high for him to load to effectively. Since I was ahead of him, I got the advantage of being able to watch him go first and see how many reps he’d get at this high bar.
Well, that short little f@#$er managed to get two reps over the bar. So, I either needed to get three reps, or do two reps in less time than it took him.
I took my stance over the stone and mentally prepped myself to do this. As soon as time started, I dropped to the stone and for some stupid reason, grabbed it way too high. I realized this and moved my hands to the proper position, but this meant that I inadvertently lost all the tacky on my right hand. (Ok, that and being a giant, sweaty bastard). I tried to pick the stone, and while I got it off the ground, without tacky, I couldn’t hold it and dropped the damn thing. I tried to pick it again, and failed once again. I had absolutely no tacky left on my right hand, and figured I was screwed.
Now comes the bro-moment of the year. My vertically challenged training partner, who had just gone right before me, stepped up next to me and held out his arm to reveal he still had spare tacky on the back of his hand! I had totally forgotten to place a spare patch on myself. Dumbass. I grabbed the back of his hand and pulled as much tacky off as I could grab. Reapplied and dropped back into position on the stone. However this time with tacky, the pick was simple. I pulled it right into my lap and got ready for the load. Even as tall as I am, this bar required me to get absolute full extension to get the stone over the bar. Having never actually done this weight before, I could feel every muscle in my body tensing and straining to make this load happen. I was certain I had just torn a hamstring, but kept extending.
I finally got the stone over the bar and set a new PR for stone loading!!!!!!!
I also blacked out almost immediately after releasing all the tension in my body and the next thing I knew I was draped over the bar with more volunteers rushing to my aid. By this point, time was over and I had only accomplished one rep. Yep, that short little f#$%er beat me. But I was happy for him. He put on a hell of a fight all day and he deserved to beat me!
Looking back on this competition, it wasn’t my best showing, but I also had a lot of PRs that day. Overall I am happy with how the day went. And let’s be honest, any day spent competing with friends is a great day in my book. I have met some truly great folks through this sport and made some of the best friends I have ever had.