Finally took first place and qualified for nationals at a competition. Now, I will say that this was a small comp, with only 3 people in my weight class counting me, but amazingly this made every event life or death, as the smallest slip would have me lose my place. I initially thought that this was going to be a pretty boring contest with so few competitors, but it was actually the most fun I’ve had and really pushed me to give my all. Training paid off a ton, as did my tune up contest back in Jan. Here are my thoughts on each event.
EVENT 1: Tire Squat for Reps (371lbs)
Watching the women do this event before me gave me a few ideas/lessons to learn. Walking the bar out gave a lot of people trouble, as the rack was narrow and the tires would hit on either side, making it tough to get set up. I saw a lot of people that most likely employ a high bar/dive bomb style squat in their training, and this turned out to be a major detriment, as they would fall from the top, hit the tires on the platform, have the bar bounce off their back/forward, and totally lose a squat. TONS of competitors zero’d this event from this approach. Thankfully, as a former powerlifter who still cheats with a low bar/slow squat, this wasn’t going to be an issue for me.
Guy before me (who would end up being the guy I chased for the whole competition) hit 15 very fast/smooth reps on the squat, so I had my work cut out for me. I’d hit 405 in the gym for 17, but that was with just plates. Coming into this event, my 2 fears were hitting depth and being even on my descent, as in training when squatting to chains I have a tendency to hit the left side of the chain with the bar before the right side. 1 of these fears was legitimate, as I had no issues with depth, but constantly kept hitting the platform unevenly. On the very first rep, I hit the left side but never made contact with the right. On the second, the judge called me out on this and no repped me. From here, I had to make a constant effort to dip down on the right side to make sure I made contact, which made things a little wonky. I ended up hitting the j-hooks on one rep, and in general just fell out of my groove.
I was credited with 14 reps. Had I made contact on the no rep, I would have tied for first. Instead, I took a hard fought second.
EVENT 2: Press Medley (200lb log, 200lb axle, 180lb keg, 115lb circus DB)
Prior to this event (and the tire squat for that matter) I was feeling very light headed and weak. I figured I hadn’t eaten enough, since my stomach had been a little upset before the contest and I was trying to avoid making things worse. I sacked up, ate 2 pop tarts and downed a Gatorade, and that seemed to help make the difference, as I came into things feeling much stronger.
I had been practicing this exact event prior to the show, with the only difference being that I had no circus DB at home, so I used fat gripz on a 105lb dumbbell. I figured that the weights on all the other implements were super light, and it was basically going to be a contest to see who could get to the circus DB first to get the most reps, so I focused on cutting down the transition between the clean and press on each implement and recruit my legs more to press faster.
All of that ended up falling apart, as my light headedness seemed to still plague me a little. I lost my footing on each clean, forcing me to take a second to re-adjust before the press. Getting the keg to my chest was slow as well. However, the circus DB ended up being a pleasant surpise, as I struggled with this exact implement/weight at my last contest, while here I managed 3 clean reps with a 4th that died on the lockout. Focusing on driving the bell up with my shoulder really paid off here. If I was smart, I would have held on to the bell and just hit touch and go between reps to really move things faster, but I was trying to have very fast eccentrics here to save my shoulder and cut down on time (to the point that I pretty much dropped the keg off my chest and bent it pretty good. Promoter got pissed off about that, oops.)
I thought this wasn’t a great performance, but amazingly most the other competitors struggled on the implements BEFORE the circus DB. Many never even got that far, with the keg being the widowmaker for may. I am SO thankful I bought a keg to train with, as familiarity with the implement was invaluable. I ended up taking first here, with second place getting zero reps on the circus DB (he could lockout the bell, but was unable to get his legs locked out). It also looks like all that time I spent training the clean with each implement paid off. Very happy with how training paid off here.
EVENT 3: Carry Medley (475lb yoke, 500lb frame, 200lb keg, 200lb sandbag) 35’
I was dreading this event. Footspeed is still my weakness, and though I have been hitting parts of this hard (farmer’s one day of the week, keg/sandbag medley the other) and training 50’ish versus 35, I was still doubting myself. Additionally, the event originally called for farmers, but the promoter switched it to frame at the last minute (which I thought would be better for me, but still, not what I trained for) and I still don’t have a yoke to train with at home, so I knew I was going to have to wing it.
Thankfully, both of the competitors ahead of me made some mistakes (the joy of being in first, I got to watch and learn). The first guy moved really fast, and looked like he would be a major threat, but he had lost some time figuring out how to pick up the sandbag, and ended up tripping over his feet at the very end, crashing and burning hardcore straight onto the sandbag. A truly epic fall, but it also put me in the fight.
The second guy also looked like he was blazing fast, and instead of holding the bag horizontally, he just bear hugged it and ran it forward. All hope looked lost until he made a rookie mistake: he fell onto the sandbag at the end when he loaded it, not knowing that time didn’t stop until he took his hands OFF the bag. By doing this, he killed at least 6-8 seconds off of what would have been a VERY competitive time. Seeing that gave me some hope, but it also let me know that I had to have a perfect run.
I did something different setting up under the yoke this time: I took a narrow stance. Usually, I would take a squat stance, squat the yoke up, then bring my feet in and start moving. I realized that this was just killing my time, and knew that I needed to make the pick-up and my first steps a fluid motion. Soon as I heard go, I stood up and started moving forward before I had a chance to know if I even had the yoke cleared. Watching the tape, it was still a pretty sloppy run, but definitely the fastest/smoothest I’ve ever moved with a yoke.
I jumped from the yoke into the frame, and in doing so felt my left ankle twist a little as I hit the edge of the implement. It was thankfully a minor tweak, as I was still able to successfully grab the handles and motor forward. The training with the farmer’s paid off from what I could tell, although looking at the tape I could definitely have stood to take shorter, faster steps. We were allowed straps on the frame, and I had them on me in case I needed them, but my grip was just fine. That was a positive, as I knew any time spent strapping up on the frame was time lost.
It felt like I sprinted back to the keg, but looking at the tape it was more like a jog. I’ll have to actually work on some sprints in the off season to minimize this time. I had been training with a 182lb keg, and was curious how big of a difference the 18lbs was going to make. Answer: a lot. I was able to move pretty quickly with the keg at home, but this became more like a quick walk. I tried hard to pick up high and lean back to free up my legs, but it was garbage. I knew that if I wanted a shot, I had to make it up on the sandbag.
Here is where training with crappy equipment pays off. Prior to my Jan contest, I took a partially filled 150lb sandbag with me to my in-laws and trained with it for 2 weeks. I got real good at picking it up off the floor. When I got home I put 50 more pounds in, still had a lot of space in it, and trained the carry medley. A few weeks before the comp, I finally took out the slack and had a well packed bag, which was much easier to pick up off the floor. However, at this comp, the bags had a TON of slack in them, and competitors that were used to well packed bags seemed to struggle with finally the sweet spot to grab a loose sandbag, with lots of time lost. I knew that I needed to tip the bag to the side, catch it with my left hand, dig under with my right and throw the bag up high to sort of “sneak up” on it if I wanted to keep all the sand in one place. It went flawlessly, I got the bag high up on my chest, totally clear of my hips, and managed to really book it to the loading area. I got that bag upright and threw my hands up in the air to show that I was totally “hands off”. It worked out well, as I ended up taking first on an event that I was sure was going to be my worst. A great showing for a fat slow kid.
EVENT 4: Last man standing axle deadlift.
Not a lot to write up on here, except the promoter said this was going to be done with a deadlift bar, and then switched to an axle. He seemed to take a lot of joy in these last minute changes, when really, as a competitor, it was just annoying. I didn’t pack axle straps, since we weren’t deadlifting an axle according to the contest I signed up for, nor did I bother to train for this.
Thankfully, my normal straps worked just well. Having long fingers and slim hands helps. I didn’t have a lot of difficulty with this being my first time pulling with an axle, but when the bar got to 585 I noticed I was struggling more than I should have, and when it came time for 615, I managed to get just below my knees before the weight got in front of me and I dropped it. I think fatigue and dehydration played a factor here, along with the fact that I had pulled a max dead a month ago in Sacramento (680lb tire deadlift). I usually go 8 months between maxing, 1 month is just too short of a time. Also, reviewing the tape, I kept my feet close on every single pull except for the very last one, which is the same thing I id when I failed with 720 in Sacramento. I need to quit doing that, because in both cases, I lost all my leg drive and tried to stiff leg the bar.
Thankfully, 585 tied for first on this event, but I really should be winning these deadlift events. It’s my one lift. My gameplan here is to reduce the barweight I train with while adding some chains, since I seem to have zero issues getting the bar off the floor but struggle at lockout. The lighter weight should give me a chance to recover from such frequent heavy pulling while still building up my max again.
EVENT 5: Keg over bar (51” bar, 4 kegs from 150-200lbs)
This was supposed to be a keg loading event, but SURPRISE, another change. Whatever, I didn’t train for it anyway, so I wasn’t too upset.
1 thing I am incredibly proud of myself for thinking of is wearing my squat shoes instead of my chucks. The 51” bar looked high, I’m only 5’9, and it dawned on me that these shoes would make me slightly taller. I may consider wearing some boots in the future to achieve a similar effect, but I figured these shoes would also help me get my hips into the keg.
I got to go last again since I was currently in the lead, which gave me a chance to learn from my competition. The first guy had this first keg’s handles face away from the bar, while the rest faced toward it. This meant that he could run straight to the bar on the first keg, and then grab the rest of his kegs from the side rather than getting behind them, which reduced transition time. I ensured to do the same.
The second guy threw his first keg over the bar and almost killed one of the volunteers, which got a stern warning and prompted the promoter to tell me that the next guy to do that would get DQ’d, so I also learned not to do that, haha.
Not too much else to write up here. The kegs felt much lighter than I anticipated, I moved pretty fast and didn’t take too much time to get the keg over. My big fear was throwing the kegs, so I slowed down a little, and watching the tape I could stand to cut the transition down between when I get to the bar and when I engage my hips, but otherwise I was happy with my performance. I apparently took second here, and I imagine the other guy throwing a keg may have helped his time, haha.
So, for those of you keeping track at home, you may have noticed that I had two first place finishes, two second place finishes, and a tie for first, making me dead even with one other competitor. So how was it I took first? I weighed in lighter. Whereas the other guy had cut down from 215 to make the 200lb class, I walk around at 198ish day to day, so I came in at 197 in jeans. Finally being too small for my weight class pays off. It means I should also probably be a 175er, but that sounds like too much not eating.
Already included a lot of my lessons learned in the above, but one other new variable for me was that we competed indoors in an air conditioned location, and I didn’t realize how much it was dehydrating me to be in a climate controlled environment. I wasn’t sweating at all, yet I drank over a gallon of Gatorade and still had both quads cramping up fiercely right before the last event. In the future, I’ll have to ensure that I really stay on top of my hydration in those conditions.