This competition, the Northeast Strongman Showdown (or NESS) was made up of a professional class, an amateur light and heavyweight class as well as a women's class. There were around 120 total competitors and Saturday started with the lightweight men. Saturday was the qualifying day, and the top 10 athletes from the amateurs and pros qualified for the finals, held on Day 2. The women competed in all their events during the evening of Day 1. For the pro and amateur men, the event order went like this:
Event 1 - Farmer Carry.
Pro: 335 lbs/hand. Amateur: 305 lbs/hand.
Each athlete lifts the weighted implements and carries them 200' as fast as possible, or as far as possible in a given time. Once you drop it, you're done.
Event 2 - Tire Flip
Pro: 790 lb tire. Amateur: 790 lb tire.
Each athlete flips the tire 100' as fast as possible, or as far as possible in the time given.
Event 3 - Log Press
Pro: 305lb. Amateur: 275lb.
Each athlete must clean the log from the ground and press the log over their head as many times as possible in 75 seconds. A press is only counted if the knees and elbows are locked, feet parallel and head "through". The judge will say the number of repetitions achieved and give you a "down" signal when they feel the rep has been successfully completed. You only have to clean it for the first rep, however you can set the log down, rest, and re-clean and press it.
Event 4 - Super Yoke/Sled Drag
Pro: 800lbs/750lbs. Amateur: 680lbs/680lbs.
Each athlete must lift and carry the yoke the full 100' (no sliding allowed). Once they have completed the yoke portion, they will then drag the sled (backwards) back 100' to the start/finish line. They must do this as fast as possible or within the time amount given.
I was in the amateur heavyweight class, while my friend and occasional training partner would be entering the pro class. This was the biggest competition either of us had done, and would be a true test in strength, speed and mental toughness. Some of the biggest names in American strength athletics were there, and we competed against them. As for the amateurs, these weights were heavier than those used by world class strongmen just a few years ago. The sport has evolved so fast that even amateurs are required to carry 300+lbs in the farmer event, not to mention pressing 275lbs for reps????? When I entered this contest, my best overhead log press was only 245lbs! However with some of the heaviest, hardest and toughest training I've ever done-I prepared for this day as if it would be my last. My goal was to set a new PR (personal record) in each event as well as try and make the finals (top 10).
In the first event, the farmers carry, I felt confident with my ability to do well. Grip has always been one of my strengths, so I would need to do well and get a high placing in this event. I felt this would set the tone for the day, so it was all or nothing. Again, the weight was 305lbs in each hand for 200'. That's a 610lb deadlift, then walk as fast as possible with it. No straps. No hooks. Just chalk, muscle and determination. My best practice attempt with this amount of weight was 303lbs for about 58'. This would not do, and I had to do better than that to place.
Here I am carrying over 600 lbs! The pressure on your
arms, back and hands is unbelievable!
The head judge yelled "GO" and we were off. 4 guys were going at a time, so you could hear weights dropping-if you're lucky-behind you. I had to move quickly as my grip wouldn't hold that heavy weight forever before gravity would take over. Only 3 of the 28 heavyweight amateurs went the full 200'. I wasn't one of them. My left hand gave out just 13' shy of the finish line. Bad? Not at all! I had made it 187' 1" tripling my best training attempt and placing me in 4th of 28. I was jacked. I had set a massive PR, and regulated 24 other guys. I had made a mark, set the tone and turned some heads. I was in the runnin' and there was no looking back.
Above, Karl Gillingham, winner of the Pro Class, cruises with
335lbs in each hand. Way to go Karl!!
Event number 2, the tire flip, was something I'd been really practicing so again, a good showing in this event would be crucial. My class used the same tires as the pros, which made me think-I'm using the same tire as WSM 2001 winner Svend Karlson, Phil Pfister, Brian Neese, Chad Coy, Heinz Ollesch, as well as a slue of other world class professional strongmen are using-and I'm an amateur! I'd have to get up for this event and really prove myself against the best.
Only 11 of the 28 heavyweights completed the full 100' distance in the time given (90 seconds I think). I completed it in 1 minute 11 seconds. This put me in 5th place for that event, and 2nd place overall. Even though I was completely fatigued from the massive tire I was on cloud nine, and would have to stay focused to keep this momentum going. My 2 strong events were over, and it was an uphill battle ahead.
Here I am flipping the massive tire weighing close to 800lbs!
Trying not to barf after going all out for over a minute straight.
Two events down and two to go, we were half way done and my performances so far put me in second place overall! That means that with those two events as the test, I'm one of the strongest amateur strongmen in the USA! I was pumped. I just had to continue doing my best and I'd keep achieving my goals.
Then next event was the log press. It is definitely one of my weaker events, due to my height and long arms. However, I'd been really working on it and I knew I'd do better than I ever had in a competition. There was no telling how many reps many of my competitors would get, I just had to do my best. I was shooting for anywhere from 2-5 reps with the 275lb log.
When the whistle blew, I cleaned the log with no problem at all. I pushed with my legs and hips and nailed the first rep all the way to about 1... to the lockout position. The log stopped. It was like I was pushing with all my might and couldn't lock it out!
Pressing a 275 lb. log to lockout. The judge at the
at the left is Brian Schoonveld (WSM Competitor for the USA).
I finally locked it out and was given the "down" signal. My plans of doing 5 reps quickly faded into doing 2 or maybe 3. I was disappointed and angry. The tire had taken it out of me and fatigue was starting to set in. I dipped my knees and hips and drove the log towards the sky for a second rep. The same thing occurred, I got it just shy of lockout and it stuck there. It was like the sticking point people have when bench pressing. You get it almost to the top and the bar just sits there, motionless. I finally locked out the log for a second rep and dropped it to catch my breath. Time was ticking away and I was pissed that I only had 2 so far. I took a few deep breaths and cleaned it again. Going for the third attempt, by back, shoulders and triceps were just screaming and I couldn't lock it out. I dropped the log and told the judge I was done. 2 reps for me put me in 16th place for that event and dropped me to 5th overall. That was great and I was confident that I'd still make the top 10 and finals on day 2. I drank some Gatorade, took some Creatine and Glutamine and just rested. My family helped coach me up and keep me pumped for this last event. They helped me stretch out and keep my muscles from tightening up too much. One event to go and I was ready to set another PR.
Here I am getting set up for the last event - The Super Yoke!
As I start walking with 680 lbs, the hardest
part is keeping it from swinging and swaying.
The momentum is going and I just have to keep the
feet moving and the mid-section tight.
The weight is starting to take it's toll on my body
and I'm fatigueing quickly. You can see the massive bruises
on my arms from the tire flip event.
This event was so heavy that my body was just screaming. Every part of your body just wants to stop, shut down and curl into a ball. I made it the full 100' with the yoke, but as you can tell by the picture above, I was way behind the others going against me. I had to hurry. I dropped the massive apparatus just over the line and quickly grabbed the handles for the sled to drag. I took too long completing the first portion of this event so I had to really hurry to get a good placing with the sled drag. The sled was weighted to around 675lbs so it was really tough to get going. I made good progress with the sled and then time was up. It all went so fast that I couldn't believe that event and the first day was over.
Here I am getting as much air as I can while the sled tugged on my arms.
The day was done and my brother and I reflect and
wait for the final standings to come from the judges.
I had a PR in the last event, just like all the others, but it still was only good enough to place me in 17th in that event. While 17 out of 28 is still great, I was keeping my fingers crossed that I would maintain my top 10 position. It seemed to take forever for the judges to post the top 10 finalists that would go onto day 2. I was drinking some water and eating a protein bar when my family came and gave me the news.
The 17th place finish in the final event put me from 5th overall after the log to 11th overall. I'd missed the top 10 by 1/2 a point. I was so happy, yet so mad. I'd set a new PR on every event and truly did my best, but that wasn't good enough and the 1/2 a point difference was like making it to the 1 yard line on the last play of the Superbowl. The day was done. Months of training, both physically and mentally had come to this ending. It was over. I was relieved and bummed at the same time. What now? My body felt like it had been hit by a truck. Everything was sore. Even my face hurt from straining so hard, for so long. I had competed in the biggest strongman competition every to be held in North America. I made a name for myself, opened some eyes and turned some heads.
If you've ever thought about doing a strongman competition-DO IT! I may make it sound like it's not that fun, but it's a blast. I feel sorry for those who train so hard with no goal in mind. Go to my links page and start looking for a strongman competition near you. Have a blast and be a part of strength history like I was! Here are some more picture from the competition:
My mom standing with Jill Mills, the World's Strongest Woman 2001.
That's Jill's husband, Milo, standing
in the background with the black shirt on.
This is Chad Smith, an American strongman competitor, and my brother (Chris)
who competes in Highland games on the east coast.
Dave Barron, a professional Highland games athlete an
amateur strongman that I competed with. Here he is
carrying the 680 lb. super yoke.
Dave Barron and I sit in between events. I'd much rather
sit on the tires than flip them! (Ha ha!)
I'd like to thank (in no particular order):
Gordon, Meredith and Chris St. Clair
George and Lucille Weiss
Idaho Chiropractic Group
ST CLAIR STRENGTH and FITNESS
Please feel free to email me with any questions! Keep training hard!