The weather was great that Saturday, getting up to the 70s or low 80s. There were 10 heavyweight, 10 lightweight and 4 female competitors. I was in the heavyweight class and as we prepared for the first of the six events to start we all drew numbers. The order we go in for the first event is decided by drawing a number. The person who draws the "1" goes first in the first event. The order of each of the following events is decided on the performances in the previous event. If you win an event, you get to go last for the next event. I drew to go first in the first event.
The first of the six events was the Farmers Carry. Each competitor had to lift two cylinders, each weighing 272 pounds, and walk with them 160 feet as fast as possible. This is a pretty common strength event and I had done this event before with success. This was the heaviest Farmers Carry I'd ever done, and starting the day with a 544 deadlift with very little warm-up turned out not to be that bad. Like I said, I was going first so I had no idea how the other competitors would do. Another thing about this event was the promoter only allowed you to set down the cylinders once. (A "drop" is what they call setting down the cylinders. Often times they allow unlimited drops, however this event only allowed one drop.) So, my goal was to not set the cylinders down at all. I would just take it nice and easy and try to finish the course. I ended up finishing the course-80 feet down, turn around and 80 feet back in about 50 seconds. I thought it was a pretty good job, and I was very happy with my grip ability however I didn't think the time would hold up because there were some big dudes there. It turned out that I was the only one not to set them down once! And I was one of only two to actually finish the course. The only other guy to finish it ended up winning the whole competition. Needless to say, I was pretty jacked with my performance and knew I was in the top three from the get go.
The next event was the Log Press. This is another popular strongman event. There are variations though. Sometimes you're required to clean and overhead press a certain weight as many times as possible in a given amount of time. Other times (and in this competition) each competitor is allowed 4 tries to clean and press as much weight as possible. Thus making it more of a strength vs. power event. You had to clean the log off the ground, using whatever technique (or lack of in some cases) you wanted and then press out the log with the finishing position being with elbows locked, head through and feet together. Many people did a strict shoulder press, push press, split jerk and one guy even pressed it, rested it on the top of his head, then locked it out! With my long arms, I'm at a disadvantage in this event.
The lightest weight, or starting weight, was 222lbs and you could pass each weight if you thought you could do a heavier one-thus saving an attempt. This is where strategy came into play. If you thought you had a chance to go really heavy and for the win, you may hit 222 then skip all the way to 282 or even 302 depending on your ability. I went 222 (easy), 242 (pretty easy), 262-easy clean, not so easy press. I cleaned it again even easier and again could not lock out the press. I ran out of time and ended up tying for 4th in this event. I was happy with how I did, many people didn't go over 222 and I knew this wasn't my strong event. That just meant I had to really kick ass at the next one or two.
Flipping a tire was next on the agenda. The tire we used weighed between 750 and 800lbs. Since I'd tied for 4th in the last event, I knew I would go towards the end and could see just what it would take to get top three in this one. It was discouraging though. Many strong guys barely made 3 flips in the 90 second time limit! Not to mention the grassy area we were doing this one had a slight uphill to it. I blasted the Metallica on my headphones and really got amped for my turn. I was wearing cleats for this event so I had an advantage vs. those in lifting shoes or boots. The whistle blew and I was off. My time ran out and I had gone just over 54 feet with it. I was totally spent. That tire was the heaviest tire I'd ever felt. My hands and forearms were totally pumped, scratched, bruised and scraped. I hobbled over into some shade and laid face down for close to 10 minutes. If I tried to get up I'd immediately get nauseous and lightheaded. It was great. I knew that if I'd gone that hard that I had done well. I got beat by one flip for second and two flips for first. I was still in the top three. I was jacked. This was my first time competing as a professional and I HAD to do well. There was no question. If I went home in a body bag, it would be ok as long as I'd gotten top three. There was some good time before the next event, and since I went third to last when the heavy weights were up I had lots of time. I ate an apple and some plain peanuts and some Gatorade (diluted with water) and some Creatine. It was time to reload the muscles.
Event four was the Truck Pull. The truck being used was a 20,000 pound Kenworth semi. It was just the tractor (or cab/front part) with no trailer-which was enough. Every person finished the 100 foot course and times varied. As you can see in the photo, we used our upper and lower body with a harness and rope. My technique had really improved since the last competition and I ended up finishing the course in 31.5 seconds. It was a great time compared to those who'd gone before me but the best two were yet to go. The next guy beat me by 1 second and the last guy beat me by 6 seconds. I was in the top three still and the day was starting to look like I was going to take third overall as long as I kept it up.
Next event was the Keg Toss. The concept of this event is pretty easy. Grab a pony keg with some water in it (weighing around 45lbs) and toss it as high as possible. A pole vault looking apparatus was used to hold the bar and each person had 4 attempts and 3 tries to make each height. Again, strategy came into play by predicting who could do what and how you compared. I hit the first height (12') pretty easy just to get into the mode and then skipped 13' to go to 14'. I did 14' pretty easy and the guy who was in second so far was having some trouble. I had to play it safe so I went 15' next. It took me all three attempts to get this height which surprised me. In the last competition, I had done 16' with ease and I was surprised how tough 15' had been. There were two more guys with attempts left besides me and they were having an easier time. So I went for 16' and barely missed it all three times. I was out. Third was the best I could do and the next two guys hit 16' and 18'. I had faired ok. I got another third and we were going into the final event.
In strongman competitions, it's the points that matter. You may get 10 points for winning an event, 9 for second, 8 for third. So, there are people that win 2-3 events but don't win the competition because they get last in all of the other events. Where someone else may win because they got second place at every event. Going into the final event I was in 3rd place, and was ahead of the 4th place guy by like 2 points. I had to beat him at this last event to ensure my 3rd place finish.
The final event was a Loading Event. There were 5 items ranging in size and weight that were placed at a diagonal starting about 30 feet from a truck. Each competitor had to start with the item farthest from the truck and load it into the truck, run back and do the next, etc...The first item was a full keg (160+lbs). There was then a 100+lb rock, a chain weighing around 100lbs, another rock weighing 130+lbs, and the final item was a 275lb atlas stone that was about 3 feet from the back of the truck. The time limit was 1 minute to finish. I went 7th, as I was in third place going into the event. Only two of the competitors before me had even lifted the last stone. The guy right before me, who was 2 points behind me didn't get the last stone. This surprised me because he was a monster; huge upper back, chest and arms and had benched over 500 in competition. It was my turn and I was ready. It had been almost 8 hours since the first event, and the eating throughout the day had helped. I loaded the first 4 items with ease and that last stone was giving me trouble. I had some tacky (pine resin to help with grip) on the forearms but the stone just kept rolling off my arms. The timer told me I had 10 seconds left before time was up. I had to lift this. I bent over, hugged it like it was going to crush it into powder and set it right on the tailgate when the whistle blew. I had done it! Finished the course and 3rd overall! I let out a thunderous yell while I "Hi Fived" a fellow competitor. It was over. The day done. Over 2 months of training had all come down to this day and I had accomplished my goals. Perform well compared to previous competitions, stay injury free, and come in the top three. Mission accomplished.
I will be putting together an article or two describing training for strength and strongman athletics that I use, as well as some of the training practices used by the guys you see on T.V. and World's Strongest Man. Thank you. Train smart, train hard, but don't overtrain!
Corey St. Clair