I competed in my first "big" strongman contest on June 24th, 2017 -- The 2017 United States Strongman (USS) Nationals in Detroit, MI. I decided to do this contest right around the start of the New Year and enlisted the help of Josh Bryant to write my programming. At the time that I signed up, I was nowhere near the strength level needed to do the required weights for the show. In discussing it with Josh, he termed it a "pipe dream" if the contest was to be held the day after our initial conversation back in December. I had a 6-month road ahead of me to get stronger and better at the specific events. I ended up taking 4th out of 7 in the 308 lbs Weight Class and 9th out of 19 overall in the Super Heavyweight Class. I consider this a decent showing, but there is definite room for improvement.
The weigh ins were the day before the contest and I weighed in at 302.7 lbs. This was about what I expected. I spent the rest of the day eating, relaxing and starting to focus on the event. The next day came and it was time to head to the venue. There were somewhere around 300 competitors on the day of the contest ready to put themselves to the test. It was held at the Macomb Sports & Expo Center in Warren, MI. When the promoters called all the athletes out to the center of the floor to begin the day with the national anthem, I will admit I had a great feeling of excitement. I felt like an athlete. There were 10 lanes set up to run through the contest as quickly as possible. After giving some time for warm ups it was time to begin.
RESULT: 0 Reps - 0 Points
Starting the day off with this event was the main thing on my mind going into the contest. I really wanted to hit a rep at this weight for a PR. In training, I hit a 300 lbs axle press. I never got up to contest weight. I had some inconsistencies with my leg drive throughout the course of my preparation and unfortunately I was unable to dial in my technique to get a rep with the 320 lbs axle. I was able to clean it easily and get the bar to my shoulders, but my timing of leg drive and pressing was not synced up. I got 0 reps and that put me in a tough spot to start the day.
RESULT: 0 Reps - 0 Points
This was another event that was worrying me. I hit a 650 lbs axle deadlift in training and I thought that with rest, the proper training peak and some adrenaline, I could pull the 700 lbs for one rep. That was my goal. However, as is sometimes the case in strongman, they decided to up the weight to 765 lbs and that put the deadlift out of my reach. I tried but I will admit after hearing the weight change I was immediately discouraged. I got another 0 on this event. I was focused on redemption on the following events.
EVENT #3: 340 lbs Farmer's Walk for 80 ft
RESULT: 12.28 Seconds, 3rd Place - 5 Points
As I have mentioned before, moving events are my better events. Back in May in CT, I dropped the farmer's after trying to walk too soon before fully picking the weight up. My only focus was to get a clean pick, fully lock it out and then start walking. The handles on these farmer's were very thin and they were ripping out of other competitors' hands. I locked my grip in, picked it clean and went. I wasn't really focusing on speed as much as I was focused on continuing to move forward. I was happy with this event result and I was finally on the board! This was a PR time for me with this weight and distance.
EVENT #4: 300 lbs Sandbag Carry for 160 ft
RESULT: 25.22 Seconds, 2nd Place - 6 Points
This was an interesting event. Many people were losing their footing and their stamina and collapsing with the sandbag. There were a lot more competitors that did not finish the course than I expected. Similar to the farmer's walk, I was focused on a clean pick up. Getting the bag into the proper position before going is key in an event like this. I was set up and ready to start, and the judge yelled "Go!". I got a great pick on the bag. Halfway down the course I was moving very well, but similar to other competitors, about 10 feet from the finish I hit a wall. My hamstrings almost gave out but I was able to continue a few more steps and cross the line. I definitely cost myself at least a few seconds when my pace dropped off. However, my goal was under 30 seconds and this was a PR.
EVENT #5: 380 lbs Atlas Stone Over 54" Bar
RESULT: 1 Rep, Tied 2nd Place, 5.5 Points
In training, I was loading lighter stones to higher platforms. This is something Josh had programmed for me and I think it really paid off. 54" is a pretty decent height and 380 lbs would be 25 lbs more than any stone I had loaded before. In training, I worked up to multiple reps with the 335 lbs stone we have for heights around 60". This strategy paid off for me and I was able to get the 380 lbs stone for 1 rep. There was a long break before stones and I tightened up pretty bad which caused me to cramp during my turn. I had to wait about 20 seconds for the cramp to subside and try again. I ended up dropping the stone when it was almost over the top on my 2nd rep attempt, but I was happy with the performance. I ended the day on another PR.
When I signed up for this contest I expressed my apprehension to Joel about not being strong enough to compete. Joel encouraged me to go for it and that if nothing else this contest would be a learning experience. He was absolutely correct. I learned a lot from this event about competing and the sport in general. I also gained training knowledge from other competitors. I want to thank my wife, Caitlin, for helping and supporting me as always, my training partner, Sam, who also competed, for his help along the way and Joel and House Of Muscle.
Overall, I had a great time and the result of this contest inspired me to want to continue to push forward and improve.
If I want to hang with the big boys, I have work to do!
Thanks for reading.