Wednesday, May 10, 2017

How To Stretch The Outer Limits of Adrenaline and Caffeine...Or My recap of My Experience Competing at Connecticut's Strongest Man

The only thing that has been more infrequent and rare than my writing on this blog has been my ability to actually attend a strongman competition that I've paid money to do. In the 19 months, I paid for, and missed, three strongman competitions since I did Granite State 8 in New Hampshire in July, 2015.  Since I don't have a job that requires me to travel, rendering my ability to compete practically impossible, I managed to actually stop donating money to strongman promoters and actually doing a competition April 28.

It was far from perfect.  While I do have a stay-close-to-home job, it's a night shift, working 6 pm-6 am 3-4 nights a week.  I did have a long weekend off but it proved not enough to flip my schedule around enough to be rested for this competition.  So, I started competing Saturday morning when I had been up already for 15 hours. This hurt.  

Lesson Learned:  Sleep is important!
I really like the look of this competition when I signed up for it in January.  There wasn't a lifting event that I truly hated in the bunch:  140 lbs circus dumbbell for reps, max 13" deadlift, 250 lbs farmers walks for 60', 250 lbs keg carry for 100', and a 240 lbs stone load.  As I commenced training, I learned a very painful lesson about my new work schedule:  While I can get enough rest to feel refreshed in the afternoons i don't work, it's not deep enough to recover from heavy training on the nights that I do. So, I frequently ran into days where I'd be absolutely dead from training loads that normally don't have issues with.  

This lead me to actually write down a plan that I mostly stuck to.  Every day had a light day equivalent that I could do on nights that I worked so I could recover.  I refrained from doing event training or deadlifting on work nights (except light weight carries for longer distances as finishers).  

I also placed a very heavy emphasis on pressing, specifically trying to do drop sets for hypertropy work. My pressing is a particularly weak spot in my strongman acumen and the only thing I hadn't done up until this point was dedicated hypertropy work.  So, I tried my best to do three pressing sessions per week.

There were issues along the way.  I had a trap bar unload on me, mid rep which messed up my hip in March.  Then I got a nasty flu in April that put me in bed for two days. Then, the results of not tapering down my training started getting the better of me.  My deadlift stalled.  I couldn't lock out 131 lbs circus dumbbells. The last straw was dropping farmer handles.  By the final weekend before the competition, I came to the realization that I was fatigued and at this point, I would get no stronger. So, I shut down my training 8 days out.  I slept 10-12 hours a night for the next three days.

Plus, I had to deal with flipping my schedule a bit to stay up during the days anyway.

So, How did the Competition go?
Flipping my schedule didn't go as well as I'd hoped.  I was hoping to sleep until 10:00 pm the night before the competition.  That didn't work out and I sprang awake at 6:30 pm.

I realized I'd be testing the outer limits of adrenaline and caffeine.

So, after a four hour drive to Connecticut, a bit of warming up and loosening things as much as possible, I was pressing a 140 lbs circus dumbbell.  As it turned out, only three guys showed up to compete at 200 lbs.  I managed to get three reps with the dumbbell, good for a second place finish.  This was disappointing since I hoped to get 5-6.  One bright-ish spot was I botched a third rep attempt with the left hand which left my shoulder and tricep feeling drained. My leg speed wasn't there.  So, I switched to my right arm and got another rep.  Unfortunately, I lost time because I thought I missed a rep when I actually got it and almost attempted an unnecessary extra rep.

Next up was the one event I was dreading the most:  a 13" max effort, best of three attempts deadlift. Miss a lift, you're out.  Deadlifting had gone, by far, the worst for me in training so Started conservatively:  450 lbs.  Second attempt was 500 lbs.  One guy opened with 600 lbs.  Yeah, I wasn't expecting to win the event.  I simply didn't want to loose too many points.  My opening for that came when the other guy dropped a 535 lbs instead of lowering the bar on his second lift.  I took 525 lbs on my last attempt and took second on this event too.

I was hoping my moving events would put me in the running for first place.  The problem was that I was getting tired and running out of caffeine (I had two 24 ounce coffees, a protein shake with 400 mg of caffeine and my electrolyte drink spiked with 600 mg of caffeine).  My farmers were uncharacteristically slow:  9.25 seconds. My pick and first two steps were too slow.  Another second place finish.  This really pissed me off.

Kegs actually didn't go terrible.  This had been my slower moving event in training.  I was actually happy with this because I used to have a tendency to take excessively long steps, make my stride too wide and therefore slower.  This time, I kept it shorter and sweet, getting 100' with a turn in a bit over 20 seconds.

By this point, the first place guy had taken first in all of the events.  I had taken second in the first four.  I had no chance of taking first and unless the third place guy took first in the stones and I zeroed them, he could't over take me for second.  I was far too drained to go all-out on the stones for no benefit in points. I took my time and gladly took third in the stones but second overall in the competition.

What Went Right
What made me most happy about my performance was that I was consistent with holding second place. I also liked that I only really made one or two errors throughout the competition (the dumbbell, and the slow pick on the farmers).  I was also savvy and played against the lesser experienced third place finisher well.  I found it amusing that the deadlift and the keg ware what I projected would be my weakest events and they turned out to be the two that I performed to expectations.

The biggest issue was my crazy nights schedule.  My whole performance was marred by just flat-out not being rested.  There wasn't a whole lot I could do about that.  It was the price I was willing to pay to compete.  It just made me tired and slow.

Still, I had fun, got to compete and made a lot of new, cool friends.  I seemed to make myself popular by bringing homemade donut muffins and blueberry stout to share with whoever wanted them.   I'm unsure about future competition at this point.  I signed up for Pennsylvania's Strongest Man in Lancaster at the end of July but with my budget limited for strongman, I'm taking a wait and see approach.

In the meantime, it's back to the drawing board, working on my pressing and my deadlift, trying to get stronger and have some fun along the way.

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