Have I got the stones for it?
I'm about a week out from competition and that means that my mind is starting to dwell a little. This gives me chances to rationalize and start to shape and control those mental processes.
2017 has been an interesting experience for me so far but we'll keep to my age and the training perspective for now. 2016 closed off with a focus on burpees (the annual 100 day ladder carrying through from September to December) and the indoor rowing Crazy Bear Challenge (30 Half-marathons in 44 days). I came through both ok, setting a personal best with my final 21km. But it meant that I hadn't done any kind of strength work since October. That's ok. Activities have a "season" as you shift focus.
So in January I joined the resolutioners crowd in the gym and started back at it. It was not long before my bicep tendon and brachioradialis were giving me grief and only a month of self-treatment/avoiding certain aspects of training before I sought treatment. Through this I was able to do burpees on my birthday (that's becoming traditional) and get roped into another 100 day ladder to keep a friend company on what will hopefully be his first completed ladder. BUT only if I turned my hands to a different angle. If I allowed the muscle memory to kick in and my hands to be placed in the "right" place, I found myself face-planting our utility room floor as the arm gave way. Clearly this hampered my ability to open doors and train normally. However, throughout I was able to find my happy place in Trojan Fitness and continue to work with the atlas stones (so long as I didn't have to press them out to get them on the plinth).
Because I'm an attention-whore, I post training pieces on my instagram feed. This has the upside of being able to bore the pants off my friends, family and followers. It also means I get to "meet" new people. On the downside, some of these new people will call you to proof. And so it was that Matty at Trojan saw me do the 150kg stone online and told me that I should enter Trojan's Strongest Man.
Having seen the weights involved, I was relieved to find that it was full. When I was told that impression was wrong I had no excuses left and so had a choice to make (because there is always a choice) between saying "I'm not strong enough" or "why not?". And while I may be a little Minion-like, I ain't yella! Besides, while I may not think that I'm strong enough, I won't actually know that I'm not until I have tried. So, in absence of any other excuses, I entered.
I do occasionally wish that I'd found practising strongman earlier. I mean, I've been watching it for as long as I can remember (and longer, I have after all taken a lot of shots to the head!). Geoff Capes was a childhood hero and no Christmas is complete without a tin of Quality Street on my lap and World's Strongest Man on TV. But your late 30s is not the optimal point to be picking it up. Who ever said that we live in a perfect world though?
It's ok though, I have done a couple of comps now, so what's the big deal? Well, with no disrespect intended to those competitions or those who were in them (and I can't be too dismissive given that I've never taken a podium place in any of them) they pale into insignificance in weight terms beside this one. For example: Nailsworth's Autumn Strongest (September 2016) - Farmer's Walk - 90kg each hand. Trojan's Strongest Man (May 2017) - Farmer's Walk - 140kg each hand. On the 6th May I struggled with 120kg in each hand. But that was the first time I'd done it since NSF in September; a PB by a country mile (well, by about 20m but you know what I mean), and, to put it in perspective, only 12kg less than my deadlift PB.
So, to the challenge at hand.
- Deadlift - rising bar, starting at 220kg.
- Keg Toss - 14kg; 16kg; 18kg and 1 bonus at 20kg.
- Farmer's Walk - 140kg each hand, 30m.
- Overhead Medley - dumbbell 70kg; Keg 100kg; block 100kg; log 130kg
- Atlas stones - 100kg-150kg
- I can do the opening weight on the deadlift. I'll be hoping the stars align in my prep to get a PB on the day. That won't trouble the top boys though. [EDIT: Rising bar means weight is added while you're on the platform. That's a whole new ballgame! PB is doubtful, will be asking a lot of grip strength and recovery]
- Kegs - I just don't know about this one. The kettlebell swings that I do should help with this one. The downside of being built like a Mr Man though is that once I get my hobbit legs apart I doubt I'll have enough clearance to get a full swing. We'll just have to see.
- Farmer's - I have got to be honest, picking up the weight will be an achievement. I need to cross the start line but every step will be a victory - even if I do look like a new-born foal trying to stand.
- Overhead medley - I'm screwed! Overhead is a weakness for me anyway. Not having been able to train it for most of the year so far because of my arm hasn't helped. Barring miracles, the initial implement will not be going overhead. There's a temptation to not even walk out for this one. Clearly I'm going to though!
- Stones - I know I can lift these. I haven't done them as a run but as the thing that is to blame for me being in this mess (note how I'm not really taking personal responsibility for my choices!) I do want to do well in this one.
I'll admit that there's a bit of fear growing. A gnawing voice. It's not self-preservation though. It's purely about ego. I'm carrying injuries now and have been injured before, so hurting myself doesn't scare me. Making a complete tit of myself though, that scares me! There is a bit of arrogance in me entering these challenges. As much as the "why not?" approach speaks of naivety and a lack of the imagination required to think of the hundreds of perfectly sound reasons for not doing this stuff, there is a hint of over-confidence in my talents. It isn't appropriate either really. There are lads entering this who are younger, bigger and stronger than me. There is a small voice inside me that still talks about competition being an external thing, a binary thing - I win and beat the other guy(s) or I lose. But I'm not good enough to be in that camp here. A bit like the indoor rowing (or heaven forbid, entering a running event) this is about doing my thing. Competing with myself to set PBs.
While I'm only somewhere between 5ft 8" and 5ft 9", I'm 95kg and have 40 years of life experience. I may be short but I'm not small and have had to work on my mental strength over the years.
That's what I have to keep focused on - relaxing, concentrating on what I can do and doing that. The overall result will be what it will be, but if I do my thing, in my fashion and don't get in my own way then I'll have a blast.
Joe Bonamassa - Bird on a Wire (live at Beacon Theatre)
All that aside, it should be good fun to be there and a privilege to see some very strong boys do their thing while we raise some money for some good causes (CLASP and Together for short lifes)
If you come along, give me a shout, it's always nice to meet people who read this stuff. And if you can't make it, don't fret, I'll probably tell you about it anyway.
For now, thanks for stopping by. Take it steady.