Review and Apology

It's the day after Trojan's Strongest Man 2017 and I've had a night's sleep and a chance to regain my customary composure. So, having picked up my dummy and put my toys back in my cot, here's my traditional reflection on my antics.

It's the 6th year that the event had been run. Matty and the Trojan family put together a good occasion. It's easy to forget or overlook how much work goes into getting something started; keeping it ticking over and clearing up after. Thank to everybody involved for giving us the opportunity to show off the product of our work. But it wasn't all about showing off. The proceeds from the day went to CLASP (Counselling Life Advice Suicide Prevention www.claspcharity.com), a charity close to the hearts of the Trojan family. An immaculately observed minute's silence before the young son of a fallen friend released two balloons in memoriam was a touching moment.

Not at all unusually for a Bank Holiday weekend in the UK, the forecast promised rain but the day arrived and the sun was shining bright in the Bristol sky. So while my porridge cooled and my coffee brewed, I sought out the long-forgotten sun tan lotion for my shiny dome. Coffee, quick read of Marcus Aurelius looking for words of wisdom to help me keep in mental shape. Grab my kitbag and, as my daughter was bouldering, wander to the station to catch a taxi to the venue (glad I'd reconnoitred it the day before, I had to give the cabbie directions). Arrived and collected my event t-shirt. I should probably explain the "Spanky" nickname I'd opted for on the back. It loops back to my early days as captain of Bristol Sonics. Being interviewed by local news I explained that it had been a tough first season. Although we had some accomplished players and successful union players at that, we had "taken some spankings along the way"...and so Captain Spanky was born.



The first event was the deadlift, with an opening weight of 220kg. I knew I was undergunned for this one, which was why I was first out but in spite of that, I was relaxed. Just needed to control what was mine to control. Celebrity referee, Rob Frampton, World's Strongest Man veteran, changed the scope of the deadlift during the briefing. We would now be holding the bar at the top of the lift while the loaders took plates off and added heavier ones. Which was nice! 

The MC introduced me on my way up to the mats. First time in an open competition and the smallest man there. Apart from having to highlight that there was a cold draught and they shouldn't judge me, it occurred how infrequently I get described as small. As I say at work a lot, context matters (so do fluffers and forgiving lighting but that's another blog altogether!).

The whistle went and away we went. 220kg went up nice and smooth, the hold seemed to last an eternity while the guys changed the plates. Down we went and back up for 240kg. This hold seemed to be even longer. Down to the floor lowered the 260kg. Step away from the bar to get some chalk on my hands and then heave...for it to get slightly off the floor but go no further. Shame, that would have been a PB by 7.5kg but it wasn't to be. Still my best lift for a long time.



With my counterpart fairing a little better with the 260kg but still not managing to lock-out I wasn't down and out just yet, so took the opportunity to watch the others go. Some big tin being shifted by the big guys but the rising bar format was stopping me left too far behind. 

Next up, the keg toss. Another first for me. Standard pub kegs (weighed differently, 2 x 14kg, 2 x 16kg, 2 x 18kg and a bonus 20kg), all to be picked up and lobbed up and backwards over a 4m barrier. Being the shortest man in the field presented two specific challenges:- 1) I had further to throw them than everybody else! and 2) Getting the keg underneath me to the get momentum from the hip pop was going to be...touch and go!

Sod it, #hobbtilifting is my hashtag. Let's have at it. Sideways will have to do. Behind the line, whistle, move up, grab the first barrel...it feels light. Straddle, swing back, hip pop and let go. Looking up and back I can see it arcing up and over. And the next couple too.



Don't allow those thoughts of surprise to creep in. On to the last. Damn it, hit the barrier. Go get your keg, let's try again. Straddle, squat, swing and into the barrier. Hip pop has faded. And we're out of time. 

Some massive tossers launched the kegs skywards over the barrier and out of the arena!but I wasn't the only person not to do all of them. Now on to the farmer's.

Running order is normally based on standing, even if only from the previous event. So I was really thrown to find myself not going first. The first 2 guys didn't make the full length and the leaden feeling my stomach got a little denser and a little heavier. 140kg (23 stone) in each hand. A combined weight nearly 30kg more than my best deadlift and  20kg more in each hand than I have ever moved before. And it showed. Stand up (ish). The weights slipped out of my grip. Try again, same effect. Third time. Not moving. And so I crashed out of the event without making it across the start line. On reflection, it probably did me a favour being too heavy for me. Lighter and I'd have done myself a mischief trying to get it uphill to the finish line. 

Event 4 - the overhead medley. This was not going to be the one to redeem myself with either. Having focused on the comedy dumbbell in my 2 sessions, I had missed the point that the keg was first. A different keg to the earlier ones. The bigger brother in fact. Weighing it at 100kg, pick it up and press it overhead. Simple. It weighs more than I do but this is strongman. I answered the bell and stepped out first. In my head I had this fixed thought that if I could just get the keg to my shoulders I could set my hands and press from there. So I picked it up to my lap. Cleaned it to my face...and did nothing, Dropped. Let's try that again...and again...and again. The shouts of encouragement and the advice from the expert Strongman ref were fading away as my heart pounded and my inner voice, constructive as ever, cursed me and abused me. Twice more I tried. Using all my allotted time. Refusing to be beaten but missing all of the opportunities to do anything much different.

Two out of 4 events that I'd have scored as many points for from my sofa in my pants! Others struggled but all did at least 1. Andrezy made them all look like kids' toys as he continued his march to victory.

Stones then. My chance for redemption. Platform a little higher than I'm used to but that's ok. I've got this. Relaxed tension. 



Second up? What? That's fine, it's still mine. First stone, 110kg went up easily enough. Second one, 120kg. No dramas.

120kg stone
Third stone, come on Ben. Slipped out of my arms as I got it to my knees. The tacky has all gone from my arms. Shit. Go again. Same result. Third time, I can feel it pulling at my arm brace but it's still not gripping. Panicking now. Looking around desperately for some tacky. None to be seen. Strip off the arm brace. Come on fat lad. Nope. Nothing. Gutted. Of all of it, this was the first and real disappointment for the day. The other events I could at least hide behind my comedy amateur standing but the stones? 

I stayed and watched the rest go and the presentations. I was pleased for the guys although the "thanks for turning out" for my last place cut me deep and tasted pretty bitter.

I'm the midget sized one in the Hawaiian shirt. Man I look small!


And as the afternoon turned to evening, that bitterness got stronger. I mess around with this stuff. one maybe two strength sessions per week. So I had no expectations, I couldn't have any expectations. But to be so far off the pace in about every respect was more than my usually docile ego would let me bear. And so mentally, more than physically, I finished the day in pain. And I still had burpees to do. After all, I had promised Stuart that I would keep him company through his first ladder and with less than 3 weeks to go, I had to do them.

After that though, emotions got the better of me a little bit and I was a little ungracious to those showing me kindness. One day I might be better placed to explain why I felt that way about it but for now, I apologise to everybody.

So, we're on the next morning. Now the rawness has subsided a little, what to make of it? Well, if I'm going to do this again (and I don't really know if I will), I need to either commit to getting stronger, or reconcile myself to being found wanting again. And food. I can't go from breakfast at 08:00 to flapjack either side of the stones at 14:30 on a day like that with nowt in between. That's just not helpful! I also need to keep the kettlebell sessions going. Clearly the hip snap has a lot of functional crossover. Without that I might have done a lot worse!

Finally, thanks to all who sent me good luck messages beforehand and once again apologies to all who sent me messages after that I may not have received with good grace. I'll be back to normal soon indeed, I'm healing already but suffice it to say I was feeling a bit wounded. 

But then, if it was easy everybody would do it.

Thanks for stopping by. Take it steady.

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