I’d like to start this story back in 2010, when I weighed 336lbs after the birth of my 3rd child. After a lifetime of morbid obesity, the 3rd pregnancy had been extremely difficult. Early on I’d almost lost Wesley, which I haven’t ever really talked about, and through my 2nd and 3rd trimester I was incredibly overburdened with my own weight – even needing Matt’s help to get up the stairs. We’d decided it was too much on my body to ever get pregnant again, and despite possibly wanting a 4th son we decided it would be safer for me to have a tubal ligation while having my 3rd cesarean because we didn’t want to risk my body getting pregnant and what it would have done to me.
Then let’s fast forward to 2014, whereby I’ve lost and maintained over a 100lb weight loss and won my very first Strong(wo)Man competition!
Yeah, seriously. Looks like my body can handle some weight now!
I am so thrilled and excited to be able to share about my competition. It’s something I’ve been training for and looking forward to since my original post on wanting to be strong in July 2013. And as much as I trained, prepared for and anticipated this day coming – nothing could have prepared me for the roller coaster of a ride it was! I plan to have another post later this week with a lot about what I learned and what I recommend, including an epic giveaway, but first I’d like to tell you about the competition itself.
I started out the day with frantic texts to Sarah asking for advice on what to do about having the stomach flu. It had been coming on since Thursday and despite my best efforts to rest and eat the most nutrient dense foods possible, I got it from the kids at the worst time possible. I was frantic about not having good fuel in my system, not being able to keep food down… and the worst: what would happen if I’d need to go to the bathroom while in the middle of an event? But Sarah and I decided that since the medications available for my specific problem caused “tiredness, dizziness, do not operate heavy equipment” they weren’t exactly a good idea before the competition either. So, I decided to brave it with foods my coaches recommended and hope for the best.
The competition started at 10am, but I arrived before 8am. I registered (officially) as a North American Strongman (NAS) member, said hello to a few people and then began rolling out, stretching and getting warm. (prepare for TMI) Admittedly, I spent half that time in the restroom. Things were not going well for my digestive tract. Also, it was the heaviest day of my menstrual cycle. But I kept telling Matt and friends that asked, “When I win, I’m going to be able to say that I did it despite all this!” I knew that the competition was mostly a head game and that I had to really, truly believe I could win in order to actually do so.
At about 9:30am they called all the awesome, strong ladies together and went over the rules. There were 3 divisions that competed that day, in this order: Light Weight Novice, Heavy Weight Novice (my category) and Middle Weight Open. Since I had registered first for the competition for my division, I had the advantage of going last in the first event – the press medly.
I knew that this event was my weakest. My goal was to finish top 5, but I really wanted top 3. Since StrongMan scoring works to establish a ranking for each event, each assigned a point value that accumulates for all events, I knew I could overcome being ranked 3rd in this event by coming in first in others I knew I was better in.
An axle bar is much more difficult to clean because the wide bar doesn’t allow hands to wrap all the way around it. This Continental technique is StrongMan specific for the axle.
After watching all the other women go I knew my best strategy was to take my time, get my breath and just finish the event. Even if I was slow it would rank me top 5. So that’s what I did, and I came in 3rd for the press medly: 105lb log press, 115 axle press, 50 circus dumbell, 115 barbell press.
Coming in 3rd for this event was the perfect momentum I needed to start! I felt fine coming out of this event. It didn’t take a lot out of me and I felt strong and ready. Adrenaline and endorphins were flowing strong and I was very excited that my hardest event was behind me.
The next event was the car deadlift. You may recall from my previous post that in training I did 25 lifts in 45 seconds for this. Well, the coaches decided to make this one harder for our division by adding a 2″ platform to the deadlift. It makes the pull that much further! Because I’d placed 3rd in the first event, that meant I went 3rd to last in this event. The reps to beat when I went was 19, so although my goal was 27 I was happy with the 23 reps I got in 1 minute.
Game face on deadlifts is never flattering.
Unfortunately (for me), Vivian, the woman who had won first in the first event won this event as well – stopping when she hit 24 reps because that’s all she needed to win first for this event. So I came in 2nd. I was starting to doubt if I could regain on her or if I really could come in first on the other events because she was SO awesome and much stronger than I anticipated any opponent to be.
The real problem, however, is that this is when my body fell apart. You can’t see it well in this video, but when I set the frame down my knees buckled and I was extremely dizzy walking off the platform. I started to feel my blood sugar crash and all the happy hormones drained my body. I went and laid down on a platform in the back holding area and I remember Lucy, my training buddy and competitor, telling me to get it together and get my game face on. But I felt like I literally couldn’t pick myself up. I felt awful. I felt like I had to throw up. So as I walking to the bathroom my friend Courtney (a competitive athlete) saw me looking pale. She asked if I was OK, I explained and she offered me something I’d never heard of before (because I just eat real food to train), Branch Chain Amino Acids. “It’s not paleo” she said, “but they WORK!”
The really great thing about the BCAA powder for me at that moment was that it was a hydrolyzed protein that my body didn’t need to digest. My body wasn’t able to digest anything because of the stomach flu I had, so the amino acids immediately went to work and helped to fuel and regenerate my cells. It was less than 5 minutes after drinking about 4 ounces that I was literally jumping up and down exclaiming how awesome I felt. And that’s when the magic happened…
I won first place in the Yoke Walk, carrying 330lbs 120ft with 1 repick in 20 seconds.
I had several people come up to me and give me high-fives and tell me my repick was “sick” or “sweet” and I felt good. I kept drinking the BCAA’s and my blood sugar, dizziness and sickness dissipated for the next few hours. I was able to think through the points and knew that I would do well in the 4th event, which gave me a possible opportunity to win the overall competition. Finishing first in Yoke was when I found my confidence, finishing in about 1/3 less time than my next closest competitor.
Honestly I didn’t even realize I was going to do THAT well in yoke. I know I can lift heavy (my last 60ft max was 460lbs) but I never thought of myself as “fast” with it. That made me more excited for the Farmer’s Carry & Tire Flip medley, which is “my jam.” It’s my favorite 2 StrongMan movements in one medley!
Since I had finished first in the yoke I got to go last for the Farmer’s Carry event (130lb per hand and 350lb tire). I knew the time to beat going into it, and from my trial runs I knew I had to be FAST. I ran the 40 feet with the Farmer’s and Mike told me I was at 6 seconds when I put my hands on the tire. I was stoked, that’s what I needed. Now just to hurry with the tire!
And then I got careless because I was rushing. And on the first push over, I put my chest into the tire before it was done bouncing… and it knocked me on my butt. Literally. I squat down deep, put my chest into the tire and put my weight into my heels when I’m about to flip. So even one tiny reverberation from the tire pushed me that one inch backwards and onto the floor. I had a mental conversation with myself about pacing, taking my time to do it right, knowing this event was mine to lose and to focus on doing it right. By the time I was done talking to myself I heard Mike say I had finished. I looked up at the stop watch, knowing the time to beat was 32.89 seconds. My time was 33.64. That fall took me 3 seconds and I lost by less than one second. That will be a lesson I only have to learn once.
I was SO disappointed to lose that event. Not knowing the overall points I was convinced that I’d lost the entire competition from that one fall. I knew I’d only won 1 (yoke) and Vivian had won 3. I kept replaying the video back again and again, feeling so frustrated at myself. I told myself that 2nd place was still an awesome showing for my first competition. That having come from the sofa only a year before and this being my first competitive athletic endeavor EVER (not even soccer games as a kid) that 2nd place was a lot to be proud of. I reminded myself of all the wonderful, joyous moments I’d had training for and leading up to that day. I thought about all the friendships and relationships I’d formed as a result of my training; and I was able to accept the loss. I mentally moved forward.
I began prepping for stones (this requires new attire, tape, tacky, etc.). Before I put on the tacky I used the restroom (for the millionth time) and crossed my fingers I wouldn’t need to go again for the next 20 or 30 minutes until I could get clean. As I was preparing I started looking around at my home base, my box, NOVA S&C. Gah, I really wanted that win for them. I’d mentally changed my motives, just like that on a dime. I hadn’t realized there was even a possibility of keeping first place at home until that moment, I’d been thinking about it for me until then. But I saw one of the owners, Sarah, who was also a rock-star competitor that day and told her I really had wanted to win for NOVA as we both “tacky-ed up.”
And that’s when they called Vivian up to do Atlas Stones, the last event, before me. “No, no. It should be me.” I ran to tell Erin, the other owner who had called her up. “I lost farmer’s last round.” And they pulled out the clipboard and told me this ranking was for overall place and I was in first. “What?!” I looked over and watched Vivian do stones. She rocked out six. Holy sh*t. I knew I could do that many!
“Get a good grip. Take your time. Get it all the way over. You know you have this.”
As they called my name up for the final Heavyweight competitor in the event that day, Mike looked me in the eye and told me what I needed to do to win.
You know you love the faces I make when lifting stones… /sarcasm
And so I did. I put the 130lb stone over the bar 8 times. My mom said it looked like I was playing catch. But, uh. That was 130lbs, so no. This was it. I secured NOVA their own title at the first of what we hope will be many annual Strongest Woman competitions! We finished around 2pm that day… so it was 6 hours for about 5 minutes of work.
But honestly, nothing was as cool or awesome as watching each and every one of these beast mode strong, beautiful women rock out some serious weight that day. Each one of these fantastic women inspired me to give it my all and push the limits of what I thought I could accomplish. They each gave it their all and their perseverance, persistence and general rock-star attitudes were unbelievably cool to witness. There were quite a few moms there with young children cheering them on; there were women who put it all on the line and even in spite of their struggles kept pushing to do their very best… how can you not be inspired by that? Honestly, if you’ve never been to a StrongMan, StrongWoman, CrossFit or other type of contest before – do it! That’s what inspired me to start last year ♥
I really enjoyed getting to meet them all and hanging out together for bar food after. Sad they can’t all train with us everyday!
I highly recommend you check out and follow a competitor (and new friend’s blog), Aimee at LoveToTrain.ca who came down from Canada to compete! She posted a video you can check out that features a bunch of these awesome ladies pictured above. Also, I love following Gabby of Gabby’s Gluten-Free so you should check her out too! Each and every one of them pushed themselves and showed that STRONG IS BEAUTIFUL.
If you want to see the full results, times, and how the scoring works (I know I did, I was baffled at how I could have possibly won) it has been posted here.
My favorite, thing, however, are these videos my dad took of each event. Matt compiled it into one video that is 6 minutes long. SIX minutes is all it took for me to lift 19,970lbs! I LIFTED TEN TONS IN SIX MINUTES.
My favorite parts are hearing the comments of friends and family in the audience, and watching my mom and sister jump up and down cheering. Also, it’s a great angle of the yoke repick if you wanted to see how I did that so quickly.
I can only hope I’ve inspired you to find something you’re good at, enjoy practicing it and doing the absolute best you’re able at it. It’d be even better if that thing you’re good at is lifting heavy things… then I hope to see you at NOVA Strongman, where we can train together for my next Heavyweight Open competition!
A few people have asked me “what’s next?” My answer? Finish our upcoming cookbook (announcement coming this week!) due in 6 weeks and after that focus on training for Heavyweight Open so I can go to Nationals or The Arnold in 2015. Because, you didn’t really think I’d stop here… did you?
Thanks to all the awesome friends that took pictures and video for us.
I can’t thank you enough for capturing these memories!