This past weekend, I competed at NAS nationals in Davenport, IA. It was an absolutely rewarding and wonderful experience.
After qualifying for nationals at Illinois Strongest Man back in July, I was kind of on the fence about competing. I knew I was committed to competing at Relentless Detroit in November, and so it seemed like quite a bit to take on. I knew I would regret not competing, and I do love a new challenge, so I decided to go for it. I wasn't exactly sure what the competition was going to be like. Knowing relatively little about programming for strongman, I talked to a lot of people and tried to learn from their experience and ended up throwing together a program combining powerlifting and strongman. The events were not exactly heavy for me, and so I ended up training close to the contest weights almost every week. In hindsight, I probably should have worked up to those weights much more gradually and worked on form, technique and speed. I felt pretty good throughout most of my training but the last couple weeks were hard as I was getting into some pretty heavy percentages with my powerlifting training. I definitely was ready for a deload week.
This weight cut was interesting as my weight has definitely been trending a bit higher lately than I am used to. I weighed in at 189 on my last training day and needed to make 180.4. I was sure that by cutting my carbs back slightly and not training that I would lose most of that, but my body was not cooperating. My friend Barzeen helped talk me through the process of sodium/water manipulation and all of a sudden my body started flushing out water like crazy. I ended up weighing 170.8 at weigh ins which was much more weight than I wanted to lose. Of course the process of refeeding is fun at first, but I grew to dislike food and pedialyte pretty quickly. I do feel like I was able to bloat back up to my training weight and really do not feel like it affected my performance as well.
The contest was excellently run by Dionne Wessels. With over 200 competitors representing over 41 states, that's a pretty impressive feat in and of itself. I got to catch up with some friends I hadn't seen in a little while and I made some new ones. The events were well thought out and moved along very efficiently.
I knew coming into the contest that I would probably not be the best or the worst, but my goal was to finish in the top half of the middleweight women (my "shoot for the stars" goal was to finish in the top 10). After the first event I knew that this class was stacked and very competitive. There were some truly amazing athletes in my class.
It was also amazing to see Anna Barichello and Kristin Johnson who I competed against at Illinois Strongest Man . They did amazing! It was exciting to see Kristin qualify for the Arnold, definitely well deserved.
DAY 1 EVENTS
Event #1: Log Clean and Press for Reps (155#)
I felt pretty decent about my log press coming in. My goal was to get 5 reps on the log, but I had heard the placement of the handles was a bit different. I definitely felt it! I was happy with 4 reps. Definitely something to build on. Learning to incorporate more leg drive is something I really need to focus on moving forward.
Event #2: Conan Carry (350# for 60 feet)
I had done yoke walks with contest weight multiple times leading up to the contest, so I wasn't worried about the weight. I knew I had to move fast and speed events definitely aren't my thing! Looking over the video, I felt like I was going for a Sunday afternoon stroll carrying 350 pounds! I was pretty frustrated that I moved so carefully, but again it gives me something to improve upon. I finished with a time of 15.64 seconds.
Event # 3: Farmers walk (190# per hand for 60 feet)
Again, I had handled this weight in training a few times and felt pretty good about it, although I knew again I had to MOVE!!!! The Beast Metals handles had a GREAT pick and felt amazing. The weight moved pretty fast, and I definitely hustled better here. I finished with a time of 10.21 seconds.
DAY 2 EVENTS
Event # 4 Push Pull Medley (90# circus dumbbell/145# one arm deadlift)
This event was most nervous about. I was trying to be positive, but I had not been able to press the dumbbell a single time in training. I was sure I was going to zero this event. Warm-ups felt amazing. Anna was kind enough to let me borrow some nose torque and that woke me up pretty fast. The first rep, the dumbbell flew up and I was so shocked I almost missed the press command. After that I ended up with a total of 4 reps (each dumbbell/deadlift counts as 0.5 rep). I would have had a few more if I didn't keep trying to beat the press command! Of all the events, this made me the happiest and was a huge personal victory.
Event #5 Sandbag Medley (120, 140, 160 for 60 feet to 34" platform)
Oh sandbags. Every contest, this continues to be my weak point. I determined this was not going to be the case this time. I was going to be fast. I was not going to be careful. I was going to destroy those sandbags! The first sandbag felt great, but something happened when I went to load it. I grabbed the second sandbag and didn't take the time to get a squeeze on it. I was sure I would make it to the platform but I dropped it about 10 feet away. I got really flustered and stressed out, and struggled to pick it up. I heard the announcer say something like, "30 seconds to go" which I am sure was supposed to motivate me but made me feel even more stressed out. Eventually I got it in my lap and loaded it, and grabbed the third sandbag. I am not sure exactly how much time I wasted there, but it felt like hours. I went into a pretty dark place there for awhile after seeing how one small mistake impacted this event so much. I think I ended up placing third from last in this event. It was a little soul crushing but I had some great people around me (ahem, Rebecca Roberts, I love you!) who spoke some words of encouragement to me and reminded me that this was not my last chance and I am not done. There will be more training days, more contests, and more opportunities at nationals.
I ended up placing 18 out of 37 middleweight women and 13 out of 23 in the 180 division, which is right about where I wanted to be. I have to remember that it was such an honor just to have this amazing experience. I told myself throughout the past months that I would allow this to humble and teach me, and it truly has and will! I met so many amazing women who though competitive, went out of their way to encourage their fellow competitors, lend them things they might have left at home. We had some great laughs. That sisterhood of strength is truly amazing and why I love strength sports so much! I am so thankful for your support. Also thankful for my husband Gage who put up with me as I pursued this, was my bag boy for the weekend, fed me gummy bears and lost many gains climbing up multiple flights of stairs to get me my shoes/wraps/water/belt/sanity. Truly a great experience.
I am now about 4 weeks out from Relentless Detroit, a powerlifting meet to support families of kids with life threatening illnesses. I have some big goals that I am striving for and so I cannot wait to get back in the gym! If you are interested in helping us help these families please donate here. My switch will flip slightly now as I am going to be focusing more on powerlifting during the winter months. I would love to have another run at nationals next year, eliminate some of my mistakes and work on improving as a strongwoman.