#3strengthsports and what it means to me

Let’s just say when it comes to social media, I am a bit behind the curve. My son, Wes, actually created my Myspace page back in the day and helped me learn how to use it. I got Facebook many years later and it’s probably only been the last couple of years that I have an Instagram account and now have one for the gym and the gym dogs. I have had to have help from Cory Jean, Jenn and Missy to figure out how it works. I have only in the last year started using hashtags. I only bring this up to explain the title and take you along a little ride where 3 strength sports came to be. Now, I use the hashtags to get like minded people to see our videos and to promote the gym. From there, I have no clue and I’m really ok with that. But first, a rewind…let me take you back to how this came to be and hopefully, it illustrates the pathway and how my mind works and how my goals were set.

When I was a kid, you would see bodybuilding and then powerlifting on TV. It’s how I learned who Larry Pacifico and Kaz was. I remember seeing them on TV in powerlifting and then Larry commentating and Kaz on WSM. My Dad always enjoy watching Alekseyev in weightlifting so, my influence was very broad. Music was the same and I’ve always liked having that broad base to draw from. Growing up, with music, my Dad loved Hee Haw and that was where I learned about country music. It was years later, I was on tour with a band and got to do a show and meet Buck Owens.  On mornings I wasn’t in school, Don Ho had a tv show. I can’t recall the theme or what time or even what it was called but, I saw him sing Tiny Bubbles on tv. Years later, I played the Don Ho theater and got to see him sing it live.  My Mom was a big American Band stand fan and so was I It is where I got to see and hear all the new and current pop bands. I always love Soul Train and it hurt my soul when Don Cornelius passed. TO me, he was so cool and I was very influenced by R&B and the such. This gives you a picture of how broad-based music was for me and that just scratches the surface. I tell you this to help you understand my though processes and how I operate. I pull from as many sources I can learn from and find influence and inspiration.

As a kid, I was always amazed by size and strength and has influenced me to be as big and as strong as I can be. The nick names have been earned through out the years. Seeing bodybuilding, powerliflting, weightlifting and strongman made me always want to try it. I spent most of my early years and early adult life pursuing my music career and I was very lucky to travel, create and record music and be published. The passion I had for music eventually went back to strength and I found powerlifting again. It’s always been my home for strength and the back bone of what I currently do. That said, I have always been interested in and have trained the Olympic lifts and dabbled in strongman. I made up my mind that I would eventually compete in both sports. Many years ago, Wes and I drove to West TN and did a strongman practice. Back in those days, no one had implements. You would have to drive somewhere to a gym or competitor that owned them and they were very hard to come by. I remember Willie Wessells trying to convince me that the log clean and press was like the weightlifting he had seen me do…I was a fish out of water. Hand over had I was seemingly good at but, I am terrible now. I did some medley work and even flipped a car. It wasn’t long after a pal of mine Hunter Allen had some implements and we’d train locally when I could. I finally competed, I believe, in 2004 at the Music City strongman. Wes and I competed in the amateur division. I can’t recall how many competitors there were but, Wes placed 4th overall in the heavy weights as they combined teens, masters and open amateurs. I was lucky enough to win. This is also where I met Clint Darden who tried to convince me to pursue the sport at the pro level. Powerlifting was home for me but, this put the thought in my head that when I achieved my goals in powerlifting, I wanted to come back and try it again.

I eventually achieved what I set out to do in powerlifting I had broken the 1,000 lb barrier int eh squat, benched 700 and deadlifted 700 and totaled 2,400. While I am likely never to be done powerlifting, I set out to achieve some new goals. In 2012 I competed in my first 2 weightlifting meets. I honestly can’t recall what I lifted but, I enjoyed it and thought I eventually get around to trying to do a national meet. When Missy and I decided that she liked me, we would do training dates. She wanted to do weightlifting as well so, we’d train together and eventually, she did her first meet in 2014. We both did 3 meets together in 2015. I was able to win gold at nationals, silver at Pan-Ams and Gold at the World cup. I considered that job completed and went back to training powerlifting full time.

My first ever online training client, Thad Forehand, hired me to coach him in powerlifting. We had a string of successful meets with his last 2 meets going 9-9 and I was excited to see what would happen next as he had made great progress and that’s when he said, I wanna go back to strongman…in so many words. So, he kept me on as coach and we have had a long and successful run. In 2016, he competed in Louisville at the USS masters strongman nationals. So, Missy and I drove up and spent the weekend and watched and coached and I was like, hey, I could do this…Missy did as well. So, the following year I drove out to Clayton, NC where Thad and I competed together and both qualified for nationals in Detroit. I started training for nationals December and trained hard and was ready…about 2 weeks out, after training 6 months, we got the notice that Jenn’s start time had changed for her powerlifting meet…see, she was competing in the IPF worlds and that meet took place in Belarus. Let’s just say getting there and back again is harder than it might seem. The time change meant I couldn’t leave on Thursday after she competed and would have to leave the next morning. Longer story short, it meant I wouldn’t be able to compete as I couldn’t be there during the scheduled weigh in times. So, after Jenn won worlds, I flew back, which was a crazy trip from Belarus to Warsaw, where I was delayed and then to Chicago where it flew off the rails and they changed my gate as I got the one I was told where it was and ran back and missed the flight by 2 minutes. They were going to put me in a hotel and could fly me out at about 10:30 am the next day…so, I spent the night in the airport, flew out on another airline the next morning at 5 and Thad’s lovely wife Lisa, scooped me up in Detroit and I got to coach Thad and Missy that day. while it was a disappointment not to get to compete, I’d trade that 100 times over to get to coach and watch Jenn when her first IPF world title. It was a lot of training and I needed an outlet so, I competed in a USAPL qualifier and finished the year competing at Classic nationals later that year.

Earlier this year, Missy and I traveled to Kentucky and competed in Lee Woody’s contest to qualify for nationals again. Missy killed it and I struggled but, managed to qualify which, that was really the only goal. I was undertrained and not really prepared. For me, life is pretty busy these days and I’m blessed and grateful for it. It leaves the tank a little empty and motivation not where it needs to be to train and be fully prepared. Getting ready for nationals was no different. When I competed at USAPL nationals, I figured I had done it and checked it off the list. I was wrong. I got notified that I had earned an alternate spot on the M2 world team and trained as if I was lifting until I was released. Prep for strongman nationals was medium to say the least. But, I worked at it. Events were to be circus dumbbell clean and press for reps, car deadlift, medley of tire flip and sled drag, arm over arm with a panel truck weighted and stones.

Briefly, I have owned a circus dumbbell for some time but, would only occasionally get it out and press it. We got Missy one as well. I got to where I could do a rep with the contest weight of 140 and thought, well, at least I won’t zero the event and can score a point. Car deadlift I felt decent about. I do a lot of block pulls for training and we have a pal, Bull at Jut Be Fit, that has the implement. I thought I might be a threat for a win in this event. I have tired and sleds and trained but, I wasn’t sure how that event would go. I’m a big boy and honestly, did not put in enough time training cardio or moving events. Hand over hand is tough as we need help to do it and my drive way is not conducive. We’ve done it a few times with our vehicles but, this was one I just didn’t want to zero. And stones would finish up and I hate stones. I am terrible at them. So, that meant, I rarely trained them….most times, Saturday is when I can train them and I have a crew that trains in the morning and by the time I’m done at that time of the week, I am cooked. I did train the event but, not near enough to even b e a threat. I was hoping not to zero. Call it ego, call it whatever you like but, I have always felt like getting a national title in strongman, even if at 50+, would be quite the feather in my cap. Hence, 3 strength sports. I want the folks that choose me to coach them and handle them feel like I have the experience and that I know what I’m doing and all the things that go along with that. And to be honest, I want to win and see how I match up.

So, it is finally contest day but wait, another rewind. Missy and I plan our trip way in advance.  We are going to fly out at 2 pom and get there even before Thad and Lisa and we will eat and be merry. That morning, lots of bad storms and we thought we’d be delayed. Eventually, we were but only by 30 minutes. We get the call to board, we get seated and locked in and about the time I get buckled in, we are called to get off the plane. We are being delayed due to bad weather in New York. Long story short, it’s about 10:30 when we land, not 7:30. We take a shuttle to another shuttle to get us to a car rental and then drive from LaGuardia to White Plains and it’s midnight by the time we get checked in and thank God for late hour pizza places. Those are the things that can derail you and Missy and I seemed to take it in stride so back to finally it’s contest day and as per usual, I am ill as a hornet. I don’t know why it is. Most meet days, I no longer want to do it. I have trained, and I’m tired and I’m old and all the reasons and the anxiety of getting to the meet site and so forth makes me, say, pretty grumpy. Once I get into the flow of warming up, I’m good but, up until that point not so much. That morning was no exception. Once we get there, Thad, Missy and I go our separate ways and find our stations. I only see them occasionally during the day. There are 391 athletes and then probably 100+ staff so, it’s crowded and hectic and busy. I met my competitors Mike and Mel and as per usual in the strength world, by the time we’ve sat there for 5 minutes, we’re pals and in short, cheer each other along and encourage and push each other.

Event 1 was circus dumbbell clean and press. Our contest weight was 140 lbs. Initially, it was to be a 2” handle which is what my dumbbell in the gym was. That worked out well as I already owned it. The rules were clean with two hands, steady it, press with one hand, show control and get the down command and then you couldn’t drop it, you had to control it down, touch the ground with it and then go back up. When we got there it was a 3” handle and that was a mess for all 3 of us. It’s just how it goes in strongman. Sometimes changes occur and they are unannounced and you have to adjust on the fly. Mike and Mel struggled with this and couldn’t get a rep and that worked out well for me. I only needed one rep. It was awkward in warm ups and I did the empty dumbbell a few times, then 120 a couple of times to get the feel. I did manage the rep I needed to win the event and stopped there. There was no need in more. That put me ahead 3-0-0 and that would prove the difference on this day.

Event 2 was the car deadlift. The pick height was 14” with the bar in front and not the side. We trained with the implement twice during the cycle so, I felt I could get reps at the contest. I had pulled Missy’s Xterra motor end loaded for reps so I was feeling confident. I have no idea what the weight was as we had a car. I did 2 reps to warm beltless and felt great. Mike pulled 6 reps, Mel 9…so, I needed 10. They gave me a count and once I reached 10, I stopped and took the points. It was 6-2-1.

Event 3 was tire flip and sled drag. I had really trained the flip and felt confident. I had dragged the sled on our gravel driveway with several hundred pounds but, this is strongman and things happen. Mike and Mel finished the event so I knew I would have to have a good time to win. The initial flip was great and when I went for the 2nd, my hands slipped completely and I injured my hand. I just got a bad flip and had a smooth area. I managed to flip it and then the 3rd flip went well and then again, bad grip area and I had to grip from the side to get any grip. I had to stand it up and then run to the sled. I knew at this point I couldn’t beat the times from the guys so I stopped and conserved energy. We got the announcement that we had to complete the tire flip portion to not zero so, once that was secure, I took the point and moved on. Now it was 7 me, Mel 5 and Mike 2. I new this could get tight as I am terrible at hand over hand.

Event 4 was hand over hand. This was to be a 2” rope and turned out to be 3”. At this point, my right hand is throbbing and I’m concerned. Mike almost finished the pull, then Mel did finish but, I knew the y had worked really hard and that it might play in my favor. When I stated the event and I wasn’t going nearly as fast, I stopped to give my hand a break and hopefully recover for stones. It proved to play out in my favor. Score was me 8, Mel 8 and Mike 4. I knew I had 2ndbut, could I pull the win off.

Last and event 5 was the stones. I am not a fan. Tacky and clothes covered in tacky and ultimately, I’m not very good at them. We were reportedly going to start with a 250 so I knew I could load that but, as things happen in strongman, they changed the weights. So, we started with a 275. Mike went first and loaded the 1st and 2nd which I believe was a 300. Mel is tall, so I figured he’d load the 275 quickly and we would see what he had left for the 300. As I stated previously, Mel worked really hard to finish the 2 prior events. He could pick up the stone but simply couldn’t get it over the lip to finish the load and got a zero. I was shocked. So, that meant, if I could load the 275, I would win. Now, let me say, the biggest stone I have loaded in 2 years doing this has been a 250 because I won one and can’t seem to load the 300. I was less than confident, and the stones were covered in tacky and while that may seem like a good thing, it can make the stone slick, so to speak. When I was given the start command, I couldn’t grip the stone, I had to move it around and missed picking it up twice. The stone didn’t feel heavy I just couldn’t get a grip. I gave it a slight spin and boom, grip and I pulled it up to lap it. I took my time after watching Mel not being able to get it over the lip and knew I had to have it rolled in high and tight. Once I got it where I felt good about it, I shot my hips forward as I stood up and loaded it easily and walked away. My first strongman national title. I am not ashamed to say that I waited till my 50’s to get there.

Me, Missy and Thad represented Team Ogre well. I was a proud coach. Missy fought through injury to finish and still had a chance all the way through and really, that’s all you can ask for. She showed grit fighting through frustration and disappointment and simply gutted it out with an injury she will have to overcome as she gets ready for women’s worlds. Thad didn’t place as well as hoped but, had a great training cycle. We had to overcome some tweaks and injuries and he did just that. NO zeros on any events, which was a huge goal and walked out of there with no injuries and once you are a master aged athlete, you understand how big of a deal that is. I couldn’t be prouder of them.

We spent the rest of our time sightseeing, something I never do and Thad and I got to catch up on some bourbon sampling. It is always good to hang out with him and his wife Lisa and got to visit with Kemal and his great kids. Saw lots of old pals and made some new ones. And in this sport at this point in my life, I couldn’t ask for more.

What’s next? Where do I go from here? I’d like to get in a single ply shirt and try USAPL bench nationals. October is Class nationals and this year, I will forgo competing and coach. From there, I am exploring what’s out there. I have spent a lot of time while writing this, talking to people I know in the Highland Games arena. Now, I don’t think I scan simply get a few implements and go win another title but, my goals are to try, to push myself as an athlete even though I’m old and to be an example to our team and our gym. If I can, anyone can. To show the team that the coach is always trying to expand horizons, learn and practice what I preach. I want to be as strong as I can for as long as I can. I want to prove that whatever limitations I may face now that I’m over 50, that I can still push the boundaries and I can still try new things and learn. This makes me a better coach and more, a good example. Will it ever be #4strengthsports? Time will tell but, I am looking into it, looking into events for next year’s strongman nationals and should train in a bench shirt this weekend. For today, I have won a national contest in 3 strength sports and so for now, I’m going to enjoy that. Something I couldn’t always do, simply enjoy the work and the results, come what may. Let me also say that this doesn't make me special or any kind of badass. I could have just as easily not been able to finish. I am truly blessed and also very lucky. But, just for the moment, for me, this one was special. 

Thanks for indulging me and reading this. I’m sure it’s not near as riveting for you as it was for me writing it but, I hope it gives you perspective into the mindset of someone that does this sort of stuff. I don’t want to, I need to. Thanks to all the team online and home for watching out for one another and keeping things going. I couldn’t do this without the help and support and more, thanks for believing in me both as an athlete and more, as a coach and believing in the things taught. It truly is what helps keep me going, especially on those days I don’t want to move, let alone train. I am truly humbled and forever grateful. 

So, until the next time I do this, Lift Heavy, Train Smart & Eat More PIZZA!!!!