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August 20, 2021 7 min read

Only if we were given a heads up from life on those little curve balls!

In other news, I have been waiting to get a chance to go back to Finland since I competed there in mid-June of 2019. So technically I’ve had 3 opportunities, and have trained hard for all 3 competitions, but there is that curve ball from life again. During these training blocks, I had turned down invitations to other meets around the United States as well, but not worth going back playing the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” game now. The opportunities I had going to Finland were all perfect competitions for me, BUT Covid-19 cancelled one in 2020, then it cancelled the second in June 2021, and finally the third was a go! That third meet, oh boy, that was set to be a solid contest! I had been training hard, I mean putting it all out there for 12 weeks getting prepped and ready for this 3rd chance. Then COVID restrictions came to me from the promoter, and the timeline just was not suitable to get this list done, and still get there on time with all the “gray areas of restrictions”. So, I had to turn down my dream of competing there once again. I was forced to say no!

This curve ball thrown from life is a big deal and it stinks, but I had to make the best choice for the situation. This does not mean that chance will not come back, it very well can, and probably will in the future. Dreams stick with you. They take detours; new doors open and others close, but as much as that sounds too “cliché” it is the absolute truth. I love the competitions in Europe, and especially Finland. Some of my closest friends live there and we speak often. Those people are great, and they treat you like family. They are a solid group that we all get to share the sport of strongman with.  I am truly excited to get back there once this COVID thing settles down and travel becomes a little easier.

So, what did I do? Well, I caught that curve ball from life, took about two days to detour flights, changed plans quickly and moved on! I thought to myself, I’ve been training so hard I can’t let this go to waste, and I didn’t! I found a Pro/Am competition outside of Seattle, WA called the Rainier Pro Classic and I immediately signed up. This had only given me about 3 weeks to train versus the normal 12! This competition was a little unique as it had amateur classes in the morning, and pro classes in the afternoon. To compete in the “pro class”, you had to either be a pro in Strongman Corporation (the federation which sanctioned this contest) or an amateur willing to take them on, and they won cash prizes. But I didn’t want that. Sort of crazy I turned down a possibility at cash prizes right?! Well in the amateur-only classes, the winner of each class qualified for the Arnold Classic next March of 2022! This was a bigger goal of mine and more meaningful as the Arnold Classic in this situation is the Arnold Amateur World Championships, which is a huge deal for strongman competitors! Here is a summary of how the Arnold goes down: it is a 3-day competition with 2 events per day and you need to qualify for the 3rd day which could have 2-3 events. Only the top 10 go to day 3! Each class could have 50 athletes per class, and each of those athletes (being strong sons of bitches) are all chasing that pro card. Not to mention, this has competitors from around the world in each weight class! This is the most competitive event out there and if you win day 3, you are qualified to be on the “big stage” the following year with the big boys such as Thor, Shaw, Hall, you know who I’m talking about! I want that chance and I want to be there with the best!

Back to the Rainier Classic and what I was up against. We had 5 events, which is normal, and I had 22 guys sign up in my heavy weight class and they were all hungry to get their shot at qualifying for the Arnold!

Here were the events:

  1. First event was Axle clean and press for reps. We had a 300lb axle, that you clean to the shoulders once and press for as many reps as you can. I was ready for 8-10, but damn, I was nervous and those nerves got to me! I did 5 reps, but that was still ok for a tie for 4th.
  2. Second event was a 13” axle medley. We had 1 axle, elevated to 13 inches, and had to load up each weight as we were pulling. There was 75 seconds to pull and load our own weight! We had 500lbs, then load to 550lbs, load to 600lbs, load to 650lbs and finally load to 700lbs! This was tough and I was the only athlete to finish it, placing me 1st in this event.
  3. Third event was a yoke/keg/sandbag medley. This was tough! We had an 800lb yoke that we had to pick and carry 20’, stop, turn around, and re-pick to bring it back 20’. Now imagine you are not done, and you need to “run” 20’ to grab a 290lb keg and carry it to the yoke and load it over the crossbar. Which, by the way, that bar on the yoke was set for your specific height to carry, so its hell for us tall guys! After loading that keg, “run” back to grab a sandbag that weighed 350lbs and repeat! I carried it to the yoke and planned in my head to load it over, but my body had a different plan, and that was to become tired. I missed loading that sandbag, but this still gave me a 2nd place in that event!
  4. Fourth event was a mystery event! They told us what it was on the morning of the competition during the rules meeting. By the way we started at 8am! The mystery event was a 50lb sandbag toss for distance. No one had a clue what to expect and no one trained for it. We had 3 chances in 30 seconds to throw this 50lb bag as far as possible, and the furthest distance was the official recorded score. I did all 3 throws over 32’ with my longest toss recorded at 32’6”, giving me a 2nd place finish in this event.
  5. Fifth event was stones! This is a fun event for the athletes and the crowd. We had a choice between loading a lighter or heavier stone calling this the Trump Stones. The stones were 360lbs or 410lbs, and any rep loaded with the heavier stone would trump any reps loaded with the lighter stone. The stone had to be picked up and put over a 54” yoke crossbar to be called a successful rep. So, during the first 4 events we went in order of entries by the athletes, therefore I was always the 5th man to go. But for this last event we went in order of placing so the person scored at last place went first and first place went last. I was able to go last because I was sitting in first place! No one was able to get the 410 stone except for the guy who was trailing me in second, and he did 2 reps! As I was watching, I was shaking with excitement knowing what I had to do! I went up for my turn and was in the zone. In fact, I was so deep in the zone that I do not recall hearing or seeing anyone. And we had a full crowd! I got up to the yoke, positioned my hands up high in the starting stance and waited for the announcer to say “go!” Of course, at this very moment, life threw the announcer a curve ball and he was distracted. I almost yelled at him to start! He must’ve sensed me getting annoyed because suddenly he said “GO!” I picked the stone, and uncharacteristically dropped it. That wasn’t going to fly. I did a quick re-grip and launched that 410 stone over the bar for 3 reps with 30 seconds to spare! The judge acknowledged that they were all good reps and at that point I knew I had won not only that final event but the entire contest. I stopped to breathe and laid out the biggest smile I had! I had just qualified for the Arnold Classic!

I had gone so deep into the zone that Lacee and my group of fellow athletes needed to remind me of where I was and help me snap out of it. The heavyweight men congratulated each other on a job well done and were able to sit and talk for about 10 minutes until the promoters began the award ceremony. They announced the winners of each class and described the prizes and qualification of the first-place finishers to attend the Arnold Classic. Us big guys, we received our recognition and awards; then we waived to the crowd and quickly sat our butts back down as we were exhausted from our battle. I stayed the rest of the day since we were done at 12:30 and the pros started at 1:30. I watched them, cheered for them, and helped as much as possible. The entire afternoon I was thinking of where I need to be in 6 months. It was wonderful to watch some of my friends compete that afternoon, but honestly, I was in shock over my own accomplishment and felt myself quietly soaking it all up. This was a great curve ball from life and I appreciated every second of it! Now to train for the Arnold and shoot be the #1 amateur in the world and become a professional strongman!