Karnes Faces European Contenders at Strongman Champions League-England

TAGS: WSM Style Squat, u90kg strongman athletes, Sandbag Carry Medley, Max Log Clean & Press, Keg, international, Husafell Stone, Circus Dumbbell Press Medley, sled pull, farmer's walk, meet report, competition, Chase Karnes, strongman

This past weekend I headed across the pond to test myself against some of the best u90kg strongman athletes in the world. This invite-only competition consisted of 14 top u90kg athletes representing the United States, England, Wales, Holland, Norway, Scotland, Denmark, Britain and Finland. I was very honored to be invited to compete here at the international level.

As most of you who follow my training log know, my training focus since mid-summer has been the North American Strongman Nationals that was a couple of weeks back. While training for nationals, I accepted my invitation to travel to England to compete, but I did not change my training focus. I did make a few programming tweaks to cover some of the events for England the best that I could without interfering with my nationals programming. More than anything, I was just excited about traveling to England and having the experience. While I wanted to perform at my best, life is also about experiences and this was one I couldn't pass up.

My wife and I traveled close to 24 hours leaving Paducah, KY on a Wednesday at 1 p.m. for the Nashville airport. Two plane rides later, we landed in London, England at 1 p.m. London time. Then a long bus ride, followed by a long train ride and finally a cab ride later we arrived at our hotel in Southampton, England around 6 p.m. Southampton time (a six hour time difference from where we live here in the states). On top of all the travel I was also cutting weight for the Friday morning weigh-ins. I checked my weight Thursday evening and was sitting at 89.5kg/197 pounds. I allowed myself some granola and Pedialyte before going to bed at 90.4kg/199 pounds. When I woke up Friday morning I was 88kg/194 pounds. I’m still not sure how/why I dropped so much overnight, but I’m assuming travel was the main factor. Regardless, I drank more Pedialyte and got my weight back up to 89.5kg/197 pounds on my scale. A few hours later we headed to Winning Health Solutions gym in Southampton for weigh-ins. My official weight was 89.7kg/197.3 pounds. I then started my rehydration/refuel process with a traditional English breakfast. The rest of the day was spent consuming lots of food and liquids.

I arrived at the site of the competition two hours early at 9 a.m (which was 3 a.m. at home). I looked at all the equipment, took in the gym and the atmosphere and slowly started foam rolling and warming up as well as getting some caffeine in my bloodstream. Before I knew it all the competitors had arrived and warm-ups for the log press had started.

StrongmanChampionsLeague U90kg

Event #1 – Max Log Clean & Press

I warmed up to 130kg/286 pounds and it felt pretty good. The log felt a bit different than the ones I’m used to using here in the US, but it was still very comfortable as long as I had a good clean. My opening attempt was 140kg/308 pounds. I had a bad clean, which put the log in a bad position on my chest. I had no option except to press it, which I did. But due to the clean, it was out of my typical groove and was almost a strict press. It looked and felt a lot harder than it should have. I immediately went over and watched video of the lift that my wife had filmed to analyze what caused my clean to be off and what caused my bad positioning. I quickly found the issue and felt comfortable with my planned second attempt of 145kg/319 pounds. My second attempt felt just right, from the clean to the press. I killed it.

My planned third attempt was 155kg/341 pounds. As we put in our third attempts, I noticed the guy currently sitting in second place behind me was going for 150kg/330 pounds. At this point I had two options: go with my planned attempt of 155kg/341 pounds (a six-pound PR) for the win, or play it safe and go with 150kg/330 pounds (a weight I’d hit many times before) and get an event win-tie. If I missed my planned attempt and he hit his, I’d take second. If I changed my attempt and played it safe, I’d be guaranteed a first place tie, or possibly first place depending on if he hit his attempt or not.

I chose to go for the win. On a max attempt in strongman, you have one minute to complete the lift. When it was go-time, I cleaned the 155kg/341 pound log and drove it up hard, but missed just shy of lockout. I sat the log down and stepped back. I wanted to rush it because in the moment you feel you don’t have much time, but a fellow competitor from the states, Dan Falcone, spoke through the noise.

"Take your time, Chase. Take your time."

I knew he was right, so I waited a bit longer and counted in my head before stepping back on the platform. I don’t really remember the rest, but the video shows that I attacked the log and hit a solid clean and press of the 155kg/341 pound log. I got the win on the first event.

StrongmanChampionsLeague U90kg

Event #2 – Farmers Walk 120kg/264 pounds each hand x 40m/131 ft.

Because I won the log press, I got to go last on this event. The competitors before me put up some solid times and I knew I needed to do well here. I trained this event once before the competition so I had a decent feel for it, but I also knew I had to move very fast to finish at the top. I gripped the farmers hard and once the buzzer sounded to go, I took off and moved as fast as possible. Once I crossed the halfway line I got the down call and immediately sat the farmers down, turned around, re-gripped the farmers and ran them back as fast as possible. My grip felt solid and I could feel that I was moving fast. I crossed the line in a time of 20.1 seconds. Second place.

Event #3 – WSM Style Squat for Reps with 200kg/440 pounds

I didn't know what to expect from this event. We set up with squat stands and a loaded barbell with large metal wheels on it. Prior to the event, everyone was measured to full squat depth by two judges. The boxes were adjusted so that when the wheels touched the boxes the athlete was at depth in the bottom of a squat position. We were to squat down until he wheels touched the boxes, then back up to wait for a good squat command. Going into this event I was shooting for ten reps. That changed pretty quickly once the guys going before me started putting up numbers in the teens. That’s when that plan went out the window and I put a new number in my head: 20 reps.

I got under the bar and got set up. I walked the weight out and started squatting. My plan was to count to the number ten in my head twice. This would be 20 total reps, but mentally seemed like a better idea than counting straight to 20. I hit the first ten pretty good and felt I was on a good pace. Then I lost count and my ears where ringing. I just knew I had to squat until I couldn’t squat anymore. I failed on the way up on rep 17, so my number was 16 reps. I was very happy with this, as going into this competition this was the event I was most unsure about. It was also good enough to give me fourth place.

Event #4 – Arm Over Arm Sled Pull with 200kg/440 pounds

This was another event I only trained once and really didn’t know what to expect. This is the first time I’ve ever seen this event in a competition. Once the buzzer sounded to start, I just started pulling on the rope as fast and hard as I could. As I leaned forward to grab the rope on my second pull, my abs cramped. I ignored the cramps, but they didn’t subside. I just kept moving as fast as possible. I ended up finishing with a time of 33.02 which wasn’t a good time at all. I ended up taking 11th place on this event and was pretty disappointed in myself. This was not the finish I needed to stay at the top.

StrongmanChampionsLeague U90kg

Event #5 – Circus Dumbbell Press Medley

Going into this event, I was pretty confident since I was just coming off of the press medley win at nationals that included the circus dumbbell for reps. This, however, was the first time I’ve had a progressive medley and these dumbbells were different than any I’d pressed before. I started out smooth and fast hitting each dumbbell as I worked my way up. Then I go to the 75kg/165 pound dumbbell and it was the hardest dumbbell I’ve ever cleaned. I’ve cleaned and pressed much heavier, but this one was still the most difficult. The compact size of the dumbbell made it very hard. Regardless, I hit the clean and press, but it took a little bit more out of me than expected.

I was winded at this point. I moved on to the 80kg/176 pound dumbbell and cleaned it easy. This dumbbell was much longer and much more awkward than the others. After a few attempts to get it in a decent position to press, I resorted to an old technique I used to use setting the bell behind my head. As I forced it into position, I felt a sharp pain in my shoulder/arm and tried to reposition. I was running out of time and didn’t have it in a solid position to press. I dropped the dumbbell right before time was up. Not a great performance here, but it was good enough for fourth place.

Event #6 – 130kg/286 pound Husafell Stone, 120kg/264 pound Keg, 130kg/286 pound Sandbag Carry Medley x 15m/49 ft. each

Going into this event I was sitting in third place overall, with the fourth place guy uncomfortably close. I knew what I had to do here to secure the third place and try to make a move up if possible. I had to have a solid performance. I was watching the athletes go before me to see what seemed to be the best way to carry the awkward shaped keg and sandbag. I knew the husafell wouldn’t be too bad, but the keg looked brutal and sandbag looked even worse.

When it was my time to go, only one guy had finished the entire medley so far. The keg and sandbag where killing people. I took off fast on the husafell and transitioned quickly to the keg. I got a good pick on the keg and took off fast. It was big, heavy and awkward and I learned quickly I wasn’t leaning back enough. I lost control and dropped the keg. I got another quick pick and leaned back much further this time while moving as fast as possible. Once I finished the keg, my hamstrings were screaming. I went to pick the sandbag and after a few attempts of finding the best position to pick it, I had it up and was moving. After covering a little distance my hamstrings locked up, so I turned around backwards to take some stress off the hamstrings and put more on the quads. I covered a bit more distance walking backwards before my legs were locked up completely. I knew every inch counted so I turned and launched my body and the sandbag as far forward as I could. I knew I still needed more distance, so I repicked the bag and took another leap forward with my body and the bag. I only picked up a few more inches. At this point, I was physically done. Time ran out.

Then came the waiting game. Was it far enough to secure third, or did I drop to fourth?I knew I hadn’t taken second because Matt LaCroix had secured that by being one of only two guys to finish the whole medley. But was my distance enough? Did I do everything I could’ve? Could have I gone any farther? All of these thoughts ran through my head as I sat on a tire catching my breath.

StrongmanChampionsLeague U90kg

Finally, they started announcing the placings and started with 14th place. Once they called out fourth place and it wasn’t me, I knew I had secured that third place podium position. Going into this competition my goal was top three, and I earned it. It felt great to see where I stacked up against some of the best in the world in my weight class. A few hours later we (competitors, wives/girlfriends, judges and the promoter) all met at a Brazilian steak house for tons of meat, pints of beer, and lots of great conversation. The brotherhood and friendships in strongman is much different than most other sports. A few hours earlier I was battling it out with these guys and now we are sitting around drinking beer and talking about programming and nutrition. All in all, it was a great experience and Tom Hibbert ran and excellent competition in Southampton.

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