Sat, 13 Aug 16

Friday afternoon Nick, Michelle, and I headed down to Brute Strength Gym in Norfolk, VA for their summer US Strongman competition.  I had jut finished up finals of summer semester and subsequently my first year of physical therapy school.  While I was not able to prepare for this competition as well as I would normally like to, I was feeling pretty good about all the events and my ability to be competitive against a couple of pretty good HWs, Chad Dunn and Chris Hutcheson, both of whom I have competed with before.  We got weighed in (me at a whopping 223 lb, barely even in the HW division I was competing in) and grubbed up and went back to the hotel where I promptly passed out, but had a terrible night's sleep due to crappy mattress, loud and piss poor AC unit, and general post-final exam funk.

Saturday morning and time to go have some fun and unwind from a long year of academia.  Warmups went great, rules meeting was quick and to the point, and generally everything was looking good, which is no surprise since Stella, the GM at Brute, has a long history of running top notch strongman and powerlifting comps.  So to put it succinctly, conditions were primed for full on awesomeness, the only bar to which would turn out to be my own special brand of idiocy.

The events were yoke press for reps, tire flip medley, fingal finger/duck walk medley, weight over bar, and atlas stone series.  Chad was up first in my weight class and hit a solid 10 reps with 240 lbs in the 60 second time limit.  I was not certain how I would fare with this since the base weight of my yoke is 255 and the best I had managed with that recently in training was 5 reps.  It is a well established fact at the Unit Mk IV however, that my yoke is noticeably more difficult than any other yoke for some mysterious reason.  I have weighed it 3 times, once on a doctor's scale and twice using a hanging spring scale and every time I am within 1-2 lbs of 255 lbs, so weight is not the issue.  Whatever the reason though, I knew from my improvements during training and past training for yoke press events that I should be good for close to double digits on game day.  Warmups had gone very well and confidence was high.  I got into position, waited for the judge to start me, and went to work.  I knocked out my first few reps easily, but I was vaguely aware that my feet were closer together than usual and while the reps were coming easily, I was very inconsistent in my technique - i.e. no two reps looked or felt the same, so I was not really getting into a good rhythm.  I made it to 10 reps with time to spare and felt like I should be good for at least one more to take the lead, but when I went for number 11, I completely screwed the pooch.  With a few seconds still left, what I should have done was go for one more all out rep starting from the ground instead of the rack position, but what I did instead based on how badly I missed and how crappy my reps had been (in my opinion, based on my good vs. bad training days), was stop with 10, tied for first.  Hutch finished up the event last of the 5 guys in the HW class and also managed 10 reps to put himself, Chad, and me in a three way tie for first on the event.  Nick also got first in the 181 lb weight class with a strong showing and PR of 6 reps with 200 lbs.


Next up was the tire flip medley.  For the HWs is was one flip with 617, one flip with 700, and then one flip with athlete's choice of 900, 1000, or 1170.  I had not flipped a tire heavier than ~400 lbs in over 2 years since last time I competed in Barry Perkins' Capital Classic, but the warmup flips I had done with the 617, 700, and 900 were all quick and very easy.  Chad hit the first 2 tires easily and went straight to the 1170, but decided after picking it to his thigh that he wanted the sure thing so he dropped it and went back to finish with the 900.  When my turn came up, I nailed the first 2 quickly and wanting to put some distance between myself and Chad and Hutch after our tie on the first event, I also headed down to the 1170.  I picked it without too much trouble, but definitely more than any of the other tires.  I worked the tire up slowly until it was up on my chest, right to the position where when I get it there I know I will complete the flip.  I dipped down to get my arms under the tire a little more to start the series of short pushes to finish it up and put me in first on the event, but when I dipped down, I felt a BIG pop in my left knee, the knee of my rear leg.  This was most definitely not a normal occurrence for me and the pop was followed by a weird feeling, sort of a mix of pain and weakness.  I briefly considered trying to finish the flip, but did not know what damage I had just done and did not want to risk having one thousand one hundred and seventy pounds of love fall on my and cause further bodily injury or death.  So I dropped the tire and told the judge, Fish, that I was done.  I should note that this whole series of events was literally the height of stupidity for me.  I could have beaten Chad on time if I had gone straight to the 900 since he had tried the 1170 first and this would have locked up second place for me at least, if not first.  But I knew I could easily do 900 and when I am competing, my stupidity and stubbornness kick into high gear and I wanted to do what I needed to do to be certain of the win versus locking up second place.  Plus, 1170 would have been a lifetime PR for a single flip, even though I have done reps before on a 1000 and 1100.

So back to my knee.  I hobbled over to where Michelle, Nick, Kelsey, and my friend Jeremy were and crashed, silently cursing myself up and down for being the dumbest mother loving piece of worthless water buffalo dung to ever compete in strongman.  One of the 220 lb competitors, Steve Trippe, came over to offer some help and I did not have any pain or weakness or lack of ROM, but I did not want to put my full wight on it in standing or walking and when I tested out the motion I would need to do for weight over bar, I found that going into full knee extension hurt enough to cause me to not be able to do it and also bring on an audible string of profanity.  I tried some TKEs and ice, but it did not improve and if anything, the pain on full extension was getting slightly worse.  If it had been a muscle tear, I would most likely have gritted my teeth and stuck it out like when I tore my hamstring at a pro comp in Augusta, GA back in 2011.  Since it was most definitely not muscular, I had never had anything like this happen before, and I was more worried about this injury than any other where I did not head straight the the ER, I made the decision to do something I have never done before in my life - I withdrew from the competition.  I am still upset at my decision and pissed off at myself for being a sodding moron and hurting myself stupidly and needlessly and most of all, I am about the most embarrassed I have ever been in my life for withdrawing and not finishing the competition.  The reality is that I know I made the right decision because all of the rest of the events would have been either undoable or would have put me in a position of causing further or additional injury to my knee if I had stayed in the competition.  Plus, I'm not making money doing this.  Strongman is not putting food on the table or gas in my truck or paying my tuition for physical therapy school.  It is something I do for fun on many levels and probably partially to keep me sane as well, and screwing myself up so badly I can't ever do it again just for my pride and ego would be even stupid(er) than withdrawing.  So there it is.  I am embarrassed and ashamed that I withdrew from a competition and furious at myself for getting hurt and not being strong enough to do what I knew/know I am capable of doing.

Hutch went on to win the HW class with Chad finishing in second.  Nick went 5/5 on event wins with additional PRs on tire flip and atlas stones, winning the 181 class and qualifying for 2017 USS nationals.  Stella and everyone at Brute Strength Gym ran a fantastic competition as always and Fish was an outstanding MC.  I was very impressed by all the guys and girls competing and as usual, I cannot recommend Brute Strength Gym highly enough to anyone interested in strength sports or just training/competing in a place where the BS of commercial gyms is not ever something to worry about.

UPDATE: After much icing and work for bloodflow and ROM, my knee seems to be doing better.  There was some initial swelling that caused more pain and restricted my ROM more in both flexion and extension, but that is decreasing.  I have not had any bruising.  I have been able to train twice, but with some modifications to how I move and my weights.  Gregg made a house call and checked me out on Sunday after he got back in town from winning his first PL meet and going 6/9 with a 1603.9 lb total.  I was negative for all tests for ACL and meniscus injuries, which does not mean I didn't muff up one or more of them, but makes it less likely.  The scenario he suggested, and the one I am going with for now since it requires no surgery and I have no interest in having imaging studies done on my knee if I don't absolutely need to, is that I subluxed my patella when I dipped down and felt the pop.  I am tentatively planning on competing once or twice in October and/or November, depending on my school schedule and how recovery goes for my knee, among other things.