I started writing this blog post over two months ago, and yet here I am, still not having posted any updates about my strongwoman journey – and yet arguably, the most has happened in that two-month period.
In November I took on the biggest competition I think I’ve ever done in my life. Dawn of the Barbarians was one of the heaviest strongman comps held in Australia in 2016 and was a qualifier for Nationals and for the international Arnold’s Classic.
For some time, my ultimate goal has been to go to Arnold’s in Melbourne. Maybe not in my first year, but at least 2018. I went to Barbarians to challenge myself, to get out of the novice circle, to see what the big competitors were doing, and to see how I sat in amongst the Arnold’s competitors. These were some of the toughest and strongest women I have ever met. We had Canberra’s Strongest Woman, a former NSW Strongest Woman, a Commonwealth Games team Olympic weightlifter, a 2016 Arnold’s competitor, women who have been lifting seriously for years, who have multiple competitions of different descriptions under their belts… and then me.
It’s an understatement to say I was nervous leading up to it. My previous comps were nothing in comparison. The previous one at PTC Macarthur I had one of the best night’s sleeps the night before. This time… I lay awake nervous and feeling sick until late, then I managed to fall asleep, and I woke up again at 4 and couldn’t go back to sleep for the life of me. I was quite the mess. Mostly I was terrified I wasn’t going to be able to lift the yoke and it would be a huge embarrassment. People had tried to comfort me by saying they suspected that most people wouldn’t rep in every event. WELL THAT WAS NOT THE CASE.
The first event was the Conan’s Wheel which I had previously found to be a strength of mine, and I was going last, so I had a huge advantage in knowing the number of repetitions around the circle I needed to place in the event. I ended up coming second which I was really happy with, but I was so damned close to first!
The second event was my favourite Monster Dumbbell that I had spent so much time working on. Truly, once I got the technique and had faith I wasn’t going to drop it on my head, it was a breeze. Comp day didn’t see me perform with so much ease, but I did get three counted repetitions (I made an additional two but they didn’t stick for long enough to get the good rep call) and came third in that event.
So with the only two events I was good at out of the way I stood daunted for the yoke and trying not to puke with nerves. There was a choice on the yoke of 220 or 240kgs, but they had told us at the start of the day if we want to get picked for comps like Arnold’s, the organisers will want to see you challenging yourself with the heavier weights. Once I heard that it was a no-brainer, I had to try 240. Never having picked it up before let alone walked 20m with it, I did what I could. I made 11m after several drops until the 60 secs were up. I was gutted, I was absolutely spent physically and emotionally, I still had two events to go, but to make it worse, every woman who picked up the 240 completed it. I ended up second to last and was the only one who didn’t even manage to complete the distance.
Crucifix hold was the 4th event, obviously I was up 2nd, which isn’t ideal because you have no idea how long you have to last, and an open ended “do as much as you can” is a very different motivation to knowing exactly how many seconds you need to go for. The implement was much easier than practising just with dumbbells, as there were weight plates hanging from a long chain that had to start a certain number of centimetres off the ground. I made it about 28 seconds, and unfortunately that wasn’t enough to be in it for this comp.
Finally, the stone loading event from 80kg-120kgs. I was assured from lots of people that no one was going to complete the loading, so I was aiming for the 80-90-100, with 100 being a PB for me. Well again, rubbish, one phenomenal woman placed all 5 stones like it was nothing, another got 4 of them. The rest of us struggled around the 100. Unfortunately for me, I lapped the 100 twice, it was much better than in the past for me, but whether because I was panicking or because my body was just totally spent, on my last attempt at extension my whole body collapsed underneath me and the stone fell with its full weight on my right femur. It took a few minutes to figure out what had happened, and luckily, I was totally fine, but the ego took a solid smashing. Stones are something I’ve been pretty good at, and I enjoy, and yet, not only could I not pull off the 100, my body/technique/brain failed me in a really embarrassing fashion.
I very luckily ended up placing 4th overall which I couldn’t believe, but if anything, I learned a lot and I packed my ego away into a box for a little while and let it take a break. I suspected that, when up against some incredible women I wouldn’t win, but I also hadn’t been conditioned to lose, but more than that, feeling like I had let myself and my coach down by not even being able to complete two of the events. Barbarians highlighted my weaknesses for me, lit them up in neon lights, and told me what I needed to do if I wanted to continue in the sport.
I had originally planned to compete 3 weeks later in the Static Monsters log and deadlifting championships, but after Barbarians I couldn’t do it. I was totally burned out from competing, from all the pressure on my body of pushing myself so hard, the emotions of it all. My coach and I resolved I needed a break for a couple of months to refocus, reset, and do some other stuff with my life! (Hello, renovations don’t do themselves!)
The biggest and best surprise was not even a week after the comp when I found out Arnold’s had selected me as a qualified competitor because of my results at Barbarians. I had hoped maybe it would happen, but I didn’t expect it and definitely not so soon. It really made it all feel worthwhile and gave me some hope for 2017 training and focus.
That’ll do for now but there is so much other stuff to say!!! AHHH. Soon. Will not neglect for so long.
NB: All pics on this post courtesy of Fiona Barrett Photography