USS Nationals Meet Report 2016-06-11
2016 USS Nationals Meet Report
So many feels. Get a snack, this is going to be a long one. This year’s USS Nationals represents such a journey for me. Really, that begins at last year’s USS Nationals. I got my butt handed to me. My performance wasn’t that bad for me, but I was much less competitive than I wanted to be. It was a tough lesson to learn. I looked around and realized I wasn’t big enough and strong enough to bring the next level size and strength at SHW. Looking at the next weight class down, I seemed to fit a lot better, and my performance was on par with the top of that class. It was time to get serious about nutrition if I wanted to be competitive. Intellectually, I knew I could do it, but it took me a few months to really get started. I was tired from training for nats, and a little mentally exhausted as well. I’d actually come down from 248 to 221 before nats last year and wasn’t ready to commit to the discipline necessary to cut to 198.
After a break and some really poor nutrition management, I found myself in a place where I was ready to get started on my cut to 198. Unfortunately, that place was now at 235 to start. I planned to aim for a pound a week with a two pound allowance for the holidays. I thought I’d hang out around 205 and water cut to 198. The idea of being under 200# was daunting. I’d been down as low as 213 fairly recently, but I felt small and weak. I didn’t like that feeling, and was very consciously avoiding thinking of myself as getting smaller. “Don’t call me small!”
As the weeks went on, I found it easier to stay consistent with my nutrition. The scale was dropping and my training performance was improving. My cravings subsided and I really hit my stride.
In mid-April, I hit 198 ahead of schedule. I felt amazing and I was stronger than ever. As the days kept passing, my weight and bodyfat continued to drop even though I was consciously eating more. My training performance was still high, so I didn’t worry too much about it. By my pre-competition Deload week, I was down to 190 after breakfast, with shoes. I tried to keep eating, and even had two dinner entrees the night before weigh-in. Official meet weigh-in was 188.2, representing a 47 pound cut from September and a 60 pound cut from my original starting point. Those numbers don’t even seem real to me. I had to disassociate from the scale a bit in the last few weeks to protect myself from feeling small.
After weigh-in, I ate, showered, ate, went to the grocery store and then had lunch. My husband and I walked around a bit and had a snack. Then we went to dinner. A day all about food as it should be the day before a heavy competition.
Rules meeting was daunting. Seeing all the athletes together was a bit intimidating. I picked up my shirt and cut it up so I’d be comfy and well ventilated in the 97 degree heat. Then I spent some time focusing before bed.
I woke up on competition morning feeling great. I had scouted the area, and my plan was to hit up the Einstein’s before the competition. I have my power bagel with peanut butter before every training session at home, so I was very happy to find one. I have trouble eating on meet days, so having something familiar helps.
It seemed to take forever for the meet to start, but for all I know we started on time. I wasn’t looking at the clock. Warmups felt good and I just wanted a chance to hit some heavy log reps. I’d been looking forward to log specifically, and my log training went better than I expected this training cycle. There was some confusion with the flights and lanes. Athletes were having a lot of trouble hearing the expeditors. The judges did a good job confirming identity so at least I knew I was getting credit for my lifts. But they didn’t go a good job communicating the weight changes to athletes. Rumors were flying the whole day about what had been changed, and what felt heavy or light. I have seen no official posting of weights actually lifted, but the general consensus is that our log was dropped from 160 to 140. That was really frustrating for me because I went into the event thinking it was 160 and paced accordingly. My first rep was shaky mostly because of nerves and the amount of time between warmups and my flight. The next 4 reps were very solid. I was battling the clock for rep 6 and didn’t make it. I expected about 5 reps at 160, so I was pleased at first. Upon further review I’m not so happy with it. I paced like it was 160, because on meet day it’s hard for me to tell between nerves and implement variance. I will say it didn’t feel heavy to me, but 160 is a weight I can handle, and I would have hoped 140 would feel much lighter than that log felt. I don’t have a ton of speed at 160, but I wanted to work that heavy log. I’m kind of glad that I didn’t really have more than rumors until later.
I always feel better after the first event at a big show. It was off to a good start (so I thought) and I was having fun with my friends. Deadlift was next, a very hit or miss event for me. I was figuring 8-10 reps on a good day and I got 9. I was very pleased with my utilization of the clock here. I paced myself to get the most reps as I could get out of that minute. 350# from 12-13” isn’t something I can just rep out for the whole 60 with no pauses – yet. The last 2 reps were a fight, and I definitely gutted out the final rep just in time. I was so exhausted I couldn’t get out of the straps by myself. I staggered back to my gear to relax. Also, I did a thing that you should never do and tried out new straps for the first time in a meet. They were figure 8s and I loved them. Thanks nice Matt whose last name I don’t know.
Fingal finger was next and I had no idea how it was going to go. Lots of people were zeroing or barely getting one flip in 60s. I got one fairly quickly, but it was really heavy. I stepped on the spotter on the second rep, which threw me, but I didn’t falter and I got the rep. On the third rep, I got my hand sort of stuck between the finger and my chest, which slowed me down. I didn’t yet have it overhead when the timer called 10s, so I decided to bail. They weren’t counting reps until the finger hit the tire, and I didn’t think I had the speed to get it done. Since this was an exhausting event, I didn’t want to waste the energy on a rep that wouldn’t count. I was hoping to do better than 2 reps, but this was a super heavy event and I was still in the top third with 2. There was another rumored weight change here. Originally we were supposed to have 350. They said all 5 chains would make it 400, and all 5 chains were loaded into the finger in my lane (and I assume also the others, but I didn’t see.)
The Conan’s wheel made me nervous. The footing was uneven and between my stability enhanced stature and my “tits on top” carry style, the weight was perilously close to the ground. I got a decent pick, not my best ever, but solid. My first rotation was at a decent speed, but I was starting to droop on the second and I could tell. My motto for this event was “just keep swimming,” and I did. This is not an event where I have great speed, but I do have solid conditioning and an aversion to stopping before time is called. This may have been the best event fight of my strongman career. By the last 10 seconds, the end of the weight tree was scraping the ground and leaving a big gouge. I managed the third rotation and then heard the judge call time. I just hung there draped over the implement for a good 15 seconds before I could stand up. I was one of 3 to get 3 rotations, and it put me into third place overall going into stones.
The final event, atlas stones, was set up as a 4 stone series with two platforms placed about 20’ apart. You had to run between platforms for each stone. The platform was fairly low at 46.” This is the first time I’ve competed in stones since last year’s nats, and I’ve worked hard to improve myself. Last year, I missed loading the 200# stone and had set that as a goal. I don’t train with tacky, so I wasn’t sure what to expect out of myself. The first stone was supposed to be equal to my stone PR of 175#. Though it is something I can do easily without tacky in training, I’d not been able to load the heavier stones. My 200# stone is 18” which I had only lapped. The larger diameter was really throwing me off in training, but I felt like I could do it with tacky. Lucky for me, I’m pretty sure all the stones were 16”. The first stone went up quickly, and the next two weren’t much trouble either. I really liked the setup where we had to scramble back and forth between platforms. I enjoy conditioning elements. I got to the fourth stone and when I lapped it, I knew it was going up. I loaded it, and was so fired up I let out a PR scream. That was a 65# stone PR and I was fired up. Again, there was a rumored but unconfirmed weight change here. It was supposed to be 175, 200, 230, 250, but I was told that it was 175, 215, 215, 240. I’m counting it as 240, but I don’t actually know. Doesn’t matter, it’s still a big PR for me and I was fired up.
After watching a few more competitors go, I cleaned up and changed. A bunch of the HWW and some supers went for a drink together. There were mixed feelings at the table, but the comradery was spectacular. We all huddled around my husband’s laptop watching the scores get updated. I was not sure I wanted to go to the banquet after such a long day, but my friends talked me into it, and as it turned out there was hardware to pick up. Unfortunately, the seating was limited and the hotel didn’t take into consideration that they were feeding 300+ strongman competitors plus their families. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to sit with my friends and had to take an open seat with people I didn’t know. They were lovely people, but I wanted to sit with my friends that I don’t get to see very often. Fortunately, I am a genius and my husband is a wonderful man. I sent him for burgers at the hotel sports bar and started a trend. Best decision of the night.
Overall an amazing day, even if there were some frustrations. I am very happy with my performance overall. I don’t plan to stay in the 198 class, but I’m not sure where I’ll end up next year. I’ve hit every goal that I set for this year so far. Time to set some new goals. For now, a short break from cutting and a vacation. Then I’ll be doing my first water cut for a meet in July where I’ll be – gasp – middleweight at 180 (It’s a NAS show). It’s strange to even think about, but that’s only 8 pounds under where I weighed in, so not actually all that far.
I want to thank everyone including those not specifically named that has supported me as I prepped and competed at USS Nationals this year. All of my Belle of the Bar friends, especially Raeanne and Jessie. The lovely ladies of NEWS. Willie and all of the organizers, judges, spotters and other helpers at USS who put on a great competition and were patient with questions from a nervous competitor.
Thank you to my ‘brain coach’ Sue Priver of Sue Priver Strong and Stress Free, for really helping me step up my mental game. I definitely had some mental obstacles, especially around log. Sue’s techniques really helped me over those mental hurdles and made me a better competitor. I’ll be keeping all of those tricks in my bag as I move forward.
A special thank you goes out to my ‘strongman husband’ Justin Paul who had to hear about every pound along the way and every iffy training session and doubt that I had. Also to my strongman events training partner Jasmin who helped schlep equipment around and continued to work hard even after she decided not to make the trip to nationals this year.
Finally, thank you to my actual husband who supports me even though he thinks I’m nuts. He was awesome at keeping track of the score and manually adding the sheets and most importantly feeding me. His highlights include post competition beer acquisition speed and burger carry.
I’m looking forward to a break before the next meet, but very excited about getting back to work in the gym. I have to set some new goals and then destroy them like I did the old goals.