Bigger Stronger Faster 2015 Competition Write Up And Video
On Saturday 26th September 2015 the PTS crew consisting of Ali Wilson, Kerry Gowen, Laura Shaw and P-j Gentle headed to East Grinstead to compete in the strength and speed competition Bigger Stronger Faster 2015. We were supposed to be joined by Ali Crooks and Nina Cambatta also, but Ali C managed to slice his finger open fixing a printer just days before in such a way that any extra damage might cause permanent nerve damage in the hand, and Nina managed to get really ill just the day before! Both were gutted as they had really enjoyed the training and were looking to have some fun!
I had competed at the competition two years prior and had had a good time, it’s quite an unusual competition in that while it’s quite light in terms of weight, it’s not necessarily a novice competition as the athletic qualities tested are quite demanding. Not just a pure strength event, the speed and stamina elements are very important to do well!
The events listed were as follows:
-A deadlift medley of three different weights, 4 reps of a lighter normal bar, 2 reps of a heavier normal bar and then a farmers walk pick up. The idea is to go through the pattern as many times as possible in 80 seconds. From doing this last time it generally felt like the first bar was easy, then the second bar was way harder than the first despite being not much heavier, and then the farmers pick up was the easiest of the lot and almost a waste of time as it was too easy to test anything, even stamina.
-A farmers walk for maximum distance in 80 seconds. Farmers walk for distance is pretty horrid, and the lengths were 20 metres, so even though it’s not that heavy it makes the legs go to jelly land as you try to go fast as well as keep going!
-A deadlift frame hold for time. Just pick it up and hang on. The guys had a car deadlift frame, the girls had a trap bar frame. Pretty simple!
-A prowler push to log lift. Yes…. you read that right. You have to do two 20 metre weighted prowler sprints, then sprint back the 20 metres to the log bar and then do as many floor to overheads as you can in the remaining time limit. A truly horrible idea for an event!
-A medley of rope pulling, prowler pushing, item loading and atlas stone to finish. This is really good fun actually!
I was competing in the U80kg Men category, Kerry and Laura were competing in the U65kg Ladies category and P-j was competing in the O65kg Ladies category.
So weigh-in was at 8.30am and the event started at 10am, so we opted to car pool, go down in one vehicle, leave Northampton at around 6am and get there for about 8am so we could weigh-in straight away and then eat lots of food! Well, that was the plan, but Laura bless her was working the night before and so got to bed around 4am I think, and then slept through her alarm! I managed to wake her up by phoning her and she actually managed to make the trip, so fair play to Laura on that one! Not a surprise that she crashed hard in the back of the car both on the way there and the way back! Plus I’d like to mention that she hasn’t trained at the gym for ages, like a couple of months I think, and yet was still up for competing! She didn’t even know the events! We had to give her a run down of what was going on the car journey down! Meanwhile myself, P-j and Kerry had had the luxury of doing our best to emulate the kind of feelings you’ll go through doing this stuff on a regular basis!
Once we got to the venue it looked like it was going to be a lovely clear day… But first of all it was bloody freezing! The weigh-in was in a back room and it was a case of stripping as fast as possible and getting dressed again super fast! I weighed in at 79.1kg, unusually for me I’ve been 79kg all week, my weight is the lowest it’s been since I was about 22 years old, about 17 years ago! But I feel fucking fantastic so I’m not complaining! Kerry and Laura also made their weight class, Laura is normally easily under but the lack of training and eating well had meant she had had a little pre weigh-in panic, but it was all good! Kerry normally doesn’t compete in weight class sports, but she was happy to be the lightest she thinks she’s ever been as an adult! The benefits of lifting heavy weights! Clearly, you just get massive! (That last bit was sarcastic by the way!) P-j can compete at U63kg, but this is her birthday week and so she wanted to eat cake and not worry about a weigh-in, so she weighed in at a whopping 1kg over the lower weight limit! But P-j likes lifting heavier weights so that suited her anyway!
So at the weigh-in we got given some goodie bags… Now it’s not cool to knock freebies, but when a company decides to give you a free sample surely it should be to entice you in? I can’t remember the company name, but there was this healthy protein shake, it was supposed to be vanilla flavour I think, but it made me think of frog spawn. However, I did also get a bakewell flavour flapjack, and bakewell is just, well, it’s bakewell, isn’t it? Fucking yum!
So after some waiting around, bumping into familiar faces and little chats, having a nose at the competition kit (always a must!) we had a briefing upstairs and then it was time to start the day!
Event 1: Deadlift Medley
The way this set out was two athletes up at a time head to head facing each other, with the lightest bar first, then hop over to the second heavier straight bar, then hop over again to the farmers handles, then you made your way back to start. While you had a choice about either hopping back or running round, why anybody would run round in an event like this is beyond me. It’s so much faster to hop back and forth! The U65kg ladies were up first, so that was Kerry and Laura. They had weights of 60kg for 4 reps, 70kg for 2 reps and then 50kg each hand for 1 rep. In training Kerry had been worrying about the final lift, despite my assertions that it would be fine, if not easy. I don’t like easy training, even if you think the event will be easy, because that’s just lazy and complacent and will bite you badly! So on the day both girls got 25 reps in the 80 seconds limit, which got them joint 13th. Not a brilliant result, but Kerry was most worried about the injury potential of this event (with her going to the World Championships in Obstacle Racing on 17th October, just three weeks later, legitimate concern!) and Laura just hadn’t trained, at all! So them getting through intact was prime objective! Kerry afterwards remarked how easy the final pick up was, which it is. In my eyes a deadlift medley that ramps up the weight and lowers the reps like this one should also have an escalating difficulty, so to have the final lift as the easiest (by far!) is just a bit pointless really. P-j in the Overs Ladies class had weights of 70kg for 4 reps, 80kg for 2 reps and 55kg each hand for 1 rep, which she also got 25 reps, but that got her joint 6th which was pretty good. On my go I had 130kg for 4 reps, 140kg for 2 reps and 100kg each hand for 1 rep. In my head I thought of getting 4 laps, which I guessed would be a close to winning score. I managed 29 reps, nearly locked out number 30 on the ‘Time!’, which got me 2nd place, with the winner getting just 31 reps. Close! But very happy with that performance, felt nice and quick!
Event 2: Farmers Walk
Normally a farmers walk is for quite a small distance, maybe 20 metres or 40 metres. But this was maximum distance, in 80 seconds… This would be a bit grim! Not only would you have to get out at the start as fast as you could but you have to keep pumping the speed, as the weights weren’t heavy it actually made it more draining on the mind because you had to keep thinking to accelerate more! The course was a full 20 metres before you had to turn around, so pick up speed was not as important as foot speed over distance. The first up for this again were the U65kg ladies, and the numbers drawn for the pairs competing had Kerry and Laura head to head! They were carrying 35kg each hand, so this was just going to be a flat out race! With the ‘Go!’ they were off and immediately Laura took an early lead, but after 2 lengths Kerry had closed down the lead and just keep the same speed throughout, so by the end Kerry had completed 7 lengths (140 metres), good for 7th place and Laura had done 6 lengths and a bit (120+ metres), which got her 14th place. Rather amusingly when ‘Time!’ was called Kerry just casually walked back like she had just done some shopping. Laura on the other hand was not impressed with herself and had a walk off and a little strop. But let’s remember Laura had done no training whatsoever leading up to this! For P-j’s category the weights were 40kg each hand, nothing that would phase P-j, and I hoped she would do well at this as she moves heavy weights in the moving events like shit off a shovel, and she didn’t disappoint! She got 6 and a bit lengths (120+ metres) for a nice 4th place effort! In my category the weights were 80kg each hand, and I knew I’m slow at farmers so I hoped to be able to just catch people up through stamina instead. In my head I figured 6 lengths would be a quality, if not winning score, so that was the aim. I can’t remember the name of the guy who I was paired against for this but when the ‘Go!’ command was given I swear he vanished into the horizon! Fuck me I thought, who gave him polystyrene weights? I trundled along, just trying to think of getting the 6 lengths. Near the end of the 5th length I felt my right hand open, which meant a bonus stop to re-grip. Rather annoyingly I was also clumsy on the turn arounds, constantly knocking the handles over and having to pick them back up, which is minor effort but adds seconds every time! In the end I managed 5 lengths and a bit (103 metres) for 5th place, the winner getting around 115 metres. So 6 lengths would have won! But I think even without all the little mistakes I’m just too slow to have covered the ground enough in the time. Give me a heavy yoke or lorry to pull any day!
Event 3: Deadlift Frame Hold
So this event had four athletes up at a time, two girls on trap bar deadlift frames and two guys on car deadlift frames. The concept was very simple, pick it up and hold it as long as possible. Out of the PTS crew Laura went up first. The frame looked chunky and heavy, the weight listed was 110kg for the U65kg girls, and Laura was having a panic about being to even pick it up. With the timer only starting once you locked it out Laura took her time and lifted it with ease, remarking afterwards how ‘comfortable’ it was! Now Laura is a strong lass, so despite the lack of training I expected a good showing here. I was standing close ready to give my usual kind words of encouragement, when it seemed Laura just wanted to put it down. She started dropping her head, acting a bit wobbly, well fuck that I thought! So I started shouting at her, and bless her if she didn’t find the fire in her soul to not only hang on, but also start giving me lip and arguing with me at the same time! Hahaha, very entertaining for the crowd I believe! But if you’ve got the juice to chat shit then you’ve certainly got enough to keep going! Eventually Laura succumbed to gravity but not before she had racked up a monstrous score of 76 seconds, which not only won her category by a huge margin but was also unmatched by any other athlete of the day! Amazing work Laura! For Kerry, this was also an event that she was worried about, with it being a relatively heavy pick up for her. Kerry is very fussy with technical details in training to maintain health (as it should be!) and not expose herself to extra risk. However, once she went in, she picked it up, yes the technique wasn’t perfect, but it still didn’t represent a problem for her. She kept her cool and got a score of 33 seconds which was good for 14th place. P-j in the Overs class had a pick up of 120kg, and P-j seems to do well in grip events so was expecting another steady performance here. P-j got 48 seconds here without any drama, which got her 4th place in this. On my turn I had the extra dramatics of lifting a car, which always looks good to the crowd! The deadlift frame that the car was on looked unusually solid, it’s not that uncommon to come across car deadlift frames that have a large amount of flex in them, making the event much easier, but not this one! Nice and thick, and rusty as fuck! I wasn’t expecting it to be a heavy pick up, and it wasn’t, but as soon as I closed my hands around the grip, before I’d even picked it up I could feel how sharp it was. I waited a few seconds before I picked it up to see if I could managed a nicer grip but it just seemed horrible! So I lifted it anyway and immediately it felt like I was gripping a cactus in each hand! Apart from that it was quite pleasant, but my right hand gave out at 34 seconds, good for 4th place, with first getting 37 seconds. Another close one!
Event 4: Prowler Sprint to Log Lift
A bit of a ‘what the fuck’ event this. Log lifting for repetitions is bad enough on it’s own, but no, let’s add some prowler sprints in to really fuck you up! While this event is just kind of horrid all round, it’s also good fun and a very good test of conditioning. The prowler sprints were again over a full 20 metres, so two of those, and then you had to sprint the 20 metres back again to the log! So this was a case of looking forward to rubber legged running and clean and pressing while feeling like you’ve smoked a car exhaust! Awesome! The U65kg girls had just a 25kg log, and the O65kg girls a 30kg, so in training we had made sure the girls were confident with being able to one motion (i.e. lift the log from the floor or hips to overhead without stopping at the shoulders) the log whilst tired. Kerry loves a bit of prowler action, and is strong overhead, AND is incredibly fit, so this was an event that suited her to the ground. On her go she was quite nonchalant with the prowler push, being considerably slower than her paired up rival, but once at the log she maintained a solid work rate and got a very good 15 reps, getting her 6th place. Laura on her go was only 1 rep behind that with 14 reps which got her 8th place. Now this was another event P-j was also looking forward, being good at log for reps and also loving a prowler push… So when the ‘Go!’ call was given, it was in disbelief I watched P-j just…. not move. The prowler looked like it had the brakes on! It must have been stuck in a small rut, but P-j spent several seconds pushing in vain before it finally leapt free, but by that point I think P-j’s mind was shot, as that kind of thing will throw you right off track! So when she got the log, I hoped she would get her groove for some quick lifting, as it’s only 30kg…. But I think she attacked it in too much panic and couldn’t balance herself for a couple of goes. So she only ended up with 6 reps in an event she was aiming for more like more than double that, getting 8th place. That wouldn’t be the last of prowler malfunctions for the PTS crew on the day… On my go the U80kg lads had a 60kg log, again not heavy but after pegging it around it’s amazing how much effort it requires! This event, just like the farmers walk highlighted how fucking slow I am at foot speed. Whoever I was paired up with just blazed ahead, leaving me in the dust! Once I finally got to the log I just needed to keep churning out the reps. To be honest while this felt horrible, it never got any worse during the time. It just felt uniformly bad, and I felt like I could have kept going for a while. I managed to get 8 reps, in my head I was aiming for 10 reps. 8 reps and my slow ass prowler meant I got 5th place, but first place was 10 reps, so again within touching distance! Must… Get… Faster!
Event 5: Loading Medley
I do love this sort of race! Starting with a rope pull, then a prowler push, then run back to pick up the log to load it on to an upturned skip, then run back to pick up either a 25kg plate for the girls or a 50kg husafell stone for me, then an atlas stone load to finish. Great fun! All three PTS girls showed great form on this event, all finishing well within the time limit (a lot of athletes didn’t!), Kerry finishing in 58 seconds for 6th place, Laura getting it done in 69 seconds for 11th place and we didn’t get P-j’s time or place, but P-j felt good about it! And then it’s my go… Going into this event I figured I was around 4th place, and despite being slow on my feet I’m good at this sort of event with transitions, so I was hoping to do really well, the placings being so close and snag a 3rd place shiny thing with a big effort. So I take my position to start the rope pull and notice… The rope is wet. Really wet. As in slimy and sodden. Weird, but whatever. Laura had told me the rope pull part of the event was easy to the point of pointless (again, where’s the fun in that?) so I dismissed the thought of the wet rope. I was up about 7th in my group, I’d watched a few of the guys struggle with the stone so I was confident I would make a dent here. The pull was as Laura said, the prowler just slid into place, so then the push back…. I got a few metres and the prowler stopped. The prowler wasn’t caught on anything, my feet were just spinning on the spot! I had literally no purchase whatsoever! I was just spinning my wheels to no effect! I threw my hands up in frustration, and after several attempts reverted to ‘cheating’ by pushing the far end of the prowler so I could stand tall enough to get traction. I finished the push, and kept going anyway, not even hearing them shout ‘Time!’ at some point, loading all the items with ease and giving the poor loaders unnecessary work. So I was in the foulest of moods after that (in fact I haven’t got over it yet, toys and pram are at an inseparable distance), mystified why shoes I’ve used to pull multiple heavy trucks and convoys of vehicles in other competitions couldn’t push a fucking prowler with thirty fucking kilo on! Then one of the other competitors shone some light on the matter… The wet and slimy rope had basically left a snail trail in it’s wake, and I had run right over it… He himself had seen what had happened and ran to the side of it and had no problem finishing the medley. Fuck! So watching the guys in the heavier weight classes, it happened to so many of them too, it made that event not about performance. Absolutely not the way I wanted to finish the competition, and soured what had been a fun day. But what are you going to do? Bitch about it, then move on!
So at the end of the day Kerry in the U65kg came 9th with 52 points, and Laura came 11th with 50 points, out of 18 athletes, so these two were very close at the end despite getting wildly different results in the individual events! Kerry was very happy with her result as this was a departure from her bread and butter of endurance events, but showed that she does have some extra stuff in the tank to play with! Laura should also be happy with her performance, as already stated she hasn’t trained AT ALL for months, and still won one of the events! Funnily enough early on in the day I was trying to get a bit of fire in their bellies for the competition, but at the time they felt I was bringing enough competitiveness for everyone, but afterwards, not performing as well as she knows she can has re-ignited a bit of a spark in Laura, so hopefully we’ll see her back and then beyond former glory and get some good stuff done! Because Laura is a bit of fucking beast and so should express that properly! P-j came 7th out of 12 athletes, and she didn’t feel like she showed what she can do, her prowler malfunction putting a dampener on the competition for her, but she felt redemption in tackling the medley well! As for me, well, I went to this competition to win, and started the day as I meant to, but then it was such a close field dropping reps and seconds was costly, and then that fucking medley…. so 6th place out of 8 athletes and then an emotional binge on chocolate and fried chicken on the way home to sooth those sensitive, damaged nerves. Fuck you wet rope!
All in all, despite the ending for me I actually had a great day, lots of fun memories and will be looking to come again next year! It’s nice to go to these competitions and see so many familiar faces, and meet new ones, and I just love the chance to compete! I think next year we might get a bigger PTS contingent down…
Anyway, here’s the video of the event, enjoy!