At the beginning of the year I decided to compete in a strongman competition and a 50 mile trail race a week apart. Attempting to do these two diametrically opposed athletic events motivated me. I knew I wouldn’t be able to dedicate full time to either activity. My plan was to use Crossfit as the base of all my training which would have carry over to both the strongman and the trail race. Then I would use Saturday morning to dedicate time to strongman specific moves and Monday night to long distance runs.
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On May 6th I competed in The Training Center Throwdown in New Castle, DE. I was not thrilled with my performance at all, but I succeeded in not embarrassing myself. I scored on every single event to the chagrin of my lower lumbar spine. A week of rehabbing my back later I was in Penny Pack Park, Philadelphia for The Dirty German Endurance Fest for my first 50 miler. I did not succeed. What went wrong?
I make 10 New Year’s Resolutions each year I’ve made mistakes in the past with resolutions that contradict one another; such as a goal that requires me to save money vs one that requires money to be spent. My biggest and most involved goal this year is to purchase a house. This is something we started at the very beginning of 2017. What I didn’t take into consideration when signing up for both the strongman and the 50 miler is the amount of time involved in buying a house. Part of the process of buying a house was also selling our current house.
Selling our house meant getting it show ready by moving out a significant portion of our belongings and fixing many of the items that have occupied our honey-do list for years. Once the house was sold we still had items to fix from the inspection report. Meanwhile, we were looking for a house. We spent many weeknights going to showings and many weekend afternoons at open houses. Missed a weekend strongman workout? No place to reschedule it. Missed a long run? Ditto. Most exercise plans work, but only when followed with consistency.
Our new house was the priority and the actual New Year’s Resolution and it appears we will accomplish it. Closing on selling our house is June 1st. We are in the middle of the inspection phase for the house we are buying.
20/20 Hind Sight
What would I have done differently? I wouldn’t have signed up for the 50 miler at all. It was differently the event of the two that required a larger and more consistent time commitment. The strongman definitely requires some skill that needs to be practiced in order to get better, but what I was already doing at Crossfit had a lot more carry over. By just doing the strongman I would still have accomplished my New Year’s Resolution #5 of trying a new fitness competition. They were my NYR’s for a reason and should remain the focus of what I plan for and aim toward week after week.
By not signing up for the trail race I may have been able to get to a proper strongman gym and practiced with a few of the implements ahead of time to familiarize myself with them rather than picking them up for the first time during warm ups. I also would have freed up an entire weekend day. That may seem petty but with many of our weekends already taken up for other things, I would gladly enjoy one of the few remaining free days in our current home.
- Everyone there was really strong. I mean everyone. I was expecting at least a few people to flounder a bit maybe not belong there and while there were a couple zeros, everyone belonged there. Out of about 20-25 people I was one of the weakest pound for pound.
- Everyone was also very friendly and helpful. No elitism or super competitiveness at all even including the guys there that compete at the national level.
- The whole purpose of strongman competitions is to get good social media pictures.
- First event was Farmer’s Carry. It was two loadable handles that you had to carry 60ft as quick as possible. Prior to the event I was under the impression that the weight listed was the total weight (225lbs). This isn’t that much weight so I figured it was more of a speed thing. Wrong. It was the weight in each hand and we couldn’t use straps. I was immediately worried. My best deadlift ever is 505lbs and that was before herniating my disk. I hadn’t gone above 450 at all in training and now i had to not only lift it from the side (it was a little bit higher off the ground than a normal DL) and carry it. I did it in 15 seconds which was not great. I had to put it down at one point because my grip was failing and that sucked up about 4-6 seconds.
- Second event was tire flip. The posted weight was 550lbs. I have flipped tires before so I felt good about the movement but each tire is a little different and I had no frame of reference for how heavy the tires I’ve used before were. I did decent with 13 reps. This was the most tiring (pun not intended) even since it was one that I could go all out on for the whole time limit of 60 seconds.
- Third event was the circus dumbbell press. You got three attempts. If you miss an attempt you can’t go back down in weight. So I started with a relatively low weight to make sure I could get it. I had practiced as best I could using heavy dumbbells at my gym, but the Circus DB has a much thicker handle and bigger bell portion. I opened at 110lb, then 120lbs, then 130 and was done. I got all three and probably could’ve gone 10 or 20lbs higher but was very happy with the results.
- Fourth event was a basket deadlift. This is like the car deadlifts you may have seen online. I have no idea what the weight ended up being and I don’t think the judges knew either. You basically did a rep and put it down and then they would load a 45lb plate on the front of it then repeat as many times as possible. I only got 3 reps and was done. At this point my lower back was beginning to bug me.
- Fifth and final even was the atlas stone. I had used atlas stones before but they were 115lbs. The one we had to lifted and put over a 5 ft bar was 225lbs. This def favored people who have done it before. Some one lent me a little bit of tacky for my hands and I struggled with terrible form and got one rep and immediately stopped. I didn’t even want to try a 2nd knowing it would total fuck my back and I had 7 hours of driving to do that day plus my race this Saturday to think about.
- I really want to do another one and the cost was way cheaper than any of the races I do. Plus the events are different each time and gives me a strength goal in the gym.
50 Miler Review
- Day of the race the weather was 52 degrees and pouring rain. I think we got 1 to 2 inches. I was legitimately worried about hypothermia.
- I had run at the park before and it was mostly horse trails so I knew it was going to be very muddy. Additionally we had multiple “creek” crossings. It didn’t take long for me to be completely soaked.
- Mud on narrow trails means that when your foot strikes, it slides underneath your center of gravity more so than on a solid surface. Over the course of the entire race, this was a lot of stress on my meniscus, ankles, and feet. This exacerbated my lack of training. If I had trained properly I would have been able to temper my tendons and joints from the training runs to deal with the race day stress.
- I had run/walked the whole portion of the first lap (3 laps of 16.5 miles). Although I thought I did alright I was already at a much worse pace than my fellow 50 milers.
- -Between the 1st and the 2nd lap I put McTarnahan’s Blue Lotion on my legs and calves (careful of other regions). I refilled my Camelbak with Tailwind mixed with water. I grabbed a Gatorade bar and a full sugar Red Bull and started power walking as soon as possible while eating and drinking the Red Bull.
- My plan was to power walk the majority of the 2nd lap to save my legs for the third lap. This took entirely too long though. about 3/4 of my way through the 2nd lap I asked for the time from from a course manager, “3:00pm” and I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish. There was a time cutoff of 3:45pm to start the third lap and an overall time cutoff of 12 1/2 hours. Even if I had made the cutoff I wouldn’t finished based on how slowly my 2nd lap was.
- During the 2nd lap the course was significantly muddier and some of the river crossings were rerouted to the stone bridges (that had been closed for construction). I don’t think I will use compression pants again for long runs. The seam did a lot of damage to my inner legs and it was hard to try and take care of my legs with the blue lotion. I also can’t really see the benefits of using them for this type of race (maybe for an obstacle race with crawling).
- I think I’m going to take time off from trying races with longer distances and go back to short obstacle races and attempt to do those faster and faster instead.
- So I ended up with 33.5 miles, but not the goal of finishing all 50.
I learned that I should stick with my original goals and the next athletic goals are to dunk a basketball and to get a 6 pack. These goals essentially coincide because in order to dunk I will need to increase my strength-to-weight ratio.
Author: David Matthews
I started this site as a way of discussing what I’ve learned about the relationship between personal finances and physical fitness. What I have learned allowed me to lose 50lbs and improve my credit score 150 points in the same year and become a happier person.
Husband. Father. West Virginia University Grad. Licensed Insurance and Financial Professional. Sports fan (Philadelphia, WVU, and Manchester City). I’m also a huge nerd (like Magic: The Gathering huge)