Life is fucking hard man. It just is. Things are not fair, things get harder every day, and sometimes shit is just heavy. You approach these feelings with endless courage as you try to put things together, develop a plan of attack and charge forward without mercy. You have to right? What else can we do but charge forward endlessly and without falter if we are to become some thing and someone great. No one remembers a coward and no one remembers those who are too scared to show up. Are champions not made in the dark? Are they not honed into weapons of wars when no one is looking? Is showing up not the first step out of the darkness that leads to the path of greatness? IS THIS NOT WHAT COMPETITION IS ABOUT? Are we not dancing around the metaphor that life is a series of heavy competitions over and over and over again?
I dramatize the feeling of competition because in many of our hearts, sometimes that is the only reason to live but for many of us these words hit a special place in our hearts. Florida’s was a daunting task for many of us. Living up to what a true championship should be, FSM would have some of the heaviest events I had seen in years, if ever. We all knew it, we all felt it and as many of us looked at this event as a Everest of our strength lives it didn’t stop the brave from showing up and going to war.
Alan and Sara from iron house put on one of the best run events I have seen in quite some time. From the location, to the toy drive, to the event organization. Volunteers were seasoned, respectful and on point as many of them were strongman athletes as well. No miss loads and athletes were kept safe and corralled in proper order causing the show to run smoothly and rather quickly despite the amount of lifters present. The event had an air to it that I missed for so many years. With the morning starting off beautifully rainy and cool, you could feel the environment was buzzing with competitive spirit. With the show being so heavy, it was strongman vs implements and despite the very sobering feeling of wanting to beat the man or woman next to you, we all wanted to survive and that is what a state championship should feel like.
And that is where we differ isn’t it? Is that not the one little thing that drives us a little deeper into the black hole of strongman? That callous feeling that one event might be the last event you ever do? That this weight is dangerous? That one more rep or second or inch could be the difference between winning and leaving literally shattered. We as strongman have the daunting task of not only executing months and months of work and expectations but also the animalistic feeling to SURVIVE. To endure, to persevere, to not fucking quit. To NEVER stray from the way for months and years prior to facing thousands of pounds of iron. We need to know if we have what it takes, if we have the will and the courage to stand up against our deepest fears of failure and true pain. Every step, every damn second is a battle not only with unfriendly implements but with ourselves. None of us want to zero do we? Who the fuck likes failing in front of family and friends? Who wants to risk a career ending injury? Who wants to have a bad day after so much sacrifice? No one dammit, but we show up don’t we. We show up to fight for that rep, for that inch, for that roar of rage, for that trophy, for that glory, for that cheer of the crowd that echoed in the coliseum of our souls!! We show up because we are warriors and this is the FUCKING WAY!
The details of each event were in a way a battle in itself. I had been battling a lot of personal things in my life prior to this competition and a lot of little injuries that I did not speak of. When you decide to wear your armor and strap your sword on, there are no excuses. There is no tomorrow if this is the battlefield and there are no second chances for those of us who live each day as it were our last. I had set certain goals for myself and had my mental mantras prior to each event. With the press not going how I wanted and 2-3 reps I was expecting to get, I had a mountain to climb to stay in the top of the pack. The press, as it has in the past, absolutely cost me top 3 for sure but I know that now and did not waste my time thinking about that on the day of. I focused on one event at a time knowing this was going to be a long day.
The deadlift, yoke, and frame was a swift reminder that the old wolf still had what it takes. Hitting a rep PR of 5 reps and just barely missing the 6th rep brought back a very much needed fire. The rage, the crowd, the feeling of that axle ripping skin off your shin and grinding against your quad like a steam roller from hell is an indescribable monster of painful bliss. The yoke shredding the skin off your traps as you feel your body shutting down against the trauma of 900 pounds on your spine and body is like nothing else. The weighted carry, what life is about as we say here constantly, truly set apart those who were going to fight on and those who then realized, this is FUCKING STRONGMAN. Nothing given, everything earned beyond measure, and it truly is who can take the most pain.
I expected to get the final bag during the toss but I was gassed. The first 3 bags were seamless and rather easy but the 50 pound bag suddenly jumped to a thousand pounds and I could not get it. I am not sure if winning this event would of put major points on the board for me but I was somewhat disappointed it didn’t go as expected but that feeling was short lived. As the wind began to cool the world down and I looked around and suddenly realized the vastness of what was truly happening. I was sharing the battlefield with my clan, with my lifters, my family both on the competition floor and in the audience yelling at the top of their lungs. A culture that had taken time off from their personal lives to cheer the clan on and an old wolf like me. I got to see my young lifter Austin best me taking 2nd place on one of the most competitive 231 lasses I’ve seen in years. I got to see Alexandra become Floridas strongest women (MW) and claim her rightful earned ticket to the arnolds. Nicole and Sebastian both overcoming insane mental hurdles and face daunting weight without question and unending courage. Brandy fighting on sharpening her blade as she mentally prepares for the arnolds as well. Proud? I think that is a fucking understatement, what I was, was honored.
Im not going to bullshit. I didn’t land on this earth for a long time. I know a lot of people say this but those of you who know me know this comes from a place of genuine truth. I came here to live as hard as I fucking can and go out with a bang so that it echoes into Valhalla. I am not the greatest person in the world, far from it. Years of making mistakes, lying, eating shit and regretful life choices makes me no different than some villains of the world but here I was getting a reason to live. Surrounded by something created with these calloused tattooed hands that have left my life rich and with purpose. A reason that has pulled the bottle away from my lips, that has made me turn away from the cliff or leave the bullet in the clip. Living breathing reasons to keep going, to fight on against the dying of the light, and to give this old wolf the fire of a thousand suns in his heart again. Here I was HONORED and humbled to be standing next to these warriors who came to me years in the past full of doubts and fears and now hardened strongman going against the odds. Standing next to them, in front of them, behind them and around them was nothing short of emotional. Hearing their screams, feeling their eyes of respect, wearing their shirts with true pride, the pats on the back, the encouraging words.. all of this sinking into my flesh like a million stars shooting across my soul.
You know what it is to say that one of the reasons you keep on living was created by your own hands? With years of work? It is surreal and sometimes undeservingly so. Standing on the shoulders of giants who I call the Battle Axe Clan is and will always be one of the best feelings in the world. Having my team cheer me on, spill blood with me and fight on for one more day of strongman is a reason to keep going and as I sit here and think fondly on Saturday, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I experienced no major injuries, pain was manageable and seeing the smile of my lifters was worth how fast my body and mind is breaking down. I wont lie, I’m tired… inside and out. My placing on Saturday might be indicative of a few things. Maybe I’m getting old? Maybe I’m getting fatigued or maybe I need to get stronger. I got 4th but always within fighting distance of top 3 and even winning but have I ever felt prouder ? No. I get real voices in my head like all of you that doubt the fire is still there or that I don’t have ability to keep getting stronger. Ireland, Throwndown, Traveling, Miami’s Baddest, 7 work days a week, emotional investments that have left me heart broken, betrayed and bruised have taken their toll haven’t they? Sleepless nights worrying about others, preventing injuries, empty bank accounts, catching tears and patting backs have taken their toll haven’t they? Giving a shit, yelling, policing, listening, getting angry, extra gym hours, lack of meals, hotel beds and couches have taken their toll haven’t they? And yet… they haven’t had they? If Saturday showed me anything truly was that there is still fight in me left, not only as an athlete but as a coach. That there are reasons far beyond my deadlift reps that will carry me through this fucking life and on Saturday I stood amongst them. To my clan, my family, my gf, my followers, my friends and all that reached out I am forever grateful for giving this man more breath and more fire to burn. For showing me that there is an unending fight in my soul that still yearns to keep beating, not only for myself but to share the field with all of you. On Saturday I felt an all encompassing feeling of glory. I was the sword as much as I was the shield. I was the sky as much as I was the mud on boots. I was the rain as much as I was the blood in veins and for that, I will find my place amongst the starts one day… and maybe not as soon as I wanted ;)
And I will stand with you if you stand with me
For the world does not remember the silence of fear…
And I will stand in front of you if you stand behind me
For the world does not remember those that kneeled alone…
And I will stand behind you if you stand beyond me
For I will not remember a world without you…
Never Stray from The Way