So we arrive at what looks like a building that was finished just last week - it's that new looking. Chad has arranged for or put up himself a load of little signs pointing us grip nuts in the right direction. So that made it real easy to find. We walk out into what is the heart of the wellness centre - the gym. Clean doesn't cover how spotless it looks and there's a bunch of equipment I obviously wanna try. But before we even get into that I see some familiar faces.
First up, as mentioned before, is fellow Mashmonster tree climber Paul Knight who I hug and josh around with immediately. Having heard that he and some of the other lads had been in the bar I launch into 'and we was gonna buy a case over the phone and finish the job to (cue confused look as it's lost in translation) nobble you' LOL. More faces appear and more hands are shook, backs slapped and all round good natured ribbing takes place. I'm shown a small area where it's a teeny weeny bit more hard core. But, of course, we're far more interested in handling some of the toys we will be playing with for real later on. A little bit of experience teaches me to NOT REALLY TRY. So stuff is nudged, rolled or, in the case of grippers, given a baby squeeze to just before any biting point. But that's it. Shirts are handed out and the first of many (what seemed like loads) of Chad's family are met and I sign my first waiver (one for the event/Chad and one for St Mary's). We have a quick meet and greet and we're off.
I'd come with a plan, as usual, and for the most part stuck with it. This was very much the case with grippers. I saw Chad reach for the top one - the hard 4 - and thought I saw from across the room a close. But in fact he'd been a bit off. I don't get distracted with the idea of needing a big close and having played around briefly warming up stepped up and COC # closed a CoC 3.5. A little showmanship (I'd mentioned to some to 'sell it to the crowd and esp to Eddie on camera') meant not only did I do the deed for the ref but turned and said 'will that do you?' which garnered a 'hell yeah' from someone ha ha. I didn't pay too much attention to what else was being done because I still had the need to get the 4 down floating away at the back of my mind. So staying within the framework I'd set for myself I did the BBSE. It was about this time and checking with others and the big projector board that I pegged Chad has missed his opener but he still had some attempts left as did I (2). So it was time to step up a little more and so when I was due back on the platform I banged down the BBSE (Hard). I still wasn't sure what Chad would end up with so brought out the big gun. As I told others later I'd been off any closes of a 4 for about 5 weeks and so powered by caffeine I monstered the 4 (hard) to get a first place spot. Over the last few days I have since learnt it was the hardest calibrated 4 closed in competition to date - nice. There's only one time to do these sort of things and it's on the platform and when it matters. Luck was one my side as no one else managed to do the same. That meant, which was REAL NICE, I'd won the first event and was, for now, in the lead. GO RULE BRITANNIA.
2 Hand Pinch
As is always the case and indeed as I'd mentioned prior to leaving the Euro pinch can is and is sensitive to seasoning and humidity. so I wasn't too surprised to find it felt a little different to our very seasoned bit of kit here in Gloucester. I found myself advising a few to give it a light dusting of well rubbed in chalk and seeing how they got on. There were no great surprises as to who the top bunch were with Jedd, Chad and I in the mix and Rex coming up fast. Rex making 230lbs. I think all of the top three pulled 240lbs and from them Jedd and Chad equalled 245lbs. I had a lift spare and so once again made an attempt at 255lbs (the world record being 253lbs) but it sat there like an unmoving rock - not even a single mill of air. My first mistake of the day. Could I have equalled the 245 or perhaps done better with a 250 lift?? Hard to say now but what's done is done.
Ironmind's Apollons Axle
Ahh the dreaded axle. For a man that bitches about his o' so fragile glass like back this was always going to be one I could bomb on. I'd written out my usual event game plan thus: 1. 155KG/339LBS, 2. 170KG/374LBS, 3. 185KG/406LBS, 4. 200KG/441LBS. Others seemed to do the same warmups as I did then through what were my 2nd and some 3rd attempts then start with relatively high numbers. It would have been too, too easy to go off plan and play with the idea of following suit but as is often the case with me I went for the KISS approach. This meant Chad and I hung on in there with our 441's and Jedd + Aaron were sitting a spot beneath us at 379lbs. But, as we'd all suspected, kettlebell monster Andrew raised the bar higher from his 450+ record to a new PB and world (in grip competition) record 461lbs. He garnered a well deserved round of applause from all the attending athletes as well as the crowd.Me? I was happy with 1) getting my damned ass down as I knew the grip could take it and 2) felt (as is always the way) like I had 5 maybe 10 pounds in me on what was, again as per, my easiest and final lift. I should also offer thanks to the ref for some advice on my first lift as I went out of the groove. I'd set out with 440pounds or 200-kilos in mind and was 1lb out. Zer gut'.
Second boo-boo of the day for me. An event I could have won but brain freeze prevented me from doing so. I'd given the handle a little spin, sans weight, for feel and when asked what I thought the numbers could be said '260 or so'. As it happens more but anyways. I'd written out two sets of numbers (super spinning equalled low weight, slow spin mucho weight). I felt this handle was somewhere in between. For my third attempt I pulled what ended up being my final weight of 266lbs to Chad's (missed by me) 281lbs. I took a warm up with what may have been Chad's weight and no doubt may have put the cat among the pigeons with a successful lift. I then asked for a bigger 290 in plates (about 301 all in) and managed a few inches at best of pull. Tsk. If I'd taken 5 lbs more than the 281 I'd have won and it was, pun intended, within my grasp. No ones fault but my own.
If the axle was Andrews to win and always was in my mind then the medley was always Chads event for so many reasons. That said I was shocked and a little blown away when doing the rough numbers in my head because I was not expecting to see Andrew blow through them quite as well as he did. Chad's final score shows Andrew picked up one more object than I did (getting a 2nd to my third) but my confident 'second place easy' was a little shaken by his performance. The one lift I'd have liked to have made, being a nad off, was the Anvil as I did one of the best pulls on it on that day failing to just lock it out. I caned easily the three 25's that a bunch of the others had missed several times and pretty much had no problems with the blobs, pinching or thick bar objects . Another reason for not equalling Andrews performance was even though guys were calling out the time I literally was going too damned slow. I knew I'd huff and puff but wasn't going to get any faster. I avoided like the plague the hubs, the IM red 'nails' and the book tear and had said I thought I might hit 16 objects but managed 14. Chad hit 19 and just stood looking at the last shallow hub or the sky for the last 20 seconds on the clock seemingly huffing and puffing as much as I had.Final resultsWe took some time to fool around and I was handed two more CoC 4's post competition closing both. I was especially happy with the first as I did not use any chalk. Eddie, the camera man, did his post competition interviews which I took part in. Then it was prize time. As has been said elsewhere some of the items, esp for the lower places, were outstanding. Obviously the cash made up for this. Again, as above, my now glycogen deprived brain was not sure where I was... was it third or second? Once I heard Andrew was 3rd I KNEW I'd made second and had won the $600.00. I took my money and with a flourish bandied it about in front of the cameras and those gathered shouting (for effect) 'it's all about the Benjamin's baby!!'.We helped Chad move some of the usual rehab equipment back into place before heading over to his personal strength space for a cold brew and a burger. I came over all 'I'm done' in the Hummer getting the come down from a competition feeling so was not too shocked to bomb out at 250lbs in the post event 2" V-Bar event (a further $75.00 token being up for grabs). Much chewing of the fat and a little (check youtube) Inch dumbbell fooling around took place before it was back in the Hummer and home to the palatial mansion (oh yes ha ha) for the after-after party. The same crowd as before (Zach, etc) as well as, Ryan and Michelle and several young (too young) Southern Bell girl friends of Rex's sister (all in bikini's... man oh man!) were in attendance. For some reason the beer and the hot tub seemed to get those who'd been lifting's first attention easing the kinks out of our muscles. We may have also made something of the poll table room, several beers, some Jim Bean and some Sake shooters if memory serves me as we also chewed the fat and some pizza until about 1.30am.
A nice easy start and something of a lay in on the Sunday before those with a little ways to go started drifting off home with me joining them for my 4.35pm booking in time. I'd enjoyed my stay, winnings and esp the Hubbard families hospitality like never before. But for now the bed and seeing my cat back home was the focus of my attention and it was a case of head down, eyes pinned back open and please got no crying children on the plane (no such luck). I'm prety sure the return door to door, against the clock as it was, was on par with my 30 hour outward bound between sleep trip. It certainly felt like it.
I can take so much away from the trip. In competition a new PR on the axle and, so I am told, the best ever gripper close (hardest 4). I also enjoyed chewing the cud with the boys and have hopefully given a few a nudge towards some more progress with the US Hand Strength Association. But most of all was how well I was treated by everyone in the Hubbard household and I cannot thank them enough.