Nationals Write Up – Pulp Fiction
Keeping it simple, Stupid.
The K.I.S.S. Principals were taught to me by a steel jawed and buzzed haired militant college baseball coach as he yelled obscenities at our Little League McKean County all star baseball team 17 short years ago. Coach Sudbrook guided our collection of prepubescent ball players through the regional finals with as much ferocity and neck vein popping discipline to make Bear Bryant proud.
As the coach was accustomed to berating drunken college baseball athletes on scholarship at St. Bonaventure University for his day job he bestowed no less leniency in the heat of battle upon our junior squad of bright-eyed All Stars.
I remember being brought in to pitch the last inning of a game we were leading by 4 runs to close out our regional championship game. I was scared to death because what they didn’t know (and I knew very well) was that sure, I could throw hard but I had no real idea where the ball was going to once it left my chubby little spaghetti eating fingers.
Coming from a small team that had never really won anything other than the excitement that came from the post game ice cream cones, I was headed into a pressured packed situation for a young lad!
I promptly drew back as hard as I could and whizzed my first pitch into the side of the 1st batters’ face masked helmet.
Cringing inside a little as I stood silent, the umpire actually came out to shame me as he thought I was aiming at the poor kid.
Coach Sudbrook sprung immediately out of the dugout to defend me; his little Mitch Williams, and instantly the umpire tossed him out.
The rabid parents and fans where screaming murder at the coach, the umpire, me and anyone that would listen. The kid I nailed with my patented “Costa cross seamed fastball” was crying as his coaches huddled around him scowling at me over their shoulders. It was really my first “What the F*ck” moment of my life. Sure to be followed by many more.
As I stood confused and red faced at the epicenter of controversy the umpire and my intimidating coach were yelling at each other full throttle and I realized I was about to blow the biggest baseball game of the 1995 McKean All Star Season.
That was HEAVY Sh*t for a 12 year old to handle!
After a few parents came out and held back Coach Sudbrook, he relinquished actual proximity of the field as he went to sit on the hood of his car parked along the fence, as is tradition in much of Pennsylvania.
What Coach didn’t give up was actual coaching as he now was full bore yelling to me from his car parked 50 yards away to ignore the umpire and “To keep it simple! Don’t overthink your pitch count!”
I dutifully complied. Gathered my young composure, spit some sun flower seeds, adjusted my cup and proceeded to strike out two more batters before promptly being pulled for a much more confidant pitcher to cover up my terrible secret of inaccuracy. That young lad held us in to win the game to my relief and our team lived to fight on a few more rounds of that magic season.
The point of this story was, that Coach always preached the simplicity of baseball to our our tiny little video game obsessed minds and told us to stick to the fundamentals in time of doubt because they work.
When chaos surrounded our team and the time to perform was on hand, The Coach being on my side yelling to stay calm, to trust in your practice and keep it simple, still resonates with me to this day.
He always said, “Costa… You over complicate everything AND I’ve seen more range in my kitchen!!!.” (Referring to my belief pro baseball principals should be applied to little league and my inability to cover any ground at 3rd base)
It is this complication of the many confusing and disorienting principals of strength that I set out to eliminate from my nationals training as I prepped for the heaviest show I’ve yet to encounter.
I have had a few people come up to ask me what exactly DID I Change to get myself back into shape and moderately strong? I tell them the answer is pretty simple.
I eliminated the many complicated mathematical equations, percentages, thought processes, scenarios and relied on what I know worked!
Keeping it simple, I relied on the meat and potatoes of training, ate a clean diet, went to bed early and killed myself when I trained.
*If you want to inquire about these methods, Inquire at IRONMILLSRONG@GMAIL and come join our team of athletes that are seeing incredible response to our online or in person programming.
I felt it was a miracle in itself to even have been able to make it to Tunica, Mississippi and actually compete. When you break it down, for me, it came down to just a constant Never Give Up Attitude that drove me.
As dumb and as neatly boxed and trying to sell our brand as it sounds: it was just a mindset I had to adopt.
I was completely reinvigorated and it had nothing to do with the events, the competitors, definitely not the location or the stage but just the opportunity to overcome my injuries as fast as possible.
Honestly, It was almost a question to see if it was possible to comeback or if I was just talking sh*t to myself.
This Nationals was absolutely a make it or break it scenario for myself. Would I wilt away and become obscure as a competing strongman or make a John Travolta PULP FICTION style comeback?
John Travolta packed on pounds for his comeback so I decided in similar fashion to follow that successful blueprint.
I did for myself what I do for every one of my clients and laid out a stringent eating schedule filled with a healthy version of foods I liked and followed that plan to a T.
My clients probably get sick of me begging them to adhere to the standard we set for them only because it is that devotion to diet and training that will change their body.
You have to be willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone and that is something I finally, after many years had found again within myself.
I was dogged determined man.
We drove through the back end of Sandy through hurricane wind, blizzards in West Virginia and rain almost the entire 18-hour trip just to make sure we got there.
(Hindsight says that was completely stupid because the Hurricane didn’t touch our area so we actually put ourselves in more danger BUT: That is not what the forecast called for and we just wanted to make sure to get there)
This left Amanda and myself with an extra day to sit and relax in Tunica. We packed almost all of our food and thoroughly enjoyed laying in the hotel watching bad re runs of Judge Judy and eating subway as a great way to decompress before the show.
I’ve done two nationals before and two other platinum plus shows along with having done 2 international World Natural shows and the MHP Liberty Classic against the strongest guys on the planet the past 3 years.
I was NOT nervous. I WAS anxious. My body felt terrific. I tell my guys and gals when we write their de-load or pre contest week programming that you want to feel like a car revving it’s engine just waiting to nail the gas. Everything tuned up… gas tank filled… just nailing the pedal waiting to put it in gear.
That’s how I felt. Body Strong. Head strong. Prepared. First time I’ve had that in a while.
Axle Clean and Press – 310
These weren’t going so hot in practice. Plantar Flexion (Going up on your toes) was the last thing my feet were fighting me on in healing correclty. I hadn’t been able to press explosively the whole training cycle because of it. I did a lot of strict pressing and triceps lockout work to hopefully overcompensate for this lack of press power.
I was surprised everyone was hitting very high numbers early and knew I was going to need more than the 4 I was aiming to get.
Ended up feeling great in warmups…and each rep felt crazy light. Gutted out 5 to tie for second place. Felt Strong.
915 Yoke / 680 Frame
Too bad they put my two best events together. With these split up, I’d have been hard to beat!
I promised Barry Perkins I was going to win this event and I came so damned close to fulfilling that prophecy – .12 of a second! Everything felt light and it was over before I knew it. I was happy with the time. Chad Smith was just a beast on this event. Took 2nd place here.
400 lb. Husafelt Stone
Notoriously my worst event, I put a lot of time into this bastard event. It’s not fun to watch. Or fun to do. Or exciting… it just exists to F’n torture me and everyone else without long arms to lose points and watch our dreams fall before us because of a freakin’ carry event.
That being said I did 160 ft and really improved on this even keeping me near the top of the pack and not losing out on too many points. I was actually very pleased with this – 10th place.
390 Stone over the Bar
I Really have made a marked improvement in my stone lifting thanks to Spider Tack and The Spartan Sleeves. I will never go back to tape. We didn’t have much chance to train stones coming into the event as again the extension on my feet killed the bones that were still healing, so I substituted in a lot of front squatting and explosive hip movement. Really seemed to work but I was also a little rusty on these!
The 390 stone felt heavy directly off the bat and I thought maybe 2 or 3 reps was all I was going to get. I just kept working and got 4 which tied for 3rd or 4thplace overall. Not a bad showing for the first day and literally the best case scenario on all the events combined for myself.
With my worst event over I was sitting in 5th place out of 53 guys so I was O.K. with that.
I hadn’t made a mistake or left a rep on the table. NO stumbles or roadblocks. Only issue was how sore my hamstrings were! They were incredibly tender after the husafelt carry and stone.
Went back to the hotel…stretched, had Amanda roll me out for like an hour (god bless her soul), stretched some and went to bed very tired.
Now I’m not superstitious, but the first day went so well I kept everything almost exactly the same.
Same exact food, same spot to sit, same warm up routine. I was feeling good.
200lb. Circus Dbell
I had only hit this in practice 2 weeks before but I was crazy strong on them after not training this event for 3 months. Just really, really trusted all the auxiliary training I was doing to carry me through and it worked perfectly. Also, training the dumbbell always really hurts my shoulders so I try to avoid it as much as possible.
I was amped up. Sun was out. I was warm. I thought ,”Now I was going to make a move!”
The circus dumbbell was so damned light in practice I thought they mis-loaded it. Amanda and I looked at each other and got excited because we knew it was ON!!!
I was anxious to get to the dumbbell as I stood in line. Some decent numbers were being put up but I knew my body was responding exactly the way I wanted it to and I felt explosive as hell.
1st rep felt like a warmup. Instantly I got amped. I thought, “Now I can sink my teeth into this event and go for a win. “ The 2nd rep felt like cheating it was so easy.
The third rep I cleaned the dumbbell too hard and got off balance and immediately stepped into a divot. I felt like the world’s clock was ticking on me as I fumbled with the dumbbell on my shoulder and instead of waiting till it was in perfect position and re stabilized, I went for the press anyway.
Ugly. Missed it! Instantly I got pissed. “WTF!”
Went right for number 4 and the same bad positioning happened but I managed the ugly press even with being way out of my form by just angrily muscling up the 200 lb. beast.
I had the 5th rep perfectly racked but I could feel my shoulder screaming at me after the last two very awkward presses. I sort of babied the press and missed the 5th for a disappointing 3 reps.
If I could’ve kept gaining momentum with successful presses I know they sky was the limit here. I had made my first mistake for the show but since most of the field zeroed the event and everyone that was ahead of me except Chad did poorly on the dumbbell it actually catapulted me to 2nd place overall. Not a bad place to be in after 5 events.
Car Deadlift for Reps
By this time Chad had such a big lead I knew 2nd place was something to be proud of going into the Car Deadlift, which is one of my better events. I was excited to be that close to the top.
I told myself, “Now is the time to go for it.” A common theme for me on the day as everything was clicking.
Much like the Liberty Classic when the guys were throwing on their Deadlift Suits and armoring up for the event I sort of hung back and tried to rely on my training to ease the worry of my semi basic approach to car deadlifting.
Simply, I cannot breath in my suit so I always forgo it for the almost unconventional but definitely more comfortable set up of using just a belt and straps only. Hey… it just works for me.
In our lane out of 4, the first 7 or 8 guys failed to lift the car. I stayed positive but it starts to creep into your mind, “What if this damned thing doesn’t move?”
It’s actually kind of cool to have the thought you can’t move something because I feel the fear motivates me a little bit. It helps me keep my focus with an edge.
Brett Somerville was matched up with me and a couple other guys, I was amped because he is a beast on this event so I knew it would push me. The guy before me did the car for 4 reps so I knew it was at least moveable.
We strapped in, the crowd was yelling and my adrenaline was surging at the perfect time after a half hour of trying to keep it under control.
I was actually a little shocked at how heavy the car was. I picked it up but it was not as easy as I expected and knew instantly I was in for some brutal reps.
I Pulled 13 very hard reps and gassed out. By this time, your head’s dizzy, your hearts beating and the cars are still banging around you. Willy Wessels was screaming at me to keep going. I tried to get my breath and ended up picking up the car 2 more times and instantly sat gassed out again. I thought maybe I had 1 more rep but when I went to bend down for the final attempt I decided to forgo the chance of blacking out and called it good at that! I Ended with 15 reps while Brett hit his 16th rep just as time expired. Chad Wesley Smith hit 16 along with Ian Darr and Jacob Bodi did 18. Incredible.
The stage was set for the final Medley.
Chad had pretty much won the show at this point as long as he didn’t take last on the medley. I was .5 points behind second place and about 5 guys were all within a 1.5 point difference of each other.
Suicide Medley - Sandbag, Keg, Duck Walk, Sled
I felt if there was one event in this show I was going to win, it was this. I literally tortured myself training for this medley knowing it would be the difference.
I was matched up with Ian Darr and Steve Schmidt and I knew these guys were going to help push each other. My body was beat, but man I was excited for this. Really felt it was my time to shine after brutalizing my body in training getting ready for the drag portion of the event. I whole heartedly believed the drag was going to be the equalizer and I trained it accordingly.
Little did I know the duck walk was the most terrible portion of this medley. The one event I didn’t have an implement to train with!
Speed carries are my thing. I don’t believe anyone can beat me at them. After watching everyone struggle with the duck walk I decided to conserve a little energy for it.
Best laid plans of mice and men I guess? I got caught in the pattern of picking it up, swinging the implement and then dropping it after I initially exhausted myself completing half the course. It was the exact scenario my lower back and I feared most.
To me, it was beyond brutal getting stuck there. It took everything I had to finish the duck walk which was sooo disappointing because as soon as I got to the sled it was like a railroad switch went off. My glutes and hams turned off and fresh pair of quads activated and I was flying with the sled.
It was just a shame to slip a few hard earned places because of my own ineptitude at a tiny portion of the show. It was actually a really hard pill to swallow but alas… we will not be making that mistake again.
I felt good at the opportunity to compete 100% and I have to say I was stunned at how deep the field was. I thought it may be a slight drop off in talent but it is the exact opposite. The talent is actually thicker and flourishing in the amateur ranks which motivates the living shi*t out of me.
There are gonna be a few well needed weeks of rest before I start the Arnold Preparation but I cannot wait to see where my strength lays actually starting from this point and not the weak broken version of myself I started for Nationals training!
I want to give a big shout out to everyone that competed, all the LW’s, HW’s, Women. You guys survived and did a great job at the heaviest amateur show ever dreamt up!
Maya – Great Job! So proud
Kristin R. – Wow, almost unbeatable!
CWS – You’re a beast Man.
Colton – Beast in making. Kid is gonna surprise a bunch of people next year after were done with him!
Rob K. – So close. Keep Pushing man.
Kim and Jerry – Thank you for the support. Meant a lot!
Matt M – Way to fight through and keep competing all day. See you Dec. 1st.
Phist – Keep at it! Get your head out of it and keep it simple! Lot of good things to work on.
And of course Amanda, for doing all the little things that make you so special, wonderful, caring, aggravating and lovely. I look forward to helping you next year at nationals.