Derek Poundstone's Americas Strongest Man 2007
written by Derek Poundstone
I was weighing in at 313.5 lbs on Thursday. My bodyfat was registering in at 8% as this was the best shape I had ever been in. I was ready for war!! I flew out to North Carolina on Thursday and who is the first guy I met up with at the airport but my arch nemesis Travis Ortmayer. He was looking larger than ever and even bigger then when I trained with him a few weeks back while down in Texas. He was hovering around 306 - 308 lbs and much leaner then Ortmayer v. 2006!! We also met up with Van before heading to the hotel. Van was looking very conditioned and might I say tanner then ever!! I could tell, this was gonna be a dog fight and I had only met with two other competitors!!
Once at the hotel, I saw a few familiar faces, Wanat and Konradt, with some other thick looking dude I later learned was Brugal!! I could tell everyone was looking bigger and stronger then ever. That’s one thing I’ve learned about these bigger pro contests, everyone comes in dialed in and ready to go!! I also met up with Best and his son Dylan as I checked in and immediately began trying to find a place to eat!! I know for sure that all the restaurants around the hotel had an noticeable increase in service just from 16 of the top American Strongmen, these guys can eat, trust me!!
After saying my hello’s and getting an abundant amount of food in me I called it a night. Usually I have a hard time sleeping the day before a contest but I worked Thursday morning until 4:30 a.m. and had to get up at 10 a.m. to head to the airport so I was pretty exhausted. I was able to force myself up at 6:30 the next morning to take advantage of the continental breakfast including the reconstituted scrambled eggs, yum my favorite!! At 10 I had round two of the fantastic continental breakfast, I wanted to make sure to get my monies worth, as I met up with more of the competitors including MacDonald, Dunn and the very tall and large Shaw!! Dione met up with us competitors at 11 am as we went over the rules which were all standard. It was here that I learned that the log was not the IFSA log and as such the world record 10 reps in 75 seconds could not be broken! This was significant to me as I had hit 11 and 12 reps in training with the 280 log in the weeks leading up to the contest and wanted that record!! Damn!!
At 2 p.m. all the athletes piled into a van with a capacity for 24 “normal” people!! Imagine, if you will, sitting next to someone like Big Tom McClure or Brian Shaw! Athletes such as this take up 2 seats. Guys were fighting to sit next to Chad Coy who was in great shape at around 260 lbs!! A lot of guys laps were used as seats for their girl friends. This brings up another good point. Why is it that all these big 300+ lb guys have this tiny 110 lb girlfriends! I am guilty of this also but what’s the deal??
Upon arrival at the contest site we got a few hours to acclimate to the heat and hang out. I, and several other guys, used this time to practice with the blocks. I had only tried to press a block once at 2006 Nationals and had not attempted anything like this in a while. Van gave me a few pointers on the previous day but I was definitely getting a bit nervous watching Nick Best nail the first block while warming up. I had a hard time the first two attempts just getting this thing up to my chest!! I studied block presses from past IFSA events on YouTube and had the technique down in my head, now I had to actually put it to use. Big Tom and I fooled around with the blocks a bit as I mastered the form. After coaching Tom through the technique he was making the 275 block look easy. I had no doubt after watching his display of strength with the 275 lb block that he would nail the 315!!
The competition started at around 5 pm with a decent crowd. John Anderson came down to MC the contest with Mike Johnston due to his nagging knee injury!
250, 275 and 315 lb Block Press
I drew a 13th placing at the rules meeting and had the advantage of going 3rd to last. Before my turn Tom McClure, Pete Konradt and Matt Wanat had a fast time through the first two blocks at 23.36, 23.99 and 22.61 seconds. All three tried and missed the 3rd block as Tom fell outta form and Wanat just missed the press. I knew I NEEDED a cushion going into the Deadlift as I was unsure of how my back would hold out! I nailed the first two blocks in 16.44 seconds. This was the time to beat thus far but Travis was still up to go. Travis dropped the first block before he locked it out and lost precious seconds. He didn’t have time to get the second block up. I won this event with Wanat in second and McClure in third. Defending Champ Steve McDonald was in 9th with 2 block pressed in 57.34 seconds.
705 Deadlift for reps
I went last on this event due to the win in the block press which is exactly were I wanted to be. As the first competitor, Benderoth, began the lift I was very surprised to see him not able to pull the apparatus from the ground. Benderoth is a 800+ lb puller!! Next up was Best who hit 3 reps. Best is also a 800+ lb puller. Travis was up after Nick as he gave a huge pull and went no where. Travis stepped off the platform and grabbed him back. I knew this was trouble. Travis tried to walk it off but it was no use. I could tell he was in pain and deadlifting was outta the question. Travis limped back to the competitors area and laid on the ground in pain. I hatted to see a great competitor get injured. Travis and I had bantered back and forth over the past several months pushing each other as we got ready for the contest. I was so looking forward to the battle! Travis looked to be done for now and after getting worked on by the massage therapist. He was still in pain and dropped out before the next event!! The next three competitors also zeroed as I started to think the weight was a bit heavier then 705. Steve was up and managed to grind out 2 reps. Now I knew this was a heavy Deadlift. I was warming up with Shaw earlier and told him to forgo the Deadlift Suit because I thought it would hinder his breathing as I imagined most guys would pull around 5 reps which would make breathing an issue with the suite. After watching Steve, who has pulled 705 for 7 in the past, struggle with the weight I found Shaw and told him he might want to suit up! Shaw did and pulled 2 impressive reps. His range of motion for the Deadlift must be 4 feet. Big Tom McClure nailed 3 easy reps after Shaw and stopped. He was very fearful of injuring his back as he did in training just a few short weeks ago. As usual it was a feat of brute strength put on by Big Tom. As I went up, Van was the guy to beat with 5 rep. The echoes of fellow competitors that the weight was closer to 800 lbs was ringing in my ears. I strapped up and pulled the first three reps with ease. My back feeling strong. I hitched a bit on the fourth and fifth rep. I took a knee after hitting five and was about to attempt a 6th rep for the event win as I thought about my previous back injury. It wasn’t worth the half point to me! By pulling one more rep I would’ve dropped Van half a point and gained only half a point. Risking re-injury was not worth it! Plus I don’t know if I could’ve gotten the 6th rep! I tied for first place on this event with Van, Nick Best and Tom McClure tying for 3rd! I cant really tell how much the deadlif was beacause the bar was very stiff and did not bend at all! Perhapse 720 - 750 lbs. In training I was getting 5 reps raw and also with the suit. I figured I'd be able to get 6 and maybe 7 reps in the competition so it might have been a bit more then 705 but its hard to judge! It was me in First with Tom in Second overall going into the Yoke/Sled Drag.
830 lb Yoke/800 lb Sled
Again I was last. Everyone finished this event with Tom and Nick posting the best times before mine and Vans Turn. Tom had the course in 29.55 and Nick in 26.15. Nick looked fast and I wanted to beat his time. Van and I went head to head as we set up. The whistle blew and I could see outta the corner of my eye that Van was going at my same pace. Van was way faster on the Yoke then in previous years!! I finished a hair ahead of Van and quickly grabbed the sled. As I pulled the sled I didn’t look over at Van. I was slower on the Yoke then Nick but I felt faster on the sled. As I crossed the line I knew it was close. Van was seconds behind me! I looked at the judges watch, 26.54, damn, Nick got me by .39's of a second!!!! Van’s time was 28.55, good for 3rd!!
Stones with a twist
The last event for day two was Stones. Dione thought it would be great to spread the boxes out by 35 feet or so to make it more challenging. The first few guys went up and were struggling to lap the 300 lb stone! This was not good and probably due to the heat and greasy tacky on the stones!! I went up second to last due to the second place finish in the Yoke/ Sled Drag. By the time my turn came up only Steve McDonald had competed the course. Steve hit all five stones in 56 seconds. The rest of the competitors only managed the first three stones with the exception of Shaw who got four stones in 48.89 seconds. As Tom went I knew he’d get all five stones but he is usually a bit slower and methodical in his loading. As his run began he bent over for the first stone and quickly stood up. HE WAS CRAMPING!! I watched as Tom tried over and over to grab the first stone each time he stood up in pain as hie stomach twitched!! Tom could not get one stone and was in pain as he walked back to the competitors area!! This is not like Tom as he easily one-motions a 380 lb stone in training!! It was now my turn. I was up and had no problem with all the stones. I got all five in 46.5 seconds. I had to thank Travis a bit for this run as I got a chance to load his 460 lb stone in the blistering Texas heat a few weeks back, this definitely helped my confidence going into this event. As Nick started his run he was looking fast as always!! By the time he got to the fifth stone I knew it was close! Nick quickly lapped the 415 lb stone but struggled to load it. He tried again and dropped the stone. Nick ended with 4 stones in 32.11 seconds as Shaw got 3rd. The Stones were definitely a crowd pleasure as it swelled during this portion of the competition!!! The crowd thus far was almost as good as the St. Pats festival in South Carolina a few months back as it looked as thought several hundred fans had stopped to watch the contest!!
I was feeling pretty good as we got back to the hotel that night. I had a 16 point lead at this point with 62.5 points. Van Hatfield was in second with 46.5 points and Brian Shaw and Nick Best tied for third with 45.5 points. Steve Mac ended day one in fourth with 43.5 points. Fifth place was Tom McClure with 40.5 points.
Car Hold for time
The day kicked off with the car deadlift and hold for time. The car was a New Beetle that we were to deadlift and hold for time with a side handle apparatus. The hold was estimated at 600 - 700 lbs. Before my turn most of the competitors were in the high 20's and low 30's. The time to beat was set by Nick Best at 53.78 seconds. Steve Mac was currently in second with 49.28 seconds. Third at this point was Brian Shaw with 43.56 seconds with Van in fourth with 37.5 seconds. I went up and started the hold. I cruised past 35 seconds and wanted to break the dreaded 1 minute barrier. My grip was starting to go fast at 45 seconds as I made it to 47.33 seconds. This was my worst placing so far at third! Grip is usually a great event for my but Steve and Nick had more in the tank then me!!
This was the event I was most looking forward to. OHP has been my weak point for years but I had made it my mission to improve upon since last year. I had made some great improvements leading up to the St. Pats Contest but changed my entire press approach for the 280 lb log for reps. I became more explosive from the lap and my conditioning would shine in this event. The number to beat before my turn was 10 set by the great presser Van Hatfield. At this point Tom, Brad Dunn and Brugal were tied at 9 each. I went up with Shaw who got three reps. I nailed the first 10 reps in 40 seconds and managed 13 reps total before the 75 second time limit. I made sure to hold the 13th rep up for several seconds as I yelled to the crowd. Nick and Steve were up after me as Nick hit 4 and Steve hit 7 reps. I got first with 13 reps, Van second with his 10 reps and there was a three way tie for third between Dunn, Brugal and Tom.
200, 250 and 300 lb Engine Block Load
The third event on day two was the engine block load. Three engine blocks were spaced 35+ feet from a wooden spindle. The engine blocks had to be picked from the ground and loaded to the spindle in the lightest to heaviest order. Everyone was easily finishing this event as foot speed was the name of this event. The engine blocks were very awkward to carry and a bit difficulty to get a good grip on to lift from the ground. Of course the time to beat was set by Nick Best at 24.5 seconds until Eric Hammer came out and nailed the course in 24.44 seconds!! Third was Nick Brugal with 25.56 seconds. As my turn came around I studied the engines very closely as the pick from the ground was killing most guys time. I figured out my hold on each engine as I set up to begin. As the whistle blew I flew through this event. The last engine was a bit awkward but I felt fast on the pick and the transition. I got a time of 21.66 on this event, again first. After this event, I began to walk back to the competitors area as I realized that I had just won the competition. I was now in the lead buy well over 20 points. I ran back out and jumped on top of the spool to celebrate!! I was now America’s Strongest Man!!! What a feeling and to think I was bed ridden 6 months 3 weeks and 5 days ago uncertain that I would ever be able to train again!!
The last event of the day was a killer medley! It was a 355 lb farmers for 50' followed by a Hummer H2 push for 50' and finally a 600 lb large boat anchor chain drag for 50! This sick event must have been dreamnt up by Mike or Dione, sicko’s!!! Because of the odd number of competitors and the fact hat I was ahead by some many points, instead of the first guy going alone, I was to go last by myself so the other guys could all have a head to head race. Before my turn only half the field completed the course with Nick Best setting the time to beat at 58.22 seconds. I pined my Police Badge to my shirt for this run as there were dozens of on duty Officers in the crowd watching the contest. When my run began I was feeling very fast on the farmers and truck push. Before getting to the chain I knew I had the fastest time. I pulled the chain the 50' with ease and finished in a time of 46.35 seconds. This was a true gasser but again I had spent countless hours working on conditioning just for events such as this!! This is how I wanted to end the show, I needed to finish for myself. Now I’m ready. This year no asinine DL’s before Worlds!! I want to show the European what American Strongman is all about.
Al the competitors were great and Nick Best showed great improvement upon last year. Brian Shaw looked very good this weekend and definilty is a viable contender in the future!! I was very impressed with my training partner Tom McClure. He came back on Day 2 to try and make up the points he lost on zeroing the stones! He manged to go from 7th up to 5th and qualified for worlds. To guys form the Connecticut Crew going to IFSA Worlds!! Nick Brugal also had a great showing for his first pro contest and I expect a lot of things from him in the future.
Top 6 placings are as follows;
Americas Strongest Man - me with 124.5 points
2nd - Nick Best with 94.5 points
3rd - Van Hatfield with 92.5 points
4th - Steve MacDonald with 90 points
5th - Tom McClure with 83.5 (winning the tie breaker)
6th - Brian Shaw with 83.5 points