GOING FOR BROKE IN LAS VEGAS
By Melissa Edwards
I want to first start out by saying I am neither an accomplished writer nor one to “toot my own horn.” I tend to like to fly under the radar and spend most of my life trying to be inconspicuous, however being 5 foot 10 blonde with some muscle tends to be an exercise in futility.
2017 North American Strongman Championship was only my third Strongman Corporation competition. Being fairly new to the sport (started training in July 2016) I went into this event green, unassuming and hungry, with what little knowledge I had of Nationals coming from my coach Linden Reed and her experiences. I had no set plan of how to approach things; we had a few major goals in mind after my recent performances, 1. Have fun 2. Get more experience under my belt 3. GO FOR BROKE and leave everything in Las Vegas.
I suffered two strokes in 2012 and 2013, and as a result had to learn to walk and talk all over again, that coupled with being surrounded by such accomplished and experienced Heavy Weight Women; I felt that I needed to prove that I belonged at Nationals this year. I set high standards for myself and tend push myself and as you can imagine, riddled me with some anxiety and left me in an uncertain head space heading into the competition.
My coach Linden and I were both prepping Nationals. I give her all the credit because I know that trying to balance a full time career, a family, and training isn’t easy for me. I can’t imagine having to train and program for someone else in the process. Nevertheless, Wednesday night found us on a plane destined for Las Vegas.
Being a Heavy Weight competitor and being consistent in my diet meant I didn’t have to weight cut or water load but coming in from the East Coast, the time change, the cigarettes in the Casino, and the interrupted sleep patterns left me a little uneasy after weigh ins, but, me, my husband, and my friends/fellow competitors found a diner and I started to feel more like myself. Conversations over home fries and coffee have a tendency to fix everything; don’t know if that is a Jersey thing or not but it does for me. Later in the evening I was introduced to the volunteers, some I knew some I didn’t given my recent arrival into the federation. Despite some screaming and wrangling issues at the competitors meeting things went smoothly and I was pumped for the next day.
The ongoing theme for the rest of the weekend seemed to be “Hey, it’s Strongman, that’s what happens,” and my crash course in athletic adaptation started there and didn’t let up until the end of the competition.
LOG CLEAN AND PRESS
The athletes arrived for the first event on day one to the news that the log weights were adjusted, for my weight class that meant a 20 pound jump from 190 pounds to 210 pounds. A 190 pound log press is a feat in and of itself and these girls came prepared. From the rustling I heard, the jump was a tough break for some girls other girls beast-ed the event. During warm ups I felt the log and felt comfortable. During the event, I was able to clean the log 3 times and zeroed the press but it was a personal victory regardless. Despite my frustration being openly visible I kept at it until the buzzer sounded. My cleans looked great and powerful, the press just wasn’t there. It will be next time though!
PLOT TWIST #2 aka FRAME DEADLIFT
Due to my nervous system issues and other stroke related deficiencies deadlifts where often a difficult event. As a result, I have been known to dramatically rip off my belt, straps, wraps, and shoes and lift bear because I couldn’t feel the bar or the floor or brace myself correctly. I had to learn to listen to myself and my body and lift my way. So I was excited when they moved the event. I was even more excited when I realized my judge was Martins Licis. I blushed, nervous giggled, continued my mantra of going for broke and gave it all I had. 520 pounds moved well, in typical Melissa fashion I would have loved more but I finished with 8 reps which was a solid set and gave me some desperately needed points after I zeroed my first event.
I barely had the opportunity to get my belt off when the hum started about the flow of the Husafell Carry event, it was no longer on a keg, we pick from the floor, they should drop the weight etc… in the end weights stayed the same and we picked from bumper plates. The weight for the Heavy Weight Women was set to 275lbs, the only way I can describe this was 275 pounds of suck. I had never touched the hi-temp stone and never carried a Huss heavier than 225 pounds. This event is one of the more taxing on my system and has been a struggle in my prep, so I huffed some ammonia and went for broke. The stone went up easy and I was off. My mental plan was to cover as much ground as I could as quick as I could. I made a few good laps and felt the stone slipping, then it dropped. I had more in me and wanted more, the stone had other ideas, the world froze for a second. I saw my husband and I saw the red line and wanted to keep going but the stone was down. I stood next to Martins as those around me kept walking. My coach Linden let me have a moment and reminded me of the 50 pound PR and my friend Cara Brennan put it best, “Your body gave out before your mind did.” I couldn’t have thought of a better way to end my first day at nationals.
I had never competed in a two day event so we were unsure and curious as to how my body would react. With the help of some Arnica Gel, KT Tape, and a healthy dose of adrenaline I was ready and was excited for the events of the day. When we arrived we were told that there would be no farmer’s carry in the medley, just a yoke run. In typical Jersey fashion I just threw my hands up, whispered ‘Fuhgeddaboudit’ and went out and did my thing.
I think they had the event listed as a yoke walk but my coach said it was a run…so I ran. This event was a break away event for me both physically and mentally. It seemed have caused quite a stir too. I was able to move 500 pounds (another PR) down the lane in 8.44 seconds. It would not end up being the best time of the day but one of the better times. As mentioned previously I am not a big show boater and tend to like to fly under the radar but with that finish and the fight down the lane gave me back some of the fight I lost the day prior with the Huss Stone.
STONE OF STEEL OVER BAR
Nats was the first competition I had ever had a stone of steel event. I was lucky enough to have a gym to train where I got my hands on the stone 2 or 3 times prior. The reason I got into this sport is because I like to lift things up and put them down, so I approached this event like every other with direction and purpose and still on my high from my previous event and my pep talk with Jon Eccles and Paul Mousser.
The points where all over the place so I was unsure of where I was exactly in the standings, there may be no chance to catch some of the girls who got reps on the log but I just going to leave everything out on that floor. When the whistle went off I just went to town, trying to keep a steady and consistent pace. I still had more in the tank when I passed the number I had to beat for the #1 position. I don’t remember breathing or thinking anything other than getting that stone over the bar for another rep. Later, I heard that Jon Eccles referred to me as an “athlete possessed” and that was the truth. I just kept going until they called time, then it went black. I heard the buzzer and the next thing I remember is Sarge standing over me lifting me up by my belt and my husband next me. I left it all out on that platform and left with some letters from the stone on my hand, finished with 11 reps enough for a 2nd place finish in the event.
I left the room beaming. I had no idea how I really did and wouldn’t know until that evening but I knew when I went down the escalator that I belonged there. I looked at my husband, my coach, and my friends my heart bursting with pride. In that moment I didn’t care about placements, competition, trophies, or events. I knew that I stood next to some of the strongest women on earth and now I was one of them.
Sitting on the rooftop in the dark at the banquet and seeing my coach Linden Reed and my friends Katie Dundas and Cara Brennan all go up and accept their medal and invite to the Arnold was surreal. Then the Heavyweight announcements came, all I heard was “Jersey” and I knew it was my turn, my whole table erupted, and I was never been more proud to place 5th in my entire life. I was so excited for everyone who placed I couldn’t help but hug everyone as they came up. (sorry not sorry)
I went back to my table and sat in some quiet contemplation for a few minutes. I looked around and saw girls who fought hard and left with nothing more than experience. Those are the girls you need to watch out for because they are hungry and will do amazing things I am certain.
My first Nationals was an amazing experience. I still am numb. It is hard to believe that years ago I needed a walker and couldn’t eat solid food. I am so grateful to the entire Strongman community. They have given me an outlet to test my limits and to feel alive. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for us all.
I am a proud wife and mother from New Jersey. I work as a Human Resource Director in Manhattan, NY and am a two time stroke survivor. My husband is a competitive bodybuilder and a trainer, weightlifting and competition is a passion of ours. I got into Strongman in July of 2016 when my son turned 13 and I realized I had no hobbies. I emailed Steve Pulcinella of Iron Sport Gym in Glenolden, PA on July 20, 2016, because of his YouTube videos, he introduced me to Linden Reed and the rest is history.
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