We did it! Strongman Corp Masters Nationals 2018 is complete!

Whew! I’m a couple of days behind my updates- Day 1 recap was easy to write because I was still high from competition energy, but Day 2 recap is taking a while. There is so much to process: So many emotions, so much happening in my body, and so much in my psychic life. More on all that will come in a later post.

Day 2 started with Rage Butterfly and I going head-to-head on Farmer’s Carry. 160# in each hand for 60 feet for time. The announcer made a point to say that we were carrying, in each hand, more than we actually weigh. Pretty cool.

I’m not sure my time on that carry, but it felt good, and I felt like I could go for much longer than 60′. Prior to the event, I was concerned about my grip, but those 4×8 deadlifts with 80′ carry at 135# in training really helped me get a sense for the pick off the ground and how to hold on even when my arms are beat to shit. Video of the event coming soon!

The second event of Day 2 was stone over bar. We used a “Stone of Steel” aka “Bartos Stone” which is made of metal rather than the traditional concrete. Metal is much more slippery than the concrete, and some athletes couldn’t get much of a grip on the stone even though they were strong enough to do the lift if only they could have picked it up! I’d only ever practiced with a concrete stone, and just two weeks prior even figured out how to get the stone over the bar without actually using the bar as leverage- something we were not allowed to do. Having only ever lifted the 130# stone once, to get two in 60 seconds was a huge record for me. I finally feel like my body KNOWS how to do stone over bar now. It’s all in the extension. I’m pretty thrilled about that success!

Though I didn’t win a trip to the Arnolds, I’m stoked that my training partner Rage Butterfly fought her ass off for a well-deserved win at this competition. She has come a long way in her training, and her fierce determination and competitive energy is something inspiring to witness. I couldn’t have asked for a better competitor. She pushed me hard and makes me want to do so much more! I’m coming for you, RB!! (Also, let’s plan our post- event rosé party, call me.)

I’ve got so much to say about how inspired and motivated I am after this event to do all the things I’ve ever been scared of. I faced some of my most intense anxiety and fears this weekend and was rewarded by wonderful people, great fun, and I proved to myself that when I put in the work, dedication, and focus, I can do great things.

NONE of this would have been possible without some very important people in my life. My partner and the love of my life- you have patiently supported me through all of this, even when the impact on you and our life together has been intense. Thank you for being there for me always- I could not have found the courage to pursue this adventure without your encouragement, patience, and enthusiasm. My brother- you drove all the way out to Vegas to cheer me on, and brought so much love with you. Thanks for being my best friend and my sibling! How lucky are we! My coach- Your programming, encouragement, and advice has helped me fight through my own demons and come out the other side with a personal victory that I have always known I’ve wanted but only now have been able to conceive of. My analyst- you’ll never read this, but without you I don’t even know if I’d be alive right now, let alone not destroying myself bit by bit, wasting my energy and untapped abundance. And all my friends and family who are tired as fuck of listening to me whine about how heavy things are or how hungry I am or how busy I feel or bla bla bla. I have learned something about what I really have inside me and I’m aiming to make better choices about how I embrace my power and privilege, and how I share love and connection with people.

And finally, RAGE BUTTERFLY you are the best training partner I could ask for! I’m looking forward to many more adventures in strength together.

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Day 1 Recap!

Rage Butterfly and I successfully completed day one of our two-day Masters competition. The strongest Masters in the country, the announcer reminded us!

Our first event was Axle clean and press at 112#. RB got two points and I came away with a big fat zero. My cleans looked and felt great, better than in training, but my abdominal bracing and overhead strength were not on point at the critical moment.

The next event was yoke, which is by far my favorite. 350# for a 60′ carry for time. I don’t know my score but it was pretty fast for me! I’ve got a video to upload later but for now here’s a couple of pictures of us waiting to begin.

The final event was axle deadlift. I’ve never lifted more than 265# on the axle at the gym, so the 300# would definitely have been a huge PR for me. Alas, it inched up to mid-shin and didn’t budge. I think I was too far forward! Something to aim for in training, I’m so damn close. RB got 3 reps in the 60s time span. Here’s a picture of me warming up:

Hey though… now that I think about it. This warmup was 280#. So… PR FOR MEEE!!!! 🎉

All in all it was a fun and exciting day. The expo where we’re competing is massive- as are the people in it! I’ve never felt so tiny in my life. I guess this is actually a Mr Olympia expo??? My brother got a great picture of some person huffing a brightly colored liquid that gives you special powers or something. And we saw lots of well-oiled and spray tanned bodies. Body modification through weightlifting, supplements (legal or not) and diet is such a complex and varied culture. We were exposed to so many different ways of being in one’s body here! Some people are super strong and some are precisely sculpted. I definitely feel like I want more tattoos after today. But probably not new boobs. I’m ok with what I’ve got in that department for now.

I’m definitely feeling hungry for that 300 deadlift….. and I’m so close to that 112 axle!!!!

Stay tuned for Day 2 tomorrow…! Farmer’s carry and Stone of Steel…

Weigh in complete! Next phase: food and hydration

Rage Butterfly and I weighed in this morning well within our weight class and we are RAMPING UP with pedialyte and allll the carbbbs we could get our hands on. I have decimated a bag of cheese flavored corn chips and a box of gluten free oreos, along with a gallon of pedialyte.

I’ve gone from miserable to reclaiming my mind and body. I’m so relieved to feel the effects of FOOD. BEAUTIFUL FOOD. I hope it all catches up with me in time to power me for tomorrow’s Titanic events!

This is RB and TB waiting to hit the scale. This is what miserable looks like. We are beyond the point of caring and that’s probably why we’re so pleasant looking. It takes energy to express anything other than blah vanilla plain. We didn’t have much of that. Now that we’re eating well again, we’re ready to harness the RAGE! Activists take note, we must fuel the revolution with food and water!

Ten days out…

I’m popping in here, ten days from contest, to give you a little run-down of what’s been happening during my looooonnggg radio silence.

Q: Why haven’t you been blogging, Tenacious Bee?

A: Well, to be quite honest, since I’ve been on a weight cut my mind has been preoccupied with survivin’. And because all I would be writing about is my diet. Which would be a waste of internet space as well as brain molecules for you, dear reader. Diets are fucked and they are a way to control the masses and increase capitalist production while decreasing self-worth.

Q: Well what else has been going on??

A: Well I’ll tell you!

I’ve been making an effort to let training fold itself into the background of my life. I’m consistent, I show up and put in the work that my program demands, and then I leave for the day and allow it to be what it is. My lifting is a part of who I am, but it’s not my totality. This being my first real competitive Strongman contest, I am going to play a lot of it by ear and by feel. And at this point, I’m about as strong as I’m going to be by September 14.

Instead of allowing myself to be preoccupied with the upcoming event, I’ve been committing to focus on the here and now. I’ve been reveling in my amazing garden that’s bursting at the seams with tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, peppers, raspberries, carrots, onions, shallot, and zucchini. At least three times a week I make a beautiful salad entirely out of garden delights! My favorite is a tomato, shallot, cucumber, basil, mint salad with a squeeze of lime and hefty dose of salt. It’s fresh and crispy and a delight when paired with baked chicken legs that have been marinating in my favorite spices.

Now that it’s September, we’re planning our fall garden and all the anticipation that accompany new ideas and possibilities. On a recent trip to the North Bay, my sweetie and I picked up a bunch of seeds which we’ll put in our seed starter this week. I’m most excited about the giant white kohlrabi and the watermelon radishes we will be inviting into our garden, but I’m also stoked about the various cabbages and beans we’re about to let nature work its magic on.

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Something’s emerging…. potential! Possibility! Hope… Determination… germination 😉

I’ve also managed to work on several papers and presentations in my field of psychology, which is no small thing to be sure. I’ve even read a book- I read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. (Powerful- highly recommended.) And finally, I cleaned out two rooms in my house that I left abandoned and neglected for years. Finally these rooms have purpose, light, and fresh air rather than a shitload of cardboard boxes, old paperwork, mold, and A DEAD FUCKING RAT!!! THAT’S RIGHT I FOUND A DEAD FUCKING RAT that apparently my cat dragged in there probably a few months ago? and left there to decay and rot. No wonder we had a fly problem this year, uuggghhh!!! YUCK.

So, yeah, all this is to say- there is life outside of lifting, but I’m still really happy to be on this adventure. I won’t be sad when it’s over and burgers and booze are back in the picture, but damn if I’m not so grateful for the chance to learn what’s really important to me. Stay tuned for more on that….

4 weeks out!

Lots of people have been asking me what I think about the contest, now that it’s so close.

My response: “I’m trying not to.”

That’s not entirely true- I am definitely thinking about the contest each time I practice one of the movements in training. I think, What is the 105# log feeling like? Heavy? Manageable? What will 120# feel like? Can I push myself more with this farmer’s carry? Will 160# per hand feel do-able with all the stress of the event upon me? How’s my bracing and breathing under this yoke?

Mostly, my focus right now is cutting weight. I’ve never had to do this for a lifting event before, so it’s all new. There are definitely a bunch of ways to drop pounds, but none of them are particularly wonderful-feeling, especially not while lifting heavy shit and holding down a full-time job and other commitments. At this point, I’m really just trying to go day by day, hour by hour, and that means I’m slowing down a lot of the non-necessities (like this bloggo, sorry y’all) and trying to maximize my chill time.

If I learn anything from this experience of cutting weight, I hope it’s how to maximize my chill time!!

I am getting excited about Vegas, though. I’ve never been, but there’s a restaurant that beloved Anthony Bourdain visited that looks amazing and I’m hoping we all go after our weigh-ins.

In fact, I’m going to make a reservation now! Hashtag MOTIVATION

https://lotusofsiamlv.com/

It’s another thing to look forward to that has nothing to do with how much weight I cut or lift. I need these little markers right now, to help lessen the tension of preparation.

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(Not my diet, but add a pack of Virginia Slims and I’m tempted…)

“What is this fresh hell?” – Guest post!

Today’s post comes to you from my training partner Rage Butterfly. She and I both podiumed at California’s Strongest Woman (women…wimmin really) in April and are training to compete at Nationals this September. Here’s Rage Butterfly’s take on her training progress!

I just spent way too much time wading through the Internet freak show, keyword “women and bulging neck veins”.  I could care less about my own bellowing and Jim Carrey faces while working out, but the THING that popped out of my neck today while deadlifting was seriously alarming.  You know that ropey kind of vein that looks something like this?

Well, actually, mine doesn’t vibe like that at all, just in shape only.  I wish this new vein was quietly confident, patient, profoundly forceful.

Ah, nope. This vein is thinly-veiled agitation, testing the boundary of my fragile sun-damaged neck skin.   I could see it bulging out in the mirror from across the gym.  The meandering form is so beautiful in a river, yet surely portends imminent death in a human neck, yes?

”Don’t  hold your breath, your veins will pop.”

“Don’t hurt yourself.”

“You don’t really need to be that strong, why push it?”

I picked up a barbell for the first time about three years ago, and really, lifting has only taken off in the last year for me.  With zero background in strength sports and a fairly cautious, phlegmatic nature, I am in a constant state of alarm over the trauma and odd adaptations that happen to bodies that regularly pick up very heavy, awkward objects.  So, I exercised due diligence and waded through enough information online to mollify my concern that I would exsanguinate through my neck the next time I sneezed.   (You might think I tend toward the dramatic.  In fact, I am fairly stoic.  I’m simply highly susceptible to imagery, and what kept coming to mind was the Black Knight from Monty Python’s Holy Grail.  At least it made me laugh.)

Ah, but I digress.  Some of you may still be reading this in the desperate hope that you just might find out some useful information for your training.   Well, let’s see.   Ropey neck veins aparently have something to do with the musculature getting bigger and kind of pushing the veins out to the surface, and then if you don’t have much fat to cover the spectacle, you’ve got yourself a bulging neck vein!  Congratulations.  It apparently won’t kill you, and it generally goes back into its cave when you’re not playing so hard.

Perhaps this is more useful?   The last time I PR’d my deadlift I actually felt as quietly confident as that meandering river above.  For several months I had been putting down layer after layer of imagery, mentally rehearsing what I wanted to happen in those particular five seconds of competition at California’s Strongest Woman in April.   I had actively practiced being open to the possible magnitude of the lift.  When I stepped up to the bar, the lift had essentially already happened in my mind, hundreds of times.

I’ve been fishing about for a working image to get my head wrapped around Strongman Nationals this September.  So today’s little vascular drama has conveniently given me an opportunity to welcome in a new mental picture I can use in the coming months to build up my head game.

This river is a powerful meanderer.

May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.  -Ranier Maria Rilke

Watch Rage Butterfly kick ass at CSW 2018!

A gender discussion

I’ve always struggled with the gender divide in sports. As a person who sometimes identifies as a woman, and sometimes more on the masculine end of the spectrum, and mostly something else or in-between, but am cis-female passing, I struggle with gender binaries in general. But this kind of bullshit here reinforces my frustration with separating competitive sports by sex:

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notice the difference in winnings? *cough* BULLSHIT *cough*

I’ve heard the very accurate and important argument that prior to Title IX, there was no equity for women in competitive sports. (See the picture to the left to remind you that we still have a long way to go.) I totally get, and agree, that having a men’s and women’s division is actually really important in establishing equal access to competitive and recreational athletics. I totally support this. But the problems that gender flexible, transgender and non-binary athletes face in regards to how their gender is determined by competition organizers, and thus how and whether they can participate in competitive sports, bothers me.

A typical argument about why a transgender woman shouldn’t be allowed to compete with cisgender women goes like this: “Well she has a biological advantage because of her testosterone levels!” In fact, a trans woman who has undergone hormone therapy has about as much estrogen and testosterone as your “average” cis woman. And goodness knows each woman has a different hormone balance anyway regardless of her sex assignment at birth. (Check out this article by Washington Post with further links.)

But, I think what bothers me more is that there is a gender binary in these sports at all. It’s hard when every time I sign up for a competition I have to choose between genders, neither of which fit me. I get that women have a position in competitive sport because of the tremendous power and force from my ancestors like Billie Jean King, Althea Gibson, and Kathrine Switzer. These women fought for (cisgender) women to have increased access to sports traditionally populated by cisgender men. Just as we used to expect only men to participate in most sports, we have now come to expect a gender binary. So, yes, massive change has occurred; but we still have a long way to go before there is gender justice in sport.

This is where cisgender women (and cis-passing “women” like me who are comfortable-ish enough in our cis-passing bodies most of the time) have leverage. For decades we have had access to sports that have traditionally been reserved for cis men (though still with inequitable cash payouts in some sports). Cisgender women are in a powerful position to advocate for inclusivity when it comes to our trans siblings. It’s up to us to continue to fight for inclusion and equity for all people wishing to compete in this sport.

And, to speak to the picture above: When we are fighting solely against the patriarchy and the misogyny of the oppressor, we limit our fight. We also have to fight for something, for inclusivity, and we can do this by remembering our wins and that we have a lot of wins left to make for true equity in sport. We can do this by continuing to fight for cisgender women making the same amount of money cisgender men make in our athletic (and other) careers, AND use our platforms to leverage those of us who are not making anything at all, because the folks who can’t fit into someone else’s idea of the gender binary are not allowed to compete.

Culture and community can provide safety, structure, shared experience, and connection. But many cultures, including cultures of sport, can become exclusive and insular. With the emergence of CrossFit (which is a notoriously white space on the elite level), some women are increasingly likely to feel socially permitted to be strong, muscular, and physically powerful. But in addition to being a primarily white sport, CrossFit is also a heavily gender-binary sport, and historically has not allowed out trans athletes to compete on the elite level.

I hope we can bust through the binary in strength sports by being thoughtful about our positions and privileges when it comes to gender, and advocate for folks who are still trying to get access to competition space.

I’m super interested in hearing from trans and non-binary athletes to hear your experiences in sport, and your thoughts about what I’m saying here and what I can do better to improve access to sporting spaces and eliminate bias and divide. Feel free to email me privately through my contact page.