Holy Shit Balls, Batman! Arnold Finals

You can read about my adventures on Day 1 HERE.

I was definitely not mentally prepared for this. Physically, Jon has me prepared for just about anything. They could have said last minute that we were going to have a third event of a mile run, and I’d even survive that.

But mentally, I came to Ohio thinking that I’d only need to rally for Friday, then I’d have the rest of the weekend as a vacation to kick back with ManFriend, Dad, and Brother. Which is exactly what I did on Saturday. We roam the Expo hall, I have a tactical meeting with my coach at the MHP booth, I watch some weightlifting. I eat everything in site.

But Sunday, I was a ball of frayed nerves like nothing before.

Mirror selfies are hard.

The finals weren’t slated to start until 1:30pm on the main stage. So I had a good half day to hang out in the hotel room and freak the fuck out. I didn’t want to eat a full lunch right before lifting a ton of weight, so I go to a convenience store and buy $25 of protein meal replacement and energy bars.

By the end of the whole ordeal, I had two bites of one bar. Most of them are still in my backpack right now.

I get to the venue about an hour ahead of time. It’s a little nicer this time since there are fewer athletes vying for space. There are tables and waters in the back for us to use. So I set up shop, scope out where the bathroom is (nervous bladder!) and start doing basic warm up and mobility work.

The bench press finals on the stage before us went over time, so they had us up and going really fast when we were on. The first event was a “last man standing” rising weight log clean and press, with middle weight women starting at 140 lbs with set 15-20 lbs jumps.

140 goes up east. 155 goes up easy. 175 goes up easy. 195 gives me a little hiccup as I have to press it out and step under the jerk a little, but overall an easy overhead make.

195lbs log press. These logs were pretty!

But then the log jumps to 215. A middleweight women’s world record. I have a shot at the fucking world record. Okay. Why the hell not? I’ve never even cleaned that much, let alone tried to get it overhead. (On a barbell, sure, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.) My first clean attempt was a travesty. I was nervous and didn’t get my hips under the log very well and it slid down my stomach instead of popping and rolling up.

So I ask my judge to give me a 20 second warning. (We get 60 seconds to make the lift, and we can try as many times as we want in that 60 seconds.) When I get that 20 second call, I set myself lower in the lap position and fling that log up on my chest hard. It flies up and knocks me back. Now I have 215 lbs on my chest, I’m leaning way too far back, and I’m very off balance. So I do a little courtesy curtsy dip, and drop it back down to the mats. At this point, having cleaned it twice, there is no way I’d have the energy to make a PR lift like that. So shake my head, wave to everyone, and walk off.

Alanna Casey, of course, makes short work of the record lift.

So at this point I’ve taken second in the log lift and that boosted me from fourth to third. While Alanna is at 19 points overall, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th are all at 13.XX. So I’m third by tenths of a point. While Alanna could just NOT do the power stairs, zero on it and still win, the placings for the rest of us all come down to the power stairs. And I’ve never done power stairs before.

What are power stairs?

The duck walk/ power stair implement.

I was to “hop” these two cylinder implements up a series of stairs. Once this first one is at the top, standing upright, no over hang, I turn around and start on the second implement. Each athlete get a time and are ranked by the speed they finish. If an athlete can’t finish in the 60 sec time cap, they get a split time on what they could accomplish.

Thank god for my coach.

He takes a break from his “booth babe” duties at the MHP stand to come over and talk me through the power stairs. He must have taken a longer “bathroom break” than they would have been happy with because we started rummaging around behind the loading dock to find the power stair implements. He does a demo and explanation of two ways to do the stairs onto the loading palate, then had me replicate what he did.

Strongmen are disgusting.

After that, he had to run off to catch his flight. MHP had booked his flight out at 5:30pm, so there just wasn’t a way for him to stick around through the end of the whole ordeal.

He could tell how nervous I was. “Remember, even if this all goes south, the worst you can do at this point is fourth at The Arnold. And that’s great!” That’s true. Do my best, put on a show for the audience, and it’ll be fine.

The order went based on how we did on the log lift. That means I got to watch the two other girls go first, and I had to go head to head with Alanna Casey, the inevitable third time Arnold champ. And it looked like Sylwia, the girl from Sweden, just bolted up those stairs! But hell, what do I have to lose?

Getting ready for something entirely new…

You can see in the video, the first climb up the stairs gave me a little trouble as I got the hang of the thing. The rhythm and motion was foreign enough to me that I had a hiccup on one of the steps. The second one everything clicked and I was actually able to accelerate during the climb. You can just barely see Alanna and I head to head at the turn around, and then I practically double my speed going into the second climb.

So, to my surprise, I had gotten to the top faster than Alanna. But they wouldn’t tell me how my time compared to Sylwia. So at that point, I knew I was either 2nd or 3rd. Ha. I mean, I barely qualified for The Arnold. I flew in just not wanting to be last.

I go out, find my ManFriend, Dad, and Brother, mostly to tell them I know nothing. Robert Oberst was nice enough to come over and tell me how good I did. I took the down time before awards to take pics with the other middle weight women and some of the heavy weight women.

Some of the other awesome women at this competition.

When it came time for awards, I still didn’t know if I was second or third. So when they announce, “And in third place, from Sweden….” I just about teared up. Key word being “about” because I wasn’t going to walk out there crying happy about second place. I don’t think the audience would really get that. (I’m a dancer by training, I’m a performer, goddammit!)

At the awards ceremony.


Holy fuck balls.

How the hell does that even happen?

I’ll fucking tell you how it happens.

I listened to my goddamn coach.

Even when I told him after the farmer handles that “I’m so middle of the pack, there just isn’t a way I’ll be going to finals,” he just smiled at me and said “This is what we’ve been training for. You can do this better than any of these other girls.”

Even when I said, “I’ve never done power stairs, I’m still just shocked that I’m going on that stage!” he said “Listen to me, you can pull for days and you’re better conditioned than anyone here. Let’s go over this again.”

I am so extremely lucky to have someone in my corner who is not only super experienced in the sport, but has a unique approach to training and preparation, who had experimented with protocols rather than following an easy status quo, and is more than willing to pass that knowledge on to me. The training leaves me battered and literally bruised and bloody at times.

But you don’t go out and find a coach to tell him or her “no.”

2nd place medal and final score sheet.