Becoming the Strongest Woman I Can Be

By Sarah Schneider – July 1, 2013

A few days before a competition, I always get a butterfly.  The butterfly grows into two, then three, and, by competition day, it feels like I have a field of them in my stomach.  What drives me to compete, then? I’m not getting paid for it; in fact, I spend a ton of money to train and compete.  There’s no fanfare, no big TV deals, and only a modest amount of people even come to see a competition.

What causes me to compete is the drive I have to be the strongest woman I can be.  You see, I’m a strongwoman competitor and it is my passion, my love, and my way of taking care of myself.

My most recent competition, the “Show of Strength,” was held in Plano, Texas.  There are many small competitions around Texas, and competitors—men and women—go to compete in hopes of qualifying for Nationals.  At Nationals, people from all over the nation come to compete, with hopes of qualifying for either the Arnold or for World’s Strongest.  Have you ever seen the ESPN shows with the men throwing kegs, carrying heavy stones, and deadlifting cars?  That’s what everyone is trying to qualify for: the chance to go there and compete.
Sarah with coach, Bryan Gordon
I knew going into the Plano competition that I needed to qualify in the top three at this competition to receive an invite to Nationals.  I was nervous; there was a lot of the line in terms of my own goals and desire to make it to Nationals.  I train four days a week with a trainer, Bryan Gordon, of Woodward Crossfit.  I train on my own another two days a week.  I had friends coming to watch me compete.  I wanted to do well, both for myself and to represent all the hard work I’d been putting in with Bryan.

The events had been announced before the competition, so I knew what to expect. Every competition is different, though, so until they are announced, you have to be ready for a variety of events.  To be a strongwoman competitor, you have to be able to lift heavy stuff in a variety of forms.  Each event typically lasts approximately 60 seconds.  The events at this competition were going to be a Log Press, Farmer’s Walk, Axle Deadlift, Tire Flips, and Truck Pull.

The Log Press started out at 95 pounds.  I warmed up with the Log at 85 pounds and felt confident.  There were four other women competing, and the top three would qualify for Nationals.  I wanted to do well on the first event because that determines the order you start in for the following events.  I agreed to go first on the Log.  I stepped up to the Log at 95 pounds and, to my horror, I couldn’t get it up overhead.  I had a minute and tried several times, but it just wouldn’t go above my chest.  My turn was over and I went to go lick my wounds.  I knew that this was bad.  All of the other women got 95 pounds, which meant I was officially in last place.  Last place always goes first, so I knew I was at a disadvantage in the upcoming events.

The next event was the Farmer’s Walk.  I knew that this was a much stronger event for me.  I enjoy the Farmer’s Walk and I knew that even though I was going first, I could do alright.  Sure enough, I was up first, and, when I went, I momentarily blanked out.  I hurried my feet as fast as I could and crossed the finish line in what was a PR (personal record) for myself.  Now I had to sit and wait out the other competitors.  I ended up placing second in that event, by a tenth of a second.

I felt confident going into the Axle Deadlift, since the Deadlift is one of my favorite lifts.  In this event, a competitor deadlifts as many reps as possible in 60 seconds.  I hit another PR in this event, and my adrenaline was pumping.  I tied for first in this event and knew that I was finally starting to climb out of the hole I had put myself in.

Then, it was time for the tire flips.  We went outside and found out the tire was about 100 pounds heavier than what I had been preparing for.  I was nervous, but I knew that my coach Bryan had taught me great technique.  I wasn’t first to go this time, since I was moving up in the rankings.  I went second.  I again felt the surge of adrenaline, and the butterflies disappeared.  I got the tire moving and looked forward, knowing that only I stood in the way of myself taking first place. Sure enough, after everyone was done, I had taken first in the tire flips.

Before the last event, the truck pull, the gentleman running the competition announced that all of the women were within a point of each other and that whomever won the truck pull would likely win the entire competition.  This was HUGE.  I knew that this was make or break for me.  I was scared, though…I had never pulled a truck before.  I had practiced with sleds, but I had never had the opportunity to practice with an actual truck.  When my turn came, I put my harness on and grabbed the rope.  I asked the guys around for any advice they had—they all said, “Stay low.”  My coach came down beside me, and I pulled the harness tight so that there was plenty of tension.  Three, two, one, GO! I pulled with all my might, thinking there was no way that the truck would move.  My legs were burning. I stayed low and could hear my coach yelling out strategic advice.  To my shock, the truck actually started moving!  Once it started moving, there was no stopping me. I pumped my legs as fast as I could get them to go and pulled the rope. The next thing I knew I was at the finish line.  I was excited; I didn’t know how the other ladies would do, but I knew I had done the best that I could do at that event.

They wouldn’t announce the winners until the end of the competition, so we all had to wait for the men’s divisions to finish up.  I was nervous, unsure of where the point’s scheme left me and unsure whether I had taken first in the truck pull.  When the time came and the other ladies were called before me, I started to breathe a sigh of relief. I knew I had at least qualified for Nationals, which was my goal.  Then, they went to announce second place… and it wasn’t me!  This meant that I had taken first place.  The butterflies returned as they called my name, and I walked up to receive my trophy and medal.  I couldn’t have been more embarrassed or excited.  I knew that I had achieved my goal and, even though I started out in a hole, I had been able to climb myself out of it.

What’s next for me?  I plan to compete in Waco at the end of August in a competition.  It’ll be a scrimmage for me, something to keep me motivated and focused.  Then Nationals in October—that’ll be a true test of my character, training, and resolve.  I couldn’t be more excited to meet more competitors, try my heart out, and experience something I’ve never done before!  My journey to be the strongest I can be is a long, but fun one.  I encourage all men and women who think they are interested to try it. Strongman and Strongwoman competing is fun, helps you build confidence, and inspires you to help others.  Thanks to my coach for continuing to inspire me every day!

Note: You can read more about Sarah's journey on her website.

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