From Take Off to Wheels Down

I’ve been going round and round, trying to figure out how to describe this past weekend. There were so many huge, wonderful moments and in between those was a cross between marvelous and lovely.

Huge was the Welcome Bigg and I got from my Washington family…


My Cousin Denise’s kids, Carmen and Gabe, are two of my favorite people on earth (yes, adults included.) Spending time with them every once a year or so since they were tots has embedded them deep in my heart and walking up to the door on Thursday afternoon to these welcome notes just about spilled tears. After taking Denise’s hubby’s new Beamer for a spin (I really want on of these but need to afford the speeding tickets that will surly come with the zoom zoom), we headed downtown for a Uneeda lamb burger and some ice cream. Couple my “kids” “scoop” (since when does a scoop have three parts to it?) with the espresso milkshake we had earlier and I’ve exceeded my servings of ice cream allowed by about a thousand. Ah well, it’s VaCa.

Auntie and I enjoyed a beautiful Friday morning stroll down to the water where we had a coffee and watched the Ferry’s come and go. I’m so pleased that both Auntie and Uncle have taken this aging thing seriously and do everything possible to stave it off. They walk; a lot, stretch; eat incredibly healthy the majority of the time; and have a strong desire to feel as good as possible for as long as possible. I’m so proud of them.

Muk ferry fun

We eventually ventured over to Whidbey Island on the Ferry with Auntie and Uncle to meet up with my cousin Paul and his kids which was a huge treat! I don’t always get to connect with Paul since his firefighting shifts sometimes occur when I’m in town. Paul and I have been raising hell together since we were tots. I love being with him. And catching up with Kyle and Ashley was an unexpected gift. We had great food and crabby service in Coupeville and still made time to run over to Toby’s for some Red Parrot Ale and steamers. Let the glutton fest continue!!

We headed closer to Enumclaw Friday night since both Bigg and I were on deck to volunteer while the big dog’s threw on Saturday. I will say that helping out on Saturday was tons of fun and being able to watch the technique of so many of the World’s best was a treat, but it wore me out. So much so that I bailed out of the Clawbeque party that we were going to at the end of the day. I was completely fried. I’ll have to look at that for next year if I’m lucky to go again. As much as I want to be helpful and take it all in, I need to remember to keep my limits in mind. OH! Our view on the way to the field?

Enum drive view


As is usual on competition day, I force fed myself as much food as I could muster and still know I’d keep it down. My nerves are at their peak first thing in the morning and seem to settle down once I get on the field and start warming up. I saw various pictures of some of the competitors ginormous breakfasts that would fuel their day and wondered if I’ll ever get to the point of not being so nervous. Time will tell.

Quite honestly, there aren’t enough words to adequately describe the day of throwing at Enumclaw. To take so many amazing factors separately, for example, my cheering crew (who brought the Viking horn to blow):

My Crew

I’ve never had a crew before and hearing a “come on Juli” from Carm or Gabe before a throw made my heart swell. Besides me (I hope), their favorite quickly became Beth Burton and she by far got the loudest horn blows of the day.

Another factor that made the day great was throwing with Mona Malec.

I’m geeky enough to scope out the competition before events and her numbers are phenomenal. What the NASGA database doesn’t list; however; is how much fun and supportive she is. She’s tops. Really. Tops. We started the day going back and forth with the Braemar stone and as field records started to break, the fun never stopped. On that note, said field records were mostly held by Laurie Jinkins who was throwing with us. Heh. She was not only a good sport about watching her records fall, but celebrated with us while it was happening. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what makes Highland Games the greatest. The whole group was really quite awesome and the times we threw with the elite ladies made this a throwing heaven for me. Getting tidbits of knowledge from the best of the best is a gift and you can be sure I was writing notes all the way home on cues they shared.

A few other huge moments? Holding the field record for the Braemar stone; hearing Adrian Wilson and crew yelling “elbow up” during my stone throws; getting pointers from Beth Burton on gaining speed to the front of the Trig on the open stone; and watching Kristi Scott break not only the current World Record on the WOB, but breaking it again on Sunday.

And some of the marvelous and lovely moments in between? Everything. Family, new friends, PR’s, bombing out and still smiling, the beer garden with Washington friend Scott Stanford and Sally, watching judge Michelle Crownhart run her stations with Swiss precision and always a helpful eye. I’m a better thrower because of all these ladies and I’m beyond thankful for the experience. OH! Watching the dudes throw didn’t suck either. In fact, one of my favorite pics of the weekend has nothing to do with me…

Andy Vincent

But having Andy Vincent in the background was kinda fun.

As for my throws? I hit three PR’s; struggled with the hammer (again); turned the cabers and learned more on that event. OH! The first pick on the qualifier caber just about sent the caber right over my shoulder. How I saved that one, I have no idea but the tenderness on my neck and collarbone would indicate that I squeezed the crap out of it. I still didn’t get 14′ on my WOB but tried some side throws and got some good advice from the ladies on how to keep practicing that one. I’ll call it a success.

As we landed in Milwaukee last night, the only thing I could think of was that this entire trip from take off on Wednesday to wheels down that moment was amazing.

I’m sincerely thankful to Wally Olecik for giving me this opportunity to throw in his games. I’m thankful for my family and friends for all the time and love they shared with me. I’m thankful to my new Highland Games friends for every tidbit shared; every laugh; every hug; every returned implement; every supportive cheer; everything. I’m especially thankful to my Bigg man for helping make it happen and for all his support and love. I’m blessed.

Keep your eyes open to your mercies. The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life.

Robert Lewis Stevenson

Training Log

About tosabarbell

For training opportunities at tosabarbell, call or text Juli at 320-296-9313. e-mail to At tosabarbell, I build relationships cultivated in a strength and learning environment. There is no 12 week magic pill program to strength but rather a lifetime commitment to be the very best and most useful human you can be. tosabarbell is a private, home grown gym with three lifting platforms; squat rack; prowlers; throwing implements; bars, bumpers and everything else needed for an effective strength and conditioning program. Straightforward barbell programming including the Olympic lifts; sound (read: not fancy bullshit) diet advance for weight gain or loss; and strong coaching will ensure you will meet your goals such as becoming stronger, more explosive, and better conditioned. I have been coaching teams and athletes for over 30 years. I grew up participating in various sports at various levels but was always drawn to those that require strength training. I have multiple local, national, and world records in the sports of Weightlifting and Highland Games Heavy Events as well as a combined total of 5 World Championships. My 5 years of training and coaching under Mark Rippetoe provided a wide range of influence from some of the top strength & conditioning and throwing coaches in the country. I will strongly encourage tosabarbell athletes to compete (and prepare you to do so.) However, tosabarbell is also for those who wish to be stronger and go through life feeling better. Matt WanAt is a retired Professional Strongman who competed frequently with Strongman Champions League in Europe. He played a year of D1 football with Iowa before concentrating on his Chemical Engineering degree in Iowa City. He is a native of Wauwatosa and still remains a staunch supporter of Tosa East. This blog will be a mixture of strength notes, coaching and nutrition tips, personal shit; bacon delicacies, and a whole lot of fun.
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