Complete Shut Down


Well, the Masters World Championships have come and gone. Some of the weekend went exactly to plan and others didn’t. That’s fine, the parts that weren’t planned turned out to be so amazing I can hardly believe it.

We took off Thursday morning approximately 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Which we promptly lost in the Starbucks Drive-Thru before we hit the highway. (It’s an Americano with cream folks, not foking rocket science. Espresso. Water. Cream. Come ON!) Anyways.

The drive in was completely uneventful which is what I was hoping for. I needed to put new tires on Trixie and when I told my mechanic the day before we left while paying for my oil change that I was heading to St. Louis in the morning he just shook his head and wished me luck. Never really a sign of confidence.

We DID pull into the hotel a bit later than we had planned but an unexpected Kohl’s run for me in Springfield set us back a bit. MyBad. The good news was that just as we were pulling up, our good friend Max was just coming out of the front doors looking for us. Herroooo! We’re HERE!

Walking into the Lobby just as registration was getting underway was, I admit, a bit overwhelming. It was loud, it was packed, and the drinks were already flowing which meant it was only getting louder. Matt was in charge of checking in while I was in charge of finding Yvonne for hugs. We both succeeded admirably. The next hour is a blur. I gave so many hugs and asked so many people how they were doing I couldn’t list them all if my life depended on it. It’s like a class reunion where all the people actually liked High School and are excited to see each other again.

After getting signed in for the competition, people started talking about where they were going to eat. When Kirk Taylor came over and said, “Okay, everyone is going “x” I turned to Matt and said, “Okay, we’re not going there.” Sorry I’m not sorry. I needed some quiet. It was so amazing to see people again but it was loud and crazy and I couldn’t have one quiet conversation with anyone! Having a dinner where it’s more of the same would have destroyed me. So the four of us found a little Winery with great food and peace and quiet. It was perfect.

Day one of the competition didn’t start until noon so we all got to sleep in. It was wonderful. A great breakfast full of festive throwers filled the buffet hall and after, off to the field we went. We had just started the trek to the gate when BOOM! the handle came off my cooler on wheels. Now, I had seriously thought about buying a new wheeled cooler when making a Target run a few days before this but thought, ‘nahhhhhh, I’ve already got a cooler on wheels.’ Well, I STILL had a cooler on wheels, just not with a handle which, as it turns out, was pretty detrimental to the functionality of the cooler on wheels.

Enter Mona and Grant to the rescue. They had just pulled up and had a buggy on wheels that they let us put our cooler with wheels and no handle on so we didn’t have to carry it and it’s contents all the way to the athlete tent.

Phew. Crisis averted.

We were told to arrive at the field around 10 and we got there around 10:30 probably. Pretty early so we sat and relaxed. It was a beautiful weekend so as long as we stayed out of the sun, it was comfortable.


Sun Bum and GameMinion reunited!!! Sun Bum belongs to World Champion Michaela Pennekamp of Germany and she picked him up in Hawaii when we were there throwing last April.

I was a little perplexed when I saw people head to their trigs and start warming up but hey, whatever floats your boat. We were starting with our distance weights, heavy and then light. I looked at the trig we were at and promptly put it all out of my head. Too early to think about anything.

Now, one thing I’ve been working very hard on this last month is staying loose and while being mentally prepared, not sweat it. Think of one thing when it’s time, that’s it. But at 10:45? Think of nothing. Chill.

And that’s really how day one went. At no point did I get revved up and in fact, I was a little concerned before my first distance throw that I wasn’t revved up enough. I mean come ON, I need a little bit of energy flowing right? Nope. Turns out calm and dialed in was all I needed for my first throw of improving my standing World Record by over a foot. I’ll take it. My weights have been a bit off lately, probably due to the fact that I’d been placing too much pressure on myself and not relaxing. Both events went very good for me and I came close to my WR of 68′ during my extra throws which is happy because I hadn’t moved off 61-64′ for a few weeks. Good start but still, I felt as if I was completely shut down.

I wasn’t thinking about anything except one simple cue that I could implement. The only time I fouled was when I went arse over teakettle on one of my extra’s and that’s just because I was going too fast to the front that I couldn’t hold the release (I had a spectacular recovery channeling the perfect “Nadia” finish.) The last few Games I’d been fouling right from the start with my right foot going out on my first turn. As much as I was hoping I’d fixed it for now, I was pleased that I was able to keep my turns tight. I will also say that the new 21# implements that Merl made for us practically sang while they flew. I loved them so much that I brought one home with me. (Ooooo, that reminds me, send Merl a check tomorrow.)

From there we went to stones. The Braemar was 13# something and it was a beaut. It fit perfectly into the neck and she like to fly. My first throw of 26′ plus a few inches was good. It felt good. But my second throw sang. And as I’m beginning to learn, these nice throws just feel effortless. Almost as if I’m on air as I move to the release. I knew it was better but didn’t check very closely to the number. Throw 3 didn’t go as well as I started to tighten up a bit, a theme that would bring an end to my quest for a World Championship on day 2 but A) that’s getting ahead of myself and 2. I just really like to use the work ‘quest’ when I can.

When I asked our judge, Topaz, to read the results and she said my winning throw was 29’9 I asked, “Hey, is that a new World Record?” Topaz looked at her sheet and says, “Oh shit, yes it is.” Heh. Hey ya know what? I don’t care how it’s communicated that I picked up a World Record, just so I know I got it.

Now this one was special. I’ve worked so hard on my stones this year, probably harder than any other event and to go all season long without it paying off has been a bit of a disappointment. My open stone is another story, I’m still not getting any kind of push with it. However, my first open stone throw was actually good enough to get a lot of backward pull from the start with a good turn and a nice forward push. Good enough in fact that I couldn’t stick the release and I fouled. Bummer because it was a really nice throw. My second and third were tough, tight. And I came in 4th. FOK! Again I have a great showing at weights and braemar and pull out a 4th in open. I was bummed but there wasn’t anything I could do about it so let it go.

But as I was making my way to the tent, finished with day one I thought to myself, wow…I stayed loose and shut down the entire day until my last two open stone throws. Sweet!!!

On to Day 2.

Day 2 was a little bit easier to get into Games mode as the start time was normal in the morning. I was hoping to start out at Sheaf to loosen up the joints but we got going on Hammers. Same thing, I was so relaxed I was, again, a bit nervous about getting dialed in. But when I stepped into the throwing area, I thought of my one cue from Brian Hare during our last hammer session and away they went. I had two very nice PR’s that earned me a second place in the Heavy Hammer (Michaela got me by half an inch. I pretended to be a little upset with her but truth be told, I was thrilled that I’m knocking on the 70′ door with that thing.) It also earned me a first place in Light Hammer which was a great thrill. An 84′ plus light hammer isn’t elite level numbers, but it’s getting there (and let’s be honest, if you know me, you can understand that those are my goals.)

We were clicking along and headed to the Sheaf standards. First few toss’ were just fine and getting props from World Champion Braidy Miller was a huge compliment. 21′ was money and I stepped over to do a quick Fork Talk interview with Chad Ullom. My first shot at 23′ went up, sat on the bar for what seemed like 8 minutes and came back in front. Hmmmm. Second one was high enough, barely but way in front. I DID notice that on the second toss I didn’t have the looseness I had been enjoying to this point. 3rd try, I needed this. That’s what was going through my head and THAT’S the moment I started tightening up. I can feel it as I type, no bueno. My 3rd toss was tight with no pop and it didn’t even come close. Crap. Not good.

What WAS good about the Sheaf is that Michaela of Germany broke the current World Record and just kept going for more and more. Her 28′ sailed over the bar and watching it was sublime. It was smooth and fast and she was having so much fun. It was awesome! But I was tight. And I was in my head and that’s not good.

I was hoping our 30 minutes lunch break would give me a chance to loosen up and relax before WOB. At this point I had let a lead slip away and I was more concerned with how tight I was feeling. As it turns out, lunch didn’t help. It took me nearly 15 minutes to get back to my chair in the tent. I had run into so many people who wanted to talk that I finally told my friend Rick, as he started talking to me, that I had to sit. Even a quick conversation was off the books. I needed to sit and relax and get some food in me. I eventually just ended up walking away from him mid-sentence (sorry Rick, I just really needed to sit.)

My relaxing lunch quickly turned into an obstacle course run trying to get to my seat but truth be told by this point, I was annoyed. It was loud (so loud), I couldn’t move freely to stand up due to being boxed in by other athletes (no one’s fault, it just was the situation) and it was loud as fok under the tent. But most of all, I was worried about that WOB. On a normal day, it’s a slightly stronger event for me but I could feel the tenseness. As we were warming up, Michaela even asked if I were okay. (She’s the best. The absolute best.) I wasn’t, and my WOB reflected it. Tight. Forced. Worst performance of the year. Out at 15′ and four points added.

Now, here’s the part where I think people who “get me” understand how I roll and other folks looking in misinterpret who I am (believe me, I hear the shit talk.) I was upset. Incredibly upset. I took amazing throws and scores, four first places and two world records, and when I needed that WOB I tightened up. I will take a 2nd or 3rd or even LAST place any day of the week as long as I DID MY BEST! I don’t care about being beat, I care about beating myself! Quite honestly, I needed a hug. I bigg husband hug and I made a beeline to where he was competing and got one. (By the way, he was busy kicking ass at WOB and I’m incredibly proud of him. It was the first chance I’d even have all weekend to see him throw so it turned out to be a huge treat for me.)

On the way over to find Matt, I walked along the sidelines of the 80 year old group tossing Caber and I just stopped. Whoa. Dude. Srsly. How about a huge right hook of perspective to bring a girl back to reality. They are amazing. (There was even a new Hammer World Record set by one of the men in that group!!)

After a lack luster Caber event, I added up the points I received (a few were added in by mistake by one of the girls who shared with me my placings in our group when she found me. It wasn’t malicious I’m sure, our group was absolutely amazing, it was just an error) in my last three events and it came out to 13.

13 points in three events. What the everlasting fok. That’s more points than I HAD going into the WOB! (Again, it turns out that I hadn’t accrued that many points but I didn’t know it at the time.) What an absolute fok of a finish and yes, in that moment, it had completely wiped out (or pushed to the back burner) anything good I had done up to that point. Sorry I’m not sorry. I’m a competitor. I’m probably not even competing against “you” per say but myself and my expectations and to completely fall apart at the end in no way represents who I am; my hard work all season; or what I came to do. I was literally in a fog.

I was making my way off the field when I ran into Beth Burton who asked how I ended up. My belief was that it was 3rd or 4th and her face was as shocked as I felt. There’s no way I can get that many points at the end and stay on the podium. I will be eternally grateful to Beth for her advice on finishing strong. Not only for the advice, but for readjusting my mindset to “action” instead of the shock of falling apart. Really, at the end of the day, I will always ask what I could have done better. In every event. Honestly, I’m regretting not drinking at least a few sips of the beer my friend Max bought me at lunch. Could have been all I needed to relax for the WOB. Don’t know. But it coulda helped.

By now, Matt was still in action over on the Sheaf so I made my way over to sit with my wonderful friend, Yvonne. She gave me huge hugs (more later on how special our time with good friends were during the Games) and I sat down. And then I let it come. Pent up expectations; emotions; hard work; fears and hopes, ready or not here they come!! I didn’t have to put on a brave face for Yvonne and Mark Wechter who stopped by, they understand. I hope everyone has friends like that because there is not an award on the planet that has more value to me than safe and loving friends.

Anyways. One more final breakdown when Matt enveloped me in his arms and that was it. It was time to party and celebrate and party and celebrate we did!

But I learned a very valuable lesson. A complete shut down isn’t a bad thing. It’s being dialed in and I was so much better at it than I had been in the past. I wasn’t perfect. Dammit. I hate when I’m not perfect. (But not really.) I’m going to work hard at applying it to my weightlifting as I gear up for the meet in November. And I’m going to remember Beth’s words,

Do what you have to do to get your numbers and believe in yourself.

Thank you Beth. And most of all, thank you for the hugs when you knew I was disappointed. When you find someone who knows just what to do and what to say in a tough moment, you’ve found a treasure.

True story.

The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.

Vince Lombardi

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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2 Responses to Complete Shut Down

  1. yogretch says:

    Next year Juli… You’ll be even better!!

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