On the train ride home, I wrote down what I wanted to remember from the contest. I finally typed it up. Here it is for anyone who cares to read:
0. Bob and Ryan did an excellent job putting on a top tier grip contest. Events were well chosen, the venue rules, the keep the contest accessible to all strength levels, and everything is tuned to run smoothly. Thanks to their hard work, the cash prize on bending was just one of many high points during the day.
1. I spent $652 to attend the contest. $170 of that was to stay in town an extra day and have some fun in Three Rivers with my wife. It was worth it. My biggest expenses were cabs, hotel, and food.
2. Random luck of the draw put me immediately after Ryan in the lifting sequence. That was humbling. Outside of winning the contest and nearly taking the bending, he beat my v-bar total with one arm. His one handed deadlift was higher than my two handed deadlift max. Just crazy.
3. I should have trained thin pinch. I bombed on it because I did not train it.
4. I bombed on every single fourth attempt I took. I bombed on all but one of my third attempts. I was also able to predict the weights I peaked at one each event with excellent accuracy.
5. Next contest, I will open each event with what I think is the weight I can hit. After that, I will make the smallest possible increments on each following attempt, passing once I fail an event. I think this would have resulted in a superior performance for me on several of the events.
6. The extra day in town did not improve how well rested I was for the contest. Excitement means the night before I just won't sleep much. There's nothing I can do about it.
7. Aaron is the first person I've seen in action whose intensity matches what I saw from Don during my first visit to his gym. The guy goes from reserved to an insane focus in about 5 seconds.
8. I have a long way to go in developing my ability to generate the intensity needed for a true maximum effort lift. Compared to Aaron, it was like I wasn't even trying.
9. Most, if not all, of the guys placing in the top half of the contest lost blood on at least one lift. All kept competing.
10. Overall body strength really is the primary factor in developing great grip strength. Almost without exception, rankings aligned with overall body strength.
11. Jeff recently hit a strict press PR of 255lbs. Until seeing him in person, I didn't appreciate just how big pressing that type of weight makes your shoulders. I need more overhead work!
12. Having finally seen double wraps and crush pads in action with double overhand bending, I don't like them. I realize they are within the rules and the biggest benders are the biggest benders, but it is comparable to heavy gear in powerlifting. I felt one double wrapped pad that was on the floor with no steel in it. It was rock hard and seemed like a pipe to me. I don't think anyone will approach the top benders without double wrapping and using crush pads. The gear does develop great bending strength. Aaron taking down Don's hard 80d double overhand is a testament to that. It was J shaped and 1-2 inches off center.
13. At the contest I received a gripper similar to the Ivanko Super Gripper but with knurled handles. It is awesome. While I never liked the Ivanko Super Gripper and ultimately sold mine, I will train with this thing.
14. People have and will call Aaron a freak of strength based on his performances, but there is a lot more going on there than good genetics. He had a special plastic bar for stretching out in the DO bending position, a machined gripper designed to allow for bending practice, extensions to let him work bolts at various lengths and kink them, crush pads, and who knows what else. It is obvious to me that a large part of his success is because he really thinks about what he is doing. If the equipment is any indication, I bet his training is also well thought out and executed.
15. The more time I spend around the top grip guys, the more convinced I am that hard work, consistency and focus are the real determinants of success with the weights. Everyone there was running on a lot more than natural talent.
16. I appreciate where I live much more now. Everyone in Three Rivers told me the great thing about Chicago is the food. I love to eat and have always taken it for granted that I can go out to eat and have dozens of places to choose from. That's not an option in small towns.
17. The rooms in the Three Rivers Super 8 aren't that nice and made my nose stuffy. I'm going to try Bob's hotel next year.
18. Stew is pretty awesome at flipping the kettlebells. Don has this old kettlebell with a long, tiny handle. Stew was flipping it with no problems. It seemed to stop everyone else.
19. The last two contests I was barely edged into last place by a 15 year old who lifts at Don's gym. This year, he's 16, and just blew me away. The progress Matt has made in the last year is very impressive. By the time he's 18, he will be a monster.
20. Don's friends Keith and Michelle were really nice to us. We had dinner with them Friday night, had met only once previously (which I forgot!), and they were 100% ready to go out of their way to help Rachel and I out. It was refreshing to spend time with people like that.
21. Bob's son is on track to be a great bender. He's already got the visualization and focus nailed.
22. Bob's wife really does a great job helping to keep the contest running smoothly. Her score keeping and organization kept the competition moving.
23. I specialized on V-bar for the month before the contest, warming up and lifting 5 sub-max singles 4 times a week. Outside of my v-bar PR, I think this played a significant role in toughening my skin and preventing any blood loss during the contest.
24. Don didn't like the double wraps on bending either.
25. I've spent the last few months doing mobility work, foam rolling, and stretching on a regular basis. As a result, the hard hotel bed was much, much more comfortable than last year.
26. Attending these contests is great for me as a person. Outside of being forced to step out of my introverted nature, it is very humbling to try my hardest and get beaten at just about everything. I cannot think of a better motivator or reminder of how far I have to go. My enthusiasm to train has been rekindled.
27. Jedd looks like a professional wrestler. He made an excellent showing at the contest and was pushing Ryan until the very end. It really could have gone either way.
27. Dave has tremendous composure under pressure. Unless he actually misses an attempt, it's impossible to tell how much he has left in the tank. The weights just go up.
28. I watched Josh very closely on the events. The whole contest he was doing things I'd never seen before. The time he has spent perfecting the details shows.
29. Ben did an excellent job for someone who was "just bending double underhand" the past few months. If not for the injured shoulder, I think he would have been in the running for first.
30. John Eaton has massive wrist strength. Watching him twist the 20lb sledge was unreal.
31. Brian and Tim worked as loaders for the entire contest. They did a great job keeping things moving.
32. George judged the full contest. He was unbiased and took the role seriously. Giving his time and energy to keep things moving was generous.
33. Jeri took a number of pictures I can't wait to see. Her enthusiasm is catching.
34. It's a treat to spend time with Don. He's seen more in the iron game than I every will and is happy to share. I am glad someone was able to bend one of his 80d's, that money was burning a hole in his pocket!
35. Steve should've placed higher than me in the bending. Someone talked him into taking his 3rd attempt on a 5" grade 5 bolt. He gave that bolt everything he had with some of the ugliest double overhand form I've ever seen. That same effort probably would have destroyed a 6" grade 5. A little form coaching and I bet he takes down a grade 8 or some 1/4" square
36. I need to talk Bill out of training for the next year, so I have a chance of catching up with him. On the events I haven't practiced, it was obvious his raw strength is much greater than mine.
37. Each attempt in each event was tracked on a large poster, one poster per event. There was also an overall score poster. This made following the contest very easy and is something I would like to see again. Hopefully if Bob doesn't have time to write up all the attempts, someone can post pictures of the posters.
38. Contesting both hands in v-bar takes a very long time. I would not miss the event if next year's contest did not have it.