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2022 Michigan Steel Bending and Breaking Championships - Carl Donati (Late Edition)


Buccos1
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I intended to do a write-up shortly after the comp but was so exhausted, I completely shut-down all bending for multiple weeks after to recover (mentally and physically).  Better late then never ... the Late Edition of the Michigan Steel Bending and Breaking Championships IV:

Anyone that has read in my journal the past few years has likely read about some of the challenges I've faced with chronic pain issues and just wear-and-tear from almost a decade-and-a-half of near-constant steel bending.  As much as I would like otherwise, I just cannot train like I did 10 or even 5 years ago.  Also, getting very close to 50 years old has taken a toll, especially with the bending.  So, I was not 100% sure I was going to compete this year.  Training was OK, but not what I would consider I needed to do in order to get a Top 3 finish.  It wasn't until about a month before the competition that I was completely in, though, I might have just gone as a spectator if I was unable to compete for whatever reason.  Thankfully, I made it into May relatively healthy and left for Detroit with hope of being competitive.

Again, I was very skeptical about a Top 3 finish and knew that I would need to be above my game, with my current state of ability.  Realistically, I was thinking, it would probably be a "win" if I could finish Top 5.  Looking at the roster of competitors, Don was almost a lock for first and Tom F and Michael R would be in the mix for a second or third spot, give-or-take a place.  Last year, I felt that I had a decent competition and tied for 3rd place with Tom.  Michael R jumped us both in the medley for 2nd place.  Reviewing the stats, I knew I had to do better this year in the medley, as that's what hurt me last year in the final standings.  So, I did what I could with what I was able to and turned more of my focus to the medley. 

My wife and I arrived in Troy, MI Friday night, with no real travel issues.  We ended up doing some sightseeing and went-out to dinner, then took a ride around in Don's town to make sure I had the directions down.  One thing that I was concerned about was a recent change in the medley (due to variance in the horseshoes), in which the horseshoe event was changed from bending increasingly difficult shoes for points, to getting max points for an easy SCFUL2 shoe.  Horseshoes were always one of my better events and I was worried that this change was going to hurt me in the medley, while giving an advantage to Tom and Michael, among others, in the overall points.  I didn't even have any Ultra Lites to mess around with in training.  Oh, well, nothing I could do about it, so I tried to not let the change derail my medley plans.

On to the competition ...

We arrived at Don's early and reconnected with everyone and met some new people.  I met and spoke to Landon for awhile before the comp started and he seemed like a pretty strong dude, both with bending and lifting.  Turns-out that he is relatively new to bending and has already done some impressive stuff with DO and DU.  It was also great to catch-up with everyone else.

Double-overhand - IMPs

First attempt - 1/4 x 7" Irongrip square (140) -  miss
Second attempt - 5/16 x 7" Irongrip (120) - good

What used to be a strength for me has turned into something I cannot do much more than once every three weeks, in DO bending.  It's just too much stress on my neck/traps/shoulders anymore.  So leading up to the comp, I did very little DO work.  I think my top bend/attempt over the last year was a 1/4 x 7" Grade 8 bolt.  I wasn't expecting much and just wanted to be in the middle of this event, to stay competitive.  I was going to start easy, but ended up getting caught-up with everything and made an attempt at a tough 140 bar for my first attempt.  Surprisingly, I was able to get into a decent position and got an OK first hit, getting about 20 deg, but immediately felt my knuckle starting to break-open.  I tried another hit, altering my grip slightly, but it was too painful.  I knew I could finish the bend, but that my day would likely be over if I did.  So, I stopped and passed on the remaining time.  At this point, I wasn't thinking too much about my overall chances for a Top 3 spot.  I knew if I was still going to be in the mix at the end, I'd have to make my final attempt at one of the 5/16" round bars (some of which actually rated easier than the 1/4" square).  So I made and attempt at a 120 bar and bent it in about 15 seconds.  It wasn't an easy bend, but I got fired-up for it and there was no way I was going to miss.

Reverse - BBW

First attempt - 7mm x 7" GBI - 23 degrees
Second attempt - Pass

No surprise here.  In-training, I typically don't do reverse consistently; just in the month-or-two leading-up to a competition.  My reverse was OK in training and this was just about what I would have expected, with an all-out effort.  This was about exactly what I did last year too with my attempt (same bar/same degree bend).  If I would've gotten some more work in with reverse, I would have likely gotten a full bend.  There was nothing I could have done realistically for my second attempt to improve in the standings, so I passed on my second-attempt.

DU - BBW/IMPs

First attempt - 8mm x 6" DHWG (225) - good

I made the same attempt last year at this bar and got it to about 25 degrees, I think.  This was done in singles however.  Regardless, this is a very tough bar to attempt DU.  I knew I had a shot at it and with thicker wraps (adding IMPs), I got myself pretty fired-up prior to the bend.  I also knew that if I had any chance of finishing in the Top 3, I had to finish first in the DU event.  So, I got myself ready and ended up getting zoned-in pretty good.  The bend actually turned-out to be pretty fast and felt more like an easy Grade 8 or a tough Grade 5.  Even though the bend was fast and it was only one attempt, it ended up taking a lot out of my, especially with adrenaline.  

Unbraced Overall: 3rd place


Braced - Long bar 

3/4 x 40" HRS - 70 degrees

Going-in, I only made two attempts at long bar.  A 3/4 x 48" bar that was really awkward but finished, and a bar closer to 40" that I didn't fully finish.  I knew that it was a tall order to beat-out Don, Michael and Tom in the long- and mid-bar events, as they have been doing this stuff almost like a speed-bend lately.  Also, not having the strength (or desire on a lot of days) to fully commit to these bars in training, I was angling to get a decent partial bend in and finish in the 4th or 5th spot, while not killing myself with these bends before the medley.  Also, my best days with braced bending (long/mid) were almost 10 years ago and it has been tough trying to keep getting back to that level. 

The bend was actually pretty easy on the kink for me and went right into the sweep, which had me angling for a full bend.  I had a good transition from the kink to sweep, but made the mistake of using a towel that was too bulky and awkward.  The towel kept unraveling on me which created an unstable position and killed the momentum I garnered from the strong kink.  After messing around with it for awhile and not really feeling like I had a solid position on the sweep, I called it at 70 degrees.  

Braced - Mid-bar

5/8 x 25" HRS - 80 degrees

The same as above can be said for the mid-bar bend.  I only got in two sessions in training and was looking more toward strategy with these two events.  As tempting as it would be to spend the time on long/mid bar to get competitive again, it just takes too much out of me and affects all of my training, if I'm being honest about it.  

Braced - Short bar

3/8 x 12" spikes - 3 bends in 42 sec.

Although I haven't done much with braced bending leading-up to the comp, I have been consistently bending spikes (10-12") for the past year and felt pretty good with my chances with these.  My time was good enough to keep me in the game with the overall braced, at 4th place.

Braced Overall: 4th place


Steel Bending Medley

Horseshoe - SCF Ultra Lite #2 heart - good
Short Bar Braced - Ironmind Gold Nail
Unbraced in 1 IMP - pass
1/2" HRS scroll - Double Fish
Braced Snap - 5 60d nails
Unbraced oval nail snap - 4 nails

As mentioned above, I focused more on the medley this year, knowing that it would be my chance for an overall Top 3 finish.  I had a plan and tried to stick to it as much as possible.  The horseshoe was really easy.  In last year's competition, I made a short braced attempt at the IM Gold Nail and was stuck at 30 degrees.  I kept hitting it over-and-over but could not doing anything else with it, which cost me in time and effort.  This year, I was more prepared with my short braced and took it down pretty decent.  This bend helped give me a rush, which helped on my 1/2" scroll.  I got the double fish scroll last year, and again this year, but this year's scroll was super-tight.  The best one I've ever done.  Next, I tried the 1 IMP bend, and couldn't get a point.  I had successfully bent Blues and Yellows in training, so was disappointed with not being able to get one done in the comp.  The last two events were snaps, in which I got 9/10 60ds/oval nails.  I was in-line to get my 5th oval nail snap but could not find the last nail, which cost me another point.  

All-in-all, a strong medley, which I used what I learned from last year's event to improve my attack and overall placing.  I still should've gotten another 2 points, realistically, but was still happy with my effort here, as I thought I had a solid shot at 3rd place in the overall standings.  In my calculations throughout the event, I had Don in 1st, Tom in 2nd and me and Tom just about even for 3rd (again).

Medley Overall: 2nd Place
 

After the medley, Don went to calculate the placings, which seemed like a long time.  Similar to last year, when Tom and I tied for 3rd place, and had to do a 2nd (or 3rd) tiebreaker for the plaque, which turned-out to be a lying snap.  The lying snap also severely aggravated my neck and caused some additional pain for the next few weeks.  That said, if we were going to have to do a lying snap again for a tiebreaker, I was going to have to pass on it.  Just not worth it to chance it aggravating the neck/trap issues.

As we were waiting for Don to make the announcements, I was convinced that Tom and I were 1 point away from each other for 3rd place.  I was just trying to focus on what was happen around me and preparing for the reality of finishing out of the Top 3 for the first time in my competitive steel bending career, going back to the Beast in the East comp in 2012.  So when Don came walking-up, smiling, saying something like, "You guys aren't going to believe this," I was surprised, but not really.  Don then said to me, "Congratulations, you got 2nd."  I was all surprised, but not really.  I knew the four of us would be really close.  I just didn't think I did enough in the medley to unseat Michael R. for second.  

Overall Champion: 2nd Place
 

It was an exhausting competition, with another true all-around test of everything bending-related.  So much so, that I was mentally and physically taxed to the point that I couldn't even think of bending for two weeks.  This is crazy for me too as I usually don't go more than a few days without thinking about bending something.  I hope there is a Michigan Bending and Breaking Championship V next year as Don has put a ton of effort and energy into creating and maintaining this event.  I know there is a lot of appreciation all-around for these comps and what was done to resurrect the steel bending event after the BiTE days (after KRC's comp in Mass just prior to Don's first).  I didn't think I would be competing at this years competition after last year's effort, just due to general advanced age and wear-and-tear.  I could always compete regardless but do not want to do a competition if I don't have a realistic chance to be competitive.  I will keep training as hard as I can and continue to analyze my status each year as an active steel bending competitor. 

Finally, there were some really impressive all-around efforts from everyone.  I've already mentioned the Top 4 several times, all of which were all-around competitive.  Hannah and Bree were fantastic.  Bree finished her first 5/8" bar which took a ton of training and effort to accomplish.  Hannah is very strong and continues to get better each year.  She is a force to be reckoned with in these competitions.  Watching Amir in the medley is awesome.  He is in fantastic condition and has some unique perspectives on how he approaches each event.  John Mouser showed a ton of improvement from his performance from last year.  He is a beast and very strong.  This was the first time I saw London bend or compete and he has a very high ceiling if he sticks around.  His double-overhand is already at a high-level.  Chris S continues to improve in all events and his braced is becoming very strong.  Mike also had a great competition.  Finally, Don is not human.  His performance was exceptional all-around.  And he competed with a messed-up finger.  

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On 8/20/2022 at 7:00 PM, Vinny F said:

Great write up. Congrats on even better results. 

Thanks for checking it out!

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Yes great read. Sounds like an amazing time.

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On 8/22/2022 at 9:21 PM, Blacksmith513 said:

Yes great read. Sounds like an amazing time.

Thanks for checking it out!  It was definitely an amazing time.  Don never disappoints! 

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8 hours ago, Buccos1 said:

Thanks for checking it out!  It was definitely an amazing time.  Don never disappoints! 

I’d love to participate in one some time.

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 8/29/2022 at 4:55 AM, Blacksmith513 said:

I’d love to participate in one some time.

If you get a chance to, definitely do so.  There was a period of time where we had nothing for years to compete in bending.  This, despite a ton of activity and interest all-around in steel bending.  So, I was beyond excited a few years back when we were able to compete in steel bending again. 

Don's competitions have been awesome too, especially as he's established an annual consistency the past few years.  And his comps are a true all-around test.  I was beat-up for two weeks after his competition.   

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24 minutes ago, Buccos1 said:

If you get a chance to, definitely do so.  There was a period of time where we had nothing for years to compete in bending.  This, despite a ton of activity and interest all-around in steel bending.  So, I was beyond excited a few years back when we were able to compete in steel bending again. 

Don's competitions have been awesome too, especially as he's established an annual consistency the past few years.  And his comps are a true all-around test.  I was beat-up for two weeks after his competition.   

I’m going to seriously think about going next year. I’d love to see the ford plant in Detroit.

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On 9/15/2022 at 11:11 AM, Blacksmith513 said:

I’m going to seriously think about going next year. I’d love to see the ford plant in Detroit.

Prior to Don's competition, I'd never been to the Detroit-area.  There's a ton of stuff to do around there.  Don's town is a really cool place to visit and explore too.

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4 hours ago, Buccos1 said:

Prior to Don's competition, I'd never been to the Detroit-area.  There's a ton of stuff to do around there.  Don's town is a really cool place to visit and explore too.

It seems to always be around my birthday in May. It would be cool to celebrate my 30th bending steel with strangers!

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3 hours ago, Blacksmith513 said:

It seems to always be around my birthday in May. It would be cool to celebrate my 30th bending steel with strangers!

We will have a blast, you have to make it!

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1 hour ago, Donc101 said:

We will have a blast, you have to make it!

I will really try and make it happen. Me and my uncle always talked about taking a trip out to see the Ford Museum.  Maybe I could sneak in getting my @$# handed to me in a bending comp while i'm out there.

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18 hours ago, Blacksmith513 said:

I will really try and make it happen. Me and my uncle always talked about taking a trip out to see the Ford Museum.  Maybe I could sneak in getting my @$# handed to me in a bending comp while i'm out there.

Where do you live?

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4 minutes ago, Donc101 said:

Where do you live?

I’m in Boston.

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