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2018 December - The Last Gripmas Carol - Tom Flesher

Tom Flesher

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I dropped my dog off at my friend's house Thursday night. The Wife and I woke up early on Friday morning to get around rush hour traffic, since New York City is unavoidable going basically anywhere from Long Island. After a 7-11 pit stop to pick up snacks and water, we hit the Southern State Parkway at about 3:20 AM for the long ride out.

I'll spare you the details (PA turnpike west, 85-95 mph) and just tell you we checked into the hotel about 4 PM. We made three brewery stops and attempted to visit a distillery but were unsuccessful; the two good breweries were Wooly Pig in Coshocton (very high quality local brew, including a saison fermented on white wine must that was absolutely delish) and Weasel Boy in Zanesville (also served pretty good Italian-style flatbread, but as a Long Islander I can't in good conscience call it pizza). The stouts were the star of the show at Weasel Boy.

After The Wife went to sleep, I headed out to TUMBL__EED [some of the lights were nonfunctioning] and grabbed some tacos and Sam Adams with everyone there (Nate, Anton, Vinnie, Anthony, Andrew P, his wife Katie, Rich, Tim, Don, and I'm certain a bunch of other people I've failed to mention) . I managed to nearly dump a chicken avocado taco in my lap despite not actually being drunk at the time. Afterward, we headed back to Nate's hotel room but quickly relocated to go see the Charlotte Pickup Artists. Everyone was generous with their booze and stories.

The morning of the competition I was miraculously not hung over, despite having posted that I was going to miss weight and thinking it was hilarious.

At the gym on Saturday morning, I had the pleasure of meeting Chris, Jedd, Joe Sullivan, and numerous others. The breakfast and coffee were ample; the cell signal, less so. I'd like to join the chorus of people shouting that Andrew's wife Katie was unbelievable in her self-appointed role as contest coordinator; she and Andrew Durniat's wife, whose name I regret I don't recall (and I'd rather not go by her nametag), ran the contest without a hitch.

The Astoria crew showed up so late that I was certain that Anton was dead and Vinnie and Anthony were going to marionnette him Weekend at Bernies style through the contest.

The pre-contest certs were incredible. Gary bent 3 red nails in under 1 minute, all while using a placement lower on his chest than I'd seen due to flexibility issues. Bryan Hunsaker closed the 3. Don Cummings bent 17 pairs of 6-inch nails in two minutes. Unbelievable!

I also spent a lot of time talking two the two Rochester climbers - fun guys. Real dipsticks. I got to see them do some truly dizzying pullup variants, as well as watching Aaron do warmup shoulder presses with more weight than my 1RM and watching Nigel Blackburn pull a world record on the Euro.

Grippers: My PR on grippers was about 118 or 119 from SJ4FF. I'd been practicing the set but not much else. I think I opened at either 105 or 110,  then jumped to 115, failed by a credit card's width on 120, and closed 120 for my fourth attempt. Jedd did a great job judging this; running three flights to avoid downtime between attempts was very helpful, as was the presence of a squat rack downstairs.

Euro: I was at 54mm. I had pulled 173 in training so, because of the available weights, I planned to open at 162.xx and make the 5-pound jumps to PR on the fourth attempt. Andrew Pantke was judging this and after I pulled 162 I asked for 167. Andrew raised his eyebrow and said he'd give it to me if I insisted, but was I sure I only wanted to make that jump? I took the bait and jumped straight to 172, then to 177, and made both attempts. 177 I made by a hair - I wasn't sure if I'd hit the bar, but apparently there was enough sound to convince Andrew and Joe Sullivan (who was observing, waiting to jump in). 182 stayed glued down - not sure I could have made it fresh, but it was difficult as it stood.

The Armlifting contest started next. Since I didn't want to crush my hand for axle by doing Silver Bullet, I took a hike to the gas station. (Summer sausage: the fuel of champions.) I also rehydrated a bit with the Astoria guys and Will Gibson.

Axle: Here we go. I'd done 303 in training and knew I had more left. I opened at 281, then jumped straight to 302. I believe the next jump was to 311 - another good pull. My last attempt was at 326.xx. I flung the chalk around, rosin-bag-style, and Wooed before my pull. I got the bar up, locked it out, and put it down - good lift for a 20+-pound PR on comp day! Woo!

Pretty sure Joe opened a few pounds heavier than that. Grip is humbling.

After the comp, the feats started. I won't bore you with all the impressive things I saw - I'll just tell you that I think everyone attempted the Goliath bar that I brought. The modal attempt began with someone stating their degree of confidence (ranged from "Come on, let me at that sucker" to "I haven't touched a braced bend in years, but what the heck"), frowning, trying to kink the bar, declaring that it had flexed, looking for the wobble they'd put in the bar, seeing no wobble, and declaring the bar for the birds. My plan had been to bend the whole thing myself in an impressive show of strength, or, failing that, to kink it and magnanimously hand it off to Anton to pass around and get as many benders on it as possible before offering the finished bar to Chris as a token of our appreciation.

That, uh, didn't work out.

I'll get it some day.

I met some wonderful people this weekend. If I've forgotten or neglected to mention you, I'm sorry - I enjoyed talking and lifting with everyone this weekend. Thank you, Chris, for hosting, and thank you, Tank, for taking on the responsibilities next year.

Epilogue: On the drive home, I bought a bottle of absinthe at 10:30 AM in Pittsburgh. We stopped at Troeg's for food and beer and Hershey Park for chocolate. It was a good ride home.

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7 hours ago, Tom Flesher said:

I'll spare you the details (PA turnpike west, 85-95 mph)

I lived in PA for 40 years and drove the turnpike more times than I can count. If you aren't running 95, you get ran over! That is a scary highway, the twists and turns and high speeds are crazy. Even more so when the snow and ice arrives. I do not miss that one bit!

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You really did awesome at the euro and axle Tom - great way to PR at the comp - I love your story's epilogue and I ended up saving my corpse-marionette weekend at bernie's montage for Sunday morning like a responsible adult - thanks for not putting it past me comp day though!

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