Since I came across Strong Woman Sue Metcalf a year ago, I have been tracking her progress, and when I heard about her placing runner-up at America’s Strongest Woman (is that an oxymoron as she’s Australian?) I knew I had to speak to her. So here is the interview I did with Sue fresh from her trip to the USA…
PB: You recently competed in the 2011 North American Strongwoman Championship, how did you go?
SM: I achieved what I set out to achieve and more. My goals after competing in the 2010 Americas Strongest Woman were 1. To put on lean mass – I weighed in 7lbs above a light weight in 2010 and 7lbs off a heavy weight in 2011 2. To do personal best times and reps in every event which I also achieved. In doing so I also managed to be equal 1st after day one and finish as runner up Americas strongest woman (middle weight division) needless to say I was very very happy with this result.
PB: In the middle weight divison who were the the main competitors?
SM: Well I knew prior to the competition that the winner from 2010 – Jamie Kovac was not competing (Congrats on the birth of your new baby Jamie). And in fact all middle weight competitors from 2010 were either not competing or competing in the light-weights. Devastated because I wasn’t going to have the pleasure of competing with Jamie but curious about whom my competitors were. I made a decision when they released the competitors list NOT to research any of the girls.
My focus was on being the best I could be and this included limiting anxiety.
So when I turned up at weigh-in and found out the winner of the light weights from 2010 (who absolutely smashed the lightweights) Erin Waterman was a middle weight I knew we were in trouble. Erin ended up beating me by 1 point overall.
PB: Can you give a blow by blow account of each strong woman event and how you went?
SM: We arrived in the US4 days prior the show which was the perfect amount of time to get over the crazy jet lag and get from LA to Memphis. In that time I was very careful to eat the diet that I’d stuck to throughout my prep because that was a major issue last year – I forgot to eat and us lost 3kgs in the week before the show!!!!
Day One went absolutely perfectly in every way that it possibly could…. Day 1 was freezing (about 10 degrees Celsius). Another learning from 2010 be prepared for the cold and I was!!! Thanks to Sharon Waters for my awesome custom made tights!
Event 1 was my most feared and disliked – 63.5kg log clean and press for reps….my goal in this event was for 1 rep – I had not achieved this in training however had done 62.5 for 2 reps and 60kg for 4 reps.
I was very determined to set a PR and I did this with one easy rep however because my head space was in one rep – once I got this. I lost focus to do any more. I was happy to take one rep anyway and was on a high from that but when I was also 2nd after this event I was feeling good!!! I was still a contender and my best events were yet to come!!!
Event 2 was the 205kg yoke over 25 meters I was pretty pumped for this!!! I managed a 19 second run which was ok and enough for 2nd. A highlight of this was when two officials including Willie Wessles told me it was an awesome run….
Event 3 was one of my favourites 70kg a hand farmers over 25meters. In training I’d managed a consistent 9 second run and I was determined to at least get this – I got an 11 second run which was good enough for a win….I was really happy with this.
Event 4 on day 1 was the 205kg frame deadlift for reps I was sssooo keen to kill this event. And I was ready!!! In training I had set a PR of 12 reps with the trap bar at a 15inch pick up. The frame handles were set at 18inches and the handles were further apart than the trap bar so it was either going to go in my favour or not – but we were all in the same boat. As it turns out the wider pickup meant a shorter range of motion and I did very well at this event with 27reps for a win. 2nd place got 18… Great end to a perfect day!!! My goal was to bring my A-Game and I felt I did this.
So I slept for 4 hours that night. I never have issues with sleep but I was still very amped up and just wanted to finish the comp.
Day 2 was always going to be tough. We were all very excited about doing stone for reps after deadlift for reps….NOT
Event 5 was the 80kg keg (hussefelt hold) for distance – the course was 25 meters long…. In training my PR was 50 meters so I was happy to equal this….but only good enough for 3rd the weight was fine my conditioning was fine – my hammies burnt out.
Event 6 (last event) – 100kg stone for reps over a 50inch bar (1.3 meters)so my PR in training was 4 reps…but that was fresh and certainly after my 27reps on the deadlift I knew this was going to be tough. If I won this event I would win overall. 2 girls zero’d I got 2 clean reps and lapped the stone another 3 times but just didn’t have the power to get the height. The winner got 3 reps….
So overall I placed 2nd- runner up Americas Strongest Woman…way more than I’d hoped for.
PB: Thats a great result!!
PB: What lessons did you take out of competing at the Americas Strongest Woman competition?
SM: I have had a few huge learning’s this year some philosophical and some to do with training…..
1. Recruit expert advice and trainers – let someone think for you – this makes space for focus and recovery!
2. Competition experience (with various equipment) and stepping outside of ones comfort zone is the key to progressing …. I travelled interstate to compete in two men’s competitions this year the weights and events smashed me but nothing could have prepared me better for Americas Strongest Woman! Eben Laroux were laughing before I left at the fact nothing ever goes exactly as planned at the comp so I was expecting the unexpected I.e a 2 inch deadlift pick up haha
3. Train specifically for the events…. If the event is log – train with the log – if the event is frame deadlift ditch conventional deads and train only trap bar leading in (conventional deads will come back post comp – can’t wait)
4. Don’t underestimate the importance of clean diet, sleep and rehab. 4 weeks out I was getting weekly massage, chiropractic and twice weekly acupuncture. I as forcing down quality food and supplements to keep weight on but not getting fat – fat is not useful.
5. The taper period is critical – 3 weeks out I did events only no more gym strength work and cut out all but 2 conditioning sessions a week. 1 week out I stopped training all together and just stretched and used the foam roller
6. Don’t be scared to stand up for what’s right and wipe negative influences and troublemakers – it makes room for positivity and focus.
Last of all when you do what you love, have good intentions and prepare well – you’ll win no matter where you place overall!
PB: What strength training had you done between last years comp and this years comp, to make such an improvement?
SM: After 2010 I realized how inadequate (in terms of specificity) my training was – it was as simple as I needed to either drop a weight class or put on lean size, and get stronger and more powerful!!! I decided that I just loved moving big weights so logically I was better off going for lean size, strength and power.
Also I went into the 2010 nats somewhat exhausted…. So I also realized I needed to focus more on rehab and stretching.
So I recruited some expert coaching – for diet and training…. I recruited Dan Hooper to write all my strength programs, Simon Colley worked with me on conditioning, Damon Kelly (commonwealth gold medallist) helped me with Olympic lifting technique, I receive regular massage and chiropractic from Hans Lindgren and I was humbled when one of SAs strongest men many years running, Ben Madden offered up his GenTec sponsorship and Nick Jones (GenTec Nutrition Director) had enough faith to take me on as a sponsored athlete. Ben and Dan also assisted me in my diet which I credit for my lean mass gain.
Further I received financial support from Australia’s strongest man Derek Boyer’s sponsors Getwiseonline.com(Fabian Buhagiar and Pete Jago). I’ve been blessed to be assisted and supported by fabulous, generous people who want nothing more than to see me succeed in the sport…
PB: What training do you need to go away and do now, before returning to win next year?
SM: I have a very clear plan of attack with I have started working on starting December 5th.
1. Getting massively stronger (goes without saying)
2. Short twitch Muscle endurance – focusing on hamstrings
3. Yoke speed which will occur via loads of one legged strength work in the gym
4. Speaking to Serge(expert official) after Americas’ strongest women my stone height could be improved by learning to snatch! This will improve my upper back strength and power! Damon Kelly is going to help me with this.
PB: Your trip was also memorable due to your boyfriend Bryce Cleary winning a competition, what was this?
SM: Bryce is now crowned world champion in professional masters natural bodybuilding – he did 3 classes at the INBA worlds and did so well – with a 2nd in masters over 40, 1st in open class medium height and a WIN in the professional men masters over 40!!!! Very proud!
PB: Thanks Sue, always a pleasure to speak with you.