Strongwoman squares off with a semi
October 28, 2013
CHEMNITZ, Germany -- If you told me seven years ago, I'd be strapping a 7.9-ton semi-truck to my back and pulling it 65 feet, I am certain I would have looked at you as if you should be committed.
But that's exactly what I did, here, for the German Truck Pull Championship. My husband, Matthias, and I competed in this two-day event, Oct. 11-12, and I was the sole international athlete in a field of eight women and 23 men.
The competition consisted of three events: truck pull with a harness and no rope, hand-over-hand truck pull, and truck pull with rope for a distance of 65 feet. The women pulled a 4.6-ton truck for the first two events and a 7.9 ton truck for the final event.
The men pulled the same 7.9-ton truck for the first and second events, however, the final event brought them face-to-face with an 18 wheeler weighing 15 tons.
My husband brought me to this sport. He has been competing in strongman competitions throughout Germany for 17 years. When he took me to the first competition, I honestly didn't get it, but I found the strongman community to be unique. At first glance it appeared to be a boys' club where men would gather to train and compete while women were little more than accessories.
As I began to train for my first women's competition, however, I had found a connection to the sport. Soon I found myself wondering how much I could lift and how hard I could train, which led me to my first truck pull competition.
The truck pull is a tough competition; it's part strength, part technique and part endurance.
Most of us can't strap a big rig onto our backs and do training. So, I do the best I can training with weights and any other method that gets close to the effect I want to achieve. If I'm lucky, I may get an opportunity to coordinate one opportunity to borrow a truck to test. That's it. After that, it's all luck.
Before the event started my nerves were jangled. I did not know if I could finish. I was the smallest athlete at only 5 feet 2 inches. My mind was racing.
What if I came all this way and can't move this truck? I thought.
Luckily, I got a dry run before the event and harnessed myself to the 4.6-ton truck. Low and behold, it moved. Now infused with a bit more confidence, I took a breath.
I needed to keep my technique and move the truck 65 feet. Successful, I finished the first event in 48.44 seconds.
The second event was taking that same truck and pulling it hand over hand toward me for 65 feet. Speed, grip strength and the ability to pull were crucial to success.
Unfortunately, my only training consisted of pulling our station wagon, which, as you might imagine, is worlds lighter than the truck. Again, I worried about the results, but 43 seconds later, I finished event number two.
The last event was pulling a 7.9-ton, 18 wheeler cab for 65 feet. This was the big time.
That truck dwarfed me like the whale in front of Jonah. I knew we would have a harness and rope to pull the truck, but I'd never tested this. It was anyone's guess if this metal mammoth was going to move.
The toughest part was just getting it moving. So, strapped in, I pulled with all of my might and like molasses, it slowly began to move. With each successive inch, my forearms burned, my legs wiggled like gelatin.
I had two voices screaming in my head. The first yelled, "Ugh, just stop it's soooooo heavy."
The second voice could hear my competitors, my husband, and the crowd cheering and screaming, "Keep going! Push! Don't give up!"
Fortunately, the second voice won out.
I ran out of time after 75 seconds but went 56 feet. I never gave up. Competitors, friends and others greeted me with hugs and cheers, hailing my triumph as I made the final steps.
I placed fifth in my class and seventh overall that day. Five women and eight men went to the finals in day two. In the end, I wanted to do my best, but my placement isn't as important to me as the experience.
Seven years later, I still dread training and going to the gym, but the competitions and the camaraderie are priceless.
There's something about the crowd and your competitors cheering you on. It's not about strategizing and mental games; it's simply the strongest athlete wins.
While I may never have imagined I would strap a 16,000-pound truck to my back, I am grateful for the opportunity to compete with such stellar athletes while being stationed in Germany.
Editor's Note: Lockhart is a senior visual information specialist at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.