A year and a half ago, Analeah Williams’ only focus was to fit into her wedding dress.
The 28-year-old Woodinville resident was scheduled to walk down the aisle in May 2013. So she began a weight training program to get her body cut and defined for that glorious day.
But then a funny thing happened. She loved the weight training process. Eighteen months later, she found herself at the Oregon Feats of Strength contest held last week in Redmond, Ore. Williams was sweaty and bruised, but with a big smile on her face, after finishing third in the women’s novice division.
“I had a great time,” she said. “And I learned a lot about how to handle the adrenaline and mental challenges of a competition.”
Getting ready for this strongman event took a year of preparation. Williams did strength training three times a week, cardio twice a week and event training once a week.
She’d been a spectator at three other strongman events, and knew what to expect. What encouraged her was seeing those crowds cheer loudly for every participant. She hoped their support would help ignite a fire under her.
Her husband would accompany her, but not her parents. Williams didn’t want the extra pressure of their presence, plus her mom was worried she’d tear a bicep muscle or suffer any number of strongman-type injuries.
So Williams made her way down to Oregon.
“Things got off to a bit of a shaky start which really brought into focus what I was doing and the culmination of all my training over the last year,” she said. “The yoke/sled drag medley was first, and yoke is one of my strengths, but it was difficult to handle on the uneven grass. I almost dropped the yoke, which never happens, and I was moving much slower than I expected.
“The sled drag felt unexpectedly easy, as if dragging 255 pounds after walking with 340 pounds on your back is ever easy,” she said. “And I just pushed my legs to the limit. By the time I crossed the line with the sled I could hardly walk, stumbling like a drunk back to the staging area. I was able to make up a lot of time and was in third after the first event.”
The log press was next. Williams knew it was going to be tough as overhead pressing is a weakness she had been working on. But then she discovered that the log at the contest was a smaller diameter than the one with which she’d been training. This would be much easier to position correctly for an effective press.
“Our strategy was to rest between presses to maximize my ability to complete each lift,” Williams said. “I cleared the log into position easily and with a little struggle I was able to press the log three times, each time focusing on my coach counting down my rest behind the judges. After the third press, I thought I would not have enough time for a fourth attempt so I unlatched my weight belt, which caused me to fail on the fourth rep. Three reps is still a personal record and I am very proud.”
Next was the farmer’s walk/tire flip, which had a 60 second time limit. Williams managed six out of eight flips completed. Then came the Husafell stone event, which went badly for her and bumped her down the rankings. “Carrying a rather large, 200 lb cement stone is difficult,” she said. “This event typically comes down to who can move the fastest and or push through the pain the longest. The stone starts higher up in your arms and slips down as you walk, scraping and bruising and making it harder and harder to move your legs. I am on the short side, which makes events like this particularly difficult for me.”
Heading into the last event, Williams sat in fourth place. It would come down to the atlas stone — the iconic strongman event. The goal here was to load a large cement stone over a 48-inch bar as many times as possible in 60 seconds.
“I managed six, almost seven, fast clean reps, which is another PR,” she said. “I would’ve completed the last rep if I hadn’t hesitated due to time. The competitor who was in third was unable to get any reps on the stones, which gave me enough points to pull ahead and place third.”
Upon returning home, Williams began planning for next year, with hopes of moving out of the novice division and into a weight division. Were she to place at next year’s contest from within a weight division, she would qualify for ultimately a chance at nationals.
“The biggest thing I learned is to keep pushing until the very last second,” she said. “Time slows down when your heart is pounding in the heat of competition.
“It was hot, I’m bruised, beaten and sore. The adrenaline coursing through me all day made me nauseated and shaky … and I can’t wait for next year!”