Tag Archives: Thom Van Vleck

Are you feeling Slunk?

by Thom Van Vleck

Slunk [sluhngk]


1.  Being in a temporary state where one’s mental and physical abilities are impaired by a lack of sleep achieving a similar state to being drunk.

Every year there are new words added to the dictionary. This past year words like “Crap Shoot” and “Demonizing” were added among several HUNDRED others.  While the unabridged dictionary just keeps adding new words the concise versions have to trim words to keep balanced.  Recent words removed included “Video Jockey” and “Cassette Player”.  Some words once commonly used are rarely used and there are words that have been commonly used that are still not in the dictionary at all.  They all have something in common and that is someone, somewhere, had to make up a word to describe a feeling or situation.  That word either caught on or disappeared from our lexicon.

For years my Mom has made up words when her vocabulary has been lacking.  This has been amusing to me and my brother.  One of her words is “Befaffeldated” that means she was very confused and surprised.  I assume she meant befuddled and exasperated then kind of slammed these words together.  She has also used a word I’ve learned is being considered for the Oxford dictionary but didn’t quite make the cut…..yet.  That word is  “Slickery” and means that there are slippery conditions outside.   Again, I think she slammed “Slick” and “Slippery” together and I thought for a long time it was just another one her made up words.  Maybe she invented that word and now it has spread across the English speaking world and my achieve “real” word status by being included in the dictionary like other great made up words such as “Humongous” or “Ginormous”.  (Yes….ginormous is a word….it passed spell check so it must be a real word).

So, what does this have to do with “Slunk”.  Recently I traveled to Scotland to participate in the Masters World Championships of Highland Games.  Chad Ullom and Jackson Weightlifting Club members Bill Leffler and Jim Spalding were along.  If you’ve ever traveled internationally you may have experienced jet lag.  You also end up with these epically long travel times.  Chad told me that when he and Al Myers traveled to the IAWA World’s a couple years back they spent 40 hours on the road!  They got back Sunday night and Chad had to go to work Monday morning.  He said he was so exhausted that he couldn’t function….or was he “Slunk”?  So sleepy he felt drunk!

On my  recent trip to Scotland I had trouble sleeping on the overnight flight and ended up having marginal sleep for many hours and I jokingly said to Chad that I was “Slunk”.  We were all so tired we wondered if we should even be driving and kept taking turns as we caught naps.  I got to thinking and there have been many times I have been “Slunk”.  When I was in the Marines I was on a schedule where I would work two day shifts the first two days, then two 11-7 shifts the next two days, followed by two afternoon shifts the following two days.  I would then get 80 hours off and repeat.  I often stayed up between the two day intervals and became very sleep deprived.  I once fell into such a deep sleep afterwards that they almost called an ambulance when I wouldn’t wake up!

So, I’m going to try and go viral with this new term to describe that state of being so sleepy that you feel drunk….or Slunk!  It’s real, and we need a word to describe it so why not this word.  Sure, I’m in it for some personal glory, too.  I won’t lie.  If this word makes it I’ll probably cut the page out of a dictionary and hang it on my office wall and then gloat to all my friends saying, “I made that up”.

Do you still need to be sold on it?  Well, think of all the great ways it can be modified to describe things that we currently just can’t describe with one word.  So, if you are so sleepy you feel drunk you are simply “Slunk”.  If someone does this often, then you could call them a “Slunkard”.  If you plan on doing it then you can say you are going to be “Slunking” or maybe you are going to get “slanked”.  If you did it the day before you can say you were “slunked” yesterday.  I haven’t figure out “Slinking”…..maybe it’s the time leading up to getting “Slunked”. I haven’t worked out all these details yet….I’m an idea man not a detail guy.

Okay, so you have a new word!  The revolution begins.  Make me a superstar in the world of Etymology!  Start using “Slunk” every chance you get and, please remember….don’t slink and drive!  Now, if you excuse me….it’s my nap time.  I don’t want to end up a “Slunkard”.

All Round Mountaineering

by Thom Van Vleck

Chad atop the mountain!

After the recent Highland Games Masters World Championships Chad Ullom joined me on a “Mountaineering” expedition.  Last time I made a pretty epic climb but this time we took it a little easier after such a tough, three day competition. It is my opinion that a true “all rounder” should be in shape to do pretty much whatever he wants.  I enjoy hiking and hill climbing.

We had rented a house that overlooked Loch Ness.  Honestly, it was the best place I’ve ever stayed.  About as stereotypical Scotland as you could get and the views were spectacular.  While we were up above the Loch we were far from the top and that became Chad and I’s goal.  We heard you could see for 50 miles in every direction.  We set out up a road that met a trail.  The trail was was through woods and fairly steep.  We reached a logging road and after some discussion picked a route.  As we got above the tree line we were in fields covered with heather and rocks.

We were hoping for good weather as the view promised to be spectacular….but a heavy fog (or maybe it was clouds!) rolled in.  I’m glad we took layers as the wind picked up and it was very damp.  While the long distance view was ruined, it was still pretty interesting to pick you way down a trail in that heavy fog.  If you didn’t pay attention you could get easily turned around.

Thom Van Vleck at the top.

We ended up hiking down the other side and picking our way through several trails in the Abraichian Forest.  We ran across deep woods, unusual mushrooms as big as dinner plates and some bright red and some orange.  We saw an illicit Whiskey still reproduction (the Scottish version of a moonshine still).  There were glacial tills filled with rocks and we even saw some Scottish Red Deer.

As always, I had a bit of a side mission as well.  In 1971 my mother gave me my first bible.  Then for Christmas in 1978 by grandfather Dalton (Jackson Weightlifting Club founder) gave me a bible.  They were both small versions but have meant a lot to me because they are symbolic of the Christian principles I was taught and have come to embrace.  I know Christ is my savior and I’m a better man for it.  So, I brought those bibles along and laid them out at the top of the peak.

Two Bibles given to me by my mother and grandfather setting at the top of the mountain.

I can’t believe I’ve been to Scotland three times….and I can’t say I won’t again.  I’m sure there are many beautiful places in the world but there is so much I haven’t seen there and it’s a “sure thing” I’ll like it versus and unknown place.  Plus, the family history connection and the highland games are hard to beat.  I’ve already got a “next mountain” planned when I make it back.

Highland Games Masters 2014

by Thom Van Vleck

Chad Ullom tossing the caber in Scotland!

Recently USAWA members Dave Glasgow, Chad Ullom, and Thom Van Vleck went to Inverness, Scotland to attend the Masters World Champs of Highland Games.  Unfortunately, Dean Ross was unable to attend.  Dean was the last person to have attended EVERY SINGLE MWC since it’s inception a dozen years ago.  Larry Traub was in attendance to watch and cheer us on.  Dave and Larry had brought their wives along….I was stuck rooming with Chad…..

The event was great fun and I’ve already talked about the Guinness caber toss record.  This was a three day event and it worked out where I could help Chad in the morning sessions when he threw and he could help me in the afternoon sessions.  I know for a fact Chad helped me out and I hope he found me helpful as well.  We would video each other throwing and assess mistakes and changes.

Chad Ullom between Wilbur Stam and Tommy DeBruijn....and Chad beat them both in the caber!

Chad was 4th in what I would call one of the toughest 40-44 age groups I’ve ever seen.  He had former champ Mike Dickens to deal with as well as 6’10” Tommy DeBruijn.  Chad did extremely well against a field of some 20 throwers.  His best event was the caber toss where he was one of only three in his group to turn the caber.  He was in a dead tie going into the third and final attempt and ended up 2nd by a fraction.  I have to say in my opinion I thought he won it….but they didn’t let me judge!  It was that close.

I was in the 50-54 age group and I was dealing with two of the all time Scottish greats….Mark McDonald and Allister Gunn.  Both former pros and it was no contest with 18 throwers in my group about who would be in the top two.  Allister pulled out a close victory and the rest of use were really contending for 3rd.  I was very pleased to have my 2nd best finish ever with a 5th.  However, what really made my trip was winning the Weight Over Bar event for the 4th time at the World’s.   I really thought I had no chance at beating the two legendary Scots but it ended up being my day!  Chad was a big help spotting for me and keeping me focused.  I get deservedly kidded for focusing on this event but I love it and I won’t apologize for enjoying my win even if it’s just one event!

Thom Van Vleck winning the WOB event.

I know Dave was in a very tough group.  It was great to see him in Scotland with Larry.  Dave’s best events were the hammers where he placed 4th in both the light and heavy.  He was also 5th in the Heavy weight for distance.  Dave was in the 60-64 age group…..Which had THREE former or current World Champs in his group….by far the toughest in my opinion relative to the competition and age. I think Dave would be at the top had he not blown both quads a few years back.  I think he’s an amazing story recovering from that injury and coming back to throw well enough to contend for the podium.

Next year the World’s are slated for St. Louis, Missouri…back in the USA!  Looking forward to it all ready!

Tomatin Toss

by Thom Van Vleck

All lined up for the "Tomatin Toss" which was an attempt to break the Guinness Word Record for a mass caber toss! photo by Chad Ullom

USAWA members Chad Ullom and myself recently took a trip to Inverness, Scotland to take part in the Masters World Championship of Highland Games.  I will report on that later, but first I wanted to tell you about an exciting event Chad and I got to take part in.

There is a Guinness World Record for simultaneous Caber tossing and it stood at 53 Cabers.  Cabers are “logs” or “telephone poles” that are stood on end and the athlete has to pick it up, run with it, and flip it end over end for an “official turn”.  The previous record was held by a Highland Games in Fergus, Canada.  After the Games in Inverness we were invited with some 126 other throwers to try and break this record.  I have to be honest at this point and admit that Chad and I had some reservations regarding this as it could be quite dangerous with 126 logs flying through the air at once.  Previous attempts were very dicey!  But, in the end, we couldn’t pass up the chance to take part.

Tomatin Scotch Distillery was sponsoring the event so it was call the “Tomatin Toss”.

As we set up the sun was setting.  An official from Guinness had been flown in and he appeared to be a very proper Englishman!  He walked around with his head up and seemed to be scrutinizing everyone and everything!  We lined up on two sides and were throwing at one another….we had to question that!  There was a truck with a big screen TV at the end televising the event.  We had to wait for what seemed to be forever to get the “go”.

The instructions we received were a bit vague and this led to some confusion.  It’s tough enough to turn a caber but to do it on cue….well…that’s a real trick.  Chad is a master at the caber and I feel pretty confident with it myself.  I was only one of 6 that turned the caber in by age group of 20 athletes who were all proficient with the caber.  Still, it was a tall order!  The cabers were also not well made, as they were made for a “one time” turn.  This is NOT to say they preparation was poor…just that the cabers had been cut over the past 6 months and some had dried too much!  Chad and I knew we could have a caber snap on us and when that happens you never know what will happen.

Finally, we got a countdown.  As I began to “pick” (lift the caber into the tossing position) I had to simply focus on my caber and no one elses.  This put me at the total trust of the athletes around me that they wouldn’t lose control and dump it on my head.  As I heard the announcer hit “one” I ran up the caber and at zero gave it a pull….and much to my own pleasure it went flying over.  I glanced to my right and saw that Chad had successfully turned his and as it hit the ground it snapped in half!

While 126 had attempted and we only needed 54 for the record it was apparent as I looked around we might have a problem.  Many of the athletes were not as adept at the caber and had failed to get a turn.  Others had misjudged the timing and while they turned the caber it was not “simultaneous” with the rest.  The video was reviewed over and over and we were asked to stay in position as the judges reviewed the video and scored each turn individually.  The Guinness judge made his way up and down the field repeatedly…..about a half an hour went by and we were beginning to wonder if we had done it!

Finally, the Guinness judge took the microphone….and he did milk it a bit….but in the end he declared we had broken the record with 66 successful turns.  We all immediately headed to the beer tent to celebrate….not just the Guinness record…but the weekend as a whole.  I was really actually pretty glad to just survive the whole thing.  I remember as a kid reading the Guinness record book and wondering if I would ever be a part of it….and now I am!

The Gada Part 1

by Thom Van Vleck

The Great Gama with his Gada (Mace).

When I was a kid my first influence in physical fitness was my grandfather Dalton Jackson  He started training in 1928 at the age of 13.  At that time training information was sparse and what was available was often poor and sometimes dangerous!  One area my grandfather was interested in was wrestling and this led him to one of the greatest of all time….the Great Gama.  Gama wrestled in India (although I have learned he was ethnically Pakistani) for 50 years and was undefeated in that span!  He lived from 1880 to 1963 and his exploits were legendary.  He beat everyone in India and then sailed to England and challenged the world.  He had a “Gar Nal” that weighed over 200lbs that was a stone ring that he would put around his neck to do squats.  There is a story that he lifted a 1200kg (2645lbs) stone.  It is claimed he lifted this stone to his chest and then carried it.  I think that’s impossible but I do think it’s possible he may have lifted the stone in some fashion (such as lifting the edge off the ground or flipping the stone or some other partial lift).  Both of these stones are in a museum in Pakistan now.   It is also interesting that Bruce Lee studied Gama’s training habits very closely and adapted them to his own philosophies.

Classic use of the Indian Clubs in both hands from an old English book on training.

One of Gama’s favorite training tools was his Gada (or Mace).  It was a very heavy version of an Indian club.  The legend behind it is that it was the main weapon of the Hindu god Hanuman.  Hanuman was the god of strength and was the god that Indian wrestlers worshiped.  So basically it is a war club what the Europeans called a “Mace”.  I often think of it as being the first weapon ever and picture a cave man carrying his club!  It became one of the traditional training pieces in Hindu physical culture and was eventually transferred to England in the from of the “Indian Club” that was a popular part of the early physical culture movement in Victorian England over 100 years ago.  One Gada could be used or two.  You will often see the Indian club trained with two at a time.

Dalton Jackson doing his modified "Gada" exercises.

When I was a kid I would watch my Uncle’s train with barbells and dumbbells. They were Olympic style lifters and trained as such.  Meanwhile my grandfather always seemed to be doing something different.  I hate to say it but there was a point where I was a teen that I was “all in” to weightlifting and when my grandfather tried to teach me on some of his training I didn’t listen well (politely…but not closely as I always respected him).  I have few photos of him training but one I do shows him with makeshift “Gada” style dumbbells.  I realize now that much of his training was based on “Indian” style training and since the Great Gama favored the Gada, so did my grandfather.

Part II:  Building the Ultimate Gada

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