Interview with All-Around Lumberjill Champion: Erin LaVoie

Throwing axes?  Easy.  Chainsaw relays?  Done.  World records?  She’s got 2 of those. Guinness Book of World Records for most Christmas trees cut down in 2 minutes?  Did that in 2008.  First place All-Around Lady Jill in the 55th Annual Lumberjack World Championships?  Just did it last month.  We’re talking about Kill Cliff ‘s multitalented athlete, Erin LaVoie. Here are some insights into this champion’s amazing attitude, and the story of how she got to where she is today.

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Congratulations!  Now that you’re back from Hayward, WI, how does it feel to be All-Around Lumberjill Champion?

Incredible.  I’ve been watching and re-watching the videos of all the events.  It’s amazing, but it’s so stressful, it’s a 3-day event and each day you have to qualify for the next day.  Plus, the main [televised] events don’t happen until 5pm, so you spend the whole day having to manage yourself, manage your time, warm ups and nutrition.  I eat like a bird and hydrate a little bit all day long.  I don’t want to be full when I get up to compete.

How long have you been competing in this?

11 years.  I was studying forestry in Spokane and just, sorta, fell into it.  Back then I was on a team, but now, as a pro, I’m primarily competing as an individual.

There are a lot of different events with fantastically descriptive names: Logrolling, Hot Saw, and Boom Run, what is your favorite to compete in?

The Underhand Chop is by far my favorite.  It feels amazing to just smash through the log.

My least favorite would probably be the Double Buck –it’s a “Jack and Jill” partner event.  I think I prefer relying on myself.  Plus, it’s hard to find good partners you can count on.

Do you have any advice for people interested in competing in lumberjack events?

Yeah, just show up at a competition and introduce yourself!  Everyone is happy to help. We all know each other really well, travel together to the events all over the world.  Ask us anything.

It seems like lumberjack competitions have made a point of supporting and showcasing women in competition, has this always been the case?

Not really.  Earlier on, women were lucky to have 1 event.  For a long time I was the only girl with a bunch of old guys.  Probably one of the worst things was when I was competing in Australia and one of the guys came up to me and said, “What are you doing here?  I hope you brought a pie – because that’s all you’re good for”.  I was pretty shocked by that.  In the end, I actually beat his son and nephews by a large margin.  After that, he came back up to me and said, “I guess you can stay”.

Not everyone is like that, but we really have to earn our place.   There are some girls who think it’s a joke, but most of us take it seriously and work hard for it.  We put on exhibitions and competitions to support the female competitors.  We’ve done fundraisers for women’s shelters.  We try to raise awareness to grow it as a sport."

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I understand you are also a golfer, tell me about that.

Not really.  I golf with my dad.  Every year we do the Christmas Wish tournament.  I’ve gotten the award for longest drive 2 years running.  That was pretty cool.

How have Lumber Jack competitions shaped you as an athlete?

The biggest lesson is: seconds count.  You just have to go as hard as you can.  Let me give you an example, in this World Championship second place in the Under Hand Chop was 30.44 seconds and I won first with a time of 30.43.  Every second matters.

How would you describe your love of the sport?

I love the people and I love the power.  It feels so good to be so strong, to put that strength to work.  I also love the traveling, I’ve been everywhere from Australia to New Zealand and Canada.

How long have you been doing CrossFit?

4 years.  A friend got me into it when we were living in Virginia.  You always remember your first WOD; mine was as many 25lb kettle bell swings as you could do, then do a 200 m jog for 12 minutes.  I blacked out 14 swings in! I was used to doing 2 workouts a day for years prior to that, so I thought I was in good shape but no!  When I moved back to Spokane, I couldn’t find a good gym. So as the story often goes, I set one up in the garage.  Eventually friends started coming, the garage got too small and we moved to a bigger space. And now CrossFit Predation has been open for just over 3 years.

How has CrossFit shaped you as an athlete?

I really can’t train the Lumber Jack events in the winter.  It’s just too frozen.  So I focus on CrossFit.  When I first got back to Lumber Jack competitions after CrossFit, I just smoked them, I felt SO strong.  While everyone else was bending over to catch a breath, I was thinking, 'What’s next?'"

What is a typical day of training like for you?

It’s a lot of CrossFit.  I do a WOD, then I’ll chop 2 blocks then back to another WOD.  Right now it’s too hot to train outside, so I do mostly CrossFit.

What’s your diet like?

Ergh, not good.  I mean it’s 90% good, but I like jelly bellies and ice cream a lot.  I try, but I can’t cook.  It’s mostly just meat and steamed vegetables.

How does Kill Cliff help with your performance?

I just crave it!  It’s amazing. It refreshes me.  I can feel it the next day it really helps my recovery.

How do you fill your days when you’re not training and competing?

I love the water; we live near the river.  I paddle board.  I also have a black lab; we go hiking a lot.

What happens to all the wood, once the competitions are over?

Back in college we would donate it to a restaurant for their stove.  Sometimes we do a huge bonfire.  To be honest, at the big competitions, I’m not really sure.

What’s next?

We are expanding the gym.  In a year we are opening a bar.  A pub, to be exact.

Competition-wise, I just want to keep winning more titles.  Maybe I’ll break a new world record?  I haven’t done that in a while.

Do you have any final words to share?

No.  Actually, yes.  If you don’t work out, you need to.  We need to stay on top of the food chain.  Life is good when you’re fit.

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