down the narrow aisle of the US Airways Express air bus that was my
flight home, I saw many friendly faces-Animal vets like Big Al,
Universal rookies like J. Halladay and FORVM luminaries like J-Dawg and
The NAUT. Checking my ticket, I realized my seat was way in the back,
and as I slowly made by angled walk toward the plane's rear, I came to
a startling revelation of the ironic kind. Of course, my seat wouldn't
be next to a kindly old lady or a petite fitness diva, but instead, I'd
be wedged side by side with Bobby “Powerswitch” Fields, my Cage cohort,
in the last row (the one without the reclining seats, next to the
bathroom). Only about 500 lbs of man beef crammed into two coach seats.
Luckily it wasn't going to be a long flight. In a way, that cramped
seat Bobby and I shared was a lot like the weekend at The Cage. It was
power-packed and over fast.
Wednesday is where it all
begins, without fanfare or attention, in the shadows. Where the man
work of erecting the chain link monument to all things big and strong
that is The Cage takes place. Each rubber floor square laid down, wall
of fencing set in place, iron plate and dumbbell tonnage humped out of
massive shipping crates is done with the caring but calloused hands of
those that care the most, those charged with the responsibility of
making The Cage run, making The Cage real. Through Thursday evening,
sweat pours and toil is undertaken with excited and anxious thoughts of
the madness that awaits just mere hours away. Thursday was my first
trip to the gym on Ohio time, and there I hit back and calves with my
boy Aggression. Not ones to sit on our asses, I was flanked by several
of my brethren in black, including Enforcer, P Diesel, J-Dawg and
naturalguy. All there to put in a little extra work. There to get a
pump before the freakshow ensued. Also pouring through the doors were
more of our boys from the FORVM, cats that went from
cyber-acquaintances to real-life brothers over the course of a mere
couple of years-guys like Razor, Phil, Josh, Deanna and Nix. Cats that
are down for the cause, no matter what the cost, like ghost and THE
Chase Browning. These dudes ain't fucking “fans”, they are family.
naturalguy will attest, on the road, we break into a groove of eat,
train, eat… Taking our downtime when working away from home and using
it to improve and progress. It is our responsibility to set the tone,
to establish the vibe, to reinforce the Animal ethos. We have taken it
upon ourselves to bleed the ethic we espouse, to show that this shit is
real. Leading by example, not for props or paychecks, because this is
what we do, this is who we are.
Friday morning, as would
all mornings for the rest of the weekend, started a little bit early.
Plates of egg whites, bowls of oats and fruit, maybe be the odd bowl of
cold cereal or a muffin (or four) went down the hatch, plus the
requisite Pak, Omega and Flex to start the day, protective armor to
shield me from the elements. These mornings began earlier for a reason
and with a simply stated mission. Each day, flanked by my brethren,
guys like Wrath, The House, Vinny G, C. Coronato, Antoine V. and P
Diesel, we'd walk the line of early morning Arnold Expo diehards and
seek out a special few-those venturing out into the melee that is the
fitness extravaganza repping Animal to the fullest, rocking our gear.
No more or less was involved. If you were rocking an Animal shirt or
hat, you got a swag bag, and a message that was easy to understand,
“Thanks for representing Animal, bro.” Just another small way of giving
back, a tiny gesture of gratitude delivered with sincerity.
Friday at The Cage started and ended as each day always does, bringing
Animal enthusiasts into the iron confines to partake in the palpable
power, benching their bodyweight for reps, each participant leaving
with an Animal DVD and a can of Pak 15s. The festivities were then
officially set off with a bang, with Seath308 and Justin Randal
crushing the squat, with Seath working up to over 800 lbs for a double.
The Washington boys were followed by two highly informative seminars
from Cage vets The House and Vinny G, kicking knowledge to a public
hungry to learn. I was again lucky enough to compete in Pros vs. Bros,
battling with and against my brothers-with C. Coronato and me taking on
Big Al and Enforcer. Christian and I put on a solid performance of 33
and 32 reps respectively (only to be outdone by J. Halladay's epic 48
reps on Saturday), allowing us to edge my boys and represent for Team
Yellow, positioning us to take the lead in this altruistic event,
benefiting military charities.
PvB was followed immediately by yet another amazing strongman
exhibition from HIGA MONSTER, one that was as informative as it was
entertaining, and that is saying a lot, as this one included an axle
continental clean (Google it, kids.) with 315 lbs, then pressed
overhead for reps. It was awesome. After HIGA was some more West Coast
power with Cali's resident HRT guru, the program's founder, Rage and
the Canadian Collossus known as Wycked putting Bodybuilding.com HRT
team contest winners CaptSpaulding and RBowman through the paces of
some painful Hell Raiser Training demonstration, underscoring yet again
why this training system has generated such a fervent underground buzz.
It hurts. It works.
night had me back down to Metro to get some chest (I mean, it was
Friday, after all) and finish off my work on the bench a few hours
after Pros vs Bros, with two exceptionally strong cats-Aggression and
Enforcer (who lately I've begun to call “Branch” as his work ethic and
intensity are on a different level.) Then it was eat, shower, take my
supps and crash, just in time to rest up for the massive marathon day
that is the first Saturday of March in Columbus, Ohio.
hooking up the fellas waiting in line with Animal swag, accompanied by
Wrath, we were off and running in The Cage. From a Powerlifting
perspective, The Cage, on this fine day was unrivaled and unmatched.
Nowhere on the planet could you witness what you could in a thirty foot
stretch of fence in the middle of the Columbus. Scott “Hoss” Cartwright
dominating more than 1000 lbs for a double in the squat. Richard “The
Ant” Hawthorne, the strongest deadlifter on the planet, pulling 610 lbs
four and a half times at a bodyweight of 130 lbs. HIGA and P Diesel
going mano a mano in Pros vs Bros pulling 500 lbs for big reps. The
Westside Barbell boys Dave Hoff and Jay Frye board pressing over 900
lbs on the bench. And finally, the incomparable Sam “Big” Byrd doing
the unthinkable-balancing 635 lbs across his back and squatting it with
no hands… Yeah, I know… I'll say it again. He squatted 635 lbs with no
hands. What. The. Fuck?
For the sixth year in a row, Wrath
and I were blessed enough to hold our seminar and talk to our Animal
brethren. It was, as usual, titled “Train Like an Animal”, but in all
honesty, we talked about life. The challenges of being the man you want
to be, chasing your dreams, doing what is expected of you and staying
motivated and positive in the face of obstacles, doubt, pain and fear.
Not exactly our usual comedy routine, with almost no references to
cookies or cinnamon rolls.
As soon as I was done shooting
the gift with Raw McGraw, I was out the door with C. Coronato and Nick
Lepore to hustle down to Metro Fitness before the massive masses packed
the place, to mix up more than 120 Apple Jacked Rage shots for a toast
to hard training. It was steamy in that building with hundreds busting
their asses to get better. Legends were in the building, guys like Ed
Coan and Stan “The Rhino” Efferding and the usual IFBB Pros like Wrath,
The House and Vinny G. Shit, even Roelly Winklaar and Guy Cisternino
were there to get it in. I was lucky enough to trade countless delts
sets with Razor and DanTheMan. I tried to kill them, but they stood
strong, inspiring me to raise my game despite the on setting
exhaustion. I've said it before, while the rest of the industry
parties, we train. While the rest of the city gets wasted, we waste not
a moment in the pursuit of our dreams.
Dreams like those
of an overweight kid from Connecticut. Dreams that force you to do the
due diligence, to do it right, to leave nothing to chance. That's the
lesson taught by Evan “Ox” Centopani, the one Vinny and countless
others have anointed as the next Mr. Olympia. He made his imprint on
the sport even deeper Saturday night in Columbus, and he's just getting
started. We salute our Animal brother Ox, and thank him for blazing a
trail to the top of the mountain.
Sunday was no day of rest at The Cage for The Animal Crew. My boy, the hilarious
Antoine V and I hustled swag bags around the periphery of the expo,
hooking up the brothers in line, with T Dirty snapping pics and
shooting vids the whole time. The Cage was full of crews with Skiba and
the Jersey boys spreading knowledge and outside the box powerlifting
techniques, Powerswitch and his boys throwing down on the deadlift and
the Washington bomb squad of HIGA, Seath and Justin Randal joining Big
Byrd for a bodyweight bench showdown to close out The Cage and the Pros
Vs Bros battles on an appropriately strong note.
wasted, emotionally drained, after a brief bout with breakdown, I was
walking that slim aisle, ready to be wedged up against the window by
Powerswitch for the 90 minute up-and-down hop back to Illadelph. Though
tired to my core, I was internally ready to rock. Inspired by warriors
that are my brethren, I knew my weariness would not last. Like a pin of
adrenaline to the eyeball, chased with a double shot of Rage in a solo
cup, I am amped. The Cage has that effect. It beats you up… All the
while propelling you forward at light speed. Kind of like the best
workouts, the ones that punish you the most also produce the biggest
gains. That's The Cage. That's why we salute the black and white colors
on our family crest. And before you know it, it will be that time
again, for The Cage to return to Columbus. It is already calling my
name. Can you hear it?
For more photos from the CAGE and the National ABC Event,CLICK HERE.