And as the rubble fell and shook the earth, and the dust slowly settled in piles of debris, the void of nothingness left behind slowly came into clear view. The carnage was catastrophic: it wiped virtually everything away save for a few battered survivors holed up beneath the ground. The earth was silent; there was not a creature left with the strength to stir - except two.
One slowly rose to his feet, helping his partner before brushing away the nuclear dust that had fallen onto his shoulders. He coughed then spit; his phlegm hissed and sizzled on the burnt ground. There was nothing left for either one of them here: the fallen sky scrapers and broken bridges only served to remind them of their lost dreams scattered out on the ground before their very eyes.
The sight alone was enough to tear the soul from the heart of the common man, but these two were different: they kept their spirits locked away in a bullet proof safe deep in the chasms of their blackened minds. Enough was enough, and without another glance at each other, the two sages left for the hills.
Days, months, and then years passed by as civilization slowly recovered from the trauma and began the hardy task of rebuilding herself. Huts soon turned into homes, homes became buildings, and buildings begat sky-scrapers. In no time at all the bustle of the civilized world had returned, buzzing and chirping as man and machine hissed in unison.
Rumors had spread about the two survivors; vague accounts of factory workers spotting them in the dead of night, claiming they had come down from the hill to walk the streets of the city, shaking their heads with disgust before vanishing again.
116 years had passed since the quasi-apocalypse and while civilization now fully dominated the valleys, it had yet to penetrate into the thick forests of the hills. The world had forgotten about the two survivors; many even doubted their actual existence, calling them nothing more than fables and phantoms. Ah, but what the world often overlooks sometimes returns full circle under its very nose...
Many Even Doubted Their Actual Existence."
Without care or concern for his surroundings an old man with a long red beard slowly walked down a narrow forest path. And while the wrinkles that stretched across his forehead spoke of old age there was a fire in his eyes that frightened even the hungriest of predators.
The path ended at a fierce river swarming with rapids. He tossed in a branch and watched the current gobble it up and sweep it away down stream. For the first time since the quasi-apocalypse his journey came to an abrupt halt.
He paced back and forth attempting to find a way across. It seemed to him the faster he paced the wider the river grew. Frustrated and tired he sat down beside a tree and fell into a deep sleep. He dreamt vividly: people from the distant past came forth, running circles around him screaming and shouting, some hitting his defenseless body.
He vaguely recognized them but could not remember from where. Slowly they morphed to demons; moving in frightening sequences and chanting a hymn so evil it sent shivers through the old man's sleeping heart. They tied him down, each taking a turn performing horrible procedures upon his body. Still the old man could not wake him self from this nightmare. Instead, he fell deeper into it...
Days earlier another man was slowly making his way down a different path; his beard was thick and dark, it swept down from both sides of his face covering everything except a straight line through the center of his chin. His hair was long and disheveled from an endless journey.
Each step sent nearby animals scattering. Though his presence seemed somewhat ominous there was a subtle sense of peacefulness and serenity that emanated from him. He too came upon the river and could not find a way to cross. He began walking south. He walked for several days without stopping to eat or sleep. Finally he collapsed against the opposite base of the same tree and fell into a deep sleep...
The sun slowly swept across the sky; with it shadows crept over the river and into the forest. Frogs peeped in an unorganized melody while crickets chirped songs of revelation back and forth to one another. The sounds intensified before abruptly stopping; the wooded orchestra diminishing to dead silence.
Then the rains began; they pounded down upon the leaves and forest floor. The river ran faster and the rapids grew stronger. Thunder roared and a lightening bolt jumped across the night sky, striking a tree at the edge of the river. The tree burst into flames. Split down the center it fell into the river and was whisked away by the violent rapids.
The exploding tree woke one of the men: renewed and energized he jumped to his feet and dusted himself off. Nothing could be seen; the night was pitch-black. All that could be heard was the pounding rains and claps of thunder in the distance. Another lightening bolt zipped across the night sky, illuminating the world below.
"Good God!" he exclaimed. Lying limp against the burnt stump was another man.
He grabbed a scorched stick and poked the man in the ribs. No movement. He looked around to survey the landscape. The wind blew hard; wet leaves flew around like confetti in the air. He moved closer to the body and crouched down low to inspect.
His face hovered just inches over the man's. He squinted hard struggling to remove the night's darkness from his eyes. As he moved in closer an earth shaking bolt of lightening struck against the dark sky. The man's face lit up and he pulled back in disbelief... "Red," he whispered to himself.
He knew the man and he was sure of it! How could he forget such a pronounced jaw and super-hero-like chin? Frantic at the thought of his old friend lying dead before him he grabbed a round, bowl-shaped piece of bark that had ripped from the tree during the storm. He plunged it into the angry water and ran back to his old friend before the bark even had a chance to be fully submerged.
He stopped short like a wild horse at the edge of a cliff. With a thrust of his hand the water left the confinements of the bark and sliced through the night air. The river raged faster. The wind blew harder. The moon shone brighter. The cold water painfully slapped Red in the face. Red's ravenous eyes opened wide!
"Argh! I'll kill the all of you!" Red screamed at no one in particular, thrusting his body frontward and landing face first in the mud.
"What do you want from me?!" He shouted, pulling himself back onto his feet and lashing out. His fists shot out into thin air as if he was swinging at a foe that fully encircled him. He rubbed his eyes, clearing the goop that blocked his vision. The world was hazy; he knew not where he was or what demons survived the first attack. He wheeled around at the sound of a breaking twig. A blurred figure entered his line of sight. He had his target.
Red lurched forward, arms extended, hands out stretched prepared to grasp the throat of the demon. But the demon fought back. Quick on his feet, the demon snagged a log from the ground and clubbed Red across the face.
Red fell back, stunned and dizzy he laid spread out across the ground.
Anthony Church: "Red, can you hear me?"
Red: "Mmgrrraahh," Red grunted in disillusion, not recognizing his former partner in crime.
Anthony Church: "No, Red... come on... . It's me, Anthony."
Red lifted his head slightly off the ground, tilting it to the side with a bewildered look upon his face.
Anthony Church: "Red it's me... Remember. Remember how we battled the misinformed?"
Red: "Blah, blah, blah... The lion stands alone... Blood red moon... The tad pole in a jar," Red incoherently mumbled.
Anthony Church: "C'mon man! Think, think! Remember our road trip to Indiana? 'Hey f***face... yea, I'm talking to you!' Haha... 'Ya'll stay way from dem rest stops, yah hear?'... umm... 'would y'all like sugar in it?' 'No, black coffee...' 'Would y'all like milk in it?' 'No! Black coffee!' ... Remember?"
Red's head suddenly sprung up. His face showed interest; it visually spoke of recognition and excitement.
Red: "We need to cross the river!" He exclaimed, still in a bit of a daze.
Anthony Church: "Forget the river man! Do you even know who I am?"
Red: "Yes... How? I thought you died? Where have you been!? What have you been doing this whole time?"
Anthony Church: "I thought you were dead too. I thought everybody from the past was dead. I've been looking to find my way ever since I fled... How did you survive?"
Red: "You look... different, what happened to you?"
Anthony Church: "What happened to YOU?"
Red: "Back there, in the forest? It's a damn long story."
Anthony Church: "Start from the beginning, we have plenty of time. Look at that river; we aren't crossing it anytime soon..."
... So it hadn't been 116 years. It had been five years. But it seemed like 116. And while cities and civilization had not been decimated, lives and identities had. These are the stories of two lives completely changed. Just as the city was rebuilt, so were the destinies of these two young men. The following is their autobiographical accounts that occurred between the years of 2002 and 2007.
I've often asked myself this: where did I stray? What - or for that matter was there - a decisive turning point in my life? A pivotal moment that took me from exploring the forest of life and finding my own way instead onto a preset path, one marked with hazard signs, hazard signs that I failed to take heed of that clearly led to disaster?
Without a full reflection one might assume this change occurred in the fall of 2002 when I stuck a needle into my glute with the aspirations of winning a Mr. Olympia title. That, however, is far too simple a deduction. The truth is never simple. The truth is complex and far too difficult to easily communicate with mere words.
|PREVIOUS OLYMPIA COVERAGE|
The change I speak of subtly developed; centered on self-ignorance it progressively became more and more dramatic as its centripetal force continually increased. By slowly ignoring my own feelings and emotions I subconsciously developed a complete disregard for instinct and intuition.
Once I became fully capable of ignoring myself, once I had built a wall separating my conscious mind from my conscience (that little angel that sits on your right shoulder technically defined as instinct and intuition), the rest became easy.
After the fall of 2002 it snowballed out of control. I became excessively naive and cocky ignoring the many qualities that once mattered to me. My bad habit (addiction) was fueled and funded by a hungry and untapped market. And I became a legend, the "go to guy," exactly what the cops would refer to me as later on in the papers: "A big fish in a small pond."
In retrospect I was, I was no better than a muscle bound @sshole; your stereotypical meathead. In fact, by putting chemistry to mal-practice I became too smart for my own good.
But at that time I thought I was the man: I was loved by the "fellas" and desired by women who valued me much the same as one values a trophy. Needless to say, my ego was so well fed it grew at twice the rate of my body. I felt (despite that my blood pressure was so high I could take a deep breathe and feel my fingers tingle) on top of the world. I was 232 pounds at 3.5% body fat, registered to compete in two competitions, had several sponsors with their eyes on me, and pocketed a doctor's salary each week.
And then there was a knock on the door. Outside men in uniforms, one holding a dog, waited impatiently to be let in. Ironic and unbelievable as it may sound, the previous night I had a dream warning me of the events to unfold that following day. But I was too arrogant: too arrogant to listen to those around me, those who cared; and too stupid to even listen to myself. That day everything changed...
But strange as it may seem, my mistake, the money it cost me, the humiliation and consequences I suffered, I count it as a blessing, the true pivot point in my life. Sometimes a mule can be so stubborn you have to beat it over the head with a 2x4 before it responds. I was that mule. My body may have shrunk since, but my mind and heart have grown exponentially.
I said senior year in my High School year book that no matter where the trade winds blew me, I would be followed by beautiful women and wealth. Today I can say that prediction has come true: they are a handful of my close friends, my mother, grandmothers, sister and my amazing girlfriend. And while monetary wealth closely waits on the horizon, I have an abundant wealth of life - to which I hold countless times more valuable.
Only after the dust covering the past has been brushed aside can one see the future. I saw my future 8 months ago when I left the mortgage industry to pursue my life long passion: fitness and athletic performance. Having spent countless hours over the past 7 years researching and reading everything available in the field the decision was a no-brainer.
Five months ago I put my knowledge to the test when I applied for, took, and passed the NSCA's Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist exam. Currently I work as a fitness consultant training individuals and athletes of all ages, backgrounds, abilities and fitness levels.
Through my guidance and motivation my clients continuously progress by setting and achieving new goals. Each success story: each pound of fat lost, muscle gained, or repetition increased gives me a feeling of fulfillment not experienced since my days writing for Teenbodybuilding.com.
Still, I feel it's not enough. I want to know everything about athletic performance so that I can improve upon the knowledge that already exists. I want to impact the performance and lives of athletes at all levels.
For these reasons I have returned to college where I am currently fulfilling a few requirements before enrolling at UConn in the fall of 2008 in pursuit of an exercise physiology masters. At the completion of my masters I want to work as a strength and conditioning coach at the professional level.
But enough about my future; I want to have an impact on your future too. And so I have returned to Bodybuilding.com, the place where my passion was initially sparked, to give back; to spread the knowledge I've gained, the lessons I've learned, and the wisdom I've obtained (while at the same time ever increasing my own knowledge!) to anyone willing to listen.
Where did it all change for me? Why would I stop? After all, I was on top of my game. I had just finished 2003 as the country's most successful teen bodybuilder beating more opponents than any other teen bodybuilder in the country. From my first local show all the way through nationals I steamrolled over people.
Magazines took notice and so did supplement companies. A steady fan base was growing. I was building foundations and relationships that would propel me to the highest levels in the sport. People looked up to me in awe wishing they could accomplish what I could and experience what I experienced. So why did I put the breaks on? I had seen enough; that's why.
Through Nationals I Steamrolled Over People."
They say the grass is always greener on the other side. It's true. For those who have visions of grandeur about being a professional bodybuilder traveling the country winning competitions, just ask me. I will tell you the grass is greener on the other side. Or ask the man that wanted to be a lawyer, and now hates that he is forced to get up and disguise himself in a suit and tie. Or ask the movie star or top pop singer who made their ways to the top and now battle with depression and drug and alcohol addictions.
Ask the Super Bowl championship player that gets picked up for weapon violations or spouse abuse. The grass is always greener on the other side.
So what exactly did I see on the other side? I saw a bunch of rats all chasing the same piece of cheese and metaphorically committing suicide in the process. Only the nightmare was worse. The cheese was actually a mirage. It was elusive. There was no cheese, only the image of it.
What am I talking about? I'm talking about the 16 year old kid that just found out he can get steroids from Joey Pincushion then buys them with the hopes of getting huge and competing. I'm talking about the 40 year old man that buys them from the 23 year old with no job or career aspirations in the locker room of a local gym so that he can feel 23 again by doing a bodybuilding show.
I'm talking about the insatiable thirst by so many young body builders and athletes to get their hands on whatever steroid, hormone, or even just harmful sport supplement they can get. All for that little extra edge so they can bring home a trophy. I'm talking about the 16 year old that SEES the 40 year old, that SEES the 23 year old, that SEES the trophy and decides he wants to be them, that he wants that trophy.
I'm talking about the arrests, I'm talking about the raids, I'm talking about the beatings and the fights, the bloody noses, the kidney failures, the runaway heart beats, the roid rages, the break ups, the ever haunting criminal records, the suicides, the depression, the anger, the lost identity and the permanent scars and wounds. For what? To win a trophy? To call yourself a bodybuilder?
To feel like your life has value? That you're better than somebody? So many athletes were trading in the most valuable possession we have, our health, for a chance to win a damn trophy!
I did what I did in the drug rampant sport of bodybuilding as a lifetime drug-free bodybuilder to make a point to every young kid out there that you do not need to use drugs to win, have friends, or be successful. I made that point.
But I did not want to continue to be a part of the circus called bodybuilding. A circus where the animals are busting their @sses in the gyms day in and day out just training their @sses off; eating the way they need to eat for their success day in and day out; dedicating their every waking hour to gaining size and getting ready for shows; spending big money on supplements and food day in and day out.
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They are putting their blood, their sweat, and their tears into everything they have day in and day out. And yes, day in and day out bodybuilders all across the country sacrifice their health in the pursuit of glory in this bloodthirsty sport. And for what?
Promoters promote shows and make good money off the athlete's sacrifice, struggle, and commitment. Supplement companies make huge amounts of money off bodybuilders and bodybuilder wannabes. Those who sacrifice the most get almost nothing in return. Instead a few make a lot of money at the expense of the masses' health.
Sacrifice Their Health In The Pursuit Of Glory."
I have no problem with people making a lot of money. I have a problem with the building of an empire and subculture that indirectly promotes a disregard for health and sets a bad image and example for our youth!
And so, after these years of quiet, and not so quiet, contemplation I too have returned to my original home, Bodybuilding.com to give back and spread the knowledge I've gained, the lessons I've learned, and the wisdom I've attained to anyone that cares to listen. I will be heard.
Actually, that isn't the end, it's just the beginning. For our two heroes followed the river down stream and eventually found civilization. And while there were no grand parades, parties or celebrations, civilization knew it was time for a change.
To Be Continued...