I was once told a great saying by one of early strength coaches, mentors and now colleague Randy Scotes, from Idol Maker here in Miami, that has stuck with me for years on end. At the time I had been training for a couple of years and had become good friends with Randy, as we would regularly talk training, methods and war stories. I remember this was after one of my first major hamstring tears and I was explaining the need to continue to train and find a way to adjust. He looked at me as he took his glasses off and said firmly “Keep the Wolves at bay”…
At the time I had taken it for what I felt was a 2 dimensional saying in the idea that I was trying to keep my competitors on their toes. I would go years thinking the same thing as I progressed through spine injury, my bicep tear and several other injuries that would of sideline my from time to time. I am not condoning my path, nor have I ever suggested it, but I am going to be very expressive of the way this saying has evolved in my mind and over the years. I wish I could tell you that things come easy to me but they don’t. In fact, for most of my life, I fight hard against the grain and the current to see if my will can stand against the unyielding odds, sometimes even when I know I will lose. Along this journey I have been battered, beaten, embarrassed and heart broken so many times I have lost count or my mind is protecting my soul by simply forgetting so many of them. Although this path has made my journey as an athlete a much harder and shorter trip, I am truly grateful that it has allowed me to find value and depth as a coach and a leader.
Keeping the wolves at bay. A saying I have said countless times in my head and out loud but recently has had the greatest value. Where are these wolves I snarl at, I growl at… where my enemies? I have no doubt there are those that wake up every day with the truest intent of beating me at any given strongman comp and for that I am grateful and highly motivated. I understand that keeping my mind, body and will at its uppermost abilities is what makes mother fuckers lose sleep, and for that I am grateful. But what I am most aware of is that my greatest enemies, my largest wolves, the sharpest teeth and claws lie within, they always have. I have never lost sleep over the abilities of others but rather, on my ability to not keep trying. I have never wept over being defeated by a greater opponent, but only when I let myself down. I was reminded of this bitter realization when I felt fear going to pick up my first 200+ pound stone for the first time in 3 years post spine injury and beep tear (torn on stone of steel).
After having landed a 420 pound stone 4 years ago, here I was, apprehensive and anxious about a stone I used to skip as I warmed up. There were no opponents mocking me, no enemies at my gym door yelling or a bitter rival smashing me down with their strength. Here I was at the shores of my courage being slapped on my toes by the muck and mire of cowardice we all find at the waters edge before we dive in. I could feel it in my bones.. the howling was not of a greater enemy on the opposite end of the lake, instead, it was lonely echo within. The wolves lapping their drool, with tongues dangling before the hunt. Wet, hungry and glistening tongues shining against the night sky that falls like a drape over your will. Covering your heart in what seems like tangle of darkness that prays for the moonlight, if even but a glimpse of the light. Each and every auburn, gold and dark brown orb of these malevolent beasts watching and waiting for me to to drown, to sit on the bay of fear and simply become pray to the weakness within.
I have read and studied the wolf hunt and have found it to be a raw and natural source of unforgiving honesty and purity. The point is not to hunt the hardest prey for sport but rather, to feed the pack and survive. Slowly, over miles and miles of hard terrain the pack runs nipping and bitting to separate the weakest from the heard. The old, the small, the weak, THE SCARED all tumble to the side as this majestic line of wolves spreads over the land hunting and dancing. As my inner wolves began to encircle and close their ring of death around, I had to remind myself of something I had preached many years ago but had never said to myself. The injured wolf is thee most dangerous animal. For them there is no tomorrow, there is no retreat, no easy life and no soft ending.
I am by no means injured but there are some wounds that never heal. There are some cuts, pains, and bleeding that never stop pulsing throughout the night. Thy hurt when you turn, they hurt when you laugh and at times strip away the lighter that should come when there are joys occasions. There are some wounds that run deeper than the flesh and burn eternally. I am not regretful nor have I let myself be forsaken by my path, as much of it I have earned. What I truly am is grateful. I am many things in this world, many of which I don’t care to repeat, but something I am not is a fucking quitter. I have found a rage filled and bitter sweet peace with my body and my new found path to rebuilding myself. I am the wounded wolf, I am the ambitious puppy, I am the old gray Alpha pushing one last time in the snow. I am all these things because life has given me the obstacles to try and better myself and failures have become my best friends. You see, this scroll is more than the stone I picked up on Sunday. It is more than the man who typed this out and it is more than the daily pain of training… it is about The Way. I picked that fucking stone up on Sunday with pure fear running inside of my gut to each and every inch of my bicep tendons and spine and I wanted it there. I wanted her dancing and whispering in my ear. I wanted the howl of the night to try and match the growl of my resolution. I am aware that no great journey from now until I lay my head down will be absent of fear, and for that I am grateful. Keep the wolves at bay, inside and out… every … FUCKING..DAY.
Never Stray from The Way