BIGHORN — The Prowler and the Comanche

TAGS: AAA Power, bighorn, gym equipment, training facility, owning a gym, erik eggers, prowler

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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

The Overhead Door

I remember thinking holy shit when they first installed the commercial overhead door. That thing is way over-fucking built. There was a blunder with the order and the facility was fitted with a door formidable enough for an armory. By the time the door company realized their mistake, they’d already completed the installation, complete with hydraulic lift, and rather than dismantle the whole works, they agreed to take the path of least resistance and let us keep it for their cost.

“This door can stop a six-hundred-pound grizzly bear,” the installer said after I signed his work order and settled the invoice, adding a generous tip on top. He shook my hand and wiped his sweaty brow—his grip was cement-mixer strong. Impressive.

“I’m Charlie. You really lucked out here. You’ve got a shit ton of top equipment in there and this bad boy will definitely keep it safe. No worries — as long as you remember to lock it. That one is on you.”

“Appreciate it,” I said.

“I used to do a little training back in the day; used to have a pretty fair bench. Two-ninety-five…for reps. Clean reps,” Charlie said. “Mind if I ask you something?” He popped the top of a soda can and took a generous gulp.

“No, shoot.”

“You get any customers all the way out here?”

“Yeah, I think you’d be surprised. It’s all reputation. You don’t need a storefront location for the clientele we’re looking for.”

“You mind if I make a run at that big tire back there?”

“You want to try to flip it?” I asked. “Have at it.”

Sunday night around 10PM, about a month after the installation, when the first of those things leaped out of the woods, Charlie’s words—"door can stop a bear— ran through my mind. We need to get back inside, behind that fucking door!

Unfortunately, only four of the five of us were able to make it back inside safely and only three of us were left physically unscathed. Owen’s right thigh was gashed and bleeding like he was bitten by a zombie in The Walking Dead.

Once inside, it was hard to expunge Jeff’s screams from my mind—and the blood; so much blood sprayed over the Prowler he’d been pushing. I thought we were safe for the moment, or at least that’s what I was trying to make myself believe but those things knew we were inside.

We had to endure them ramming their skulls into the new overhead door for several hours.

That was just the first night.

The Gym

I opened the training facility three years ago, essentially because I wanted a great place to train with the best equipment. When I dreamt about owning my own facility, I always knew I would buy from elitefts similar to how I knew one day my giant Cerwin Vega speakers would adorn the corners of the facility. I was saving those big fuckers for something—too big and worn for my living room but audacious enough to rock the gym.

When I finally placed my first large equipment order, which consisted of two Collegiate Power Racks, several Texas Power Bars, and a variety of benches, flat and adjustable, I phoned in the order. Not because I couldn’t have done it over the internet but because I wanted to speak to Jim Wendler.

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I loved Jim’s writing and his swagger. Before Goodwin took over the role (also a great guy), Jim taught me to, "buy nice; don’t buy twice."  


READ: Considerations When Opening a Training Facility


We named the facility AAA Power. Creative, right? We wanted to be the first listing in the phone book. Three years later, do they even have phone books? Our logo was the obligatory human skull adorning the top of a ridiculously muscled torso. Total baditude. The exaggerated traps are alone almost laughable in retrospect, but it was our design, so we embraced it.

The gym was deep in the woods of Connecticut. I knew, given the type of training facility we were going to forge, a storefront location wouldn’t be material; plenty of guys have been successful in the back of industrial complexes. There was one issue that was a bit of a problem: no cell reception. Zero.

Even that was a double-edged sword. It was great to eliminate the phone distraction from training, but when you’re in a life and death situation cell phone reception definitely comes in handy.

Jeff

You’re the best I’ve seen at making light weights look heavy,” Jeff said, smirking through a comically thick goatee. A smattering of grease darkened the corner of his forehead, the residual of a long day fixing cars.

“Fuck you,” I responded, letting 135 pounds fall to the rubber-coated floor. I was warming up for a deadlift session, working on a transition from conventional pulling to sumo. “I’m an old fucking man, Jeff. Still scratching and clawing for an occasional sniff of my glory days. It takes me a long time to warm up.”

“Let’s go, son,” Chris said, preparing to spot Jeff during his next set. “Too much yapping between sets is contraindicated according to the American College of Sports Medicine.”

Jeff smiled and worked his way back to the cage he was working in. We’d persuaded him to add board presses to his bench work to allow him to overload a bit, particularly at the top end. He was following the program and seeing results.

Jeff’s a good guy. He’s a nut. He’s always making everyone laugh but at the same time, he always trains pretty hard. We’re just trying to get him to work a little smarter and employ more multi-joint power moments in place of some of the beach muscle work. Jeff loves beach muscles.

Four of us were training our pulls together: myself, Owen, Jon, and Will. Two of the girls were in the back room running through some circuit training — seven trainees total, a pretty decent crowd for a Sunday night.

We had such a great crew. A family, really. Between sets we would catch Jeff jutting his jaw and admiring himself in the wide double mirrors mounted on one of the long walls, Chris trying not to laugh at the spectacle.

“Jeff, leave him alone. He needs to concentrate tonight — gonna see if he can get 315 to break the floor later,” Will said with his stock sardonic smile. He grabbed the bar and snapped off a quick six reps.

The training session was going well for me until I tore a callous off my left hand on the last set. At forty-six I’m finding it more and more difficult to get through a heavy training session unscathed. In the scheme of things, I’ll take a torn callous. My back was fried from the training but healthy.

“You guys want to push the Prowler?” Jon asked.

“Yeah,” Owen said, “I’ll do some pushes. Need to work on the cardio.”

“I’m out,” Will said. “I need to do some farmer’s walks and then I’ve got to get out of here.”

Pushing the Prowler was the last thing I wanted to do but I decided I’d join them outside to see if the spirit moved me once I was there. We performed most of our sled and Prowler work on an asphalt strip behind the gym. It’s about forty feet wide and maybe sixty yards long, abutting the back of the gym having thick woods on the remaining sides.

“I’ll join you guys,” Jeff said, electing to skip his upper-body finisher for the brutal pushes.

I didn’t blame him for joining us. Misery loves company.

It was the last training decision he would ever make.

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Day 1: The Prowler

It was an unseasonably warm September evening but not too hot and mercifully not humid. The rear exterior of the facility was equipped with a generous supply of spotlights. They surrounded the outer perimeter of the asphalt strip, illuminating the area. The visibility was reasonable but beyond, the thick woods remained black as pitch.

It’s funny. I’m a forty-six-year-old grown-ass man but I don’t like to be back there alone at night. And it’s not just that I’m averse to cardio. I’m not precisely sure what makes me uneasy. It’s looking into that dark abyss. It’s hard to mentally prepare for potential adversity when you can’t see it coming. I don’t like to be blindsided.

After one of his early sets, Jeff marched to his car at the far end of the lot with hands on hips. I was already sitting on the asphalt, leaning against a giant tractor tire, which in turn, was resting against the rear of the building. I was trying to catch my breath after only two horrible sprints of about sixty yards, which were down-and-back sprints. In the distance, I watched Jeff’s silhouette retrieve something from his back seat.

I was concentrating on my breathing when I thought I heard some rustling in the woods. It was something large. Deer?

“You’re out of shape, son,” Chris said, looking down at me before taking off with the Prowler like a young gazelle. I momentarily forgot about the rustling and the animals foraging in the dark woods.

Oh, to be twenty-six again.

“What the heck is that?” Owen asked, upon Jeff’s return. Jeff was brandishing something in his right hand. It looked like some type of tricked-out hatchet.

“It’s badass, right?” Jeff said. “It’s a throwing tomahawk”

“You guys want to grab beers after this?” Jon asked, interrupting Owen’s admiration of the tactical tool. “We can drive over to Buffalo Bills after he pukes in the woods.” He pointed at me and smirked. “Get fat yo!”

There will be no Prowler Flu for me tonight.

“It’s perfectly balanced,” Jeff continued, ignoring Jon’s suggestion for the time being. “Here, feel it. I need to do another set.” Jeff handed the weapon to Owen, turned and began sprinting with the Prowler, howling like a wild child.

Fucking Jeff.

“SOG,” Owen said, reading the handle of the tomahawk. “Why the heck does he have this thing?” Owen expelled nervous laughter, furrowing his brow under a heavy skull cap, elitefts printed on it in yellow writing.

I beckoned with a subtle hand wave. Owen complied and handed me the weapon.

“Is he a Comanche?” Owen asked, giggling.

That’s when things slowed down. Comanche. I almost laughed but life is full of wild juxtapositions. I saw something happening in the distance that altered my demeanor. It felt like a punch in the gut that forced both the air and the levity from my lungs.

Jeff had reached the far end of the asphalt patch and was spinning the Prowler for the grueling return trip when hell leaped from the woods, forever altering our existence.

Comanche. 

You’re not going to believe this. I wouldn’t believe it, had I not seen it with my own blurry night vision — this was the one time I was happy to have subpar vision.

“What the …?” Jon gasped, seeing it too. “Jeff!” He turned to Owen and me, “It’s got Jeff.”

It leaped from the out of the woods and pounced on with a lethal impact.

It was a raptor, straight out of Jurassic Park — at least that’s what I first thought when it landed on Jeff with taloned feet. It must’ve traveled twenty feet during its approach, reaching nearly ten feet at the apex of the jump, before violently taking Jeff down to the asphalt.

Comanche.

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“Kangaroo?” Owen expelled.

I jumped to my feet but was otherwise frozen in terror.

Its teeth tore into the side of Jeff’s neck and shoulder, nearly severing his head from his body.

Jon looked at me. “Throw it,” he screamed. Throw it.”

I remained frozen, unable to comprehend Jon’s direction when Owen grabbed the tomahawk from my hand. He didn’t throw it but, instead, charged the beast that was devouring our friend.

“Kangaroo,” Owen screamed, as he sprinted toward the animal, swinging the tomahawk like a man possessed.

Owen brought the weapon down hard on the creature’s head but the blow only glanced off its horns. The impact dislodged the handle from Owen’s grip and sent it tumbling to the asphalt.

“Kanga … ?” Owen screamed as the monster turned his attention from Jeff, snarling to reveal a set of long, sharp teeth — rows of long, sharp teeth.

“We have to help him,” Chris yelled. His words finally snapping me out of my trance.

“Charge him,” Jon bellowed. 

Him?

Together, the three of us rushed the monster. Other than trying to save Owen, we had no idea what we were going to do when we reached striking distance.

“Jesus,” Owen screamed, as one of its talons ripped across his right thigh. He collapsed on the pavement, nearly falling on what remained of Jeff.

Jon snatched one of the upright Prowler pipes, pulling it free from its frame. He swung it like a baseball bat, striking it in the head, but as with the tomahawk, its ram-like horns appeared to absorb most of the blow. Although the beast was knocked off-balance it was able to recover, turning its attention from Jeff’s bloodied carcass to its new prey, Jon.


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Chris yanked the second Prowler pipe free and loaded it across his shoulder, ready to take a cut of his own. I was able to locate the tomahawk and together, the three of us stood as a unit, backing the monster away from Owen.

For the first time since its initial appearance, the creature appeared tentative. It momentarily stopped to consider us, then suddenly turned and sprinted back into the abyss. Like a nightmare, it was gone as quickly as it appeared, leaving a residue of terror and dread.

“Get inside,” I said. “Right now.”

Jon and Chris grabbed Owen under his arms and yanked him to his feet.

“Can you walk?” Jon asked. “We’ll help you.”

“Jeff. Jeff. That kangaroo tore Jeff apart,” Owen muttered. “That kangaroo, it was real.”

Owen, kangaroos don’t have horns.

“Hurry,” I said, bending down to check on Jeff almost as a formality. I knew he was gone. “Get him inside.”

From the corner of my eye, I saw three more of them emerge from the woods.

We were nearly at the gym door.

Comanche.

Part Two: BIGHORN — The Mace and the Jedi

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