It's only been a few days since the drive home from Columbus...but WOW is all I have to say. I know it sounds fucking cliche', but deal with it. I had a GREAT time last year, but this year it was completely blown out of the water. The Cage, to say the least, was amazing, but what got me more was the personalities. Hanging out with the Chicago boys (Steve, Steve, Josh and Phil) made the "down time" completely amazing. They're ALL stand up guys. Shooting the shit with Sam Byrd moments before he broke his world record (two times) was awesome. I've always looked up to Sam. Juggling a personal life (Renee is like...the best girl ever, btw), along with lifting and Law's just unreal. I can totally relate with my girl, my school and my lifting goals, but his are like...ten times more jacked.

I'm not going to worry about giving a full on account, detail by detail, for a day-by-day basis of the weekend, but I'll try my best to give out the highlights/key points.

My Arnold experience started out Wednesday night. Rob (Ghost) and I decided that we were going to leave at O’Dark-Thirty: Thursday morning, so I was going to crash at his place Wednesday night. We watched his wife’s HS girls Basketball team lose a heartbreaker to a rival school. I mean, hanging out at a high school that (even though not being an alumni) I set NUMEROUS PRs in really took me back. I've hit powerlifting PRs, Olympic Style PRs and...well...Rob and I did our Deadlift-off at this weight room..., So during the game I was 50/50 on watching the game/Trying to figure out where I was, where I’ve been, Where I’m at, and Where I want to go. (Needless to say, I’m optimistic).

Wednesday night we racked out early and Thursday morning hit the road early for Columbus. Turns out we were a little ahead of schedule, so we hit up a Cabela’s on our way down. Rob ALMOST talked me into a new pistol, but I decided against it. After navigating Columbus’s FUCKED UP freeways we picked up Mr. Dead at the airport. Right from the get-go he was a stand up guy, funny as hell, and generally one of those guys you’re glad to call “friend”. After making it to the sleazy hotel we eventually met up with Anthony (Groundpounder88) and his woman (A Fire-Medic…seriously dude, we HAVE to be long lost brothers) we hung out some more. We ended up getting into shenanigans and debauchery, but it was a great way to unwind from a car-ride.

Friday dawns the Cage. After making an obscenely fast B-Line to the Cage (Where Sam Byrd hooked me up with a t-shirt) I promptly took my spot in “The Box”. We linked up with the Chicago boys and met some new friends along the way. You guys can check the “Schedule of Events” for what PHENOMINAL lifting events took place. I’ll hit you guys up with the “box” moments. Friday I got to hang out with Deeeeeeeeeee, Jim (Firedrake), the Chicago guys, Big Al (who is THE FUNNIEST MOTHERFUCKER IVE EVER MET. And I’m a professional wiseass…so that speaks volumes). I got to catch up with Sam (did I mention he’s my idol) and his significant other, Renee. Rob was busy running around, and that guy was completely in his element. He’s my best friend, and I can’t say enough good things about him. But anyways, back to Friday…I decided to get a can of Animal Cuts (again, making another positive step in this years journey). One of the Animal Guys (who will remain nameless) ended up throwing out an OD Green shirt into my bag, just because. Maybe it was because I knew him, maybe it was because ANIMAL IS A STANDUP GROUP THAT TAKES CARE OF ITS OWN…I really don’t have the time to sit and decide. After the phenomenal events that happened through the CAGE happened, we decided it was time to bail. We walked back to Rob’s van AND FOUND A FUCKING BOOT ON THE CAR. It was my fault, as I parked there and must have put the parking fees in the wrong slot or something…but 25 minutes and $75 later (it may not seem like THAT much, but hey, that was tattoo money) we got back to the hotel. We skipped the Friday meet-up.

Up to Saturday. HOLY SHIT was it busy. The Cage was the Cage. It was nuts, there were people, there were AMAZING events, there was……well….Everything. Everybody else covered Saturday-day pretty well, so I’ll skip on the Arnold details.

THE ABC: So after a PHENOMINAL dinner with the Chicago crew, Rob, Dead and I (we hit up a local Columbus Bar/restaurant kind of off the beaten path). I had a Pot Roast sandwich on a Pretzel Roll…..OH….MY….GAWD…. They could have charged me triple for it and I wouldn’t have argued. We made our way to Metro. EVERYBODY was there. It was unreal. I started off the night with Rob (Ghost…Rcrott1…Whatever) and Anthony (Groundpounder88). We hit up deads. It was the first time I really deadlifted in a good 5 months. At least since the shoulder injury. Totally smoked me, but as Rob and Anthony can attest to, I kept form. It felt good. Then I was a cardio bunny. I decided to put my newly acquired Animal Cuts to work and hit up the treadmill…I bullshitted with BigAnt while he was warming up for a brief 10 minutes, and then hit on (ha-ha) BamBam’s girl, who is a total sweetheart, by the way. Then I mingled into the crowd that was Animal. Spotting, working in, and shooting the shit with everybody. It was a great time.

After the ABC we hit up the hotel, decided to hang out and rest before we brought Mr. Dead to the airport. 2 hours and 2 airports later, we got him to the right one and were all squared away.

Sunday: The original plan was to be out by 11am, but well, that never happened. I don’t regret it AT ALL. Sunday was just as great as Saturday. Skiba and his crew put on one hell of a show. Universal/Animal…if you’re reading this…I’d definitely invite them back next year. What I liked about their expo was that EVERYBODY talked, everybody lifted, everybody was approachable. The main take-home point was that everybody talked. It wasn’t just one guy. And everybody spoke with purpose (this isn’t to say that the Animal Pros didn’t) but Skiba and his crew just had a presence that was undeniably awesome.

Sunday was also G Diesel’s seminar. I talked to J-Dawg earlier Saturday and we green-lit the idea of trying to get a written transcript of one of the seminars. I whipped out my laptop and got to typing. G kind of changed things up with the absence of Wrath and made it a round-table with a lot of pros and interns. I’ll admit it was hard keeping up, but I think I got the job done. I honestly felt like that seminar hit home more because of not only listening, but typing it out. I had to hear what they were saying, focus on processing it, and then focus on typing it. The messages couldn’t have been clearer, and I’m definitely going to keep them in mind with my training this year. I’m just waiting on J and G to finalize some things and then I’m sure we’ll get it posted up. After more Cage madness it was time to pack it all in. You could definitely tell that it was over, because all Vinny “The Lip” could say was, “That’s it folks, thanks for coming out, see you next year” almost as if there was the possibility of another seminar or lifting session to pop up… After driving ALL around Columbus in Rob’s van to get the boxes, chains and boards loaded up, we were finally on our way home.

Four hours in a car never felt longer. I’ve made trips from Detroit, Michigan to Houghton, Michigan (a 12-14 hour drive) seem like they’ve gone by faster. But after gassing up, chow and shooting the shit with my best friend reminiscing about the weekend, it all was worth it.

After we got to Rob’s we unloaded the van (chains, boards and boxes NEVER FELT HEAVIER). I split out and headed for home. My bed felt really fucking comfortable, but at the same time, it wasn’t the stiff mattress that I’d gotten used to in Columbus.

The CAGE is roughly 355 days away. I can’t wait. I’ve been re-inspired to come in bigger, stronger and leaner than this year. I’m 99.999999999999999999999999999% sure EVERYBODY else that has been there feels the same way.

I’ve noticed at this point everybody that has posted up a write-up in this section of the boards has done a little “pseudo-awards thank you speech”, so who am I to break tradition:

Rob- You’re my best friend…enough said.
Chicago Crew- You made the Cage experience for me….again…enough said.
Deeeeeee- I lub you. It was great actually hugging instead of hand-shaking… hahaha.
HIGA- You put up one hell of a show. I was floored at your event. Which says a lot coming into an ANIMAL expo EXPECTING to be wow-ed. You blew all out of the water.
Byrd- I know I give you a little too much shit about high heels, but damn man, be more of a badass…really…as if the Corps, world record squats, law school and all that wasn’t enough…
Big Al- I miss your nips…
Vinny- I’m glad I could be your “Scrounger” finding gum and sharpies and other miscellaneous shit…
J-Dawg- As always, it was great talking to you (on numerous occasions). Your personality is out of this world and Animal couldn’t ask for a better man to head up the show.
G Diesel- Your messages hit home, hard. Thanks for the inspiration.