First Annual Battle of the Gyms
by Terry Allen
April 27, 2016
Andrew Zook, owner of Wyoming Athlete Development in Pinedale, put on the First Annual ‘Battle of the Gyms’ in Pinedale on Saturday, April 23, 2016. Five teams of six athletes each from Wyoming participated in the competition. Team Iron Kitchen from Alpine, Two teams from GYM22 in Jackson, and Team PAC and Team Wyoming Athlete Development from Pinedale competed in Powerlifting, Strongman and Endurance events.
Bright blue skies greeted competitors Saturday morning, but a low dark line of roiling storm clouds threatened from the western horizon. The building wind added extra swing to the pony-tail on the back of Kendall Brunette’s head as she did high-kicking warm-ups in the parking lot.
The booming tunes provided by DJ Ben Davis welcomed participants into the gym and made toddlers and athletes break out spontaneously with their dance moves. The music seemed to make the building walls pulsate. Ben gave the photographer his best DJ pose. "I lift to stay in shape and stay active and so my wife won’t leave me," he said. "I’ve been working out over 10 years. I work out at the high school gym…drop by sometime. We’ve got a pretty good bunch of guys over there."
Metal plates clanged as they were slid onto bars; hands were thrust deep into the talc bucket labeled ‘puke bucket’ and then clapped together creating great white clouds as they knocked off the extra. Athletes got set and then dramatically lifted impossible weights over their heads and then dropped them with great crashes that shook the floor.
Outside on a sprint course, athletes picked up either 75 or 100 pound beer kegs, large welding tanks weighing 130 pounds each, one in each hand for a total of 260 pounds, and great barbells loaded with well over 100 pounds each.
As the sky turned black and the first few raindrops appeared, the teams of six took turns with each of the three devices and made their way down the course and back as fast as they could. Unlucky for Team PAC and Codie Bush, one of her male teammates took off jogging with her 75 pound keg, so she had to carry the 100 pound keg, which equaled her own body weight, down the course. But it worked out okay because the photographer got some really great face agony shots.
A large iron sled weighing a minimum of 110 pounds was loaded with more weight for successive runs until it weighed 235 pounds. Each team had to push the ever increasingly weighted sled the length of the skating rink in the west parking lot until everyone had their turn. There was a bit of vomiting or a serious threat of vomiting after a few of those killer pushes.
The next event was the truck pull. The truck turned out to be a big bobtail water tanker attached to an arm sized rope. The first team to try to pull the truck across the finish line was the PAC team. Andrew yelled ‘go’ and pulled the trigger on his stop watch and the team gave the rope a mighty tug…then about 3 or 4 successively mightier tugs, but the truck didn’t budge. Finally, someone got with the driver Mike and they figured out the air brake release hadn’t been pushed in all the way. Problem solved, Team PAC put their backs into it and hand over hand dragged the big truck across the finish line.
Back inside, a steady line of athletes took turns climbing the rope tied off on a high metal beam. When they got to the top, they gave the beam a quick slap and took the elevator down.
The finale of the day’s event was The Death March. A quarter mile course was laid out in the large dirt lot to the west of the skating rink. The teams pulled and dragged the iron sled, carried or rolled the 90 pound Atlas stone and carried or dragged the 110 pound anvil around the now muddy course. Every 15 seconds the athletes had to drop or stop their weighted items and drop into the dirt, mud and a suspicious white spill, and do push-ups, jumping jacks, and burpee’s for 15 seconds. Then get back up and start pushing and carrying their burdens.
The far end of the course had 6 or 8 dirt berms, approximately 3 feet high that they had to drag, push, roll or carry all the weight over…while slipping in the mud created by the now freezing rain and snow blizzard.
Sopping wet, frozen, and gasping in exhaustion; each muddy and bloody team collapsed into the weeds across the finish line...to the delight of the also soaked and frozen photographer whose main goal was to capture the essence of their struggle.
Not one to make anything easy, event host Andrew Zook only awarded one prize; and that went to champions GYM22 of Jackson. "The battle of the gyms proved to be one of the most extreme team competitions I have ever put on," Andrew said. "I was impressed with how hard these teams were able to push through the pain and agony of these events just to be crowned champions. Not one team bowed out or gave minimal effort. Because of the nature of this event the athletes could only prepare so much until they had to just let the mind take over and go beyond what the body could do. This was a great event to host in Pinedale and just the beginning of what Wyoming Athlete Development plans to bring to this great community."
Kendall Brunette of Team PAC was wet and bloodied but enthusiastic as ever. "This competition provided an awesome opportunity to showcase the strength and dedication of local athletes. Thanks to the Zooks for putting the event together -- I hope it is the first of many!"
Doug Wellemeyer, who at first glance one might take for being one of the most dangerous looking of the athletes, also turned out to be one of the most polite. He regularly tried not to cross in front of the photographer as he was shooting, and said ‘excuse me’ a lot. But he also knew the value of looking right into the lens when the camera was turned on him. As a result, we got some great images. "I’ve been competing like this for 8 years," said Doug. "This event is a tune-up for The Strongman event in July at Rendezvous."
Unable to run down the author of the following quote before posting this story, it will nevertheless be included. A member of the Jackson GYM22 team, a Marine, is rumored to have said that this event was tougher than anything he’d ever seen in the Marines.
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