What It Feels Like...
compiled by the Editors
You can learn a lot from Esquire magazine. For example, in the September issue, there's this:
"Waygu cattle are worshipped before they are killed. They are bred so fat that fat corrupts the striation of every muscle, fed a smorgasbord of grains that starving children would envy, raised on a regimen of sloth to rid their flesh of any residue of resistance, then ritualistically delivered to their fate."
All this for meat that costs $130 a pound and that the author says "tastes like death itself."
We can't personally vouch for this, as we have no experience with $130-a-pound meat. And we've had some bad protein shakes, but that's about it in the death-tasting department.
That's why we need Esquire, and why we particularly enjoy a regular Esquire feature called "What It Feels Like". Just by clicking on that one link, you can learn what it's like to swallow swords, survive an avalanche, get shot in the head, participate in an orgy ("like sex with a trained octopus"), or to be super-tall or super-short.
We like the feature so much that we decided to steal the idea outright (as we say in the publishing biz, imitation is the most sincere form of plagiarism), featuring our own Testosterone contributors.
What it feels like to knock someone the fuck out, by Alwyn Cosgrove
At the time you don't really notice how hard you've hit them. I mean, I've hit guys a lot harder and they don't seem fazed.
The first time I remember catching someone, it was in the second round. I faked a hook kick and hit him with a turning kick. I thought I'd missed, as I didn't feel anything. But down he went.
At first you're excited that you've won. But then he doesn't get up for a while and you get a little concerned. You actually feel relieved that he's going to be okay.
I've seen some funny stuff too. One guy got dropped pretty hard and when he got up the referee asked him if he was okay. He replied, "Yes, my car is parked out front."
The referee stopped the fight immediately.
The guy screamed, "What? My car is right there!" Now that's when you know someone has been knocked the fuck out!
What it feels like to have that undefined feeling, by Dave Tate
Your heart rate begins to pick up as you hear your name being called "in the hole." As you lean back in your chair you feel the skin of your hamstring get caught between the metal frame of the chair and your squat suit. You get in position with one leg outstretched in front of you and your other foot flat on the floor.
Your leg is then pulled slightly off the ground as your knee is covered with chalk. The wrap is first anchored and then pulled around your knee, hard and tight. Each time the wrap is pulled it feels like your leg is going to get ripped in half.
The burning of this pain begins to fade as you focus on the lift. Each layer is pulled tight and tighter until the final piece is tucked under. Then you hear your name called "on deck."
The same painful procedure repeats itself with the next knee and you maintain your focus on the upcoming lift. Your heart rate picks up more and the rage begins to build. You've spent the last 16 weeks training for this one lift, and now it's just minutes away. All the time in the gym, all the pain, all the sacrifice, the reps, the sets — all of it. Will it be worth it?
The wrap is finally tucked and you reach your hand out so you can be helped to your feet. As you stand you feel the back of your suit being pulled up and the straps pulled over your shoulders. You hear the voices and see the faces but everything is a blur. You're now locked in for what you've been trained to do, the reason why you're here.
You make your way to the chalk box, hearing your name called. As soon as you get to the box you're "out there." In the zone. You're now on autopilot.
From here on everything is reaction, not action. Your back is chalked but you're not sure who did it, when they did it, or how they did it. You make your way to the bar but don't remember it. You get under the bar but can't remember how you did it.
You unrack the weight. There's nothing on your mind. There is no, "Will I do this?" No thinking about the last time or the next meet. The past and the future no longer exist. All there is is what there is — this weight.
You set up the same way you've been trained to set up, and as you sit back in the hole you feel the pressure building in your head. You feel as if your head will pop off if you keep going lower. But you keep going lower. The pressure is immense, but you keep going.
Then, when the time is right, you blast into the load with all you have. The weight is racked and the white lights come on.
You may think this is the undefined feeling, but it's not. This is easily defined as a mixture of excitement, rage, glory, and success, but this isn't the reason we do what we do.
Moments later, after you get your gear off, you make your way into the bathroom to take a piss. Your hips are scraped and scarred from the suit, your quads are scarred, your knees still feel cold as the blood tries to make its way back into the area. But all that is just part of the game.
After you finish your business and make your way to the sink to wash your hands, someone walks by and says, "Nice squat." As you shake the water from your hands and stand back up you catch your eyes in the mirror.
This is the undefined emotion that 99 percent of the world will never feel.
What it feels like to get a stem-cell transplant, by Alwyn Cosgrove
No one wants a stem cell transplant. But when you have stage IV cancer and it's the only thing that will save your life, it's what you do.
There's a fairly exhaustive "fitness" test to see if the treatment will kill you. Kind of a weird situation: You're dying anyway, but they need to know that you'll survive the treatment before they implement it. Why? In case you die?
There's actually a sense of celebration when you're approved for the transplant. Everyone seems really excited. I didn't realize at the time that some people don't get approval, so I didn't really feel all that happy about the whole thing.
When you actually get the transplant you're at rock bottom physically and mentally. The road back from that point is way longer and just as arduous as the road to get there. You just don't have cancer anymore.
My transplant was June 13, 2006. A Tuesday. They call it "day zero." It's the day where you are essentially reborn. For a couple of months prior to day zero I'd been hammered with chemotherapy to destroy all the cancer in my body.
I'd lost muscle mass, lost all my hair (yes, all my hair), and had vicious mouth sores. I couldn't even swallow water. Your blood count and immune system are at zero, and you're really about to die. What they've given you is a fatal dose of drugs.
Twenty-four hours before the transplant, the drugs are discontinued and you have a "day off." You spend the day puking your guts out. I'd been in the hospital for a week straight at that point. At 10 a.m. on the 13th, the doctors came in with three or four nurses to give me the transplant.
It took about 30 minutes. The only side effect at the time was a really nasty metallic-garlic taste in my mouth. The nurses actually give you a popsicle to get rid of the taste. It's surreal; you're sitting there sucking on a popsicle while they're saving your life.
After that it's just a waiting game, hoping it works.
What it feels like to date a figure competitor, by Chris Shugart
Let's get one thing clear: Sex with a very fit, very athletic woman is awesome. No surprise there, right? You should put it on your bucket list. But while the sex is grade-A, but the rest of the relationship can be ... tricky.
I'm so strict with my diet that I've been called a "food Nazi." Yet the figure competitors I've dated think I eat horribly, at least compared to their contest diets. There's nothing quite like being nagged for eating too much plain chicken breast, or being put on a guilt trip for eating something "bad" ... like a banana.
Dating can be tough. One figure competitor I was seeing had to be in bed by 7 p.m. because she got up at 3 a.m. to do cardio, then started training clients at 5 a.m. That 9 p.m. movie or concert you wanted to take her to see? Out of the question.
Likewise, taking her to a restaurant is pretty much impossible if she's preparing for a show. Even the healthy stuff on the menu probably won't meet her diet guidelines.
If you're the jealous type, don't date a figure gal. She'll be nearly naked when she's onstage, and probably taking part in provocative photo shoots when she isn't. Even if you're not the jealous type, it can get weird. There's a tawdry underside to bodybuilding and figure modeling, and if she wants to place well in a contest or score a photo spread, she'll have to spend some time with predatory sleazebags.
Her body takes some getting used to. Unless she has implants, the contest-ready figure competitor usually has no boobs. Expect some low-ab vascularity, and maybe even crotch veins.
On the bright side, that caboose? Amazing. Legs? Incredible. Belly? Like a warm, living sculpture. And fully shaved is usually standard.
Finally, if you're in a serious, live-in, expense-sharing relationship, you have to understand that figure competition is expensive. You'll be spending a lot of money on hair, nails, tanning, suits, supplements, photography, and travel.
But the biggest hit might be to your ego. Forget being the object of attention in your relationship; doing well in figure requires an almost single-minded focus and dedication. Her primary concern, especially around contest time, is herself, not you.
For a long-term relationship, a woman who's into the fitness lifestyle but who doesn't compete is probably your best bet.
What it feels like to tear your pec in half, by TC
Make no mistake, I was asking for it. I'd been doing singles for about an hour. I'd hit my goal, but like a stupid, greedy kid, I wanted to keep going. I kept adding 2 ½ pound plates to the bar.
I was Bruce Willis in his garage with the paint buckets in Unbreakable, but I was hardly invulnerable.
I got sloppy, started bouncing the bar off my chest instead of using good form. And I was getting fatigued. Add all that to the fact that I almost never do doubles or singles and you've got the recipe for a disaster.
The last one started to go up easy but then there was that feeling, that sound that still causes my testicles to run home to momma whenever I think about it.
Imagine taking a raw steak and tearing it apart with your hands. Imagine putting it up against your skin and tearing it. If you did it fast enough, you'd actually be able to hear the fibers ripping apart. And I did. I did hear it. And I certainly felt it.
It hurt as much as you'd expect. I also felt the distinct sensation of meat being ripped apart as all the strength left my right arm. It hadn't torn completely yet, but as I fought to keep the bar from collapsing on my chest, the rest of it tore.
My first thought was, "Shit, I have go the hospital. I have to call somebody to take care of my dog."
I waited almost three hours to see the doctor. Since I was in shock and wasn't currently experiencing any severe pain, they moved me to the end of the casualty line.
When I finally saw the ER doctor and explained what happened, he told me to take some aspirin and not lift for two weeks. I was incredulous. I asked him to have an orthopedic surgeon come down and order me an MRI.
Hours later, the MRI showed that I had, as I suspected, torn the pec completely in half. The scan showed I'd lost so much blood that the doctor considered giving me a transfusion. (I had a mind-bogglingly extensive bruise that changed color almost daily from my elbow to my groin for three months afterwards.)
Clearly, "aspirin" or taking two weeks off, wasn't good advice. Unfortunately, given the nature of the injury and its location (so far away from the tendon), I wasn't able to get it repaired. To this day, there's a large divot in my right pec.
Axial image of my torn pec. The black area is the lung. The tiny circle to the far left is a cross section of my humerus. The circled area is, of course, the torn pec.
What it feels like to have sex with a porn star, by a lucky bastard we know
I've slept with four girls in less than 24 hours. I've seduced roommates into a three-way romp. On several occasions I've sullied the family changing room in a local gym.
Long story short, I do all right with women.
So when I first met this girl at a local bar I knew it was on. I just didn't know what I was in for. Say what you want, but when a girl who gets paid to fuck says she's been with over a hundred guys, you're not going to bat an eye. Especially if she plans on adding you to the list. Besides, porn stars are notoriously clean. At least that's what she told me. "I get tested every two weeks," she said.
I didn't (still don't), and immediately felt dirty.
Back at my place kissing seemed irrelevant, like small talk. She unbuckled my belt with one hand, quicker than I could ever do it.
That was my first warning sign.
She pushed me up against the wall and took me in her mouth. You know that feeling when you meet a famous person, shake their hand, and claim to never want to wash it again? Yeah, it was kind of like that.
We moved to the kitchen. Staying confined to a bedroom just seemed mundane and boring. She sat on top of the counter wearing nothing but a silver necklace and high heels. My first thought of this is fucking amazing was quickly replaced by she's had sex with at least a hundred guys, and some of them were black dudes with nine-inch dicks!
Panic ensued as I wondered if I could actually satisfy her with my less-than-nine-inch penis. She didn't seem to notice or care.
If you're ever in this situation, here's some advice: Think about whatever you want while you're inside of a porn star – baseball, banana bread, your grandma's 90th birthday – but don't you dare think about that.
You know what I'm talking about. During a normal sexual encounter, the phrase "premature ejaculation" is the farthest thing from my mind. But with a porn star, it wasn't just there, it was amplified by, oh I don't know, a bazillion. That's because, from the moment of penetration, I felt like I was on the verge of blowing it. I couldn't get out of my head long enough to actually enjoy the experience.
I don't remember how long it lasted. I'd like to say at least an hour, though it was probably more like 15 minutes.
I came. She didn't.
"I can't come during intercourse," I remember her saying. It was a nice thing to say. Not remotely true, but nice of her to think of my feelings at that moment.
We lay on the couch a while and I snapped a few pictures. She didn't mind – I have to think she's used to the guys she meets looking for a post-coital souvenir. After she left I thought, "Jesus, that was horrible. I suck."
My roommate came home. I told him the story. He didn't believe me. I pulled out my camera and showed him the evidence, but he still didn't believe me.
A few days later, as her head hit against my wall and she screamed as only a porn star can scream, he finally believed me.
Round two was much better.
What it feels like to roll with a Gracie, by Chad Waterbury
Dojos are a dime a dozen. You can find them in strip malls, converted garages, or out in a barn somewhere in West Texas. Hell, you could probably find one in the back room of a Subway sandwich shop, next to the Jared bobble-gut, er, I mean, bobble-head dolls.
But if you're lucky enough to find yourself at the corner of Wilshire and Barrington in Los Angeles, you'll see a jiu-jitsu training center with one transcendent name across the front: Rickson Gracie.
Rickson Gracie is a living legend with a professional mixed martial arts record of 11-0. He always won by submission, and usually with ease. Rickson is overshadowed only by his father, Helio Gracie, the only living 10th-degree master of jiu-jitsu. So it probably goes without saying that Rickson's 19-year-old son, Kron, has inherited the keys to the Gracies' kingdom. Make no mistake: Kron has some serious jiu-jitsu skills.
I, on the other had, am not a jiu-jitsu master. I can hold my own with amateurs at some of the jiu-jitsu schools I've visited, thanks to the hours I've spent training with the world-class instructors at Rickson's place. But I understand as well as anyone the difference between training with them and being one of them.
Still, I couldn't help wondering what it would be like to test myself with someone at that level. Which is how, on a day when I was feeling particularly strong, I came to ask Kron Gracie to roll. Much to my future chagrin, he obliged.
Kron started on his back. I started in the standing position at his feet. In jiu-jitsu, a good technique when your opponent is on his back is to grab the pant legs of his gi and swing his legs around so you can "pass" and get side control. I figured my height (6-foot-3), weight (220 pounds), strength, and mobility would give me an advantage over the 5-10, 165-pound Gracie.
Wishful thinking. Trying to pass Kron's legs with my skills is like trying to win a drag race with a bulldozer.
Next position. Please.
Kron let me have one of the most dominant positions in jiu-jitsu: the mount. This is when he's lying on his back and I'm sitting on top of his stomach with my knees next to his sides. In jiu-jitsu, this is bad news for the guy on his back; an arm bar or choke-out usually follows.
And not only did Kron let me start on the mount, but he also had his right arm (his dominant limb) tucked into his brown belt. In other words, I was in a commanding position against a one-armed opponent. Surely I could conjure up something to tell my grandkids, right?
With a speed that I can only describe as "faster than fast," I was swept to my back, mounted by him, and left gasping for breath with his left forearm in my throat.
Now, I'll admit that lots of guys you've never heard of could've handled me as easily as Kron did. But this is different: I had 13 years, five inches, 55 pounds, and who knows how much strength on the guy. You'd think that would count for something. And yet, what mattered most is the last name: he's a Gracie, son of Rickson, grandson of Helio, and I'm some guy from a small town in Illinois.
I've since gone back to doing what I do best: I spend my time training Kron to develop his strength and endurance while keeping his joints moving freely. And whenever Kron offers a private lesson, my answer is always the same: "Maybe next time."
What it feels like to push yourself to the limit, by Craig Weller
I have a tendency to do things the hard way. I grew up in South Dakota, 90 miles from the nearest real swimming pool. And yet, despite not knowing how to swim, I joined the Navy and volunteered for a maritime special-operations force. I wanted a challenge.
I taught myself to swim in boot camp and managed to pass the screening test on my final attempt by nine seconds.
Two and a half years later, I graduated and joined the ranks of the Special Warfare Combatant Crewmen, one of the smallest special-ops units in the U.S. military. This story takes place somewhere in the middle of that narrative.
It's 2004. I'm 20 years old, training at the official SWCC facility in Coronado, California. I should note that at this point in my military career I'm not exactly a stranger to extreme circumstances. I've learned to run and vomit simultaneously. I'm used to waking up at 3 a.m. I've worked myself into unconsciousness multiple times, and into hypothermia at least once. I've gone six days without eating and the better part of a week without sleeping. (I did that last one twice.)
The biggest problems for me involved swimming. I was and still am negatively buoyant, and waiting until my late teens to learn to swim certainly didn't help.
You can see why learning to swim comes in handy for Navy special ops.
On this particular day we're practicing buddy tows, a procedure in which you pull a mildly combative and fully clothed instructor across the pool while keeping his head above the water. Naturally, we do this while wearing boots and full camouflage uniforms.
We had started the day with a six-mile rucksack run, with 35-pound sandbags in our rucksacks along with the rest of our gear. The first half of the run was in knee-deep water in the ocean. The second half was in deep, dry, soft sand.
After the run, our instructor had told us to leave the sandbags in our rucks. So we'd spent the entire day running around with an extra 35 pounds. And when I say "running around," I mean it literally. We aren't allowed to walk anywhere during training.
Back to the buddy tows: The worst was saved for last, and I've just finished my final tow, pulling the biggest and heaviest instructor across the pool. I get out of the water with the goal of rejoining my fellow students in the ranks.
That was the goal, anyway. Disoriented, I find myself looking at a suddenly unfamiliar world as it spins around me.
An instructor grabs me by the collar and asks me just where I think I'm going. I stammer something – even I can't tell what I'm trying to say – and the instructor calls a medic as he lowers me to the ground. Another instructor, a senior chief, asks me questions to try to keep me from passing out.
"What did you have for lunch?"
I have no idea. I'm so lost I barely know my own name. And yet, I find the whole experience amusing. Trying to recognize the blurry faces hovering over me is kind of fun. It's a game.
But the medic knows this isn't a game. He gives me a white-and-purple tube of pure glucose that's just a bit smaller than a toothpaste tube. Then he pricks at one of my fingers to get a blood sample. My finger won't bleed. "Try this one," I say, holding up my other hand. "I think I saw some blood in there the other day."
He squeezes until he gets his sample, then tests my blood-sugar level on his glucometer.
"Damn!" I don't have a blood-sugar level; it's too low to register.
Someone asks me if I'm diabetic, and if this has ever happened before. I shake my head. An instructor leans over, grabs my shaking wrist, and takes my pulse. "Holy shit! If your heart hasn't exploded yet, it never will!" Even though I've been supine on the deck for several minutes, my heart rate is still 180 beats per minute, probably 90 percent of my maximum.
The medic gives me a second tube of glucose and I suck it flat. He takes another blood sample, and again there's no reading. I notice that a stretcher and oxygen tank have been placed between me and the exit. If the glucose doesn't take effect soon, I'm going to the hospital.
So I stare up at the sky, lying on my back in my dripping-wet cammies, my head resting on my canteen. My breathing returns to normal, and suddenly I remember what I'd had for lunch.
"Fish, Senior Chief!" I shout across the pool. "Fish!"
The medic takes another blood sample. It registers. A few minutes later, still trembling, I can stand on my own. That's when I see a large fellow buckle and fall into the men standing behind him. Our class leader has gone down from the same thing that got me.
Within an hour, the class leader has been revived and leads us out of the pool area and into our next session. Soon I'm back in the pushup position, getting beaten down with the rest of my class.
The hell of it is, after all that I didn't even pass the physical-selection portion of our training. My swim buddy and I failed a timed swim through San Diego Bay, wearing boots and cammies, by one minute and two seconds. We were rolled back to the beginning of training and had to start over four months later.
I passed the second time, and did three deployments in three years. Ironically, after all that training in special-ops warfare, I never pulled a trigger in combat in my six years in the Navy. But a lot of my friends did, and many of them also watched their friends die. After hearing their stories, I'm grateful that my closest brush with death probably came on the deck of a swimming pool in Southern California.
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