Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Part IV: Iron and Ethics

Week 6, Day 3

My wife is on my case about the eating again. She said, "You've been eating like a flock of pigs." I mull this statement over while scarfing down a package of tuna. I wasn't aware pigs ran in flocks. The discarded tuna pouch drops into the trash like the withered husk of a once-juicy fly sucked dry by a spider. I sink my teeth into an apple. Perhaps she's referring to flying pigs?

Her assertion is doubly amusing since in addition to the food she knows I consume, I eat several "in between" meals she doesn't know about that make up 50% of my calories.

My tuna habit is hidden from her. In addition to my finned food, I'm buying all sorts of additional fresh fruit and keeping it at work. So milady packs me an extra big lunch, then I have all this stuff on the side plus I often go out and get an additional lunch because the one she packed is gone by midmorning. It's almost like I'm having an affair, except with food.

This new eating has increased my gravitational pull, adding about ten pounds on the scale. And I'm quite certain no body fat has been added. In fact, to my delight it appears I'm losing some!

My legs are really sore today from sprinting at softball. Yeah, softball is my latest sport. The scent of blood has me returning to team competitions. More competitors equal more blood. What's really ironic is that in this bar league, I'm playing... on a church team. Oh, the irony! Oh, the ethical dilemma!

I read the league rules. Certain types of bats were banned, certain brands of ball were required, but there was no mention of banned substances of any sort, anabolic or otherwise. Consequently, I'm coming in swinging like Mark McGuire on "andro." The first couple games I wonder if God will smite me, but the bolt of lightning never falls. Still, I keep thinking about the ethics. Maybe, just maybe, God would appreciate a few more RBI's, a couple more wins for his team? After all, God likes strong people. I mean, look at Samson.

Sampson's strength was hardly natural, and if God gave him that strength, what would he think of me enhancing my own? Hmm. My wife thought God would disapprove. "It wasn't natural," she said, but I wasn't so sure. I countered, "Why can't you be happy with your body the way it is?" with "Why can't you be happy without makeup and push-up bras?"

Sure, D-bol is different than mascara, but is there anything morally wrong with it? I don't think so. Would God let my prohormone using brethren waltz into his kingdom while slamming the pearly gates in the face of one who dabbled in illegal anabolics? Would he let Mexicans who buy 'roids legally in their country in and kick the law-breaking Americans out? I don't think so.

Would St. Peter admit women who have altered their bodies with breast implants and big, collagen-injected lips? I hope so! Is breaking this law worse than breaking a speed limit law? According to the police, my speeding endangers the physical safety of others – while steroids arguably do not. Secondhand smoke causes cancer, but secondhand steroids? Hmm.

Anyway, my workout this morning went okay. I slept pretty well but was awakened by a massive thunderstorm. Someone upstairs in "God's Gym" was dropping the weights. I sure would've liked to have slept in a bit longer this morning.

Today's deadlift workout was structured identically to last week's, but this time I got all the reps I didn't get last week. Improvement baby, it's the prize I'm after. I want to scream whenever I hear some self-righteous natural trainee talking out of his ass about how an injection magically transforms strength levels overnight. I wish it were true, but in my experience that is far from the case.

You still have to train, to diet, to recover, and this anabolic trifecta must be pursued more doggedly, with more effort, than ever before, at least with my stack. Granted, there are quicker anabolic paths to strength gains, but why outpace my tendons and add to the already real risk of injury?

Let's talk side effects, shall we? You want to know what I'm experiencing so far? Here goes:

Embarrassingly, the one that worries me the most is my hair, for the simple reason that all other sides are transient--unless gyno gets out of control or I die. Is it worth it? Well, if I don't die, keep the majority of the gains, and avoid gyno and baldness, I'd say yes.

Week 6, Day 4

Well, I skipped working out this morning. Last night I couldn't get to sleep because I was having trouble breathing. I could breathe, but it felt like I had to work to catch my breath. My chest felt like a relapsed Oprah had passed out on it after eating a couple gallons of Haagen-Dazs and a tin of imported sardines.

"Maybe it's just the weight of all that new muscle pressing down," I half-jokingly tried to rationalize. But my mind wasn't buying that, and falling asleep was no laughing matter.

Grasping at straws, I reluctantly got up and took some aspirin to see if it would alleviate the symptoms by thinning my blood. Aspirin made no perceptible difference. (I didn't expect it would.) In reality, the extra ten-plus pounds of rapidly gained muscle, not to mention increased blood volume and viscosity, were taxing my poor cardiovascular system like a McDonalds under attack by a herd of 400 pound welfare mothers.

I hope I don't wake up with those twelve EPO cyclists who died. I really don't think I will or I'd stop. Yet I wondered, what were their thoughts before going to bed for the final time? Did they have the slightest inkling they might not wake up? I peeked in at my daughter, sleeping peacefully, a wholly contented look on her face, curled up amid a pile of stuffed animals. So peaceful, no worries, so unlike my own world. What if she woke up with no daddy?

I climbed back into my bed. Maybe it's just a reaction to the juice. My mind searched for some other explanation, something that didn't lay the blame squarely at the feet of the anabolics. But tonight I would take no more pharmaceuticals. I'm afraid of taking yet another drug right now. Right this moment, eight different drugs course through my system, though they seem to be getting along just fine, like cattle-dogs and cattle.

The anabolics are the cattle and the dogs are there to make sure they don't get out of line. My three dogs – Adex, Nolva, and Clomid – instinctively herd the big T-bulls into the androgen receptors and prevent the big bad mama aromatose bear from gobbling up my Testosterone-steers and popping them out as cuddly little estrogen cubs.

What little estrogen is produced is kept at bay by Nolva or Clomid, whoever sinks their teeth in first. But breathing... When I don't think about breathing I'm fine; when I think about it, I start to feel almost panicky, and I'm not given to panic.

Now why would I have two anti-estrogens in addition to an anti-aromatose on hand? There are many reasons:

I'll get off my ancillary soapbox now.

I'm supposed to do one final injection, but the fact that just sitting at my desk has me breathing like I'm sucking my air through an 18 gauge needle makes me think another helping of steroids might be a bad idea. Some of you reading this are no doubt shouting "Duh! Don't inject, stupid!" But it's not that simple when you're in the midst of a cycle.

Maybe I have yet to make it clear. Unless you've used, you can't even begin to understand the psychological allure of these powerful drugs. I feel immortal! For a few weeks I transcend the limits of my mortality and surge ahead, feeling every bit as unstoppable as a tidal wave bearing down on an unsuspecting coast.

I feel all-powerful, the impenetrable confidence of a higher being is mine! I'm a lion in the prime of youth sitting next to Paris Hilton's little Tinkerbell. If I felt any better I could fly! You know that famous quote Arnold let drop in Pumping Iron about feeling like he's coming all day? He wasn't kidding. Sometimes, with the right stack on the right day, just being alive seems better than sex! The colors of life appear more vibrant, women more beautiful, and troubles fade into insignificance.

So when I weigh the difficulties of breathing against feeling almost immortal, the rational, logical, safe choice is clear--yet I don't want to make it! I don't need to make it. Although my anabolic Odyssey has its dangers, like Odysseus, I feel confident, destined to somehow survive to journey's end, as if I too am shielded, protected under the watchful eye of an Athena. But the perils of this journey are many; some have a mind of their own and on occasion, their ears are deaf.

"I said no to steroids, but they wouldn't listen," my friend says. He was right. Once you crack the top off that first amp and let those diminutive anabolic genies out of the tiny glass bottle and into your blood, they take on a life of their own. To inject or not to inject, that is the question. I'll just delay my decision a couple days, let that rational, cautious side cool off like a cherry pie on a window sill.

Speaking of that, I need to get some from that lithe little red-headed sex Goddess that is my wife!

Week 6, Day 5

This morning I worked upper body again. Got significantly more reps with more weight than last time. This new muscle is starting to earn its pay.

Moved to flat bench and just couldn't get it lit. I think CNS adaptations have yet to be made, along with conditioning that only time and volume could bring. My strength didn't have any depth to it yet. Came home feeling dissatisfied with my morning bench, so I worked up and did another five or six singles with 300.

It all comes down to sleep. It's a vicious circle. I couldn't fall asleep last night again because of the steroid related breathing. If I can't breathe, it's hard to sleep. If I don't sleep, I can't put out the peak performance needed to maximize the 'roids. This sucks! It's like sitting at a traffic light that won't change! Turn green, dammit!

Though I was supposed to do my last injection today, I'm putting it off. I could, no should just end the cycle. The anabolics have other ideas. They try and convince me to wait and see how I feel the next couple days. If I'm breathing easy they're telling me it's okay to push past the boundary of a medium cycle and go off the edge of the map and into (for me) unexplored territory

Week 7, Day 1

Before I strike off into new territory, I need a break. Recovery needs to catch up with training. You don't grow in the gym; you grow when you're resting, right? My pecs still feel pumped from Saturday, but might it have been better to just skip the workout rather than grind out the make up? I'm thinking so. I feel like I'm trying to coax another few miles out of a car with a near-empty gas tank, both mentally and physically.

Despite eight hours of sleep, this morning I felt drained. Yesterday I fell asleep while reading on the couch. This means something. I'm probably still working off a sleep deficit from the first few weeks of the cycle. In fact, I'm so tired when I come home at night I have nothing left to give. My body wants to go straight to bed.

Instead, I scrape a few crumbs from the bottom of the energy barrel when Three wants to play. I get down on the floor and will my sore and tired arms to propel various animals out of the path of a rampaging plastic giraffe time and again. But my energy can't compare to the matchless energy of a three year old, and eventually the bloodthirsty Giraffa camelopardalis triumphs.

I needed a break, but didn't feel I quite deserved one in the eyes of the grim and unyielding anabolic gods. These gods aren't some benevolent old Creator with a long, white beard. They're like the bloodthirsty Norse gods: they don't look kindly on the weak. Instead of taking a break and incurring their wrath, I opted to go lighter on squats. But lighter doesn't necessarily mean easier, and it certainly wasn't any easier today.

At some point I got out of the groove and basically did a good morning for a couple reps with 305 and my lower back protested by tightening up like an overstretched guitar string. Sit-ups eased the tension, enabling me to move on to stiff-leg deads. I should've just hung it up right there, but I hate to let down my partner. I did a couple light sets, some more sit-ups, few sets of calves, then hit the shower. I set the heat to "slow cook" and just let it soak into those tight lower back muscles. Ahhh...

As always, today's squats were ass to grass. If you're the typical parallel/quarter squat devotee, then I challenge you to go down until you physically can go no lower and see how much you can handle. (I can get 100 more pounds if I stop at parallel, and if I stop at the quarter-squat most people like to call parallel then the sky's the limit.) Before you get started ragging on my squat, take your own all the way down, then we'll talk.

I'm breathing easier (literally). Skipping my injection this weekend had precisely the effect I hoped it would. Consequently I'm planning to inject Wednesday morning. In the meantime I'm nibbling on these little blue "fast-acting" breath mints again that some people might claim are Anavar tabs. Maybe I'll get some D-bol going again too in order to kick recovery into high gear.

While my progress at times seems slow and all too subtle to me, it shouts out to others. Today a guy at work stopped me in the hall and told me I'm looking really big. Actually, he stopped, hit a "most muscular" (complete with growl) and said, "You're lookin' hyooge!"

This started me to thinking. Since I first began working at this location four years ago, I've put on over 40 pound of muscle. Forty pounds. (And 75% of that was done naturally, haters.) That's a lot, any way you cut it. Some co-workers from a previous job saw me for the first time in several years and they remarked that my head looked smaller! I guess that's good in that I'm growing proportionally (where possible).

Again I wonder, does this mean I have some sort of body dysmorphia or reverse anorexia or whatever? I can see how one could get carried away with this. Sure, I'd like to be bigger. Sure, I'd like to stack another 30 or 40 pounds on top of the 40 I've already added. But then I look at a photo and frankly, I'm pretty happy with what I see.

I'm far wider and leaner than any of my friends, coworkers, or family. I've transformed from stick to standing stone. Isn't it odd how viewing a picture is somehow different than looking in a mirror? It's like how your voice sounds different on a recording. Which one is real?

The pictures almost don't look like me, or at least what I thought I looked like. Why? Honest to God, I don't think I look that much different than I did 40 pounds ago when I look in the mirror. If I think about taking 40 pounds of hamburger from the corner grocery and spreading it out uniformly over my body it would be impossible not to notice. Yet change, gradual change that builds up slowly over time, can escape notice.

My sensitivity to the dangers--physical, legal, or otherwise--is also changing. A dresser that was once clean is now decorated with half-empty blister packs of ancillaries. I've got a stash of used syringes that could shame a trash bin in the seediest district of Amsterdam. What once seemed dangerously illicit is now routine. The question is no longer whether I'm getting carried away; the question is, am I getting carried away too far?

Am I like that proverbial frog in a pot of water where the heat is brought up slow? Bring the heat up slow enough and the frog doesn't notice. He won't even attempt to hop out despite eventually being boiled to death. I don't want to be scalded. When do I need to jump? Can I just walk away from anabolic steroids after this? Is this my last cycle? I don't know. After all, I was one of those guys who was going to do "just one cycle."

Week 7, Day 2

Today was supposed to be a speed workout. My partner was MIA. Ever notice how partners never miss a standard bench day, but if you try and do something different or you're doing legs, attendance drops like wet panties on prom night? Finally, my partner arrives and I work up to 315 on the bench then move to cable rows.

A word about mind power. If you believe you can do something, you can. Be realistic though. Like today, merely entertaining the thought that I could get 315 after choking on the first attempt might seem ludicrous. In fact, it would've been the end for most lifters I know. Sure, some might have reflexively attempted it again, but how many could believe they could actually go back and hammer that bitch? I wasn't sure I was going to get it today. Not being sure going into a lift leads to a high chance of failure. I talked myself into it, I started thinking positive, and by positive I don't mean a bunch of BS wholly uncoupled from reality. No, I thought about how I'd nailed this weight in similar circumstances in the past, how it was ten measly pounds more than what I'd just done a few minutes ago. I knew I had it in me; I just had to get it out!

These are the thoughts that propel the tough weights up like an overeager spotter. There's a difference between phony positive and real positive. One works, one doesn't. If you can convince yourself you can do something, you can. The trick is making your mind honestly believe the input you're feeding into it. The mind is an incredible tool. Use it!

Yet I'm a little discouraged. I keep waiting for this huge rush of strength that just hasn't come. Then again, last time it occurred in week nine. I'm in the middle of week seven, so rather than panicking I should focus on persevering – doing what I can and promoting recovery as best I can by getting enough rest, catching up on sleep, etc. Everything from here out is just a bonus anyway; I've got my ten pounds of lean body mass. But now I'm becoming the King Midas of lean mass. I want more!

Despite my misgivings from a few days ago, I gave myself another injection. It was easy really. All I had to do was let that cautious side cool off. If that cautious side was a pie on the windowsill I shoved it out and slammed the window shut, then locked it. I'm going to extend this cycle a bit. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Am I getting carried away? I don't want to answer that anymore.

This won't be my last meal at the table of magical enhancement either. With caution outside tapping on the locked window, I took the liberty of including some long-acting EQ, the last remnant from the vial of Boldenone. She clamored for her freedom, throwing herself against the wall like a big-breasted genie in a glass prison. A very alluring, hard-bodied genie who seemed to have lost her clothes somewhere along with my inhibitions.

How could I resist? How could I turn her down? In my private harem of anabolics, lithe Queen Equipoise is the uncontested favorite. Today she even wants to bring a friend! I mixed the 400mg of EQ with 200mg of Test, made a wish, and turned them loose in my glute.

I hadn't gained any scale weight in two weeks. (This isn't to say, however, I haven't gained any muscle.) Now, in the last couple days, the scale has started steadily creeping up like the weight of a fat kid working alone at Krispy Kreme. Gives me hope! (I'm up about 12 pounds on the scale now!) How is it that you can eat the same stuff and gain weight one week and not another? I don't get it. Growth certainly does come in spurts.

Week 7, Day 3

Today was pretty cool, even though I didn't make it to bed on time. But some things (actually I can't think of any besides sex) are more important than getting to bed on time, at least occasionally.

Today in the gym I talked with a Westside powerlifter. Seeing someone that much stronger inspired me. Suddenly, I needed to go heavy (heavy for me anyway) and I got 405 on the deadlift without straps. I'd never attempted a 1 RM deadlift before because of a back injury. At long last I feel my lower back is ready to rock.

Maybe I can take my paltry-compared-to-Internet-numbers strength and improve it. I've been told this could involve growing a set of something called "man boobs" however. I really don't want "moobs," though perhaps I could become accustomed to them over time. I've never focused on simply getting strong. Maybe I'll try it.

Week 7, Day 4

Man, am I ever ready for a break! I started out okay today, though a little tired mentally. I went into the workout more excited about the upcoming time off than about working out. Not the best mindset, but I made progress anyway on the bench.

Then I moved to cable rowing alternated with wide grip pull-ups. My back was pumped! Although I don't suffer from ILS (Imaginary Lat Syndrome), I do have lats, and when they're pumped up I feel as big as a guy with an acute case of ILS must feel. Nothing makes me feel more jacked than a pumped back, though fighting my pecs to bring my arms together in order to type runs a pretty close second.

After curling with the EZ-bar, my partner and I hit triceps extensions on the cable machine. Go to failure, drop the weight ten pounds, go to failure, drop, etc. By the time I worked through the stack my triceps had a fierce pump. They strained against the stretched skin like an angry, three-horned triceratops trying to escape from under some cretaceous blanket.

My partner set up, and as I lugged my over-pumped arms out of his way, a tremendous pain stabbed me like a white-hot dagger in the abs. I dropped to my knees, hoping it would pass. The dagger twisted one way, then the other.

Something was very wrong.

Did the drugs do this? I held my breath, afraid to breath, to move. People are going to think I'm having a heart attack, I thought. Then the blade pulled out. The pain subsided into the realm of manageability. Did I strain or tear a muscle around my abs? Do I have a hernia? I made my way slowly, carefully, to the locker room. I'll take that pain and more as long as it isn't a hernia.

It's Friday and I'm beat up. Thank God I'm taking some time off now. I'm going to fully recover in the next five days and come back with a vengeance. Count on it.

Week 8, Day 3

I'm back! I traveled 1,008 miles this holiday weekend by car and didn't set foot in a gym for five whole days. By Tuesday I felt fully recovered, absolutely brimming with energy! While I was off I slept 9 to 10 hours every night. It was great! At times, when I happened to awaken in the quiet hours of the night, I could almost hear my muscles working feverishly to rebuild. From the sound of it, they were putting in a lot of reinforcing and making other structural improvements as well.

All good things must end eventually, and I arrived back on the day of a softball game. It was a great game until the top of the third. Some huge, thuggish-looking guy I just instinctively didn't like hammered a worm-burner between first and second. Picture a cross between Frankenstein and Andre the Giant but with disproportionately short legs. Yeah, scary huh? He was about two head-bolts short of a really scary Halloween costume.

Anyway, I was playing first, and I definitely should've let the second baseman get it. But the Test was running high and I wanted him out! I dashed for the ball, grabbed it, then sprinted for first. I felt like I was running in slow motion, my newfound muscle mass tugging at me like a drag-chute. Sprinting with an effort of 16 on a scale of 1 to 10, my foot touched the base a millisecond before the gigantic bastard dropped his shoulder and drilled me in the chest.

From a full run I stopped like I'd hit a wall with an attitude problem. Franken-giant spun tumbling off into the grass. The world was silent for a few seconds. "Holy Shit!" yelled the ump, "Are you guys okay?" (Apparently he forgot we were a church team, but so did I.)

At that moment I felt nothing but primal rage. I wanted to kick this guy's ass! But fuck did it hurt to breathe! Must've bruised my ribs right underneath the pec. "I'm fine," I managed to gasp through clenched teeth. Franken-giant limped off the field holding his shoulder. He'll dig up a new arm soon enough, I thought. I played the rest of the game. (By the way, yeah, I got him out.)

Two days have now passed, during which the pain has taken on a life of its own. Difficulty breathing? Pssh. Now I have pain when breathing. "How's this going to affect my anabolic Odyssey?" I wondered. We'll soon find out.