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The hammer rises and falls, crashing onto the anvil of life, the wind howls through the valley and the screams and cries of life ring through our mind whilst we march forward. The journey of life is never without challenges, never is it a cool stream flowing peacefully, never is it a soft breeze caressing our senses as we frolic through the meadows of tranquility and never do we arrive at our destination without hardship and effort.

We are stuck between worlds in a temporary rift, with the closure of Sapphire Coast Barbell and preparations for The Iron Stronghold underway we are without a training ground. The Iron Legion has taken refuge where we could. We are strangers in an unknown land, outcasts and lost. But just as the sun will rise so too shall the paragons of iron for our determination and passion shall never falter. 

And so on October 2nd, 2016 we traversed the Mountains of Snow and the wild landscape of the Monaro plain to Burley Strength. As we made our stand before the field of power we had ample time to reflect on the journey that led us there, the challenges we faced and the adversity we endured. With nothing but the belts around our waist and the clothes on our back, we arrived at our destination. Weary, but alive.

The sound of steel on steel clanged and reverberated throughout the great hall. Battle cries and the yells of the crowd filled our ears, fire fell from the sky and dark clouds loomed ahead.

” I feel the darkness coming, like a wave of despair it envelops my mind, I can not escape”

” Enough Marcelle, it’s just a powerlifting competition”

Jess watched Marcelle with caution and a concealed understanding, for she too felt the pull of uncertainty within her thoughts. They stood before the great entrance of Burley Strength, the time had come to face their fears and lift some weights.

” See that valley, within it lies the echoes of a million screams reverberated for a thousand years. The ghosts of the weak, trapped in the realm of forgotten dreams, a forlorn song to those who can hear it”

” Marcelle, it is literally a gym. I don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re fine”

Lost in her mind, the demons of doubt cast a shadow of hopelessness over her immediate future. She began to believe she was not here to lift a simple weight, but had come to meet her certain demise. As they warmed up, Marcelle’s face turned grim. She could see the preparations for battle commencing, the fog of war descended upon them, darkness came, and with it, her end. She warmed up, blindly following her instructions. Then the moment came. As she walked to the platform she turned to me.

” Tell my family I love them”

” Tell them yourself, bar is loaded, you’re up, you know what to do!”

First attempts, second attempts, third attempts. Zero missed lifts, first competition ever. 82.5kg squat, 52.5kg bench and a 130kg deadlift. Swolecelle joins the ranks of The Iron Legion, not as a spectator but as a competitor with a growing thirst for strength.

As morning turned to day, nerves turned to steel. The lost warriors of the Iron Legion continued their domination. Following Marcelle was Jess, a storm turned calm, she found solace in support. Words spoken to Marcelle bounced back at her and she was reminded of the truth of them. Months of preparation, trepidation on the path to strength occurs, but with persistence, inevitable results follow those who stay true. But still, like a storm of apprehension her feelings of helplessness rose like the morning sun. 

” Are you sure this is possible Darcy?” Jess asked.

” Yes” Darcy replied.

” I see them… The missed lifts of the underworld. They consume my thoughts. They burrow deep into my mind implanting themselves in my dreams. They are waiting for me. Laughing, tormenting me with their guile and deceit. I can not escape them, they are coming. “

” I literally have no idea what you just said Jess, time to squat” Darcy replied.

And squat she did. 100kg, 65kg bench press and a 145kg deadlift. Taking out third place in her weight class and furthering her quest for strength with passion and power.

Next was Darcy, singing of confidence and a happy demeanour, Darcy is a seasoned veteran of The Iron Legion. Her smile shone like a beacon of hope in a world where our own worst enemy is ourselves, she carried her shield in hand and executed the plan.

” Load the bar, any weight, anytime I shall lift it! Watch me, bare witness to my strength, though I may carry uncertainty, let it wash over my shield like a breeze on the wind, let the enemies of my power crash into my aura and be cast aside like the pathetic thoughts they are! 100kg?! Why not 200?! I laugh at your attempts!” Darcy yelled at me before walking to the platform.

Shocked, I did not heed her advice. Instead, I opted for a 105kg squat a 55kg bench and a 140kg deadlift, fueling her power, strength, and confidence further.

Meanwhile, in the distant corner of the hall, a beast quietly awaited her time. Pacing back and forth, men women and children dared not even gaze in her direction. Bar loaded, chalk filled the air, warm-ups were of little concern to the final warrior of the legion.

” Are you ready?” I said to Loureen.

All I got in return was a grunt and a swift nod.

” Then it is time”

With a ferocity unseen by mortals, she launched into the arena, squatting 117.5kgs, benching 77.5kgs and with a fierce gaze and a battle cry deadlifted 165kg’s, winning her weight class.

” That was fun!” Said Loureen as she sat down afterwards to smile.

And so the shieldmaidens of The Iron Stronghold had completed their task, the battle was won, the demons were cast aside and they were united under the banner of The Iron Legion, ready to march home. Although the scars of not having our training ground exist, it did not hinder them. For they know that the opening of The Iron Stronghold is inevitable and with it, their home. Forever to be filled with gains.

The battle had been won, but the war still waged on.

Two days prior to the competition Aaron took the long road south from “Wollongong” and returned to his home. He was in his workshop, various gadgets and machines buzzed with excitement as I visited him.

” Greetings Aaron, what news do you bring from the north?”

“Ah, Dan! Just the person I have wanted to speak with very much so. You’re going to like this!”

Curious, I inquired further.

” Well. I have been thinking about the design process of the equipment of our home, the great halls are imprinted in my mind, I have plans to construct a whole myriad of machines for us to gain even more strength with!” He exclaimed excitedly.

” Aaron, have you slept? These designs, they are… No man can make these, are you sure they will work?!”

” Ah, well. No, I have not slept. Trust me they will work! But I had a great idea for-“

” Sleep time brother, you must rest, we can review your mad plans at a later date”

Luckily Aaron took my advice to heart, training was done and after some well-deserved rest he was refreshed and ready. On the day his energetic enthusiasm could not be contained, his presence enriched the atmosphere, his attempts ran like machinery. Engineered to perfection. 190kg squat, 127.5kg bench and a 205kg deadlift. Solidifying himself as the winner of his weight class.

For those of us that wander, not all are lost, but some wander further than others. Victor had found strength on the day, but the loss of the great training halls of the legion cast a cloud of hesitancy that slowly surrounded him as the day waged on. With a 190kg squat and a 120kg bench, both of which were personal bests, clouds turned dark as a black haze of  trepidation drowned out his focus. As I sat devising the battle plan coming into deadlifts he approached me.

” My heart bleeds brother! I feel the effects of our dilemma and they consume me. My energy weeps like the tears of a widow, a steel blade forever thrust into its scabbard never to feel the bite of the wind. The pull of doubt and hopelessness envelops me, it’s… Taking me…”

” What” I replied.

” I can not continue, leave me… I am defeated”

Realisation swept over me.

” No, you’re not! Brother Victor, for too many years we have marched, for too long have we fought! Perhaps the day will come when the courage of The Iron Legion will fail, perhaps in a thousand years we will fall, but today we shall ride to victory! And as the sun falls, and day turns to night, we shall live as heroes, kept warm as we sit by the hearth of our feast hall! No man is left behind! Cast your doubt aside and pull free your sword! May steel meet bone and blood fall from the sky like a rainstorm in your wake!”

” Very well! I shall continue!”

And he did. Pulling an easy 210kg deadlift to give himself a total. We have not seen the potential of Victor yet, but it shall come.

Finally our last warriors, Cam and Nik had awoken from their slumber and made their way to the platform. Both are no strangers to competition, to the whip of pressure. Brothers in arms they train together, they lift together and at the end of the day, they die together. Together they rise, together they fall. But there can only be one who claims victory in the fierce battle this day.

” Bring forth the next attempt!” Yelled Nik.

” You think to defeat me with your bench Nik? Are you a fool?! I see through your’s and Dan’s plan. I have you on the squat, 255kg to your 250! You seek to redeem yourself with a lead on the bench press? Ha! I laugh at your attempts!”

Taunts flew through the air like a gust of wind, stinging each lifter as they stood firm.

” 167.5kg! Ha! What are you, a mouse!? My newborn son Felix, bench presses 167.5kg!” Cam stood proudly, 160kg bench press passed not a moment earlier, his newly born son Felix in his arms, a cute expression on his baby face.

” Let us see” Nik muttered under his breath.

“Start!….Press!…..”

But no rack call was to be heard, today was not the day, no lift. Cam was ahead by 5kg coming into deadlifts.

Cam opens, 235kg. The crowd blinked and missed it. Three white lights the only proof of the lift ever happening. The crowd, confused look to each other and whispers fill the hall.

Nik opens, 240kg! A tie! The crowd was shocked, silence filled the room. Everyone knew that it would come down to the last lift.

” Best that brother! Maybe the gods grant you with strength on this day, I think not!” Nik bellowed to Cam.

Cam, second attempt. 250kg! Taking the lead, Nik followed with 255kg. It was a tie, again… It would come down to the final lift.

Nik knew that this was his competition to lose, if he missed his next attempt and Cam got his, it would be all over. Cam’s confidence was high, choosing a 267.5kg third lift. A monster of a deadlift surely enough to topple the barbarian.

They say a battle of a single lockout begins with the first step, the bar breaking the floor. Cam braced, took a breath, locked in his focus and with a fierce determination stepped out into the dark abyss of power, the force generated would have been enough to destroy an entire city, but not this weight. The darkness disapparated, the void was abandoned and without the first step, the lockout was cast aside and lost forever.

Nik took 270kg…

Up, up, up all the way to lockout! A victory!

The first to congratulate him was his brother of steel Cam. A high five, a hug and a hunger for improvement! Both leaving nothing in the tank on this day of glory!

And so we move on, on to the next chapter, with The Stronghold built, we will be able to train as a unit, as a family. Growing stronger each day we will rise and remove weakness from our world. This day stands as a reminder to not let doubt cloud your mind, burn brightly within this world and allow your power to ascend those around you. Cast aside fear and move forward. Do not create difficulty for yourself by letting thoughts drift to that which you can not change, instead learn to grow and embrace change, embrace challenges and let nothing stop you on your way to progress.

As I sit here in my humble abode, filled with maps and plans for our new home I reflect on my day, 247.5kg squat, 175kg bench and 250kg deadlift. Alas not my best lifts, but this day still brings me happiness. For lifting weights, just like life, is a journey with ups and downs, but as long as you remain true to yourself and your journey you will grow. I look now to the future, to our new domain being built and know that with it, we rise in power and strength.

The opening of the new gym will bring forth a new age, a new dawn of strength. Fueled by iron, sweat, and passion. The Iron Stronghold is coming. We accept all, the small, the weak, the strong and big, for we will guide you to become the strongest you can be, and with that strength, you will help build a new world that is truly a world worth living in.

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