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Saturday, January 21, 2012


How many wings from hooters do you think you can eat?  Do you think you can beat Donny Shankle?  If eating is a sport, then I guess Donny is a pro at two things!  When you train hard you need to eat, and eating is what we all did, or some of us tried to do.  We all have never been the same after this battle took place. I still have nightmares of fallen soldiers. I still will not eat around Donny, and not a day goes by where that brown owl doesn't haunt me.

It was a Tuesday afternoon here at California Strength, and all the weightlifting soldiers and coaching captions battled hard all day.  On this heroic day Coach Glenn Pendlay coached well and
hard, Donny Shankle hit big weight, Caleb Ward moved fast, and I yelled out some bad ass phrases before I lifted my bar full of red Kilo plates.

After practice was over, everybody agreed how hungry they were and how we should all go out and eat.  We all had a big meet that we were getting ready for, so eating was very important.  There was silence in the big gym, as we all looked at each other back and forth waiting for someone to speak up about where we should go eat.  Finally, Coach Pendlay made a suggestion, only if we knew how much this suggestion would change our lives for the best, or worse,  I haven’t figured that one out yet.  “Hooters has all you can eat wings today,”  Coach Pendlay said with a little smile on his face, like a kid getting ready to enter a candy shop.  Without any hesitation, we all said “ok” and started off to the land of boobs, wings, and more wings, and even more boobs, but mostly wings!   We all rode in coach Pendlay’s big Texas truck, with the Captain Pendlay driving, the team leader Donny in the front seat and
the two soldiers Caleb and I in the back.  I remember the whole Texas truck ride over like it was yesterday.  It was dead silent as if we were heading into war, and the truck was our tank.  This was not lunch, this was a mission.  Donny and coach Pendlay take their food very seriously, like it’s a job, like it’s a sport, like its game time baby.  I on the other hand, view and approach food with much less intensity, and I eat just because I have to; but these guys are on a whole different level. I tried to spark up a few conversations in the car but was quickly shut down by coach and Donny, “Jon no time for talking, just preparation,” Donny said in his deep southern voice, as if he was saying his most famous
line, “Kids these days”  hahaha  I love it.  I soon came to the realization that this was not just a fun team lunch, instead this was a battle, and I was caught right in the middle!  I found myself scared and nervous like maybe I should have just went and got lunch by myself!  I took a deep breath and thought to myself, “come on Jon, its only hooters”!   And boy was I wrong. 

When we walked into Hooters two very big-boobed girls greeted us at the front door ready to seat us, but Coach Pendlay and Donny pushed them to the side, knocking them both down while keeping their focus completely on the task at hand.  Coach Pendlay started looking around in circles, with his arms out to the side like he was being surrounded by a group of ninjas.  In a panicky manner, Coach finally found the table he was destined to find.  Coach and Donny sat down like knights at the Round Table, while Caleb and I just sat down like normal people wanting to eat lunch. Caleb and I had a great little conversation while Donny and coach stared at each other from across the table.  Their four heads were already sweating, their napkins tucked in their shirt, their hot sauce just inches from their hands as if they were cowboys ready to draw at any moment.  The innocent happy little waitress came skipping over,  as if it was her first day.  Let me skip forward by telling you that after we left the war zone of Hooters, that little innocent happy skipping waitress on her first day, was no longer innocent, happy, or skipping and that first day was probably her last. 

The hot wings started coming out in trays one after another.  Waitresses where running around the restaurant like the building was just hit by those North Korean commies.  Donny and coach never took a breath.  Their hot sauce never left their hands, while each wings soul rode the grooved tracks to their final destination into the abyss.  Both of these crazed men never took there eyes off each other.  Both of these men were in another world, and each of these magnificent creatures refused to be beaten by the other. Wings kept piling up as if they were building a fort of bones to live in.  Kids were crying and women were running for safety as Caleb and I could only sit back and watch this massacre.  Donny was approaching 80 wings when Coach finally had to throw in the towel at a very impressive 87 wings, not because he was full and couldn’t eat anymore, but he was late for a meeting he could not miss.  While coach stood up to leave, Donny’s eyes followed.  There were no words spoken, coach just left.

Donny was at 93 wings, and at this point the whole restaurant was watching in amazement as Donny kept fighting those chickens one after another.  His goal was to eat one hundred, and he could already taste victory. At 96 wings the most amazing thing I have ever seen happened, he stopped eating and spoke. The whole place went quiet and Donny said, “I am full” as he looked over at me like he needed help or even a hug.  He quit at 96 wings, but I refused to see my team mate lose; a soldier was down and I needed to pick him back up, that’s what team mates are for.  So I leaned across the wing grave yard, and
looked at him right in the eyes and said, “don’t you quit on me Donny, don’t you even think about stopping when you are this close, you pick up those last few wings and you eat them with everything you have boy”!!  This California Strength soldier finished those last 4 wings, stood up with pride and we walked out of that restaurant like he owned the place.  That day changed my life, and I will never forget it.  We never did see Coach Pendlay again, some say that after his defeat on that sunny Tuesday afternoon at Hooters, he packed up his stuff, bought a pair of board shorts and joined a Crossfit gym near a retirement community in Miami Beach.    100 wings 2012

The end