At Canoa out front of the hotel restaurant on the beach is a pullup bar. It was a surprise to see it when I arrived and I looked forward to seeing how much of my pullup strength I had lost since not performing the exercise in almost a month. But there were weed smokers and bongo playing hippies around the bar and then some skinny idiots among them were doing jerkups to impress some girls. They did two or three and acted like he-men. I didn’t want any of those fools to be near me when I was working out. They would no doubt disrupt the timed sets I perform. I decided to do my workout the following morning.
I got out to the bar at 8 am, the beach around it empty, the sky overcast and the wind blowing big, crashing waves onto the beach. I warmed up with 30 slow, deliberate, perfect form pushups in the sand and then did slow circles forward and back with my arms outstretched in an iron cross position, 50 revolutions in each direction. I busted 50 mountain climbers to get the blood flowing. Then I started into the pullups, doing sets of 5 strict and very slow with a pause at the up and down position. I felt pretty good but just to be sure extended my rest time between sets to 45 seconds instead of the usual 30.
During my rest period after the fifth set a squat middle-aged guy with the typical Ecuadorian gut comes waddling over with his fat wife and little son and he walks up to the bar. I didn’t think he could do a single pullup and figured he wouldn’t be much of a disruption. He must have seen me doing pullups and wanted to show off for his fat wife and little boy. Maybe he remembered the one pullup he had done in his life long ago.
The guy looks up and reaches for the bar but it is much too high for him. Then he jumps, just getting his fingers around the bar, but not enough to grip it, and his feet are gone from under him and he’s falling backwards and me, seeing this happening in slow motion, watch him land flat on his back, his head banging off the corner of the cement foundation of the left pillar for the bar. Blood is pouring from his head into the sand and he’s laying there, this confused look in his eyes.
Stay down, stay down, I tell this fool, putting my hand on his chest. But my talking seems to awaken him and this idiot sits up and pushes my hand away. He’s back on his feet. This idiot has got to do his pullups. He’s got his arms outstretched and is going to try to jump for the bar again. Stop, stop, I tell him, you can’t reach the bar. I push a cement block under the bar so he can stand on it. He doesn’t thank me and stands on the block with his arms outstretched, looking up at the bar. The back of his t-shirt is red from all the blood running down his neck.
I look over at his fat wife and little son. They don’t seem at all concerned by this. They haven’t said a word. Perhaps this is part of his pullup routine. Perhaps a head wound and bleeding is all part of the warmup.
He jumps for the bar and I’m ready to try and catch him this time, but he gets it. He hangs for a second and steadies himself and then jerks his legs and his midsection and his shoulders just come out of their locked position. His chin has maybe moved a few centimeters upwards towards the bar. Under his breath he mutters Uno. He jerks again, and his gut shakes. Dos. He takes a longer pause and again does the jerking. Tres, and with that he drops down from the bar.
He turns and walks over to his son. He slaps his hand and gives him the awkward fist bump that for some reason passes for a handshake among people of any age and gender throughout Ecuador. They finish this celebratory flourish by extending their thumbs and touching them together. He then puts one arm around his son, the other around his fat wife and the three stagger off slowly across the beach in triumph, the back of his head still pulsing blood.