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  Field Notes From
What it Takes to Build the Unbeatable Body: Pushing the Limit

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From Author

Rick Gore

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Ffrom Photographer

Joe McNally

Unfiltered for authenticity, these accounts have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

covering the Unbeatable Body

Field Notes From Photographer
Joe McNally
Tucked in the Kenyan village of Iten on the edge of the Rift Valley is a camp where young marathon runners filled with dreams go to train. What’s so inspiring is the determination these kids have to succeed. They get their start in this very basic environment, where they use a pile of rocks as a set of weights and have only tea and bread for breakfast. They come from a rural background and have very little, but some of them—like Kip Keno and Tegla Loroupe—have become the Michael Jordans of Kenya. They’re national heroes. I went to Hawaii to cover the Iron Man Triathlon. For the swimming portion, more than 2,000 swimmers plunge into the water. I decided to dive and photograph them from underneath, so I made arrangements to do it at the opening of the race. That’s where my troubles began. I chose a position and went under, but it turned out not to be a good place because very few of the swimmers went overhead. I was devastated! So I got back in the boat, and we sped out to where the swimmers make the turn in the ocean to head back toward land. I threw myself in the water again, but this time the cinches that keep the tank attached to my bouyancy vest were loose. I looked up to find my tank floating above my head. So I grabbed it and tucked it under my arm while trying to control three cameras. I still didn’t get the picture. By then I was really upset with myself. I threw my gear back into the boat, hauled myself in, and we raced ahead of the swimmers to the finish line. But even the third time wasn’t quite the charm. I got the picture, but flooded an underwater camera in the process. I wanted to depict the idea of coiled strength, so I located Chris Cormier, the No. 3 body builder in the world, and arranged to use two 17-foot (5-meter) Burmese pythons. The snake handlers suggested we work with the less-aggressive female. Chris struck a pose, and we wrapped this 160-pound (73-kilogram) serpentine muscle around him and started to shoot. Chris was a little concerned at first. And it didn’t help when he asked what the snakes were called. “Killer and Bone Crusher,” the handlers deadpanned. It wasn’t true, but it probably pushed Chris’s blood pressure up a few points.

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