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I've heard it said that people today have lost their faith, that we are no longer spiritual. I guess there is something to be said about our need for concrete evidence and guarantees in virtually everything. But sometimes you really do just have to have faith in something. Me, I believe in UFO's, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and that pro wrestling is real. Randy is more of a Doubting Thomas.
At three weeks before the contest, Randy had been at the inevitable 'sticking point' in any diet. I had assured him that his panic was unnecessary. The fat would start coming off again. He just had to trust me. And so it did.
Two weeks later, he was looking even leaner than he had been for his first competition the year before, but easily ten pounds fuller in all the right places, with the density and muscle maturity only another year of hard training could have imparted. But it wasn't going to be all smooth sailing during the final week leading up to getting on stage. What fun would that be, anyway? Besides, suffering builds character. That's what I tell my wife when she complains about how hard it is being married to me.
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Me, I Believe In UFO's, Bigfoot, The Loch Ness
Monster, And That Pro Wrestling Is Real.
The Devil Incarnate?
In the last week, most bodybuilders go through a process of carbohydrate, sodium, and water manipulation designed to 'trick' the body into looking both fuller and far more defined than would normally be possible for a brief period of time, meant to coincide with when he or she will be on stage competing.
If you think the CIA has the market cornered on psychological torture, think again. The first half of this week is pure h#ll for most bodybuilders. Though I don't have horns or a pitchfork (okay, maybe a plastic pitchfork from my daughter's Halloween costume a few years ago that I like to poke my dog with), by the time Randy got near the end of that rough patch, he was looking at me like I was the devil in the flesh.
He even told me later he was trying to sneak peaks at my scalp through my short-cropped hair for the telltale '666' birthmark of the antichrist. All he managed to spot was the lump on my cranium from when my hot-tempered Cuban wife broke a fan over my head in 2003. It could have been worse - she could have cracked me on the skull with an air conditioner.
Wednesday - 4 PM: T-Minus 3 Days
I had instructed Randy to start lowering his carbs on Sunday morning, down from an already low 100-200 grams a day (the higher amount on weight training days) to 75. At the same time, he was to increase his water and salt intake.
I did not want him using a prescription diuretic, as they are powerful and dangerous drugs with the potential to actually kill someone if misused. Who would have ever dreamed that something that could shrivel your body up like a raisin and cause acute kidney failure might be trouble?
So instead, I was having Randy sodium load. He had been adding sprinkles of salt to his food for the past few weeks, now I had him really pouring it on so it looked like his chicken breasts had been lightly dusted with snow, or dandruff (I used to have this problem - no longer thanks to Head and Shoulders shampoo!).
Since he had also doubled his water consumption, the poor guy was now a nice, puffy, bloated specimen, holding so much water beneath his skin that it looked as if he had given up on dieting long ago and binged on pizza and ice cream.
But wait, it gets better! On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, he had to go through full-body circuits with fairly light weights and machines, doing high reps and resting very little between sets, the purpose of which was to drain his muscles of every last molecule of glycogen.
In other words, we were emptying his tank completely in order to be able to fill it back up again and top it off. The total effect, by the third day, was that Randy was not only watery and smooth looking; but also flatter than Kate Moss's bony @ss.
This was the condition I found Randy in when I met him at the gym to take a look at him before we started carbing him up and flushing the water out. I had seen guys about to be executed by lethal injection that looked more upbeat.
"There's nothing there," he moaned, standing relaxed in a pair of shorts in the aerobics room. He tried in vain to tense muscles that did not respond. Randy hit a front double biceps shot. The difference between flexed and not flexed was minimal. "What the h#ll happened?" He was losing it. I watched with arms folded.
"You're right on schedule, just perfect," I announced.
"On schedule for what, last place?" His voice was rising to a high-pitched whine.
"No, no, relax. I've done this many times before. If you don't look like crap at this point, you didn't do it right."
"Well I guess I did it right, because I look like I've never touched a d@mn weight in my life!"
"That's not true. You just look like you've never touched a heavy weight," I chuckled. He glared at me behind sunken eye sockets, not amused in the least. "How do you feel?"
"Exhausted. All I want to do is sleep. I actually started falling asleep this morning training Claire."
"If she was talking about how her son the dental student is doing and how hard she's been trying to eat better, I probably would have nodded off too. There isn't enough caffeine in the world to sit through that for the thousandth time." The edge of Randy's mouth lifted almost imperceptibly. This was as close to a smile as he was capable of at the moment.
"I've got good news, junior." He perked up a bit at that. "The worst is all over now. No more training until the show is over, and tomorrow morning you start eating more carbs, cut the salt, and then the next day we begin tapering your water off. You're going to be looking better by the hour, I promise."
"Pinkie promise?" he asked, offering the little finger of his right hand. The kid was regressing. My son does this, and he is seven years old. It's his version of having something notarized. I sighed and linked pinkies with him.
Friday - 7 PM: T-Minus 17 Hours
Only those of us that have been through this crazy sport of competitive bodybuilding could possibly comprehend what a difference three days can make in a physique. Randy looked and felt like a totally different person now, on the eve of the contest. One last time, I appraised him at the gym.
He was fully carbed up now, and the excess water had been flushed away. Not only that, but he had put two coats of Pro Tan on the night before. He looked like a bronze god. As he hit a few poses, the carbs did their magic and his muscles pumped up before my eyes. The kid looked like a winner, and his broad smile communicated that he felt like one, too.
"Wow," he flexed a quad and seemed stunned at the striations and veins he saw popping out in bold relief. Randy crunched into a crab most-muscular. His pecs were splintered across with detail and riddled with veins. Even his upper chest, long a weak point, had thickened up.
"I told you everything would be okay, didn't I?" I asked. "O ye of little faith."
"Yeah, but it was hard to believe you when I looked like something my cat left in the litter box." He pulled over his gym bag, and took out a plastic grocery bag. Looking truly joyous, he presented various articles of candy - Raisinets, Skittles, and assorted candy bars. Then he produced a bottle of red wine - and from the 2.99 price tag I spied, I doubted it was a very good year.
"For after the show, I presume?"
"No Ron, for before I go on tomorrow, so I can be all crazy full and vascular!"
"Let me see that," I confiscated the whole mess. "Bad idea! You start eating things your body isn't used to, and you can start spilling over with water, not to mention get the worst bellyache of your life. You might not even make it to the stage, because you could be glued to a toilet seat trying to give birth. No, stick to yams and rice, that's it. Those are good, slow-burning complex carbs that won't give you any problems."
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You Start Eating Things Your Body Isn't Used
To, And You Can Start Spilling Over With Water.
"At least let me have the wine! It brings out the veins."
"No contest was ever won or lost because of veins popping out or not, silly rabbit. Vascularity looks really impressive in your bathroom mirror, but from where the judges are sitting it's hardly noticeable unless all your veins are the size of garden hoses."
He frowned, but not for long. Randy was in a good place.
"How do you think I'll do tomorrow?"
"It all depends on who else shows up and stands next to you on stage. But you will be ready, that's for sure."
Each hour from now until he got onstage was going to seem like an eternity. That's how time gets distorted near the end. But very soon, over a year of hard training and good eating was going to come to its fruition in just a few minutes under the bright lights.
Randy looked even better than I had hoped he would, and a couple more coats of Pro Tan and the last bits of subcutaneous water wrung out were going to take it up another notch. This was going to be good.
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