There really is nothing like bodybuilding competition. The intensity and general emotion involved for those who are serious is evident. Let's start from the beginning, I mean, way before the November 6th Natural USA's... back about 6 weeks earlier... about September 25th to be more precise.
6 Weeks Before The Natural USA's
I have a friend in bodybuilding here in the 505 (that is the area code for ABQ, by the way) who is something of a strength prodigy. September 25th was the date he was to compete in the NPC (National Physique Committee) New Mexico State Bodybuilding Championship and the Mid-USA's which are held in the same venue on the same day.
Some Background On My Friend
Let me tell you a little about this guy first of all, before you learn his name. With 18 years of gymnastics background behind him, and after moving here from Las Vegas, Nevada he decided to take up the sport of big muscles.
And boy did he! The first time I met him, I was at the University of New Mexico in the sports building overlooking the weight room through a giant glass window on the second story.
It was the usual scene; nameless faces seemingly going through the motions of attempted workouts... in actuality trying to get the attention of more attractive members of the opposite sex who were also "working out".
My eyes scanned the crowd for competition in the world of muscle. First I scanned the benches, then the dumbbell rack... denied. Maybe there would be someone at a window farther down, down near the squat racks and smith machines... hmmm. Then I saw something.
To the eye of a layman, it would merely be someone lifting a weight in a routine manner, but to a focused critic, namely a competitive bodybuilder, this was something... else.
There he was, dressed in a dark blue sweat shirt, his right hand holding onto a straight-bar curling station... you know the kind, it has the set weights that usually go up to just over 100 pounds in most gyms... anyway that doesn't matter because he was only using it for support. He was however, performing calm, focused one-arm dumbbell lateral raises with... well, it was around 55 pounds anyway.
"Aaron! You've been making me read all this just to tell me about some dude I've never heard of doing 55lb. dumbbell laterals?! You are a boob!"
No! Listen to me and think about what I'm saying before you slap me around like that.
This guy was filling out his sweatshirt (he had thickness) and it wasn't like he was performing this exercise with 1 or 2 reps, he was doing more like 8 to 10.
I think he was actually 19 at the time. Now how many 19 year-old guys do you know who can do laterals with 55lb. dumbbells? See what I mean?
To someone focused, someone looking for muscle, this was it! What on earth could he be hiding under that sweatshirt at only 19 years old?
Was he using the sweet stuff? Was I watching a juice-monkey?
I had to meet him, and make friends immediately, as if I were to compete with him or even against him one day, it'd be better to be friends with him anyway... maybe we could train together... maybe I could use this power to my advantage!
I walked down the stairs, out into the neighboring hallway to the weight room, and through the open doors. Almost all of the instructors knew me; I took quite a few weightlifting classes to pad my GPA as I pursued my business degree.
Nobody questioned me thankfully, and I walked over to this guy... this thick white dude. Now I'm going to improvise on the conversation because it was about 3 years ago or so.
"Hey, I was watching you do those laterals, and I have to say I was really impressed. That's a lot of weight!" I said.
"Oh, thanks man, I just need to really fry my delts and this is one of my favorites. What's your name?" My friend asked.
"My name's Aaron," I replied. "What's yours?"
"Chris Harris," Chris Harris answered.
"Nice to meet you Chris, hey, maybe we could work out sometime...
And that was the beginning. I later learned Chris wanted to compete in bodybuilding, and had actually met
Jay Cutler in person at a past Olympia weekend.
We kept talking for a bit, and later ended up in a weightlifting class together, and I was constantly impressed with the sheer poundage Chris could handle.
I remember seeing him take off his shirt in the locker room after we had a good workout and he had this back with big, thick, defined lats coming all the way down where the beginnings of a Christmas tree had begun to manifest itself. Then he turned around to face me.
BAM! Dang I wish I had pecs like that!
"Handle poundage like that and you will, dork."
Shut up. I'm writing this article!
And I WILL get a chest like that! 3 years later, I am a little closer. Much closer than I was, but I'm telling you that this guy had a gift. Now having a gift is one thing, but being able to hone that gift through the mind-numbing hours of painful workouts is another thing all-together.
He had both! It was obvious. I'm sure glad I didn't have to compete against him!
Back to September 25th, 2004 at 8:30am. I arrive in the parking lot of the Highland Theater to see Chris and his ever-supportive girlfriend walking towards the side of the building which would lead to the front entrance.
He's looking powerful and wide even with his clothes hanging off of him. I knew it. He's up for stiff competition though, as I had seen some of his competition training at a local gym just a few weeks earlier and they were looking really sharp.
It was to be a good day, one with mountains of muscle flowing thick as competition raged on the stage of the Highland Theater. Wow, for a second there, I felt like some sort of poet. You like that? Oh, never mind.
Well, you'll be happy to know I was able to snap some pics of Chris, his girlfriend standing with him, and the whole scene in general! Let's start with Chris being himself, bustin' out some hard-earned muscle!
Not bad eh? The muscle truck made a great backdrop for the biceps of Chris Harris.
Now isn't that sweet? Chris and his lil' lady chillin' in the lobby of the Hiland Theater.
Here's a shot of the front of the Hiland Theater with Chris in the center standing there in his shorts with... I think its Sanjay (a fellow training partner of Chris's and a mutual friend).
More fun in the lobby, this time it's Robert and Amy Wilkins of the IFBB!
Now THERE's a great picture! Yep, yours truly, sneaking backstage to take more pics of the guys in the BIG show.
Group muscle, (I told them I was writing an article for BB.com and they all cooperated...sweeeet!) posing for the camera... the guy in white flexing his left gun is none other than the current Mr. New Mexico of 2004 (he would win the title later that morning), Scott Gilmore!
And who is this?! Yep, Chris, Sanjay (he's the guy being dream-tanned... isn't that a pretty biceps by the way? Like somebody jammed a tennis ball in his arm!), and Frank Jaramillo (a fellow competitor in the ANBC) is the guy applying the dream-tan. I think its dream tan by the way, but I'm not positive!
Look who came to watch... none other than brothers Joe (wearing the red jersey) and Korby Ntiforo! Joe is the only bodybuilder from NM to ever turn IFBB pro I believe.
Learn more about JoJo in the interview here...
Again in the lobby it's Patty Sanchez, a judge for the Mr. O who volunteered to help out with the show. She works out at the gym where I am currently employed (the Training Sensation)! She is really nice by the way.
Conclusion, Part 1
Well, after a few pics that morning I had to get ready to leave to go to work, so I was not able to watch the prejudging or the night show. Chris did very well for his first competition, coming in a respectable 5th place.
Now I understand that he was very disappointed with his placement, as the heart of any champion is troubled with anything less than first place. Now, in case any of you don't quite understand, let me first say Chris has been bodybuilding naturally up to this point.
He was up against some veteran "performance enhancing" drug users in this competition, and he still got 5th! You saw his guns! So I applaud his placement, and for certain he will be a force to reckon with provided he continues in the sport. Good job Chris.
Now, due to the current length of this article and the size of the file, I will have to continue in PART II for coverage of the 2004 ANBC USA's. Stay tuned!