The five months of dieting had come to their first test as two of my qualifiers for the British came in July. The results were a mixed bag in terms of the results and the emotive responses to them. First up was the Northern qualifier held in Manchester on the 18th of July...
The Build Up To The Northern
The week leading up to the Northern went pretty much as expected, and from Monday through to Friday I followed the guide I outlined in my previous article - to the letter. Come Friday, I was full and tight, and even had a test run with some niacin during my last training session to ensure I had no nasty reactions that would affect me come contest time.
The effect in the gym was everything I wanted: I became more vascular and my skin texture changed in a way which made the striations appear even better. So far so good.
Then came my first mistake - I deviated from my plan which was to eat clean and keep my calories slightly lower than Friday. I made the mistake, as Saturday I was spending the day with my wife and daughter and whilst out with them I had a meal which contained large amounts of sodium and the calorie content was probably too much, my thoughts at the time were that I was carb loading and still consuming water so it shouldn't effect me too much...
Come Sunday, I woke up after a fairly restless night, and one in which I didn't urinate half as much as expected (and have in past occasions.) I packed my gear and set off for the 3½ hour drive to the north of England with my fellow competitor and training partner.
We arrived earlier than expected and spent a bit of time wandering around, which again just raised my anxiety levels. For some reason, I went into this show with huge expectations and felt I hade put unnecessary pressure on myself to get the result.
I weighed in at the lightweight limit of 72 kilograms (158.7 lbs). I went backstage and got tanned up and started to pump up - but it was obvious that I was off. I was holding water and it meant that I wasn't as visibly lean as I had been on Friday.
I was mentally deflated, as I had worked so hard, just to ruin it with a bad choice the previous day - the best laid plans are worthless without a bodybuilder's greatest tool - application.
Looking over the opposition, I could see I had only one real threat in the lightweight class, Andrew Burril, who had placed second at the previous British as well as placing highly at a previous world competition. Come the pre-judging, I knew it would be tight between the two of us by how the call outs compared us.
From the front, Andrew was more impressive due to his thick chest and good shoulders; my quads had the greater size and sweep, but holding water meant I lost much of the deep separation I had before. Luckily when I turned around, my back, hamstrings, and calves made all the difference, as I was significantly thicker and more complete from behind.
Between pre-judging, I managed to harden up due to the previous posing and eating some dry turkey breasts. I went back on stage with some trepidation to do my routine and felt it showed in my performance as I stumbled through one or two of the transitions.
After the posedown, we awaited the results. Firstly, I was ecstatic that my training partner in his debut placed third, which was one of his goals achieved, then we waited for second to be called - Andrew Burrill was named second, and I felt that same wave of euphoria as I had for my training partner's result. So far, the school boy error of Saturday hadn't cost me the lightweight title!
Once the class went off, I made my second error in that I went straight to do the drug test as I wanted to get it over whilst I had time, due to the long drive after the show. Urination wasn't coming easy, so I consumed several glasses of water thinking that it wouldn't hurt...
As we went back on stage, I noticed how much I was sweating again - which meant I must've been holding water again and could see that my condition was fading. It was obvious the overall was between myself and the novice winner who was big, complete, and had great condition.
After several comparisons, the overall went to him and, to be honest, even if I had held my condition I don't think I would have beaten him due to his better balance between upper and lower body compared to me - however he also took home the "best legs" award which I thought I had achieved, due to better hamstrings, glutes and calves - but his condition coupled with great quads meant the judges gave him the nod!
The Northern was thus a mix of elation that I had qualified and won my class (my main goals), but also of disappointment, not so much in the result, but in myself that I hadn't achieved the levels I was capable of setting.
Photos from the Northern courtesy of Lee Williams at g-y-m.co.uk.
Two Weeks Later - The Central
With the disappointment of my conditioning at the Northern show, I was determined to set things right two weeks later at the Central. This was emphasized by the fact that my father was coming to watch, which would have been the first show he has seen me do since 2000.
For the two weeks I dieted hard and followed the same carb depletion patterns as my initial outline showed. However, I was ever fearful of spilling over, so I decided to only carb up heavily on Friday night and go back to my original dieting on Saturday. After talking to some trusted competitors and friends, I also decided to cut the water slightly earlier, stopping my water intake at 3:00 p.m. instead.
Saturday before the show was h*ll on Earth, as this also coincided with a family get together - my parents were in the area and it was a relative's birthday. While everyone else was enjoying cake and drinks, I was eating a grilled steak and veggies (cold due to being cooked in the morning and put in Tupperware) without any fluids. I got through the day and was happier with my condition upon waking Sunday morning.
After traveling down to the show, I was in two minds - did I weigh in as normal and easily make the lightweight class, or should I weigh in fully clothed and shoed to get into the middleweights? The dilemma was brought about due to a certain entrant who was totally out of my class (and everyone else's in the show).
Basically, a top quality bodybuilder by the name of Andrew Merrifield was competing and making his debut in the BNBF after many overalls and British wins in another federation - just my luck...
I bit the bullet and went into the lightweight class thinking it didn't matter as I had already achieved a class win and got my invite to the British and it would be good to compare myself to the best. The class got even tougher when I found out that Bodybuilding.com's own John Berry from The Brit Show was also in my class! At this point the saying, "It never rains, only pours," came instantly to mind.
The pre-judging went as expected with Andrew a clear winner and with me and John battling it out for the third and second spots. It was obviously clear it was close, due to the number of comparisons between us. Throughout the intermission, I thought I had got third due to John's incredible upper body development.
Going into the evening show, I knew I had to pull out all the stops. Luckily, I had hardened even more from the afternoon and my routine (although not perfect) flowed better than at the Central.
The results were announced with my training partner getting fourth (again placing in a good quality class). I waited for the third place announcement fully expecting to hear my name and was shocked to hear John Berry's name called! I had got second, with Andrew in first - I have never been so happy to get second!
Since the show, I have had a week off eating plenty, and getting back some of my lost fullness. Throughout these two shows, I don't think I was my best. For one, I was hard but lacking fullness, and two, I was full and holding a small lake's worth of water. I have two more shows before the BNBF British and will use these to try to refine my approach as the structure is there - it just needs ironing out. We'll see!
Photos from the Central courtesy of Eric Guy.