Middleweights! The expeditor yelled. A rush of anxiety ran through my spine knowing that this was it. This was the one moment I had trained so hard for. Day after day, week after week, meal after meal, I had made it and it was time to leave nothing behind. Just as we began to line up, I heard another competitor say aloud, "Man, why do we do this.
All the training and dieting for a mere 7 minutes on stage!" Man, did he put things into perspective. It was also enough to make me laugh and ease my nervous energy. As we started to proceed to backstage, I kissed my wife and turned on my "game face". As many times before while waiting backstage, I took every moment to ensure that, I had removed my socks, had my number in place, and pulled my trunks up.
Next, I began to get one last pump. I dropped to the floor for a quick 25 rep close-grip push-up. Next, I flipped over for a quick set of 25 jack-knifes.
I then noticed a pair of exercise bands hanging from a nearby pole. I took advantage of its presence and performed a quick set of rows, chest, and shoulders. The whole time I remembered to continually flex my legs.
Finally, the expeditor requested that we re-align ourselves and prepare to head out to center stage. A sense of calmness came over me. It was as though I had entered into a vacuum or black hole. We were then instructed to head to center stage.
On The Stage
I was second in a line of 15 and knew I would be on the far-side of the stage. I then made a mental note to angle myself towards the judges once we were in position on stage. Once facing and angled towards the judges, I made sure to contract every visible muscle from the bottom and up, control my breathing, and smiled.
My conditioning was superb and I knew it. With all the weeks and months I had invested in posing practice, I was confident I would impress the judges with my conditioning. I stood tall and stayed tight through the endless rounds of comparisons and mandatory.
Even as the top five (including myself!) were shuffled to the back while the second five were brought out for the comparison round, I stayed TIGHT! The one thing I did notice that worried me was that, during the comparison round, I was never moved towards the center of the line-up. Most experienced bodybuilders understand what this could mean. Usually in a line-up of five competitors, the top two placers are moved towards the middle and the lower placers stay on the outside. I was on the outside! All hope was not lost.
I kept reassuring myself by remembering something I was told by a good friend and fellow competitor. He told me that if the judges decide without a doubt that you are the class winner early in the prejudging round, they don't bother to move you. If you're on the outside, it helps them to evaluate the remaining competitors.
I kept this in my mind and stayed tight, smiled, and controlled my breathing. When prejudging was complete, I tried to remain positive. I refused to allow the thought of placing anything short of 1st enter my mind. My wife met me as I exited backstage.
She gave me a hug and smiled and told me I looked great, my size had improved, and I was in the best condition she had seen yet. Of course, I had doubt. Not in her, but I have a habit of being my worst critic at times.
We stayed to watch the remaining prejudging event and, afterwards, we walked towards the Seaport area of NYC. It was a mild and beautiful day. We stopped at a Wendy's restaurant where my family grabbed a meal. Not me. I always treat every competition as though I will be in the overall. It helps keep me focused and helps me stay confident. I felt like I had run (no, sprinted) a mile.
My whole body was exhausted and I tried all I could to re-energize. I was unsuccessful. With only an hour before having to report back for the evening check-in, we briefly talked and began a slow walk back. Once we arrived at the auditorium, I grabbed a quick snooze while waiting for the athletes meeting to begin. You would be amazed how refreshing a 15 minute snooze can be. I had re-charged by batteries and decided to do some stretching to help relax. If you need to relax, believe me, stretching is one of the best ways to do it.
The Evening Show
For the evening show, we were to perform our individual posing routine. In the interest of time, only the top five placers would perform. I really hoped to have a chance to do my routine because I had a brought a song that I knew I could really get into.
It was a song called "A Woman's Work" by Maxwell (Sample from CDNow: Real Audio). I could pose all day to it and I was able to visualize my routine over and over again. I competed in the 2001 NPC Jr. USA and was not a top five placer and didn't get a chance to perform. Even though I had invested so much time and energy.
The evening event went like clock-work. The WNBF pros were out first and it was awesome. All I could think about was how cool it would be to be given the chance to compete as a pro. Things moved fast and before I could blink, it was time for the middleweights again. Again, only the top five placers were to perform. We were brought back stage and instructed that the top five middleweights would be announced and we would walk out to center stage, execute two poses, and then exit. Next, each of the five would perform their individual routines. The top five were announced, and thankfully!, my number was called!
I had made the first and biggest cut. Now for the individual routine. I was second. I watch the first competitor perform his routine and it was flawless. Although the individual routine is not included in the scoring, I always watch when I can. You can learn so much from others. When his routine was over, it was time to DO MY THING. I requested that the music begin as I reached center stage. Once center stage, I stood flexed from head to toe with my hands folded in front. The music began and immediately I went into another world. I felt each note of the song as it floated through my body.
Gracefully, yet strong, I glided into each pose. Then the unforeseeable happened. The music just stopped! Instead of panicking or stopping my routine, I continued posing. The crowd responded with applause. I could still hear the music playing in my head as though it had never stopped. Then, the music started to play again. Get this. When the music started again, I was still on beat! It was as though it had never stopped! Posing practice does pay dividends! When I was done, I waved to the crowd, blew a kiss to my family and exited.
Now was time for the awards presentation. My stomach flipped. I felt like I had to use the bathroom (and #2 at that!). The top five were called back out to center stage by the announcer. He began the award presentation by complimenting the quality of the athletes that competed in our class. He was right.
And The Winner Was...
This was a very competitive event and, being all-natural, I admired these guys even more knowing what it took to be there. Then he began. In 5th place...(not me)...in 4th place (not me again) ...in 3rd place (not me, oh my GOD only two of us left!)...in 2nd place... a brief pause... then...ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE...as he called the 2nd place finisher (not me!! not me!! I won! I won! I can't believe it!)
I wasn't called as the 2nd place finisher. I was 1st! Being a Super-pro qualifier, meaning all open class winners are awarded a pro card, I had earned my World Natural Bodybuilding Federation (WNBF) professional status! There are no words that would emulate the feeling that I had at that moment. All the days, weeks, months I had trained, dieted, sacrificed, etc... had finally allowed me to realize my dream.
I am a pro! My normally easy going, layed back, very reserved brother was everything but his normal self as he cheered loudly from the audience! Although excited to the extreme, I still had the overall to get prepared for. I could have just accepted the class win and pro card but, as I mentioned before, I came to win it all.
The overall was very different this time. I felt more confident this time and was not nervous to any degree. I went for it. I was exhausted to the ninth degree but dug deep in my soul and gave all I had. When the pose down began, I raced to the best stage lighting and went into the "zone".
I hit each of my strongest poses and tried to grab the judges attention. When it was over, the lightweight was announced as the Overall title winner. As usual, I congratulated all the class winners after the Overall winner was announced. I then raced to my family and was embraced with love from them. I could see in their eyes they were proud of me. That was the best award of all!
I began this journey 8 months ago and through all the uncertainty, self-doubt, and endless trials and tribulations, my dream had become a reality. Before leaving, I made sure to do one last thing. I took the chance to meet, greet, and thank the judges. As I did, a judge said to me, "I've never had anyone thank me before". My journey was complete. At least for now.
Well, thanks for reading and an extra thanks to LaDawn, Linnel, Janelle, Bodybuilding.com, Mr. Wayne Goudrealt for your love and support. Also thanks to all those who really believed in me.
See you next article!
"When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live life."
- Greg Anderson