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I had competed in the NPC New England Championships in Boston for the past two years, but this time I was there to cheer on my wife. She had also competed for the past two years, but as a Figure competitor. At last she had decided to stop fighting her body's natural inclinations and let herself become the muscular bodybuilding goddess she was meant to be.
Of course, she wouldn't listen to me about applying some type of tanning solution, and as dark as my Cuban Missile looked under normal lighting conditions from a couple sessions of spray-on tan at a local salon, she looked just as white as me up there under the bright stage lights. But then again, since when do husbands and wives ever listen to each other?
Usually what we hear when our spouse is talking is that "wa wa wa" nonsense gibberish that Charlie Brown's teacher made famous. Did I mention that Janet also came onstage almost two minutes late at prejudging because she was chit-chatting backstage? I knew we were going to have to chalk her first bodybuilding contest up as a learning experience, and tried to enjoy the show.
Randy was with me to also cheer Janet on but more so to check out the men's light-heavies. He was planning on making this his first contest in next year, even though it didn't have a Novice division.
I am not sure what he was expecting, but when about fifteen lightheavyweights filled the stage at prejudging, Randy instantly knew he was going to have to bust his ass even more if he had a prayer of making top five in this very competitive division. "Hmmm," was all he had to say, and he was frowning the whole time that class was on. The top few guys were national-level, for sure, and Randy needed a good ten pounds more muscle before he would even look like he belonged up there with them.
The night show was going to be pretty thrilling, because we had not one but three enormous guest posers: Jay Cutler, Gunter Schlierkamp, and Dave Palumbo. That's almost a thousand pounds of prime beef between those mass monsters, enough to feed a Somali village for weeks!
I guess if you threw in a few sacks of rice it could even last them a year. What I didn't know because he wasn't listed on the contest flier was that there was a fourth guest poser, one who would make a much more significant impression on all of us than the three giants would.
Greg Rando was his name, and I had known him for about ten years. Greg won the Team Universe Overall title in 2001, defeating some pretty heavy hitters from the other classes to do so: Marvin Ward, Derik Farnsworth, Tito Raymond, and Jeff Willett (who had beaten Skip LaCour that year to win the Heavyweight division).
Greg Rando at the 2004 Toronto Pro.
Greg had earned his pro card in the IFBB and was just three weeks away from making his pro debut at the Night of Champions in New York City. He is also a successful business owner, with his own gym and a thriving personal training business. Oh, wait, did I forget to mention something? Greg is 34 years old and has been legally blind since he was 15.
Emcee Mike Katz announced Greg and informed the audience that he was visually impaired. As a stagehand led him to the center of the stage to perform his posing routing, I nudged Randy.
"I know this guy from way back, he's amazing. And he looks way bigger and better than the last time I saw him a few years ago." Indeed he did. Rando was very full and symmetrical at 5-8, 215 pounds with twenty-inch arms and no weak points. Even if you didn't know he was blind, you would be in awe of his physique. Knowing that he is just makes him that much more exceptional. "Wow, how does he train?" Randy wondered aloud.
"By feel, of course. He feels his way around his gym, and counts holes in weight stacks and the little plates on dumbbells to get the right weight. Try closing your eyes for a few seconds in the middle of a set sometime and you get a tiny taste of what he has to do every day. But I tell ya, he must have the best mind-muscle connection in the world."
"Jeez, I just realized he can't even see how great he looks, can he?"
"No, he can't. Vain bastards like you and me must clock in about an hour of mirror time every day checking our buffed selves out. Greg is a professional bodybuilder and has never once flexed in a mirror to appreciate how awesome he looks. Makes you think, doesn't it?"
"Yeah," Randy replied, never taking his eyes off Rando as he moved from one impressive pose to another. "If he can look this good with a handicap like that, what the hell is my excuse?"
"Exactly. Guys like Greg who let nothing get in their way of achieving their goals make us all stop and realize most of the excuses we have are just plain lame. I have heard so many excuses from guys who say they want to have a bodybuilder's physique but they can't because they don't have the time, they don't have the money, their kids or their wife are a hassle, they have a bum knee or lower back problems, you name it. What was your excuse for a while, Randy?"
"Uh," he stalled, "I couldn't get big because I wasn't using steroids." He shook his head as he admitted this, knowing how foolish that belief had been.
"Well," I said, gesturing to Greg, who was almost done with his routine, "he has been winning shows since 1990, all of them drug-tested. So let's see here, the man doesn't have the benefit of seeing what he's doing in the gym or what he looks like, and he became a pro not only in spite of that, but he also never used any pharmaceutical aids.
From now on, any time I am feeling sorry for myself and start running through all my pathetic excuses for why I haven't been as successful in competitions as I should have, I am going to think of Greg. That should shut up those negative voices in my head that try to tell me the odds are stacked against me."
"Me too," Randy said, and he was definitely sincere.
I saw Greg three weekends later on stage in New York, competing against 45 other IFBB professionals. He didn't win, and he didn't even make the top fifteen. But there was no doubt in the mind of anyone in that theater that he was a champion.
Greg Rando at the 2004 Night Of Champions.
Rando got louder and heartier cheers and applause than almost any other man in the show, even though most of the others were plastered over the magazines every month and thus far more recognizable.
Flex Wheeler was sitting next to me and stood up to give him an ovation. Since that night we saw Greg guest pose, both Randy and I have had a new attitude in the gym. It's clear now that whatever we were allowing to hold us back was nothing but an illusion.
Nothing can prevent you from making your dreams come true unless you let it. There is a phrase that says, "Excuses are lies we tell to ourselves." I really believe that. Now you need to ask yourself this question, and think hard - what was your excuse again?
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