Thursday morning was very hectic as I was trying to get all of my work done before heading off to Columbus, Ohio for the 2003 Arnold Classic Expo, which would be my first trip to the Expo and to Columbus. About a month ago I had communicated to Jeff Willet that I would be attending the event and offered to help with the AST Sports Science booth. He said that they could use the extra help and put my name on the AST representative list.
With my bags packed and my spirits high I headed off to the Atlanta International Airport. I arrived in plenty of time and had a while to hang out in the terminal while waiting for the plane to arrive. I could easily identify the people who were going to the Arnold; you know big guys wearing supplement company shirts, girls in spandex and tight fitting shirts, etc. As I was sitting there up walked Gunter Schlierkamp. He was looking huge, of course. This did not surprise me. What did surprise me was how nice of guy he seemed to be. Person after person was going up to Gunter either asking for an autograph or asking questions about bodybuilding.
Gunter took the time to talk to each person and continued to smile and laugh the whole time. I have heard before that he is a really good guy and from what I saw in the airport, on the airplane, and during the Expo I would agree 100%. I thought it was interesting that Gunter purchased two plane tickets as no one was sitting next to him and it was a sold out flight. I guess he doesn't have much choice!
I arrived in Columbus around 6:30 p.m. I had a very easy time getting my bags, my rental car, and then finding the hotel. It was pretty cold and there was some snow on the ground but it didn't snow much during the weekend and the weather was actually pretty manageable. I had packed my dinner for the night and brought it along on the plane. After eating my chicken and green beans (mmmm) I went out and found a grocery store near by and picked up some bottled water and milk for the weekend. The hotel where I was staying had an efficiency kitchen which was very convenient. Thursday night I was so excited that I didn't sleep very well. I didn't know what to expect the next day but I knew I was ready to get going.
After getting in my morning workout at a California Fitness Center I had found on the Internet earlier in the week, it was time to head down to the Columbus Convention Center. The Expo didn't start until 11:00 A.M. on Friday, but I left early to make sure I was there in plenty of time. I found the Exhibitors sign-in booth and gave them my name. They gave me an access badge to the Expo for the weekend. There was already a pretty big line of people waiting to get in the doors when I got there, but I was able to walk right in with my exhibitors badge, which was pretty cool.
The Expo hall was full of booth after booth of all the major supplement companies, bodybuilding and fitness magazines, the Bodybuilding.com booth, and clothing company booths. I easily found the AST Sports Science booth and was actually the first one there. After grabbing a cup of coffee I walked around and checked out the different booths. There were some really nice set-ups. Everyone definitely goes all out for this event. The AST booth looked great and I'm pretty sure that the banner with Jeff Willet and Skip LaCour was the biggest at the Expo. It didn't take long to notice that Lou Ferrigno was in the Weider booth, which was right next to ours. I was right next to The Hulk! How cool is that?! It was really exciting to see all of the famous bodybuilders and fitness models from the magazines. I met a couple of very nice people from the Weider booth who I talked with throughout the weekend.
A little after 10:00, Jeff, Skip, Derik Farnsworth, Earl Snyder, and the rest of the AST crew showed up. It was great to see all of the AST athletes and workers again. I also got to meet Matt Vinopal, the Overall Champion in the AST 2002 World Championships. Matt was a super nice guy and it was great to finally meet him after communicating so much through chat sessions we had during the contest.
We cleaned up the booth area and then it was about time for the doors to open. It was unbelievable. People started pouring in and making their way down the aisles and through the different booths. The crowd was very diverse. Of course, there were plenty of bodybuilders and fitness girls strutting around, but there was also others who were just getting into bodybuilding and fitness and those who were just interested in seeing what the Expo had to offer and maybe get a chance at meeting the Terminator himself.
Mostly, everyone was interested in what they could get for free. All of the booths were giving out free samples of everything. It cost $10 a head to get in so those in attendance could make out pretty well if they took advantage of all the free stuff that was available. At the AST booth, we gave out sample of Ny-Tro Pro 40, copies of the Spring 2003 issue of High Performance Muscle, shaker bottles, and had a big sale on all AST products.
I spent the majority of my time handing out magazines, answering questions about AST supplements, and making sure that no one was stealing any of the products on display. Unfortunately, there seems to be a problem with that at the Expo. I mean, I don't know what the problem is, it is already marked down ½ price, you know?
It was an extremely busy weekend and Saturday was much busier than Friday. I am not used to standing up for such a long period of time and I could definitely feel it in my lower back and legs at the end of each day (It actually makes me appreciate my desk at work!). One of my favorite parts of the weekend was being able to meet so many people and talk to them about products, training, nutrition, and whatever other topic happened to come up. I actually had several people recognize me from the AST website for winning my class in the AST 2002 World Championships, which was pretty cool. Hey, I'm famous.
Saturday night was really nice. I met up with all of the AST crew at their hotel and we went out to dinner at Morton's Steakhouse. There is a Morton's in Atlanta, but I have never eaten there. We had a limo that took us to and from the restaurant. Nothing like riding in style. The food was excellent and I actually ate pretty clean. I ordered the filet mignon cooked medium rare. We had different side dishes for the table and I ate some broccoli, asparagus, and a little bit of the mashed potatoes.
I also had a scallop and stuffed shrimp as an appetizer and a beefsteak tomato salad, which is basically just tomatoes with some vinaigrette. I don't know where the beefsteak in the name comes from. I opted to stay away from the bread and delicious looking desserts. It is not too hard being around such dedicated athletes who are eating healthy also. Being around guys like Jeff Willet and Skip LaCour really motivates me and reminds me that there is always room to improve my level of dedication in all aspects of my bodybuilding endeavors.
I hung out at the restaurant pretty late, but decided I better go to the hotel and get some sleep since I would have another busy day on Sunday. I got a chance to talk with Paul Delia, AST Sports Science's founder and President, Saturday night after dinner. Paul is such a unique guy and I really enjoy any opportunity I get to talk with him.
Sunday was more of the same as the previous two days; talking to people, handing out magazines and giving away T-Shirts. I think the T-Shirts had to be the biggest attraction at the booth. I swear, I didn't know people would get so excited about T-Shirts, but when we started giving them out a flock of people would swarm to the booth and scream for a shirt. We did a thing where guys could do pushups with one of the fitness models on their backs for a shirt, which was very entertaining. A couple of big guys even did the pushups with both girls on their back!
After The Expo
My flight left at about 4:30 in the afternoon on Sunday so I left the Expo a little after 2:00. I said my goodbyes to everyone and headed out. While waiting for my flight home I noticed that Susie Curry, winner of the Fitness Competition at the Arnold Classic, was on my flight. I noticed that she was at baggage claim as well in Atlanta. I guess she lives there? I don't know. Anyway, I sat on the plane and reflected on the awesome weekend I had just experienced.
I started to drift off to sleep and got in a pretty good nap on the plane. The weekend seemed to go by in a flash. I can best describe my first experience at the Arnold Classic as exciting, tiring, fun, and overwhelming. I am thankful that I was able to go and to be a part of the AST team, who I think is definitely a class act. Overall, it was truly a great weekend and a unique experience that I can hold with me for the rest of my life. I hope that this is the first of many Arnold Classic experiences to come.