A Bodybuilder Is Born #54: Judgment Day Arrives

It's the next-to-the-last episode of our 55-part series. Judgment Day is here. All bets are off.

A Bodybuilder Is Born, Episode 54: Judgment Day Arrives

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Time had begun to move at a pace that would have made even a snail throw up his slimy hands in frustration and shout, "Come on, already, while we're young!"

Randy had weighed in and registered as a novice heavyweight, and now had to wait to go up one more time to register as an open men's light-heavyweight.

He had nothing to do in between except torture me with his anxiety and try my patience as I did my best to keep him calm.

"How many guys ya think are in the light-heavies, huh?" he looked around, wild-eyed.

"How the hell am I supposed to know? Damn!" I fished his iPod out of his gym bag and thrust it at him. "Why don't you shut up and listen to some music before you drive me insane."

He shrugged his shoulders, popped in his ear buds, and began to zone out to one of his more mellow playlists.

I kept thinking (hoping) that he was dozing off, but then his eyes would snap open and he would fidget, do a quick scan of the auditorium, and settle back into his seat with his feet up on the chair in front of him. The only song playing in my head was the love theme from Ghost: "Time goes by so slowly..."

At last the call came for the open light-heavyweights. Randy shuffled to his feet, as did several others. My first guess was that there were about ten of them. Randy scowled at me and made his way up on stage, where he didn't have to weigh in again, just let the officials know he was in the class.

I followed and took a seat in the front row to secure a better look. As I've said before, the light-heavies are usually the most competitive class in any bodybuilding contest.

Since most American men are between 5'8" and 5'10", you get an awful lot of guys that diet down to somewhere in the range of 185 to 198 pounds.

Light-heavies tend to have smaller joints than the heavies and super-heavies, so their mass usually has a more aesthetically pleasing look.

Of all the amateur shows I have attended over the years, I would estimate that more often than not, the overall champion has been the light-heavyweight winner.

Light-heavies tend to have smaller joints than the Heavies and Super-heavies, so their mass usually has a more aesthetically pleasing look.

As the ten men disrobed to their trunks to weigh in (Randy made eleven for the class), one guy stood out above the others. I have always wanted to be that guy, the one that causes everyone else to instantly know deep in his gut that he is the hands-down winner.

The guy that makes all the other guys think, Oh well, maybe next year." This particular specimen was probably 5'6" or 5'7", and weighed in at 194 pounds.

His name was Sophann, and he appeared to be from southeast Asia, perhaps Vietnamese, Cambodian, or Laotian. I say this because he had a darker complexion than any Chinese or Japanese man I had seen, and the name suggested he wasn't Filipino.

In any case, the guy looked incredible. His muscles all had that round, full look to them, and his joints were quite small, making the attached muscles appear even bigger. His hips and midsection were tiny, with a waist measurement that couldn't have been more than 27 or 28 inches.

Best of all--or worst of all, for the other men that had hoped to win this contest--Sophann was shredded. Just standing there relaxed on the scale, the displayed cuts and separations that were clear and deep.

Veins stood out in bold relief on his chest, shoulders, arms, legs, even his back--and this was with no pump and no oil! I had seen the lightweights and middleweights, and I didn't even need to see the two heavier classes.

Lightning rarely strikes twice in the same place, meaning that you didn't get more than one of these phenomenal physiques destined for future at a regional show.

Randy sat down next to me, in shock. "Where the hell did that guy come from? He looks like a pro. He should be competing in the Nationals or the USA, not here."

"Everybody has to start somewhere and qualify for those contests," I explained. "But aside from him, I only saw a couple other guys that I think are going to give you trouble. Your condition is going to carry you a long way today, watch."

Randy nodded. I could tell he was a bit disappointed. Secretly he had harbored hopes of winning this entire contest, and now that clearly wasn't going to happen.

I nudged him. "Chances look very good for you in the Novice," I reminded him. "In fact, if I were a gambling man, I would bet the farm on you. If I had a farm, that is."

Randy blew out a big breath. "I'll do my best."

"You did your best," I corrected him. "All the hard work is done, you just have to present it to the judges in a little while and see what they think."

Lightning rarely strikes twice in the same place, meaning that you didn't get more than one of these phenomenal physiques destined for future at a regional show.

We both watched the heavies weigh in. There were a few big guys, none of whom had particularly pretty bodies. One had a gut so big that I could picture him in a rocking chair on the cover of What to Expect When You're Expecting.

As for the super-heavies, there were just two. One guy was at least 6'3" and barely over the heavyweight limit of 225 pounds. He was in decent shape, but didn't yet have the mass he'd need to excel at this level.

Today he would win his class because, while he needed to gain at least twenty pounds of muscle, the other guy needed to drop a good twenty pounds of fat. When I saw him weigh in at 235, I shook my head at his smooth condition.

"Looks like he just woke up this morning and decided, Hey, I think I'll go compete in that bodybuilding contest they're having today," I whispered to Randy.

A couple behind me, a woman in the figure category and her male companion, overheard me and snickered. Then I felt badly, because I could tell by the way he was speaking with the officials that he was a bit slow. He probably didn't know a contest diet from a Concorde jet.

"The Asian guy has it all wrapped up," I said to Randy. "They should just give him his trophy now."

"Thanks, Ron," Randy replied. "You really know how to boost a guy's confidence."

"I said I think you have the novice--not only your division but probably the Overall too," I reminded him. "If I tried to make you think you could beat that freak, I'd be blowing so much smoke up your ass that the fire department would shut the show down."

"Novice men should start pumping up now!" an official barked. That was our cue. It was time to head down to the pump-up room and put the finishing touches on Randy.

We got up and followed the herd of competitors and coaches up to the stage and to a staircase off of stage left, which led down to one of the smallest pump-up rooms I had ever seen.

The smells that hit us were overpowering: ProTan; tanning oil; a vasodilator called Hot Stuff, which helps bring out veins, as well as opening up the nasal passages and bringing tears to the eyes of anyone within a ten-foot radius; and good old-fashioned body odor.

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Some of these guys had obviously not showered since they had started applying coats of tanning dye perhaps as long as two days before. They were pretty ripe by now.

A few pairs of dumbbells and three fixed barbells lay on the floor, along with one flat bench for everyone to share. Randy set his bag down and wandered over to the dumbbells, which were being claimed rather fast by his fellow meatheads.

"Not yet," I told him. "If you start pumping up now, you're going to be flat and exhausted by the time you get on stage. Remember that crazy guy I told you about?"

He nodded. Back in L.A. in the mid-1990s, I had competed in a natural show where one guy in my class thought it was a good idea to start pumping up well over an hour before we were to go on.

Seeing as he was dehydrated, he eventually fell to the ground in a whole-body cramp.

I had also made the mistake of starting to pump up too soon more than once, and wound up feeling weak and unable to flex properly on stage.

Many bodybuilders operate under the false impression that an extreme pump will somehow make them appear to be twice as large. The reality is that by the time you get to the show, your physique is what it is. You won't be pulling any rabbits out of any hats.

Randy sat down next to me on a ratty couch that was probably used by the theater staff to pass out on. There were stains on it that I couldn't identify, which was probably for the best. I bet the CSI crew would have a field day with that black light that shows bodily fluids.

I was eating a protein bar and made a mental note that if it happened to drop onto that couch, that sucker was gone. It wasn't worth catching diseases that you typically only find in third world slums.

"This is it, Randy. You're almost there now." He smiled, knowing it was true. We looked around at the room full of frantic bodybuilders and just took it all in for a while.

They were chattering about how they were holding water (which was in most cases fat, not water), rubbing on tanning lotions and oils, flexing in front of the few small and dingy mirrors set around the room. I waited until the expeditor came down to call the novice lightweights to line up and follow him to the stage.

"It's time," I said. Leaving his sweats on, I had him do a couple sets of lateral raises, overhead presses, and push-ups. Not need to do much more than that.

No amount of pump was going to make a difference if you weren't ready, and it certainly wasn't going to change the way your physique looked. Randy applied a thin coat of oil, and I helped him with his back.

"Just run through the poses and hold them each for a while," I told him. This was advice I had overheard Arnold himself telling Kevin Levrone in the pump-up area at the 1996 Arnold Classic, the year Kevin won his second title there.

"Novice heavyweights!" The man was at the door with his clipboard. I dabbed away some places where the oil had streaked, and faced Randy.

"I'll be out there. Just listen for my voice, and focus on it. Ignore everything else. You got this," I told him. He nodded.

"Okay. Thanks."

With that, he headed upstairs with the rest of his class. In less than ten minutes, an entire year of hard training and dieting was all going to come to its ultimate conclusion.

With that, he headed upstairs with the rest of his class. In less than ten minutes, an entire year of hard training and dieting was all going to come to its ultimate conclusion

A chill went through me as I realized how many times I had been in this same exact situation. But today was not about me. It was about Randy, and in my heart I knew today was going to be the start of a new chapter in his career as a bodybuilder.

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