The Quest For The Master's Olympia
Early in January 2001, the three of us went to lunch at East Tokyo, our favorite sushi restaurant, where John announced that he would compete in the 2001 Master's Olympia in Lynchburg, Virginia. His main concern was for us to be there for him. Tommy and I couldn't wait to get in the gym and help him in his quest for the Master's Olympia.
We started training at Bodyquest Gym in Blauvelt, New York, which was only 15 minutes from all of our houses. John started his contest diet at twenty weeks out. The first five weeks were basically cleaning the diet up and making sure that he was getting enough protein.
At fifteen weeks out, he started to take in six meals a day, all consisting of 50 grams of protein each, and 400 grams of carbohydrates spread out over the six meals.
In the 80's, when bodybuilders would train for a show, cardio was taboo. It was unheard of to do cardio to burn fat. At about this point, he was doing 30 minutes of cardio daily; at the ten-week mark, he started to manipulate his carbohydrate intake. One day he would take in 300 grams of carbs, the next day he would take in 250 grams. It would lower by 50 grams a day over a five-day period, and then increase by 50 grams over a five-day period.
His main concern-the whole time he was training for the contest-was what he called his "flaps." He had skin hanging on his lower back and glutes. By rotating his carbs the way he did, and doing about 1 hour of cardio daily (which is what he worked up to), he had the best-striated glutes I'd ever seen.
Training With My Idol
At four weeks out, John and I would meet either at the gym (before training) or at my house where we practiced posing for at least an hour each day. There were a couple of awesome things about seeing John train for the Master's Olympia. First, I got a chance to train with my idol, the guy who inspired me to train so many years ago. Second, despite all the hard work of training, he did it eagerly and willingly. It was kind of like from the movie "Rocky," where I was like Mickey, pushing him and yelling at him "come on, give me another set, another rep!" It was a role that I had never played before.
At times, when we would drive to the gym and he would question his condition or voice his concerns about getting in shape, I was more nervous than he was, hoping that I would know the answers to the questions that he was asking me. I mean, come on, this is the guy that I looked up to and idolized and he's now relying on me for help! The best thing I could've done was to tell him the truth the whole way through, which is exactly what I did. If he didn't look good, I told him the truth, but explained to him in a positive way that this was the process that he had to go through to look better.
At about ten weeks out, Scott Vignola joined our team. It was really cool. Every day we would call each other, wanting to know what time we were all going to meet at the gym. We would go eat after training and talk about who might be in the Master's Olympia (maybe Vince Taylor and Robby Robinson). Our training became very competitive, as we would push each other harder with each set.
With John being on the diet, while Scott and I were eating more calories and had more energy (and a little more body fat), we became the energizers, the motivating force. We were basically a pain in John's ass! We weren't going to take the long trip to Virginia to see John just stand on stage in "decent" shape. We knew it was going to be very hard to beat Vince Taylor, so we wanted to make sure John was the best that John could be.
As time drew closer to the contest, our friends started to get very excited. John was actually starting to look like an IFBB pro again. Scott's brother Todd had shirts made up for the twenty-two friends who flew to Virginia to support John. It read "Shack Attack." I was on the phone with Tommy from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where I was guest posing at the Southern States on Friday, August 3. Tommy gave me a play-by-play over the phone of the prejudging as it was happening. The next day, I flew to Virginia to catch up with everyone for the night show.
With Vince Taylor winning the show, and a huge Don Youngblood taking second, John placed a very respectable third with Robby Robinson following up with fourth. All in all, this is one part of my bodybuilding career that I'll never forget. With the passage of time, our roles have changed drastically since we were all working out at Billy's Gym in Bayonne, New Jersey. In the end, though, our competitive natures stayed intact. We pushed each other, as we had always done, to strive to be the best.