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Water, Water, Every Where: What Every Competitor Should Know!

Everything was looking good for the 3rd show of the 2004 competitive season until a couple hours before pre-judging. Find out what happened and why all competitors need to read this!
Everything was looking good for the 3rd show of the 2004 competitive season... the San Francisco Pro. After a showing at the Iron Man where we experimented with some carb-loading techniques that produced less than stellar results, and a better showing 2 weeks later at the Arnold Classic against a much tougher field... my best display (and best bet for a qualification to the Olympia) was to be on stage in t-minus 48 hours.

Friday, March 12

One nice benefit to competing in California, is that I live here... which makes preparing all the easier. We (my girlfriend Brenda Kelly) and I boarded the plane bound for Oakland CA. On Friday March 12. at 2:00 p.m., all systems were GO, and I just spend the last 5 days since the ASC carb-depleting, determined to come in as "dry" as humanly possible.

Not even fighting the flu since touching down in Columbus, OH would keep me from achieving my goal. After all, I'm a professional. I take great pride in overcoming setbacks, obstacles, sickness, etc., while preparing for battle - its just part of the game. It's what separates the men from the boys, the champs from the chumps!

Other than the stuffy head and nose, my old friend Sudafed had everything under control... and I looked good, DAMN good! We checked in to the host hotel, and headed down to get my girl some dinner. Brenda wasn't feeling to hot herself and we cut dinner short so she could lie down in the room. I had to attend the Athletes meeting to get my contestant number, tickets, and per diem we get as competitors. I ran into a few of the boys along the way, and we all sat down for the meeting.

I headed back upstairs to get my scheduled meal. After eating and downing the last of the water I was allowed for the evening, we hung out, put a few coats of Olympic Tan on, and marveled at the conditioning I was displaying. In my estimation, I was hanging at about 97-98 percent. At 9:00 p.m. I cut my water intake, and took a small diuretic. It would be all I need to wake up crisp, dry and full - and that's what I did. About 1 a.m. and not a whole lot of bathroom visits, I decided to take another diuretic "just to be safe." Boy would that thinking come back on me!

Saturday, March 13

After a restless night attempting to sleep, not uncommon before a show for most competitors, I awoke early Saturday morning. I was BONE DRY, wasn't flat or depleted in the least. It didn't bother me in the least that I was sneezing, sniffling, or that I was as thirsty as it gets. I was DRY! There is no doubt I would be in contention for a top three spot, Olympia qualification, and maybe even my first pro title!

Although I LOOKED great, something was wrong. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but it was there. I didn't have a whole lot of energy, but then again this was my third show in a row, with photo shoots in between. I didn't feel great, but you generally don't when you haven't drank 2 glasses of water in the last 12 hours. I felt lethargic, but then again, what do you expect when you've been depleting for the last week?

Oh well, I LOOKED like a million bucks and FELT like a hundred. I made a bowl of oatmeal and some steak, oddly, I wasn't that hungry and barely finished off half of the oatmeal at best! About a half hour later I began to feel queasy, not a good sign (#1 could be the flu), could be that whatever Brenda was fighting last night, could be I ate something bad.

Don't know, don't care, but whatever it is it's not staying down! I not only throw up, but my abs start to lock up because of it? not a good sign #2. I've been around the block a few times in the competition arena, and deduce that I'm dehydrated and a little water would probably be in my best interest. I take in about a half a glass of water and a sip or two of a diet sprite (settle the stomach). Another half-hour, another repeat performance from earlier, abs locked, something is VERY wrong. I take in a little more water and some electrolyte tabs.

Pump-Up Room Or Emergency Room?

Brenda and I debate whether I can make it to the show or not. Despite something bothering my stomach, I look great. We miss the team bus over to the pre-judging to buy some time as I lay down, trying to collect myself. I'm tired, so tired, I just want to close my eyes. We wait until 1:30 p.m. (1/2 hour before the show starts!) and I decide to try and tough it out.

Before I even make it out to the cab, I throw up again. Maybe It's out of my system, now? I actually started to feel a little better with the air hitting me in the face as we take the 5-minute trip over to the auditorium. As we walk in the show, people are screaming for me to get backstage, we are going out in 10 minutes!

I could care less at this point and feel like death warmed over. We get back stage and strip off my sweats, oil up, and start to try and get a little blood flowing. I'm on planet 24 and I'm trying to keep upright at this point.

We line-up and shuffle off in front of a packed house. It's HOT. Not just the usual hot from the lights on stage? I mean It's REALLY hot. Record temperatures in the 90's, a boiler that's on a timer for this time of year, and I feel like dog.

I start to get some call outs, and do my best 'master thespian' material to slap on a smile and not let on that I feel like dog. After hitting my shots and returning to the line-up, I sit down off stage with a cold towel across my face and trying not to drop.

I motion to Brenda from the stage to get me some Electrolyte mix, drink, ANYTHING!

Just got in the backstage for the prejudging and had 10 min. to pump-up...

She makes her way backstage and I drink about half a bottle of the mix? It's GOT to help, certainly can't hurt, right? Little did we know?

I somehow make it through pre-judging, barely. I think the head judge (John Kemper) could see that I was struggling, and despite starting to move me up in the comparisons, doesn't keep me out there for consecutive turns. Thank GOD! I really don't know if I could have done 2-3 turns, probably would have dropped right there on the stage. It was everything I had to do ONE callout, let alone two.

Bad To Worse

Thank you, gentlemen, see you tonight! It was music to my ears as I staggered my way back stage. Someone got me some Gatorade and I downed about half of it. No less than 5 minutes later, it all came up. My abs were starting to lock up again... this time they weren't releasing. One of the guys helping out backstage was Jose Garcia, a message therapist/chiropractor that was trying everything he could to try and get my abs to release, to no avail.

We all conclude that I am severely dehydrated and need Pedialite to get the job done. Jose goes across the street and finds some. We get a few capfuls in to introduce it to the body, wait a few minutes, take in a little more, wait a few minutes, then drink a little bit. What fluid there was in my body was on it's way out in the next minute! I knew enough to know that if you can't even tolerate pedialite (which is made for infants) that I was in trouble?

By this time people were generally concerned, something was off, WAY OFF. This was not your ordinary, everyday dehydration we're talking about. Time to call the ambulance. The paramedics arrived in minutes and did the basic heart rate, blood pressure thing, then I heard the one guy say, "We need to get him out of here? NOW!"

They strap me to the gurney, trunks on, oiled up and my contestant number pinned on, and into the ambulance I go. They immediately start the I.V. to get the re-hydration process started, and in minutes I'm in the Alameda hospital ER.

After taking some blood and all the other basics they do in the ER, the doctor comes over after a bit. They ask me the basic questions about our preparations, diuretics, etc. I ask if I'll be out in time to make the night show?

Worst To Scared

"What do you think, Doc, Can you hydrate me back up before the finals start?" I ask as a true bodybuilder would. "Well, the problem isn't hydrating you at this point, It's that your potassium/creatinine levels are so high that you could go into heart arrhythmia at any point."

What's that supposed to mean, I ask? "That means that you could have a heart attack at any point right now." Potassium is HIGH? I would think it was low. (Right: In the hospital with Brenda.)

Just how high is it? "Well, you're at 70." What's normal? "Let's just say if you were at 45 you would be in trouble?"


Did he just say what I thought he said? How can it be? Not only that, but my entire system is shutting down because I'm so over-dehydrated. "Sorry, my friend, but you're not going to make the finals tonight. You may be with us for 3-5 days. "Brenda, did he just say 3-5 days?" "Yes, I'm afraid the only way to get your system working properly and get your potassium/creatinine level down and out of the danger zone, is to flush the system."

And flush they did. Three days and 22 bags of fluid later? I was back to normal, everything functioning, as it should. Talk about being scared! It's been a surreal experience to say the least that I could be in real danger, life threatening at that!

What Went Wrong, And When?

So, just what went wrong and when did it take a turn? Apparently, at some point during the hours of 1a.m. and 8 a.m. on Saturday morning? I stepped over the line of dehydration to the 'point of no return.' How? Well, what happened was a rare combination that I've never had in the past and hopefully will never come close to in the future.

There were a bunch of factors that all came together at the same time thus creating the 'PERFECT STORM' of dehydration.

Three shows in a row, fighting the Flu, taking Sudafed to fight the Flu, cutting off the water intake, taking 2 diuretics, depleting for 5 additional days after the ASC, ALL contributed to the cause making for a bad situation. But, the scary part is that there's no red light that goes on to tell you you've crossed the line, no warning signals. You think your dehydrated, so you take in fluids, right? You think you're dehydrated so you take in potassium, calcium, minerals, etc. right?

Unfortunately, what happens is that your system starts to shut down as a defense mechanism and won't allow the body to excrete any more potassium, etc. meanwhile, you start ADDING it in unknowingly. This is like pouring gas on a fire. Because I've never had any prior problem with dehydrating, I wasn't looking at the obvious sign (which I know now!) Vomiting is the body's defense and signal that it doesn't want anything else in, or is shutting things down to contend with bigger problems. Given the fact that I was fighting the Flu, I thought it might be that, or something I ate, or anything else?

If anyone else should find themselves in this position the morning of a show, STOP! Get yourself to the hospital to hydrate yourself BEFORE your body starts to shut down and you find yourself in REAL trouble. Forget the show, live to fight another day! If you catch it early enough, you might get away with just having to I.V. for a little while and all is fine, wait too long, and it could be too late.

Pictures from the Pre-Judging at the 2004 San Fran Pro.

Thank You

First and foremost to my beautiful girlfriend Brenda who was at my side throughout this entire ordeal, and took care of business. I love you more than you can know.

Jose Garcia - You did everything you could and stayed with me the entire time, you're a class act and I appreciate everything you did for me.

Al Smith - Head expediter backstage. Concerned from the start, thank you for being there and the visit in the ER, it means a lot.

Giorgio Tsoukalos - Promoter of the SF Pro, thanks for calling the EMT and also for the ER follow up visit. It's nice to know there are people that really care about the athletes, over and above the show. I'll be there for you next year!

Wayne Demilia - IFBB V.P. - Thanks for the insight and insisting that I go to the ER, despite our differences in business, your concern for the Athletes is very apparent and appreciated!