As we exited the Lakewood Auditorium, I felt a strong sense of accomplishment as well as confidence. I knew in my mind that my next stop was the INBF Eastern U.S. Championships, a WNBF pro-qualifier, in only two weeks! For the first time following a competition, I didn't feel that sense of relief and anticipation for the off-season celebration I usually enjoy. It was time to focus and prepare. Problem was I wasn't sure how. Being in what I thought was my best condition yet, I didn't know how to prepare! How should I eat?...How should I train?...How should I celebrate tonight. First things first! It was very early on Sunday morning when my wife and I headed back to the host hotel. It was kind of a blessing in disguise since all the pizza, hamburger, etc... joints were all closed. We decided to stop at a local 24 hour grocery store to purchase some food and take them back to the room. Being that I hadn't had an opportunity to buy WHATEVER I wanted in 8 whole weeks, I was running around the store like a kid in a candy store. Bodybuilders, you know what I'm talking about! I went up and down each aisle and could not make up my mind. My wife, as patient as she pretended to be, finally lost control and demanded that I get something! I did. As she woke me from my anticipatory bliss, I found myself looking at a jar of PEANUT BUTTER! Almost immediately, my mouth began to water. I knew at that moment, I was having PB&J tonight! That's was what we did. To celebrate one of my most memorable bodybuilding experiences to date, we shared PB&J sandwiches with red wine! MMMMMmmmmm...good! As we ate, my mind refused to contemplate the coming two week storm. Instead, we relaxed and enjoyed each others company until we fell to sleep...ZZZZZZ.
I woke up later that morning, after only 4 hours rest, at 8:00 a.m. I was full of energy. Probably from all the PB&J! It was time now to start preparing for my next quest. Fortunately, we were near a Bob Evans and stopped in to eat after checking out. Buttermilk pancakes and Canadian bacon! Yep, just a little push to get me off just right. After breakfast, we located a gym nearby and stopped in to "train". That's right! No days off yet. Only two weeks to go. It was Back and Bi's day! As we trained, I created a plan of attack for the next two weeks. I decided, I would increase my calories through the following Sunday by eating 92% lean ground beef instead of the Cod fish I had been eating. I would repeat my final week diet plan that I used for the Northern USA. Also, I decided I would reduce my posing sessions to 25-30 minutes through Sunday, increase to 30-45 minutes from Sunday through Wednesday, and again increase to 1 hour the final 2 days. My training would consist of 2 body parts each day. My final leg day would be 1 week from the show. I would not train past the Wednesday prior to the show. I trained each day with as heavy weight as possible and using drop sets for the final set of each exercise. I was ready! By the time we finished training, I had a plan and was ready to implement it!
As usual, I began part II of my journey by preparing as much as I could to remove as much stress as possible. The better prepared you can become, the less likely you will fail to be prepared (by me!). My training time remained the same. I was in cruise mode until BAMMMMMM! It hit me, the diet. It was out of the blue! I began to suffer almost immediately. My metabolism had somehow increase and I was having incredible hunger pangs just about every 1-1 1/2 hours after eating! I could feel my weight dropping and my clothes were beginning to sag. I knew I had to bump up the calories so I added an additional meal. This helped a bit and I continued the additional meal throughout.
I also dropped any cardio other than posing. No 10 minute post-cardio this time. I also removed sprints and decreased my number of training sets. By the time the final week came around, I was again in that "Zone". Everything went like clock-work. I felt like this was "my time" and I was feeling confident. The final week went exactly as I had planned it out. Even better, I had all the necessary "competition day" items already packed (i.e. posing trunks, posing cassette, exercise bands, water...) and ready to go. On Thursday, all I had left to do was prepare all the meals I would need. The show was in Virginia and we decided it would be best to drive. The fact that flying can cause water retention and with the added anxiety that would most certainly result due to the events on September 11th, driving was the ONLY logical choice.
We loaded the car with all our weekend essentials. The most important luggage was a large cooler that contained all the meals I would need for the entire weekend. I sat it on the backseat and in reaching distance! Anticipating and planning for a 7-8 hours drive to Fairfax, Va. was nothing we hadn't done before and was looking forward to some time together. Based on the event schedule on the internet, we were of the impression that the event was to be held on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. My brother lives very close to the area and we were excited even more that we'd have a chance to visit as well. When we arrived in Virginia at 7:00 p.m., we decided to find the event location before heading to my brothers house.
What happened next was the worst of worst nightmares! After spending an hour trying to find the location of the event, we discovered that the event was not being held there! It was being held at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Va. which was 3-4 hours away! The internet site had incorrect information! I immediately called my brother and apologized. Next, he looked up the correct information on an alternate internet site. Using mapquest, he gave us directions to Blacksburg and away we went. I did my best to remain calm the whole time. My first thought was, "Oh well. I'll just miss this one". Then I remembered how I pushed myself each and everyday for 10 weeks and thought how I would feel inside if I didn't push a little more. We hopped in the car and took off! After 3 1/2 hours more, we arrived in Blacksburg, VA, it was 12:00 mid-night. Again we drove to Virginia Tech University to find the location of the event before finding a hotel. This time we found it! What a relief but the nightmare wasn't over yet. Since we knew where the event was to take place, we decided to get a hotel 15-20 minutes away. Problem was, it was "PARENTS WEEKEND" at Virginia Tech and all the hotels were filled up to about a 20 mile radius! At around 1:30 a.m. we found a hotel room in Roanoke Va. We were relieved. It was about 20 miles from where the event was being held and the fact that weigh-in was from 8-11 a.m., we had time to rest and relax a bit. Especially since we knew where the event was. Of course, I could sleep and I tossed and turned and only managed to get about 2 hours in before it was time to head to weigh-in. I went through my usual pre-contest, day of show ritual. Eat, prep, sip water... We had to check-out of the hotel since the room was previously reserved for that night.
We arrived at weigh-in at 9:30 a.m. and had plenty of time to find parking. As we entered the lobby of the hotel where weigh-in's were being performed, my wife sighted the information desk and stopped by to see if they had any information on hotel availability in the area. I went to the check-in desk and afterwards, weighed-in. I was feeling pretty good, however, I hadn't weighed myself at all since the weigh-in at the Northern USA. I hopped on the "digital" scale and it read 170 lbs. Another competitor had commented to me, prior to my weigh-in, that the scale seemed to be weighing "light". No matter. I had made the middleweight class and was a bit "lighter" than I wanted to be. I still had time to carb-load a bit before prejudging though and boy was I ready for that! Meanwhile, my wife was able to locate a room at a hotel only 2 minutes away! Things were looking up finally. We drove to the hotel to reserve the room and unload the car. On the way, we stopped at a local grocery store to pick up a couple items. With a hotel room reserved and my carb load complete, my confidence soared! My body, however, started to run down. The carbs started to make me sluggish and with very little sleep the previous night, I was ready for a little shut-eye. When we arrived at the event location, I took the opportunity to snooze a bit before the athletes meeting. Only fifteen minutes but it re-energized me enough to get my focus back. Things were running smooth and on time. The number of competitors were not nearly as large as at the Northern USA 2 weeks ago. This alone made me more relaxed since I knew the day would not be as long.
During the athlete's meeting, I looked around the theater and, again, felt a sense of pride to be apart of it all. The realization that I had earned the right to be there and compete, was worth every minute of what we went through to get there. I was glad I had made the decision to continue on to Blacksburg after we had mistakenly drove to Fairfax! Of course, these are not the same views held by my wife. When the event was underway, I had every bit of confidence I needed to do my best and be my best. After a seemingly brief wait, the middleweight class was requested to report backstage. My heart began to pound. This was my chance to earn WNBF pro status and I knew there was no room for error. I had to make sure that I was able to present myself "flawlessly" if I had any hopes of winning. As I pumped up and my wife assisted me with my last minute preparations, I thought about how much it took to arrive at that very moment. The last 2 weeks were like Hell, I thought, yet I was able to survive. This was the "extra" I needed to get mentally prepared. I knew that very few people would or could subject themselves to what I had over the last few weeks. Even some of the guys I was competing against that day. That is the "secret" to winning I believe. To do everything it takes to win ("naturally") requires that you take your mind and body to places its never been and doesn't want to go. Having survived such an experience, I was confident I was as prepared as I could be and, no matter the result, I had done all I could to win. With that, I knew if I didn't earn pro status, I would have no regrets. Finally, the expeditor called our class to line-up. I kissed my wife and she wished me luck. Now, I was on my own. I had to be sharp as a razor. A razor I was. I had achieved a level of conditioning I had not seen before. That "peak" I guess it's called. The only thing left was to convince the judging panel the same and that I deserved the win. As prejudging continued for my class, it seemed as grueling as 2 weeks ago and this time there was far less than 27 other middleweight competitors standing with me. When prejudging was finally over, I was extremely please with my presentation and felt I had been "my best". As usual, following prejudging, I maintained strict dieting and we headed to the room to catch a quick snooze and eat. Problem was, it was Saturday and being a big college football fan, I just couldn't remove myself from the tube!
So, until it was time to return for the evening event, I watched football. It was very relaxing however and help to pass the time. We made it back for the athletes meeting before the evening show started. Again, the show moved quickly and like clock-work. Before I knew it, it was time to do my individual routine to music. As I mentioned last article, this is the fun part of competing. After each of our class members completed our routines, we were brought back out to receive our awards. As the numbers were called, I visualized receiving the first place nod from the judges. This time, it was not so. I earned a 3rd place finish. Surprisingly, my first thought was, "No regrets". I felt no regrets for what I had accomplished that day. My second thought, "I'll be back and even better"! As usual, I received valuable criticism from the head judge. I will use it as motivation and inspiration during the off-season. Another first this go-round, I didn't train for an entire week following! It has helped to re-ignite the flame inside and re-evaluate my goals. Before I close, remember, it is ALWAYS worth it. No matter how long the journey, if your heart is committed to it, there is no road too long to travel.
Thanks for reading and as I travel this long highway and make stops along the way, if it destiny that we meet in the heat of competition, a friend in the bond of bodybuilding I will consider you forever on that day.
"What was hard to bear is sweet to remember."
Until we meet again!