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I'm coming into the last week. Totally depleted of carbs. Totally depleted of energy. All by choice, all my choice. Irritable beyond belief. Sleep walking but still awake. Another pain pill, another 15 sets of leg presses. One more can of tuna, one more pack of cabbage. Go to Acme, smell the baked goods. Lean on the cart to hold myself up. Sciatica talking to me. Sciatica Scoliosis is what my doctor says. Screw it. At Acme, I want to sweep all of the butter cream cakes and cupcakes and Oreos into my cart and run out out of the store, stuffing my face and giggling. Yes! Nah, not in the plans. Mustard and tuna in aisle 4.
It's winding down. Fatigue is ever present. Three-hundred to six-hundred calories a day will do that to a person. Pedal, push, pull. Pose. Rest. Repeat. Keep telling myself that I WILL make it. Laugh at other's excuses. Smile when somebody asks me if I'm dropping weight. "Just about 30 pounds in 4 weeks," I say. Or just ignore the question. Laugh when somebody tells me they need to get back in the gym. That they need to get started. That they will on Monday. Oh well, I surround myself with doers, and ignore the masses who have no dedication or heart, but always talk a good game. That's really part of the motivation also, to set myself apart from those who talk and don't do. And they never will just do. It isn't that hard. I feel like saying, do not worry about the latest supplement, worry about the simple things. But thats too hard. Just accepting the deprivation. Accept it, become it, and make it happen. Special occasions? Your goal is your special occasion.
Everyday the same. Groundhog day, right? Body starting to really take shape. Counting the days until I can eat carbs. Coffee by the gallon--the walk to Starbucks seemed like it took 3 days. I'm like, "Ok, Tracy, we are gonna have to sit and rest for a few minutes. And of course she understood because she had trained for a show before. It's so weird, idiotic, but necessary. And when I write this, when I think back and look back at it, you always say, and why did I do that to myself ? For me, someone who loves to read almost more than breathing, I couldn't even focus on a book for very long. Just really didn't have the enthusiasm to focus on it. So I printed out nutrition and training articles by Palumbo, Poliquin and others. Then just fluff magazine articles in Muscular Development magazine and Flex. I also ordered old back issues of Muscle and Fitness, Flex and Muscle Training Illustrated. I love the old mags, and some of the writers were of high quality, especially Ricky Wayne and Denie. Those guys could really write. And the articles were just short enough to hold my attention. And always music, ever present music. Thrash to ride the bike to, usually Exodus. Usually live Exodus. Sometimes Archgoat or Satyricon, Dissection. Sometimes old Metal: Priest, Halford, Fight. A little Superjoint.
Finally, Tuesday before the show. Just a few days out., and it's time to eat some carbs. Sweet potatoes never tasted so good. Some oatmeal also. Oatmeal with Splenda...are you kidding me? It's a treat, an indescribable treat from the Gods of Carbs and Energy.
Ok. Distilled water, steak and carbs. No added sodium. Body weight hovering around 209. I started this whole nutty process at 240. Waist down to a loose 34 from a tight 36. Every time that I look in the mirror, my face looks more gaunt. I like it. I have had oh- so-chubby- cheeks for so long. So chubby that old ladies were always pinching them. Gaunt and withdrawn.
The cool thing about the carb up and water/sodium depletion is that all of the carbs go right into the muscle and new veins appear. It seems like it happens hourly. It's magic, and it just goes to show that the body can be manipulated in magical ways. If anyone out there believes that diet is not the main factor in all of this, they are sorely mistaken. I hesitate to give a percentage of importance, but it is damn high. I do think this: with my metabolism, if my diet isn't spot on, I am just spinning my wheels.
So now I am pushing the carbs in, I am drinking my distilled water and things are going pretty well. The fatigue was still ever present, but I also attributed that to the lack of sleep. When you are dieting super hard, sleep is hard to come by. Usually, I'd fall asleep around 11PM, wake up at 1:40AM, 4:40AM then 6AM. Each time, I'd take the dogs outside and urinate off the back steps while they relieved themselves in the yard. The dogs love a contest diet. They get to go outside more frequently. I always attribute the waking up the the fact that evolutionarily, I am meant to be out hunting for food. True or not, it makes me feel cool to think of myself as some caveman. And the fact that I am not holding any water at all makes my bladder fill up rather fast. My wife loves a contest also. It means I am coming straight home, no vodka with Cristi, just steer the truck on home.
I was eating a small sweet potato every two hours or so. And remember, I was super depleted. I hadn't had carbs in six weeks. Just incidental carbs from cabbage.
With all of this, my freaking back was talking to me. Poor Tracy--she had to hand me all of the weights and listen to me complain about the stupid sciatica. Hell, it changes a man when he can't squat, deadlift or bent over row. Messes with his idea of what a man should be able to do in the weight room. And she had to deal with giving me forced reps, and me yelling at her that she "should know how to give a Goddamn spot by now!" Even though she was doing it fine. And she had to put up with all of my crap- waiting for me to find the right music to play for the particular body part that we were working, finding the right shirt to wear, etc.. I became totally mental when it comes close to a show. Everything must be just right.
Training that last week was a bunch of high reps and peak contraction (the Weider Peak Contraction principle?) and short rests. Trying to survive, really. The biggest fear at this point is the fear of losing size and thickness. Paranoia takes hold. All of the idiosyncrasies that you hear about are right there. Do I look small? Am I still thick? Sounds so stupid reading it.
I always get a shirt made for me, Tracy,Cristi, Stephen, and Johnny Borr as the contest approaches. Last time it was "Tougher than the Process." This time, it was "Stay Hungry." Put that sucker on and you are ready to train.
Diet. I read what other people eat for their contest prep and I am incredulous. White rice? Rice cakes? Ezekiel bread? Not me; not my body. To me, that is a weight gaining diet. I have to punish my body to get to where I need to be. I have to have it begging for mercy. Rich, Tracy and I always say, "The worse you feel, the better you look" and it's true. Just when you think that you can't stomach one more can of tuna, a new line appears in your hamstring, a new vein in your chest and it gives you this jolt of energy. And then some days I would decide that I am not eating anything at night except cabbage. I would eat about 600 calories of tuna and be done by 4PM. Then at night, I would stop at Barnes and Noble, buy a triple espresso, then I'd take the dogs out when I got home (always the dogs!) and eat 3-4 packages of already cut cabbage.
I have been getting plenty of questions about diet and all I can tell you is what works and worked for me: Eating very little and eating the same foods over and over again. I don't have the time or patience to cook or use spices or look up recipes. More power to you if you do. I'd rather keep it simple. I look at food as fuel and that is it.
And although there are plenty of things that are tough in life, asking my body to work through the lack of calories and the blown disc and the training, work and cardio was one of the toughest things that I have ever been through. And I am so glad that it's over.
The show? Anticlimactic. Not as well run as the NPC South Beach for sure. But that is to be expected. After all, the IFBB Master's Olympia was held in conjunction with the NPC South Beach. It takes a while to get used to the physique and the bikini portion with all of the preening in the mirror. Physique. No legs showing? Ok, whatever. Not for me, but there are all kinds of folks in this world. It's a side show. And I thought Cristi was joking when she told me that the Bikini girls actually show their rear ends to the judges. But hey, I have a speedo on, so who am I to talk? But in reality, it's all a little strange, at least compared to sports.
I entered the over 40 Master's portion of the show and finished 3rd. I felt as thought I had the best legs, but my midsection held me back. But it's not about that at all with me. My sister was happy. She made it to the show, she got to hang out with my son and see me on stage. In addition, I set a goal and achieved it.
What did I eat first when it was over? Whoopie pies! Tracy and Cristi brought me at least 20 of them. And I ate them all. I had the crumbs on my chest at night as I drifted off after the show. Oh, and the nachos and Budweiser weren't bad either.
I am not sure what the future holds as far as my competitive aspirations. I sort of have a bad taste in my mouth after this one; just a little too self serving (the judge talking about himself and how experienced he is and his birthday is coming up and we are all starving and he keeps talking about himself and talking about himself and talking about himself and ...shit, does he even lift?) and for lack of a better term--weird for me.
When I get my back issues straightened out, we will see what's next. I actually am going to have surgery in the next few days, my disc is basically blown. And my doctors are conservative. One of their exact texts to me was, " I rarely recommend surgery, but in this case, you need it. " My physical therapist said, "If I was standing on the moon, and looking down, I could still see your disc protruding." So I'm going in and getting this son of a bitch done. My doc tells me that I can lift again in 6 weeks. I will take it slow, but I am itching to get back to it for sure.
In the meantime, I'll train the heck out of Tracy, Cristi and Stephen. They are so young and hungry! I foresee great things for them this year. They are all supremely focused on reaching their goals and I love to be a part of their progress. They make no excuses, ever. I am not sure if all the readers know this, but basically all 4 of us train 31 teams with help from our part time deadlift master, Gerard. That is a ton of athletes and a ton of hours together. During football season, we work seven days a week together. To have a workplace where all of us get along, all of us train basically together and where we actually look forward to being with each other is unique. We are all different(!), but the training is what holds us tight and together.
And they don't talk about themselves or change their personalities to fit the latest fitness craze. They don't need to be told how great they are every five seconds, in fact, they are just the opposite. It embarrasses them. They follow the methods of the old masters, no new-fang led- spinning -their -wheels -but -it -looks- so -good -exercises. They understand that the pain that they feel during a set of heavy deadlifts means growth and strength, and all else is just stuff that takes you away from that feeling and makes you weak.
They like straight line stuff--the exercises that give them the most bang for their buck. Purists, they are. Tried and true techniques and programs that skip the latest craze for laser sharp focus on maximum hypertrophy and growth and strength. I love that they are like that--never wavering, pushing forward, and cutting out the BS. To me, that is unique in this world, in this day in age. It seems as though everyone makes excuses on why they fail, instead of learning from failure and just moving on. They cover all the bases--nutrition, training, rest, and supplements. They eliminate the excuses by doing what is right all of the time. They don't post on forums or care what "experts" say or do--they just stay the course. I like it. I feel protective of them. I want to get them where they need to be to reach their goals. When Stephen deadlifts 700, I will be so happy. When Tracy wins the Nationals, I will be overjoyed. When Cristi pulls 600, I will be crying tears of joy. My people, my best friends.
And so, that's the second show- quite a damn ride. Looking back, it seems like a dream. Laden with pain and hunger, but I reckon if its worthwhile, it better be laden with lots of uncomfortable feelings. By persevering through, no matter what the obstacles, you can enjoy it that much more when you look back upon it.