Setting The Goal
In early 2015, I decided after 10 years of retirement to make a comeback to the bodybuilding stage. Suffice to say, some very difficult circumstances surrounded this decision. My Mother was fully in a battle for her life with lung cancer, my marriage was teetering on the brink, I was working 60 plus hours per week training clients at the gym. Combine this with the fact I hadn’t been on stage in 10 years, I am in my forties, and you have yourself an uphill battle. One thing my Mother taught me is don’t shy away from a battle. It was something I wanted….hold up, needed to do! I had something to prove to myself. In the late 1990’s, I was at the doorstep to the “big time.” My Dad died 4 days after that show in 1998 and I said I am done competing. I had major magazines, ESPN’s American Muscle Magazine calling me, etc. I was 265 lbs at 5’9″ walking at 10-12% body fat. I was a big, strong guy to say the least. When I started this show prep, I was easing my way into it. My goal was to do the Mr. Michigan on June 6. I was walking around at 254 with some ab’s. I was a trainer and a contest prep coach so I had my partner Justin Harris run my diet. He owns Troponin Nutrition and is a large, freakishly strong man. Even though I am a RD(registered dietitian) and have prepped 200 plus athletes for shows, I feel like it is better to let someone make judgments where I may not be capable of being objective. I always push myself too far so it was important to have an objective person. Like Justin said, “The guy who wins isn’t the one who suffers the most, it’s the one who looks the best come June 6.”
Holy Crap, We Are Prepping
So I slowly eased my way into my diet. I was ahead of the game because I started 22 weeks out. I always start early because that Murphy’s Law thing. Ha ha. If you don’t know, It means whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, and at the worst possible time. So I get into the prep and I am following Justin’s Carb Cycling Diet. No he didn’t come up with it, he just has perfected it. It was honestly ridiculously easy most of the way. I started off doing low cardio and blasting weights. I like that because cardio bores the hell out of me. I did HIIT cardio on the elliptical 1 minute hard and 2 mins easy. Aside from being tired from working 13 hour days, it was a breeze. I was loving busting ass on the weights like I hadn’t in years. I used to be known for having some of the sickest legs in Michigan. I honestly never saw better bellied hams than mine in my prime, at least not in Michigan anyhow. Well, I had to add a second leg day into this prep on Saturdays. Me, two legs days…yeah right! I had knee surgery back in 2008. I had meniscus damage from back in my football glory days and it finally caught up with me. So I had it scoped by a great surgeon and it still felt like crap. I finally said screw it, no more damn legs. So for 5 years, I neglected these guys. I never really planned on coming back to the stage so walking around with 30 plus inch thighs was unnecessary. Playing catch up on legs was new territory for me. I thoroughly enjoyed this prep until just the last week. My Mother had been fighting cancer for 3 years at that point and in November of 2014, she fell and shattered her hip. She spent 5 months in a rehab and her health was sliding quickly. It just added to the complexity of the goal. Before you know it, the show was here.
Ready To Do Battle Again, The Michigan Championships
I was 4 days out of the show and looking as good as I ever had. Everything was on point. Now it was just a matter of carbing up, then drying out. This is when Mr. Murphy poked his ugly head up. The last week I was struggling to get any sleep. Between getting 3 hours per night sleep on average and my Mother going into ER on Thursday, it was safe to say I was enduring a little stress. To compound this, I had 4 athletes competing that weekend. 3 male bodybuilders and a female figure athlete. Friday my day was insane. I had to train clients until 3 pm, get a haircut at 3:30 pm, then drive all the way across town to weigh in. After the weigh in, I had to go pick up shirts for Troponin Nutrition to pass out to athletes we had competing. It was now close to 9 pm and my phone was blowing off the hook giving out adjustments. By the time I got to bed, it was 1:30 am. I had to wake at 5 am to go get spray tanned. Then I had to drive 1;45 minutes to the show. I was a mess at this point. Two of the bodybuilders, Todd Lee and Todd Marra both won their weight classes. They got to pose off for the title of overall Mr. Michigan. My other bodybuilder, Ken Kolb, won his pro card in Chicago that weekend in the UFE, a drug free organization. My female athlete Melissa Otto placed 4th in her figure class. I got onstage and placed 4th Open Super Heavyweight, and 5th in the Masters. In this line-up that would have been admirable on any day, but I was bummed because my condition was nowhere near what it was even 2 weeks out. Due to high stress and lack of sleep, my cortisol was sky high. My fasted blood glucose was 110 in am. That was on zero carbs when I was depleting. I couldn’t carb up because it would just have driven blood glucose higher, exacerbating the problem. I just had to deal with. Thank you Mr. Murphy. At least I posed well and got a strong ovation. I also met some great people backstage. One of them being Bill Tocco, the winner of the Masters class. He was peeled to the bone. I hired him to do my diet into Masters Nationals because I felt bad bugging Justin all the time and I liked Bills approach and his conditioning at the Mr. Michigan.
Masters Nationals In Pittsburgh
I worked with Bill Tocco for the 5 plus weeks between the Michigan and the Masters Nationals. I wanted to get really conditioned for my first dance on the national level. I was getting up at 4 am to do 60 mins of fasted cardio, then train clients from 6 am until 6 pm Monday through Friday and then work from 8 am until 12 on Saturday and then train legs and pose for an hour after. I went hard at it for those 6 weeks. I kept getting tighter and tighter. The weeks flew by and before I knew it, I was in the car driving to Pittsburgh with my good friend Melissa Otto. We arrived at the host hotel and I weighed in. 232 lbs and now it was time to fill out and get tanned. There were a ton of people backstage and I was in the over 40 Super Heavyweight class, so I had to wait a long time backstage. Met some cool guys back there. One guy, Ron Gardner was in my class. This guy was enormous. He was 6’0-6’1″ and weighed in at 266 lbs. He was a monster. I looked at the rest of our line-up and I felt like I was in a good spot. My goal was to make the top 10. We went onstage and lined up, did some free posing and then the brought us all onstage. Now was the moment of truth. The first call outs came and I was in shock. The second number called was 679. “Holy shit, I am in the first call out!” I was ecstatic because I knew I had surpassed my goal at that point. I was beaming from ear to ear. Between the day show and the night show, I ate lunch and then went to my car and took a nap. I woke up and was stoked to get on stage and get it over with. I got 4th place and was thrilled to death. I got home from Pittsburgh and showed my Mom my trophies. She was thrilled for me even though she doesn’t really like me competing. I already started planning my 2016 foray into the Michigan, then the Team Universe in New York. If I don’t win there, I will give it a go at Masters Nationals in Pittsburgh. If I don’t win there, I promised my Mother I would retire. I started this journey in 1987 and now some 30 years later I am ready to close the show. My Mom passed away October 2 so I have this year to try my best to win at a national show and then I am done. I will put my absolute heart and soul into this next year and dedicate it all to her glory. So in my eyes, I really can’t lose.