May 22, 2013 by mybattlebuddyfitness
Well, here I am. Two and a half weeks post-Emerald Cup competition. I have finally come down off the high of crossing the finish line and completing the goal that I worked so hard for. I have spent a good chunk of the last 14 days reflecting on this experience, which was undoubtedly a life-changing endeavor. I have so much to say about my journey to the Emerald Cup that I am going to have to split my thoughts into a couple of separate posts. Today, I would like to focus on the final weeks leading up to the competition. Later I will give you my competition day analysis, philosophical musings, and deeper thoughts on my experience. And finally, for all of you super fitness geeks or aspiring figure competitors out there, I will give you the breakdown of my 12 weeks in terms of workouts and the ever-important diet.
When I signed myself up for this competition, I knew it was going to be difficult, but I had NO idea what a roller coaster it would be. I honestly feel like I have been on a really long trip. I changed in ways that I was not at all expecting. I had moments of clarity that altered my perspective on some interesting things. There were so many miserable moments, and in some ways, I feel like the last 4 weeks of my life were a total blur. But when I finally saw the finished product, all of the work was totally worth it. I had done it. And damn, it felt so good.
I remember when I first started training for the Emerald Cup, I read somewhere that the final weeks were the most difficult because time seemed to stand still. I thought that there was no way that could be true. Being so close to the finish line, wouldn’t that be enough to keep you motivated? Turns out, the final 4 weeks were BY FAR the most difficult 4 weeks I have ever endured—physically and mentally. By that point, my diet was already so restricted and my body was so tired, that the thought of taking away some of the things that I looked forward to the most (raw almonds and whey protein) was torture. I had cut my carb intake to super-ridiculously-low levels at about 6 weeks out after I figured out that eating the steel-cut oats and sweet potato only made me want MORE. I didn’t like carb-cycling because it really messed with my mental state. It was too difficult for me to return to no carbs after a day of high carbs. After doing a bunch of research, I learned that carb-cycling can actually be super difficult hormonally for some people, and I suspect that I am one of them. So, I simply cut them ALL out and increased my fats. I think it was the right move for me, but it was tough. There were moments when I thought about how I still had 30 days (or 20 days or 10 days) to go, and I literally couldn’t breathe. It was the strangest feeling. I couldn’t talk about or look at food of any kind. If I saw it on TV, I changed the channel; if I heard about it on the radio, I turned it off; if anyone around me talked about it, I covered my ears. During the final week, I had someone HIDE the remaining almond butter and raw honey that I had in the pantry because I didn’t trust myself to be around it.
At four weeks out, I also started to panic a little bit. I was still holding a bit of fat in my thighs and butt (which is super typical for women, by the way), while my upper body was looking right on. The photos below were taken at 3 weeks away from the competition. After I looked at these photos, I really kicked it into high gear.
I had to devise a plan of attack to rid myself of those last few percentages of fat that were hiding in my lower body. This involved switching up my routine a bit. I increased my fasted cardio to six days per week—up from 4 days per week—with a 6am spin class followed by lower body plyometrics and hundreds of reps with really light weights. It wasn’t always pleasant, but it worked like a charm. Waking up at 4:30am EVERY weekday morning wasn’t that difficult, because I wasn’t sleeping much at this point anyway. It is safe to say that I was running on protein and adrenaline. My brain power was REALLY low, which made accomplishing anything other than working out a real challenge.
Up until about 4 weeks out, I felt like a machine in the gym. I was MUCH stronger than I had ever been. I was lifting weights that got wide-eyed stares from the Marines in the “big-boy” weight room at the gym. Right at about 4 weeks though, my strength didn’t decline so much, but my energy level took a huge dip. I had to increase my caffeine intake in order to get that afternoon workout in. At about 3 weeks out, I started to experience some interesting side effects…when I stopped long enough and sat still, my body almost felt like it was vibrating. My leg muscles began to twitch every now again and when I first started my afternoon workout, it almost felt like I had no legs. It would take me about 10 minutes or so until I no longer felt like my legs were going to buckle beneath me. Suffice to say, I was more than ready to be done with the grueling workout schedule.
Every day seemed to drag on. I tried to squeeze in naps as often as possible, but with all the caffeine I was consuming, I would close my eyes, and then my alarm would go off. It never felt like I was truly relaxed enough to fall into a deep sleep. The worst was when people would ask how many days were left, and when I replied, they would always say, “Oh! It’s coming up quick!” NOT QUICK ENOUGH. For me, every hour was just one hour closer to the finish line.
But the changes…the changes in my body were astounding. My body had become my experiment. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I could hardly believe that those muscles belonged to me. At about 2 weeks out, my legs really started to tighten up and I was getting the cuts and the definition that I wanted. See images below…
It was so interesting though—my body had turned into a mass of lean muscle, which was my goal, right? But yet, I was miserable! I was drinking at least 2 gallons of water per day, which had me running to the bathroom every 30 minutes. The high protein, low fiber, low carb diet was finally taking a toll on my intestines. By the end of the day, despite the fact that I was leaner than ever, I felt bloated and uncomfortable from my daily high dosages of protein and water. I was also a little alarmed at how veiny and “vascular” I had become. At certain points in the day (especially after lifting weights or a hot shower), my arms and my lower abs looked like a roadmap. But it was all part of the look I had worked so hard to achieve.
When the day finally arrived to fly to Seattle, I finally started to feel some relief. I was just 48 hours away from the competition, and I had DONE IT. I weighed myself and tested my body fat percentage one last time before I left the house early that morning and I had surpassed the goals I had set for myself. It felt amazing to know that I had set a goal, stuck to it for 12 long weeks, and achieved it.
The final 48 hours before the competition are such a blur. I was awake and I did things, but I have very little memory of them. I was incredibly excited for competition day, and pretty much all of my thoughts were centered on the upcoming event. One of the most entertaining aspects of the competition prep, was the spray tanning experience. I had no idea what to expect. I walked into a room where there were tents set up and people armed with huge jugs of bronzing color that they sprayed all over your naked body. After being sprayed down in the buff by a total stranger, you moved to another tent where a fan blew freezing cold air all over you to make sure that your tan was set and wouldn’t smear as soon as you put your clothes on. It was an outer-body experience for sure. I emerged from the tent looking like I had been in the Bahamas for 2 months (see images below). OR as my dad put it, I looked like I had been on the TV show Survivor on a tropical island…haha.
Friday morning, I woke up feeling fresh and ready to rock. After I got my spray tan touched up in the tent room, I went back to my hotel room and began to get myself ready. I had purchased special make-up and I was super-excited to put the whole look together.
I put on my jewelry and my Hello Kitty sweatsuit (it was exceedingly difficult to find a sweatsuit in an adult size that fit my shrunken body), applied a coat of my new Smashbox lipgloss, and I was ready…
I almost didn’t recognize the girl in the mirror. My face had shrunk a good deal with all the fat loss, so I felt like I was looking at a package of tanned muscles, eyelashes, and white teeth.
Compared to the rest of the world, I looked like an alien. But I felt like a million bucks…beauty queen for a day…a brunette Barbie with muscles…I felt…ON TOP OF THE WORLD.
Stay tuned for this weekend’s post when I give my competition-day analysis and philosophical musings on my life-changing experience. In the meantime, here are a few of my favorite photos from early in the day.