This year was especially brutal on my sleep schedule. My flight came in at midnight on Thursday, which meant we arrived at the hotel around 12:30am Friday morning. Of course, no one knew the room number and one of the promoters was already asleep in the hotel suite, so we couldn't get up to the room until 1:15am when the other half of the promotion team arrived...then the room was locked from the inside. After multiple phone calls, calling out for the door to be opened like a midnight drunk, and banging on the lock for 10 minutes we were finally in. I managed to find a convenient place on the couch to crash around 1:30am. Good thing, because I was starting to drift out of balance from lack of sleep. My stomach, not knowing any better, woke me up around 6am for a pre-scheduled breakfast at 7:30am. Brutal. At least breakfast at the hotel was good.
Every year there's something slightly different about the show, but one thing I can count on is a break during the bikini and fitness classes on Friday. This is when I like to put the camera strap around my wrist and go exploring for photos. When the bodybuilding show happens on Saturday I'm pretty much stuck at the production desk on the side of the stage all day, so any photos I get...I get from there...and between music queues.
On Friday I had a chance to meet and work with the Atlas Brothers, who are modern day strongmen acrobats doing moves worthy of Cirque du Soleil. Truly nice gentlemen and they put on a hell of an amazing show. Below is a picture of their Friday warm up between the morning judging and night show.
Lucky for us crew, this year the promoters organized the show a little different. The preparation area was upstairs and competitors were brought down to the staging area just before their class was due to go on. Normally the backstage area is pure chaos mixed with baby oil permeating the air, like a pinball machine with four dozen muscled-up pinballs bouncing off the paddles. Making a trip between the production desk and the bathroom is like being a football running back navigating a mile field. You're bobbing.. you're weaving... you're dodging your way through people wearing tanning stain and baby oil, which permanently stains anything it comes in contact with. In fact, I think it might stain anything within an inch of coming in contact just due to off-gassing. Notice the plastic sheets up on the wall in the first picture? I learned long ago to never wear nice clothes backstage even with all the pretty bikini girls present. The cost/reward goes something like this...there's little chance of me getting a bikini girl's contact info, but a large chance I'll have to replace at least one piece of clothing after the show. Thus, appropriate attire mainly consists of clothes that I don't mind throwing away or previous contest shirts if I want to look semi-legit. Black is always in style.
Competitors have months or sometimes even years to prepare for the contest. The contest is pretty much over after their two minutes on stage. Dedicated volunteers like Dan and Geri below have hours to gather up the judges results and organize the night show.
On the crew we affectionately refer to the men's physique class as the "man-kini" class. Long colorful board shorts seem to be mandatory.
On Friday the show hosted a small event called "The Sultans of Squat." I was downstairs at the bodybuilding show when I heard about the athletes lifting over 700 pounds. One 19 year old guy went for 775 pounds! By the time I walked upstairs these bulldozers of men were up over 800 pounds, essentially squatting a Smart car! One guy even went for 850 pounds, but didn't succeed. I was almost sure the squat rack or the floor was going to give way. Notice how far the bar is bending on either side of their back? Ouch. My back gets bruised and I use a padded cover. No such girly man wimpy-ness here.
Power lifting is a completely different animal than bodybuilding. You feel the energy pulsating out of the doors to the room when the athlete goes for their single chance at glory. People around you are screaming till they're red in the face, then holding their breath until the lift is complete or the assistants grab the bar. Just look at the athletes' facial expressions below, then multiply that times fifty spectators.
On Saturday another event was hosted in the same room called "Bros versus Pros." The idea here was to face off fitness professionals against gym "bros" for the maximum number of reps of a fixed weight. I only had time to make it up there for the women's dead lifting event. The contest was broadcast on rxmuscle.com, so they were doing short interviews before each "bro" went and did her thing. One woman's bio read something like her interests were "cheerleading, eating, and lifting heavy s#^t." Gotta love that! Amy Payne (blond short hair below) won with near 50 reps of 185lbs! I wouldn't want to go up against her in her other hobby - roller derby.
Oh, and there were bodybuilders there too. With so many categories of competition (bikini, physique, figure, fitness, power lifting, and bodybuilding) it's easy to lose track of the show's actual "bodybuilding championships." The last two photos below are of Mark Dugdale, an IFBB pro and northwest native. I remember him competing as a "bro" in our local shows years ago.
During this part of the show I'm mostly planted in one location, so I get what I get from there opportunistically between song queues.
After working two days straight from 6am to midnight my body was done. Sunday morning sleep was short lived due to my darn stomach's schedule. Even on my flight home the airline clerk switched my seating location twice and I ended up in the "birth control seat" - equidistant from two screaming babies. However, it was good to be home and Sunday proved to be a fruitful night of 8 hours of dreaming...not about bodybuilding...nor having children.