The Experience of a Lifetime
She sat quietly in the back row of the room looking unnerved, out of her element in her surroundings as she took it all in – a guy stripped down to red posing trunks at the front of the room, muscled bodies drifting in and lining up, all sporting the uniform of loose track suits fresh out of spray tan booths, supplement booths lined against the perimeter of the room handing competitors their swag. It was the athlete registration for Nationals and Mom had come.
Catching her eye, I turned to one of my teammates and asked “Any guesses on her first reaction? I’m thinking it will be something about the tan (we had finished two coats of our tan and were an extremely dark stage colour).” Strolling over with my video camera in hand, I was right. “Oh gentle God, how long will it take for that colour to come off? When did you get those arm muscles?” They’ll disappear when you put water back in your body, right?” Laughing I reassured her the chiseled look of the day would soften (slightly) when my body rehydrated.
My Mom has always supported our endeavors, from music festivals to hockey games, public speaking contests to awards ceremonies. And as my brother and I grew up, she had hopes and dreams for us. I am quite certain she never envisioned this one for me. But there she sat and as it came time to say goodbye, she handed me a card that read “Congratulations on your accomplishment & good luck. No matter how you place you have achieved your goal of making the national stage. Good on you.”
For the last two years I had lived for this moment and it did not disappoint. In the weeks leading up to the competition I had imagined one great moment of finally stepping on the national stage, but it was actually a series of small ones over the weekend that I will eventually reflect upon and cherish.
I have a competitive spirit (most of all with myself) and normally am driven to win but this time it was different. Backstage, I was more concerned with capturing memories (I even had them photograph me getting my bikini bite applied) and meeting the other competitors than lining up for the first step on stage. Shaking slightly as I nailed my first solo poses I looked up to see Mom waving madly from the audience. It was reminiscent of my first dance recital when I was three years old with the exception that a Winnie the Pooh costume had been replaced with an itty-bitty sparkly bikini and heels.
Once the pre-judging had concluded Mom greeted me with a “well, check that goal off your list” smile and I think was quite floored when I declared my enthusiasm to come back next year with a vengeance.
After a couple of hours rest it was time to return for the night show and the results. While many had hoped I would have a perfect ending and walk away with a medal that was not the case. I placed 8th in Figure Masters and 12th in the Figure Open for Medium-Tall. Considering this was the best in the country I am still quite OK with those results and proud of the fact I brought my best physique to date.
It may not have been a fairy tale ending of traditional sorts but that wouldn’t suit my personality anyway. My brother and I are alike in that respect – as they say in hockey, we aren’t the cherry pickers that glide in front of the net just in time to score the goal. We have the tenacity to dig in corners and take the knocks. No matter how many times we fall down, we jump back up until we can fight no more.
It was only fitting that the first person to send me a congratulatory text was my brother. Wise beyond his years he said: “Good job. Getting there is the first step. Like I always tell my players, you have to learn how to lose before you actually win.”
But this really was my own version of a storybook (make that chapter!) ending.
This is a tough sport for family and friends to embrace as it requires an extensive commitment and can be disruptive to your life, but I am one of the lucky ones. I have witnessed competition prep claim casualties but I have found a way to balance it with my life. I have an amazing support network between my coaching team, family, friends, colleagues at work and those of you who follow my blog. And more importantly, my competitive fire hasn’t diminished. I believe that every test in life can make us bitter or better. I choose better.
There is no greater satisfaction than accomplishing a personal goal and to be able to live life your own way, even when it’s not a commonly traveled path, that is the true meaning of success.