"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Story of a Prep, a Show, and Other Life Things, Mostly in Photos

March has been very, very busy. What you need to know is that there has been a prep. I've been hard-core training for another show since all the way back in October: the off season was specifically to change my baseline before beginning prep for this show. We transitioned into prep in January, with powerlifting ramping up in intensity until we were in hypertrophy-only work by the beginning of February. I took posing classes with A every other week for two months, and spent another 3 hours a week practicing on my own, until walking in the heels felt like second nature and until I could visualize every moment of every pose in my head as if in slow motion. That was my end goal with so much supervised practicing, and I achieved it. All of this is all over my IG.

There are a good 8 posts about this prep in my Blogger drafts, with only one of them completed and ready to post, but I'm honestly not sure if I'm going to publish any of them. They are personal. They take the reader into the depths of who and what I am because I just don't know how to write any other way right now, and I'm not sure I want to expose that much of myself on the internet at this time.

This is a pretty funny story though, and it is in one of the new draft competition prep posts:

Carlos walked in the door at home.

"I am now known as the guy married to the fitness model," he announced.


"There's this one doctor at work that I showed your show photo to, and he went, 'WOW!' And now he brings all of the new nurses and doctors over to me to tell them, 'This is the guy that's married to the fitness model. Lucky prick!'"

I started laughing. I know I keep saying this, but if you had told me 20 years ago that this is the stuff that would be happening when I hit 38, I really would have told you had lost your mind.

"But I'm not a fitness model!" I exclaimed, still laughing.

"Tell that to the people that see your photo! They see a hot girl posing on a stage, and that's what they assume. Also: case in point right here." And he gestured at me with this huge Cheshire Cat grin.

I looked down at myself.

I had been practicing posing at home, which I had been trying to do for at least 30 minutes on my days off, which is the most my feet and calves tend to tolerate in the stilettos. I practiced on the living room carpet all the time for the first show and this time I had started varying the surfaces, which now meant that the carpet was infuriating: deep and too much traction for the turns.

I had finally broken into a sweat just from holding the poses over and over again (you have to tense up all of your muscles. That shit both makes you sore and hot if you're doing it correctly!) and had realized that I was STARVING. So I had decided to start dinner. But had also decided to wear the shoes while at it just so I could try to increase my tolerance to the 5" heels. Plus, walking on the slippery linoleum floor of our tiny kitchen was good practice anyway.

So for the first show when practicing posing at home, I'd go to the trouble of changing into a bikini to practice. This time I wasn't even bothering: I was at home! We live on a second floor. I'd just partially close the blinds and keep whatever panties I was wearing and put on a bikini top and practice in that. It's good to practice this mostly without anything on, because that's how you're going to be performing!

Of course I hadn't even bothered throwing on one of Carlos's T-shirts when I decided to start dinner, because I was hot. And also: I was at home. Who cares. The cats sure don't give a shit what I'm wearing (or not.)

Looking down at myself now, I realized that Carlos had walked in to find his wife cooking in 5" stilettos while wearing VS cheeky panties and a black & white string bikini top. I looked like some pin up girl from the 1960s.

(I laughed way too hard trying to find a pin up poster image that came close to representing how I looked on this day...)
I leaned back against the counter and just roared with laughter. I had always said I would NEVER BE A HOUSEWIFE. Yet here I was looking like some crazy vision from the male fantasyland that feminists have fought so hard to eliminate for the past 5 decades, without even meaning to...because I was hungry and wanted food nao dammit and I need to walk in these damn heels as much as possible. *face-palm* If you know me in person, you know I am pretty much the absolute OPPOSITE of a pin-up girl in every way, shape and form.

My life has become so surreal, guys.

Carlos started laughing too, and came over and gave me a hug.

"You're still my favorite nerd, though. A super hot one! But still a nerd," he said. As always, he knew where my train of thought had gone.

Or to counter that story, there was the one time I rack pulled 245 lbs for reps. I ended up with blisters on the pads of both hands as a result. But guys, I lifted 245 lbs for reps!!!!

Rare footage of me performing deadlifts. Note my toes are up! ;) Because you are supposed to drive with your heels! 185 lbs on the bar here. Rack pulls involve the same movement as deadlifts, but the bar is placed is on pins anywhere from shin to just-above knee height. You're not pulling from the floor.

Or the time Trainer and the one powerlifting dude at the public gym started trying to one-up each other about who of the two of them was stronger vs who would make a better male stripper. This took place during one of my training sessions. (The powerlifting dude had started all of this; Trainer gets irritated when people try talking to him while he's working with clients, and this particular guy is pretty clueless about it.) The conversation had turned to stripper girls making pole dancing look easy despite it being so hard. Since the powerlifting dude had not been taking Trainer's hints to go away, I finally just blurted out of the blue, "Well, pole dancing IS super hard..." Both guys had immediately shut up and turned to look at me in stunned silence, while I continued silently doing Bulgarian split squats with a straight face (I was rolling with laughter on the inside). Mind you, I've never even touched a stripper pole in my life...and I never said I had. Everyone knows that shit is hard. It worked though: the guys forgot what they'd been talking about, the powerlifter walked away, and Trainer continued coaching me through my session. Pole dancing has never been mentioned again. *snicker*

Definitely NOT me!...though I do have the shoes now! *face-palm*
Or the time I invoked Lily and the mountain of the OD 50 to get myself through one of the toughest Leg Day workouts Trainer has ever had me do. Because that mountain and Lily's effort to get us to the top of it will forever be more difficult than anything I could ever do in a workout.

Or the time I realized how very painful the burn of hypertrophy work is, after not having done it for 3 months. Powerlifting doesn't burn. Hypertrophy, the type of work that transforms your body, does. Here is my favorite part of that post:

Going into the second set of lat pulldowns, that old familiar burn that I had not felt in three months swept up my arms, across my elbows, up my shoulders and down the muscles of my back with a force that made me gasp.

"Burning?" Trainer asked. I heard the smile in his voice. He had noticed that my breathing had changed.

I nodded, continuing to keep my attention on the exercise, and remembering a conversation we had had a while back:

"What's the longest a bodybuilding client has trained with you?" I had asked.
He had thought about it. "The longest anyone has lasted was a year. A lot of people want to try it, they start, but then realize they can't handle the slow reps and the time under tension. And they quit."

Because they can't handle the pain of the burn. And I had thought about it at the time, "But that's precisely what I like about it." And had wondered, "Do I like it because I have this crazy tolerance for pain?"

Now in the present I wondered, in something close to despair, "How did I use to work through this?"

And I remembered: it started with closing my eyes.

So I closed my eyes as I pulled down on the machine handle as I felt the fire sweep up my lats. Closing my eyes meant there was nothing that could distract me from the pain now...and instead of fighting it, of fighting the burn, I dove into it, spiraling down, down, down like a free-falling hawk plummeting from the skies to catch her prey.

I plunged into the depths of the burning itself and let it consume me.

And from that space deep inside I heard Trainer counting the reps, as I continued pulling down on the handle, then slowly releasing it. And again. And again.


On 10 I slowly released the handle, letting the weight pull my arms straight above my head into a stretch, then let the handle slide out of my fingers as I swam back to the surface and opened my eyes with a big exhale.

By letting the burn consume me, I was able to bear it. And I remembered why I had loved it so much: because it made me feel worked. It is a good type of pain that indicates growth, change, transformation. A Phoenix bursting forth in full flight from the ashes.

Trainer studied my expression as I regained my bearings.

I grinned at him. "I had missed the burning," I confessed. I could admit it now.

He grinned back, "Said like a true bodybuilder."

Oh God. I need to stop avoiding the subject and just own the fact already that I really do love this sport.

^ It was around that time that I finally started using the #bodybuilding in my IG posts relevant to the subject. It is what it is, and I am what I am.

Or the time that I was using the squat rack in the guys' only side of the gym near the Surgery job. I am  the. only. woman. there. EVER. Among the same group of 6 guys or so. The women that go to that gym are all cardio bunnies...you never see any of them lifting real shit. It's kind of depressing. So I walk in there with all the dudes, blasting my reggaeton on my headphones, and I don't talk to anyone and no one talks to me. I do get stares, especially from the one Latino in the group, but I really don't care. It's kind of an ego boost. Anyway, on this particular day I was just starting my squats, when this guy (not one of the regulars) came up wanting to know how many sets I had left. I had all four sets left still. He wanted to use my barbell, but no rush. I had stopped what I was doing then and looked around at the weights area: there were at least 6 other barbells available, of which 3 of those were 45 lb bars like the one I was using. I think the "Fuck you" must have shown on my face because the guy took one step back and said apologetically, "You know what? Never mind. I'll use a different bar." After that, I've been given a wake whenever I walk around that area of the gym. And you know what? I didn't even need to say a word. My mom has said since I was a kid that I can be incredibly intimidating. I never see it...until stuff like that happens!

And the time when I was doing shoulder presses with the barbell at the public gym...Trainer was standing next to me counting my reps when this random guy wearing a fleece vest (inside a gym!?) comes up and slips between Trainer and me so he can study me closely. Quite closely: he was standing 3" from my shoulder. That close, and looking at me like I was some edible endangered species that he wanted to enjoy on a plate. It was very predatorial. I ignored him: I had a 45 lb bar with close to 50 lbs in plates on it in my hands that I was more than willing to swing at him in self-defense if I needed to. Trainer had instantly bristled when the guy stepped in: I had felt him go very still. So then the guy turned to Trainer, "She's really strong! But can she lift...?" I didn't catch the end of the sentence. I was at the end of my last set and just focusing on finishing with proper form. Trainer did hear it though, and I saw his expression change in the mirror in front of us. He seemed to grow in stature as his face turned bright red, glowering at the guy with a look that truly could have killed. The guy lowered his head submissively, backed up, and walked away in a hurry. "C'mon," Trainer said. "We're done with this." I followed him to the other side of the gym and heard him snarl viciously under his breath, "I hope he hurts himself." The guy was around for the rest of my session, doing his own thing but always seeming to be in the vicinity. I have never seen Trainer that...upset at the gym. He was throwing sparks. He literally put himself physically between the guy and me every single time the guy was using equipment next to us, and even went so far as taking me back to the other side of the gym at one point just so we wouldn't have to be next to the dude. I'm not used to being protected like that. I never did ask what the guy had said. Given the way Trainer reacted, I didn't want to know...and I was really glad he was there with me that day. Thankfully, we've never seen that guy at the gym since that one time.

And the time that one of Carlos's friends, who had only met me once, described me later as a lioness. I was stunned by that one: I had done nothing other than engage in intelligent conversation about race and prejudice, and joked around. That was one helluva first impression that I don't mind giving, let me tell you!

And then there was the time when a woman I didn't know came up to me in the gym while I was stretching at the end of a monster Leg Day workout to tell me that she just wanted me to know what an inspiration I was. I was so surprised and moved by her that I choked up and almost cried.

Or the time I was at Wegmans eyeballing sushi and this guy who was the stereotypical tall, dark and handsome that only exists in the movies came up to me. "I just wanted to tell you," he said, "how cool I think your shoes are." I did a double-take and looked down at my shoes. (Like, since when do guys come up to compliment your shoes?) I had completely forgotten I was wearing my leopard print Chuck Taylors that I bought for deadlifting (and that are now also my #1 street shoes...) I thanked him with a huge grin, still surprised. He grinned back and walked away, pushing a stroller with his child. I then wondered why the hell have I spent my entire life hiding who I really am, when the general consensus when I show my true colors is that I actually am not dull as rocks. Weight lifting has led to so much more self-analysis than riding horses ever did. With horses I had to analyze my feelings, but with the barbell and dumbbells I have to analyze my thought processes and behaviors as well. I often wish that I had seriously picked up weight lifting back in college when I first decided it was something I wanted to do, because I think my life would have been so different if I had. But at the same time if I had done that, this wouldn't be the magical journey of self-discovery that it has turned into now. If I had started weight lifting for real sooner, I wouldn't have become the person I am now, that continues to metamorphose. And I'm not talking about the changes on the outside: I'm talking about the changes on the inside.

The last six months have been a journey, guys. The journey itself is the story and it's where I've continued to grow and change, even more so than the event that this road led up to. But I think I'm keeping this story mostly to myself. For now at least.

Here are the pictorial headliners of the past month. Some of them are on IG, most of these are not:

We started nixing stuff out of my diet in mid February. Trainer had joked that I should warn my coworkers about impending irrational behavior.
I had a weekend where one of my patients decided to randomly be hypotensive. Our Dopplers at work are incredibly temperamental and sometimes make us want to scream...they are an essential piece of equipment in the ICU because it's how we measure blood pressures on our patients. My patient was so hypotensive I could only hear her pulse with one specific Doppler...and it kept getting stolen. Which started to become infuriating when I was having to check her blood pressure every half hour or so to make sure the changes in treatments were working as they should. I finally snatched the Doppler away and put this sign on it. Fyi: It is acceptable to threaten coworkers with biting and scratching in vet med. ;) (Obviously in a joking manner, okay?) While I can be as inappropriate as anyone else on my ICU team (dark senses of humor are a survival mechanism), I'm still overall considered the Quiet One at work...of course they knew I was joking (the doctors got a good laugh out of the IG post) but it still worked: nobody touched my Doppler for the rest of the weekend.
I showed the photo to Trainer on Monday when I returned to work with him and asked innocently, "Is this what you meant by irrational behavior?" He burst out laughing. "Yes. Yes, that is exactly what I meant."
That said, I do have a "WILL BITE" cage sticker on my water bottle. Because I really do bite. >:) Most vet techs do.
Leg check-in day for a Trainer session at the public gym. I normally wear compression tights or capris to work out. I honestly hate hate HATE working out in shorts, unless I'm running outdoors in the summer. Or riding bareback. But prep means I have to show up in shorts periodically to see where my legs are at development-wise. I was not the only one in shorts at this gym but for whatever reason I was the one that always got comments from other gym-goers and even the guy at the front desk; "Aren't you cold???" No, I'm not dude. I'm in a fucking gym about to get the soul worked out of me. What the hell. It irritated the crap out of me and I once complained about it to Trainer.
His theory was that everyone was just jealous.
Regardless, wearing leg warmers on these days meant I got no comments on the shorts. My fellow Frednecks are weird.
Anyway: I have nice legs by normal human standards. At the time I took this pic, they still needed more work by competition standards.
Later that same day after cardio. I was thrilled to be able to see the beginnings of the famous "teardrop" in my quads. It's also known as the VMO or vastus medialis. Apparently the only people that really care about being able to see that are bodybuilders. It's tough to develop...so you can guess my squee when I realized I now have it. :)

There are about 10 months between these pics: the one on the left was at the beginning of my first prep. My abs looked pretty badass then. The pic on the right was taken this month, towards the end of this prep: holy wow they looked amazing.

Goofing around in the kitchen with my abs (not flexing, btw) and my protein shake. Carlos thought it was hilarious.
I am so over protein shakes right now though. At the moment, I'd rather eat my calories instead of drink them.
More posing practice in the gym studio. My life in March revolved around posing, the gym, eating, work, and sleeping. Nothing else. I had dived headlong into this with even more dedication than I did the first time around.
I just like the way my back looks here. 
I haven't seen my horses in a month. Carlos took these when he went to check on them. They were hanging out in the run-in shed. Gracie happily got up and came to say hi, while Lily continued napping.
The forecast on this day said it was going to be sunny. I walked out of the gym to this. WTF. March's weather has continuously left me wanting to bitch slap the weather gods.
This was my perfect Bulldog anesthesia on an otherwise incredibly stressful surgery day. We have bred the airways off of Bulldogs, so anesthetizing them is usually one hell of a nightmare roller coaster ride. Their recovery is the most dangerous part of all, which is when they are more likely to aspirate or have problems breathing. I knew one Bulldog that was anesthetized for a simple eye surgery, woke up stressed, and gave himself such severe pulmonary edema that he ended up on the long-term ventilator. He never made it out of the hospital alive.
My guy here, however, did AAAAAAMAAAAAAZING!!!! His anesthesia was textbook, and his recovery was 100% uneventful. He even went home the same day of surgery! That NEVER HAPPENS with Bulldogs!
I was happy dancing while typing up his anesthesia report afterwards. I did a good job!
I adored this girl; I fell head over heels in love with her. She was brought in by a shelter to correct physical trauma from past abuse. You never would have known this dog had nearly been choked to death by a person once upon a time: she trusted us implicitly and without question. She was not my patient, which was a good thing because she nearly died in recovery due to complications from the problem we were trying to investigate, and had to be rushed into emergency surgery. The most heart-breaking thing was that she couldn't breathe and she would look at us with this imploring gaze, making full eye contact, "Help me. Please help me. I know you can help me." How could anyone have done this to her? And why??? I was an emotional wreck at the end of this day. She made it back home to the shelter the next day, alive and doing fantastic, but thinking of her story still makes me cry. People can be so horrible.
I would have adopted this girl without a second thought if Aengus wasn't so scared of dogs.

Day 1 of Peak Week, Sunday. I was pretty happy with what I was seeing going into this. I knew it was not going to be enough, but I was curious to see where I would be at by the end of this week.
Yup, that's blood. Yup, it's all from one dog. It was a nearly 200 lb dog, but it was still all from one dog. Guess the cause!
A TONGUE laceration! It was fucking insane. You can see that he had no problems clotting (those are giant clots on the floor), but the laceration was huge and he wouldn't stop panting, and the blood just kept pouring out. We got an IV catheter in him, anesthetized him, and one of our ER doctors sutured up his tongue uneventfully. We did check his red cell count (PCV) because we were convinced he was going to need a transfusion...this was just the ward where we put him in while we placed his IV, in an effort to contain the mess. You should have seen the rest of the ICU...it looked like Dexter had gone on a killing spree and forgotten to lay down his plastic tarps. The night staff arrived as we were starting to get everything cleaned up and they were horrified, "WHAT. HAPPENED???" The entire ICU was a legit bloodbath. There are more pics that I took to document the event, but I ain't posting them on the interwebz.
To our absolute astonishment, the dog was fine. He did not need a transfusion. His red cell count was still normal despite the massacre-level bloodletting. He woke up from his anesthesia happy as a clam and was sent home with antibiotics and pain meds a couple hours later, with instructions to have his red cell count checked again the next day at his regular vet, just to be 100% sure that the count was still normal.
Critical care is as hard core as it gets in vet med. This is what we call a typical Sunday around here.
My favorite patient on another day. He was a miracle story that I can't tell you guys about. He had a lot of things wrong with him but he didn't care. He LOVED FOOD SO MUCH. It was awesome to be able to make him so happy with just food. I was spreading his meals out so I could give small amounts at a time. He would wag his tail at me anytime I went to his cage and would let me do just about anything in exchange for treats.

Framed art at work. I love the quote!!!
"Women and cats will do as they please
And men and dogs should
Relax and get used to the idea."

Amen. ;)
Our one real snow storm of the entire winter...in mid-March!
We ultimately had an entire foot of snow in Frederick.
I took these when I was coming out of training at the public gym. Baker Park sure looked pretty dressed in white.

The photo on the left was taken on day 3 of Peak Week, Tuesday. I thought I looked amazing. As in, I woke up that morning, looked in the mirror and did a double-take, "Holy shit, that's me???!" There is exactly a year and a week between these two pics: the one on the right was taken right before starting to train with Coach last March to establish a baseline.

I haven't been as hungry as I was for this peak week since suffering from the eating disorder in my teens. The calorie restriction this time was extreme, which meant that I wasn't hungry...I was starving all the time. I was only sleeping a few hours at night because the hunger would wake me up. My one complaint was waiting too long to start the cut: I had pushed for  beginning at 12 weeks, but I wasn't allowed to start until around 6 weeks out. Not enough time for this Latina lower body, no matter the amount of cardio or calorie restriction. There had been a reason for waiting though: we were trying to not burn off all the muscle I had put on over the winter. The end result was that I wasn't lean enough. For competition purposes it's better to be too lean than too fluffy, especially in this division and especially at the level of competition I was aiming for. But then again, you don't know whether something is going to work or not unless you try it..so we tried a shorter cut and the final conclusion is that nope, cuts need to be longer in my case. Live and learn. :)
(By non-competition standards, I'd still rather be somewhat fluffy than too skinny! Can't stress that enough. I like having curves. I also like eating!)
So anyway. This photo. I was so fucking hungry all the time that I started going onto IG for food porn. Masochist much? Maybe. But it meant I could look at food, even if I couldn't eat it. I found this website called The Macro Experiment and holy wow...she has some AMAAAAAAZING recipes for people tracking macros. I was drooling by the time I skipped over to her blog from her IG account. This was her Angel Food Protein Cake, which has 1 g fat, 2 g carbs, and 38 g protein FOR THE ENTIRE CAKE. And I had ALL THE INGREDIENTS AT HOME! (I subbed casein for the whey protein, since the whey I had was isolate and isolate is not as good for baking.) So at 9:00 pm I was in the kitchen beating egg whites. Holy shit guys. It came out amazing. I subbed lime extract for the vanilla and wow...The cake is actually huge...I had intended on eating the whole thing but discovered that 1/3 of it was really filling! Carlos tried it and loved it, which meant I had to make more. Not complaining. I would end up taking a couple of slices of it to the show with me.

Taking advantage of the snow day (where I was actually off of work for once!) to just catch up on rest and read an actual book (I spend too much time reading on the interwebz). Aengus thought this was a brilliant idea.
"This butt sure is comfy," - Zombie.
All packed up to go to the show. Aengus wanted to come with us.
For the last show, we drove back and forth from Frederick to Baltimore, and that's how I only got 4 hours of sleep the night before the show. This time we stayed at the hotel that was hosting the show instead. It was a brilliant idea and it made everything so much easier! The show itself and the tanning were all at the hotel so all I had to do was zip up and down on the elevator to go from bed to tan to show.
Two layers of tan, an ab vein and shoulder striations. Taken the night before the show.
All I had done was have a low carb dinner (I brought my own food from home) and laid down in bed to read for two hours. Literally got up and discovered that everything looked like this. I had not felt physically ready for this show from mid peak-week on, right up until this moment. What had happened at mid peak week? Carb loading. I had not wanted to do it, though it is typical during the final stages of this type of prep. Why didn't I want to do it? Because once you've been on low carbs for an extended period (3 months in my case!), your body becomes sensitized to carbs and is a lot more likely to bloat from them. I had followed instructions in terms of carb loading but had still held back on the amount I ate...and it had still backfired. I spent Friday, the day before the show, trying to "clean up" by restricting carbs again...and it was not working as quickly as I had hoped it would. In fact, I had almost not shown up at check-in: I had discussed with Carlos just calling it and spending the weekend exploring Baltimore instead. This moment made me feel somewhat excited again, though I still didn't look as amazing as I had on Tuesday of peak week.
I did my own makeup again. And I remembered to bring my headphones so I could listen to music while waiting our turn onstage. I died a thousand deaths that morning. Last time I was so loopy from peak week that I didn't care. This time I was so with it that the stage fright was killing me. I was second-guessing everything, and was so terrified that I honestly couldn't even eat. I would have vomited. But music...being able to zone out to whatever I wanted to listen to was a total gamechanger. I suddenly found myself grinning and wiggling my shoulders to tunes only I could hear. And that's when I went, "Fuck it. I'm doing this. Whatever."
And the tan...the experience of this tan was so much better than the last one: there was a lot more privacy so I didn't have to see or be seen naked by the other competitors, only the girl that was airbrushing the tan onto my skin. The company was Olympia Tan, which does the tanning for most of the big shows. The employees were lovely: so very sweet and kind, but the tan itself was weird: it wouldn't stick. I kept needing it touched up no matter how careful I was, and I was not the only one with this problem by far. 80% of the tan came completely off when I showered after the show. It was like the paint wasn't compatible with my skin, despite having taken all the steps to prepare for it beforehand (exfoliating and moisturizing.)
The nerves disappeared when we were lined up to go onstage. It was like I mentally went into this vacuum of emotion. It was awesome because it put me 100% in control. All the hours and hours and HOURS of posing practice paid off in dividends though. It was a completely different experience stepping on the stage this time: I paid attention to the music on the loudspeakers, decided I didn't like it, and chose to play Daddy Yankee's Dura in my head while we were doing the comparison poses. I gracefully nailed every single pose and felt like I had been walking in 5" heels my whole life. It was as if all of us in the lineup had choreographed together, which in the end is how it's supposed to look.
I competed in both Masters Over 35 and Novice. The Novice class was huge, and this pic was taken during that class. They had half of us line up on the sides of the stage to wait while the other half of the class did their comparison poses.
Our turn posing in Novice.

This was a really pretty transition. I had diligently practiced making the transitions look like a dance instead of robotic changes from one pose to the next.
Both Trainer and Carlos argued later that the girl in front of me here was not as muscular as I was. BUT, her lower body was much leaner (you can't tell from this angle, but you can see it in the pro pics) and like I've stated before: NPC puts almost more weight on lower body than they do on upper body, regardless of class and regardless of gender. Trainer was able to see the extent of this for himself this time around.
Fun fact: Trainer and Carlos got to spend a good two hours sitting next to one another for this show. They had already met prior but this was their first time spending time together sans me around. They traded hospital stories, trying to one-up  each other (Trainer is also an exercise physiologist and works at the same hospital as Carlos.) Of course Carlos won by a landslide because no one can beat his fucked up ER stories...and in the process he won himself yet another fan. ;) It was fun listening to both sides of their stories afterwards.

I'm still really proud of how I owned those heels, guys.
Judiann is a good friend of mine from middle school and high school, and is, of course, also Puerto Rican. We were the two chubby girls that spent all their free time in the library and got chosen last for sports. She moved to Northern Virginia with her hubs (who is also from PR and was in the same school as us in the class above) around the same time we did. She has two kids and weight-wise lost the equivalent of an entire person over the course of a year, and is training for her first marathon. She is one of the people that inspires ME, and if y'all want inspiration, you should follow her. She had been following me on social media during this prep and messaged me out of the blue to find out the details of the show: she wanted to come see me in action, because she is hoping to do a show herself someday too. I had not been expecting her to come...I honestly don't expect anyone to come to these things even when I expressly invite them, though it does make me sad when people say they're going to come of their own accord and they don't. Shanna was originally going to come, and Tony. So you can imagine my absolute joy when Judiann texted me while I was backstage to let me know she was in the audience. Not only that, she was the one person cheering for me in the crowd. How can you not grin while onstage when you have your own cheering section? :D
She wanted to take a bathroom selfie with me, which cracked me up.
We've both come so far from the nerdy chubby kids we used to be.
Boricua power!!!
Her and Victor, her hubs, went up to the hotel room with Carlos and me, where we all yakked away for hours until it was time for my pre-Finals meeting at 4:00 pm. Carlos had never met them before in person but had heard my stories about them, so they hit it off like they'd always known one another. Judi and Victor didn't stay for Finals but it was SO GOOD to have spent time with them. I had not seen her in person since our college days some 18 years ago!
Comparison poses for Finals. The perk of having short hair is being able to hit your poses before anyone else: no long hair that needs to be flipped around when switching from back pose (you're supposed to sweep it to the side so the judges can see your upper back) to side pose. Looking at the pictures (because I sure didn't even bother looking again in the mirror by this point, other than to touch up my makeup), I feel like I looked better for finals...I think being able to eat a solid meal now that I was relaxed (my sushi and a chocolate milk *cheers to Dom!*) and just sitting down and resting while catching up with Judi made some of the water retention in my lower body melt away. It didn't make a difference by this point in terms of competing but that's okay. I had not been expecting to place, and I didn't. This show was huge (there were people from all over the country there) and the competitors were on a whole other level from the people I competed with in July. I beat myself up a lot afterwards about my decision to step onstage anyway. I couldn't decide if it had been ballsy or just plain idiotic...and had been leaning heavily towards "idiotic." More on that in a minute.

There was a Chili's right next to the hotel. That's where we went for dinner afterwards. I had a Blue Moon beer. And when I looked at the menu, all I wanted was the salmon. With veggies. And an extra side of veggies. Because having been so low on carbs for such a long period = very limited fruits and vegetables as well.
Dessert was an entire cookie skillet with ice cream that I scarfed all by myself down to the very last crumb. Carlos knew better than to even try to sneak a bite. I was eating like a prison inmate, with the plate tucked up close to my chest and my elbows flared out, as if afraid someone would steal my food. I would have licked the cookie's skillet if we hadn't been at a restaurant. The next morning we met Jess and Meggan for brunch at Ted's Bulletin in Gaithersburg. I had the pancake stack with scrambled eggs, hash browns, turkey sausage, and an adult milk shake. I ATE EVERYTHING. And then we had Mexican for dinner 3 hours later because I had to have my enchiladas. And another milkshake, this time a regular (non-alcoholic) one. I had not had a real freaking milkshake made with ice cream in over 6 months.
I did not take pics of any of the food because I was so ravenously HUNGRY. I just wanted to not be hungry anymore. I was uncomfortably full and looked like I had a 6-month food baby for a good 48 hours, especially given that I ate gluten and lactose because I didn't give a fuck by that point, but it was so very worth it to not wake up in the middle of the night anymore wanting to eat a house.

This is part of the drafted show post:

On the way home, I thanked Carlos for accompanying me on this crazy adventure. It's hard being the SO of someone that competes in this sport. 

"I had fun!" he reassured me. "You have this mental picture of yourself as this boring person, and you're so NOT."
"Really?" I asked him.
"Of course!"
"You weren't bored watching all of these mostly naked women..." I then realized what I was saying and started giggling uncontrollably, "strutting across a stage for hours?"
"So bored," he laughed. "And I get to take my favorite of them home with me! My life is so hard."
I couldn't stop laughing then.

First grocery run post-show, and the realization that I CAN EAT CARBS AGAIN WHENEVER I WANT. So what did I do? I grabbed every fruit and veggie that called my name and tossed it in the cart: green beans, kale, spinach, peppers, mangoes, raspberries, mushrooms, butternut squash, avocado, cherry tomatoes, fingerling potatoes, asparagus...that was just for starters. I literally spent $100 on fruits and vegetables. I filled up the cart with them.
And yes, I do buy the pre-cut fruit and vegetables. I spend so much time meal prepping from scratch and cooking everything we eat that I would rather pay $7 for a container of pre-cut veggies and save myself the 10 minutes it would take to clean and cut several peppers and onions just to have them ready for prepping. I also buy eggs already hard-boiled because one of the things I hate the absolute most more than anything else in the kitchen is fucking peeling hard-boiled eggs. I like to do other things with my life other than spend a third of it in the kitchen, thanks.  One of the perks of suburbia is having access to high-end grocery stores that sell small luxuries like pre-peeled hard-boiled eggs and by golly I'm taking advantage of all of it. And if I'm defensive about it, it's because I've been made fun of for it before. Seriously what. the. fuck. My money, my time. This is why we live in the city and not the boonies. I do what I want.
The show was Saturday. I took Sunday off so I could stuff my face with 80 billion calories and on Monday returned to the gym for a run. 3 miles in 37 minutes for the first time running in 3 months was not bad at all. I cleaned up my diet immediately too. I had picked up a work shift on this day and packed my food...it was the equivalent of 1500 calories for the entire day, which is still really low, but now it seemed like so much food compared to before.
First dinner I cooked at home: chicken tenderloins previously marinated in balsamic vinaigrette, kale, roasted butternut squash, cherry tomatoes and avocado, drizzled with Ken's Italian dressing. I had not posted my food on IG in ages because it was limited to egg whites, chicken, tuna, pork tenderloin, almond butter (in minuscule amounts but it was the one treat that made happy), almond milk, whey protein and a small amount of lettuce or spinach. That was pretty much all I had eaten for the last 6 weeks before this show once fat grams were cut out too in order to drop calories. Literally all I dreamed of for weeks was food. Whenever I was asleep, I was dreaming of food. And then I'd wake up and I couldn't have food. It was so awesome to be able to have this plate of colors and flavors in front of me again. My body is still freaking out over the influx of carbs, even in limited amounts, so I do look even more "fluffy" post-show but right now I really don't really give a shit. I'm just grateful to be able to sleep soundly, eat my regular healthy high-fiber unprocessed diet, and to start focusing on performance again.
My veins on fire while I was just hanging out in the kitchen. They were saying, "THANK YOU FOR FOOD!"
Aengus looks unsure here but he was purring up a storm because Carlos was holding him so I could pet him...
...Zombie, however, was quite jealous that Carlos was not holding him! The cats are quite distinctly divided between us: Zombie is very, very much Carlos's cat, and Aengus is very, very much mine.

Aengus has spent the last week since we returned from the show needing to be physically in contact with me whenever I've been home. There's always a paw or a tail or some other body part touching me. <3

My first run outdoors today. Like I wrote on IG:
"70 degrees = first outdoor run of the year. 4 miles in 44 minutes, including the walk warm-up, so not bad for this not-runner. I had missed it so much though. I had this involuntary goofy grin plastered across my face that created a wake of smiles as I maneuvered around pedestrians in downtown. It's been 5 days since the show so recovery is in nearly fully effect, which has brought about the return of what feels like superhuman strength and power. I think this, more than anything, is my favorite part of this sport: the aftermath, where you get to have fun with what you've created..."

I jumped back into carb cycling diet-wise and started strength training again on Tuesday. On that day, Trainer and I had a meeting about the show, what worked and what didn't, and the plan going forward. It was a truly enlightening conversation where the ground might have shifted a bit. I brought up my mental battle re: feeling like it had been stupid to compete despite knowing I wasn't up to par. Trainer did not agree at all. I really liked what he said: "You stepped into the ring with the lions to see how you measured up. That's very admirable." I was kind of floored by his words...and it brought back what Carlos's friend had said, about being a lioness.

I'm still a cub compared to all of those other lions...but I'm still a lion too. I like that mental picture and I'm just going to focus on that. ❤️

As for what happens next...I may or may not tell you guys about it all at a later date. :) For now, I'm just having fun with the present.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Not Your Usual WW: IG Photo Dump

Since my surgeon wasn't working today and I actually have a day to spend at home with no plans, I'm taking a note from Dom's blog and pouring some of my Insta photos on here to kinda-sorta get you guys caught up on daily goings-on around here.

Note: My WW are never wordless! ;P

These are in chronological order starting in January. I'm trying to include only the ones you haven't seen already on the blog (ex: you've seen the brunt of the equine pics from the last 2+ months on here already), and a few that were taken for Insta but didn't ever make it on there because I sometimes overthink what I want to post on my social media.

From the last ride on Lily at the old barn.

Zercher squats are my favorites.

Cold dawn on the dirt road I take on the way to the surgery job to avoid the worst patch of traffic on Route 15. In the winter I'm always greeted with the most glorious sunrises on this little road. I usually stop to take a photo, since no one uses this road.
Pics of it have made it onto my IG many times.
At the surgery job. This one didn't make it onto IG; I took it for my mom. I had been doing my paperwork (techs make their own anesthetic protocols, prep their patients for surgery, run anesthesia, do pre- and post-op treatments on their patients, discharge patients, are in charge of invoicing charges, typing up discharges, and writing their anesthesia reports after surgery. As well as the usual tech stuff like placing IVs, drawing blood, taking x-rays, etc, etc, etc...) This was not my patient but she was a very very needy one that would bark anxiously nonstop if left in her kennel, so we were all taking turns holding her. This made her insanely happy and she would just chill forever with you. She was  in an over-the-shoulder bag (note the black strap over my shoulder) so she could be carried around like a papoose. This was during my turn holding her. She didn't care that my hands were busy typing; she just wanted a lap to hang out on. <3

The in-laws came to visit from Florida the second week in January, literally arriving the day my mom left. So we took them exploring all over to areas they hadn't seen before.

Carlos taking a photo of the frozen Monocacy River (as seen in the background of the previous pic.)

The frozen Monocacy. This is less than 5 minutes from the old barn. We keep talking about getting a kayak so we can go here in the summer: the river is pretty flat and the water level low. You see people out rowing on it all the time.

Taken at Cunningham Falls with the in-laws.

Also at Cunningham Falls.

Carlos's dad walking away from us. He's not the most patient person. Lol
First time not wearing snow boots in two weeks straight...temps had climbed up into the 40s FINALLY.

The partially frozen Potomac as seen from White's Ferry on the C&O.

Carlos's parents have been married for 45+ years and they still hold hands in public. <3
(Not on IG.)
First posing class at A's gym back at the end of January.
(Those who read the first series of competition posts will remember me talking about A's gym.)
I decided to start practicing again in mid-January and immediately said, "Eff this. I'm not winging this again!" So I reached out to A with plenty of time this time around and signed up for posing classes with her, in plural. (This was all my own idea. Trainer was actually proudly bragging about me going out of my way to take posing classes to a student of his that came to shadow one of my training sessions. At some point I'll write about all of that too.)
I've been doing the hour-long drive one-way into D.C. every other week to take these. I get homework! It's AWESOME to know what the hell I'm supposed to be working on. It also gets me away from practicing in front of mirrors and puts me in a new space in front of someone with high expectations, so I get to pose while being nervous, which is a good thing: it's helped me to get over it, stop overthinking every move, and trust that I can flow through it.
Carlos started going with me, which has been immensely helpful: he now knows the way it's supposed to look and can give me pointers/reminders when I'm practicing at home.

From an ice storm at the beginning of February. I always love the ice on the trees. I had just gotten home from work and had to stop and take these.
Also didn't make it on IG: my peaceful place: the OR. On this day I had Michael Franti playing on my phone in the background while my surgeon worked on a dog's TPLO. The patient was coasting along smoothly with his anesthesia and it was lightly snowing outside. It was the perfect way to spend a snow day.
People laugh when I explain this, but it's true: my two days in the ICU are where I work to my maximum physical, mental and emotional limits while I get my adrenaline fix, whereas my two surgery/anesthesia days are where I get to sit down and relax while being an absolute control freak. :D This is my idea of balance. *shrug*

When your trainer says you're going modified keto and need to eat 100g of healthy fats/day + 200g protein/day. (Also didn't make it onto IG.) This absolutely blew my mind. I normally eat 40-60g of fat per day, and am used to automatically reaching for lower fat fare. It took an entire week for me to figure out how the hell to add that much fat into my diet in a healthy way, but once I got the hang of it, it expedited how quickly I got used to it. Nut butters have been a staple since the end of the last show, especially all things almond butter, so that was easy. (The Fluffbutter pictured here is so incredible that I would just eat it straight from the jar with the measuring tablespoon. Yes; that good!) I went back to adding coconut milk to my protein shakes as well. And then one of my coworkers at the surgery job was doing Whole 30 and she was telling me about MCT oil and ghee (clarified butter) so I looked into them and realized that they were going to become my besties. MCT oil seriously makes a difference in kicking "Atkin's flu's" butt (the lethargy and brain fog that come with low carb diets), and anything cooked with just 1 tsp of ghee tastes AAAAAAHHHHMAAZING.
While this is considered a diet, I actually really, really liked it and wouldn't mind eating like this all the time. It's easy to turn it into lifestyle eating thanks to the higher protein.
I had zero sugar/carb cravings, decent energy once I got used to it...

...and my body went nuts with it in a good way. We had just started dropping the 1RM with powerlifting. Still lifting super heavy shit here, but just starting to add intensity into the equation with shorter rest periods and more reps.
Again: this continues to be all natural. I was working out 5 days/week eating clean food in the amounts an athletic human being is supposed to. (Think up to 2,500 calories/day.) That, and no alcohol.

Chicken with Goat Cheese sauce. It's one of my favorite recipes. Normally would have served it with red baby potatoes but this was in the advent of keto, so spinach it is as a side.

I slaved over this dog for the entirety of both 13-hour shifts one weekend in the struggle to keep him alive. This was blood transfusion #11. Yes, eleven. His owners weren't ready to let go, and were willing to do anything and everything to save him. He had every single odd against him: we all thought he would die in-hospital. But he was a trooper. He cooperated with every treatment and he just kept on going. During downtime I'd sit with him in his cage and pet him, just so my contact with him wasn't only about treatments. He appreciated it so much.
He was hospitalized for two weeks with us and he ultimately defied every single odd and all scientific logic: he walked out of that hospital alive, to our complete astonishment. No one knows how he did it. Miracles are miracles because they aren't common. This was a true miracle. The cost? His final bill would have paid off my entire student loan debt and we still would have had money left over for a nice downpayment on a house in the historic part of downtown Frederick. His bill would have covered the colic surgeries + hospitalizations of FIVE horses in Northern Virginia.
Advanced veterinary care ain't cheap, and there is no reason why it should be.
Remember my post about pet insurance??? Sometimes it's worth having if you want a shot at a miracle for your pet. Most people would have euthanized this dog because of the exorbitant cost of his highly specialized care.
Photo collage from my second posing class with A. She's the one in red tights in these pics.
Posing is crazy important: you can have a perfect body but if you can't show it off properly with your posing, all that hard work ends up being pointless. It is stupid hard when you start realizing the nuances of everything you're supposed to do correctly. You'll focus on one thing, forget another; focus on that thing, then forget three others. Walking with confidence in the 5" heels is also a part of it, and how you stand on stage while other people are doing their rounds. I was practicing all of those things here and finally actually starting to have fun with it thanks to A's positive attitude and encouragement. The bottom right pic is the comparison side pose. 
Center pic from the collage above. I love this photo. A is awesome.
IG is weird. If you post a pic with #shoulders on it, you get like 15 hits in 10 minutes. This was going on week #2 of adding back more consistent shoulder work. I had developed some shoulder twinges during the previous competition season from working them so hard and had been under strict orders to rest my shoulders while we did powerlifting.
It is crazy how quickly they responded once we put them back to work.
Abs and veins starting to make  comeback here. A proper off season in this sport is mentally tough because you have gotten used to looking super lean and cut, but in order to gain muscle you have to gain some degree of fat too. Again, this was very calculatedly and deliberately done. More on that later.

Last solo squat session before moving on into hypertrophy training. Light weight here at 135 lbs x 10 reps for 4 sets.
Both taken at the public gym before Trainer sessions. (Not on IG.) They are one month apart with the pic on the right being the first. Subtle differences in here, but they are there.
Powerlifting officially finished for now and lifting intensity doubled. My shoulder striations started to come back as my body fat % dropped further. Fun fact: I still weighed the same here as during the off season.
With my Converse suede boots. (Not on IG.) I love those shoes.
I was hanging out at the Frederick public library while waiting for Carlos to punch our parking ticket (if you're a library member, you get a discount at the garage next to the library.)
Hanging out in downtown on a beautiful 72-degree day in February!

Another snow day at work: wet snow on one of my patients when I took her out into the yard for her walk, and on the single tree in the same yard.

The resident feline blood donors at our hospital. (Not on IG) Azalea is the gorgeous tabby, Myrtle is the black kitty. Blood donors get a 1-year stay at our hospital. They are usually younger cats between 1-7 years of age, adopted from a local shelter, and they live a life of luxury at our hospital for the duration of their stay., with their own furniture, windows, toys, water in bowls and a running fountain, cat trees, and their own slaves (us techs) at their beck and call. ;) Once their year is up, they get adopted out (usually to the hospital staff) and a new pair of kitty blood donors is brought in. These two are already up for adoption.
Myrtle is very cute too, and is a kitty extrovert that is quite demanding about attention. Everyone loves her.
Most recent cut and color from a couple of weeks ago now. (Also not on IG). It was another 70-degree day in February, hence the tank top. You can't tell here but some of those highlights were pretty bright orange. I requested them that color and loved how they came out. They are blonde now!

I had been struggling with the carpet at home + the heels for posing practice. Our entire apartment is carpeted except for the kitchen, which has linoleum flooring, but it's a tiny narrow galley-style kitchen (you can't open the dishwasher and fridge at the same time: that narrow) which makes for limited floor space for walking. I did all of my practicing on that carpet for the prior show but I wanted real hardwood floors to practice on this time around (5" heels + slippery surfaces are a daunting combo), so I finally decided to do what the majority of competitors do and take my practicing to the gym. I know competitors do this from the people I follow on IG...I have yet to see anyone do this IRL. You guys have no idea how hard this was. We went at 10:00 pm at night to the other gym in town (not my usual one where everyone knows me by sight), an hour before they closed because it was at its quietest. I wore these crazy red "Badass" tights to get myself revved up for it. I was afraid someone would point and laugh because I was inside the studio in high heels, or that I'd get kicked out because...? for some unknown reason I couldn't fathom.
Hint: nothing happened. It was fine. Nobody cared. Carlos played music and took media while I practiced.

In case you're wondering: the part about posing that stresses me out the most isn't even the fact that you're mostly naked while doing this. It's having to walk around in the shoes! Remember my 30 Questions post about me being a tomboy? Yeah. Prior to my last show, the last time I had worn 5" heels had been for my brother's wedding in 2009!!!..because I had a gown I didn't want to have hemmed so I just bought taller shoes for it. I lasted all of 5 minutes on the dance floor with them at the time and finished the night barefoot. In the top left pic I had been grumbling about the heels while slipping them on, telling Carlos I was just going to go into Physique next so I wouldn't have to wear the shoes anymore (they get to pose barefoot...but also have at least 15 lbs more of muscle than what I'm currently carrying..O_o lol)  In the bottom right pic I was like, "Okay, fine. They do make my legs look amazeballs."

This photo made it onto IG three times but I ultimately left it off because...I'm shy. It's not like you can see any more of me with this than you can in a regular bikini! (From this angle, at least.. :P)  But a lot of coworkers follow me on IG now. The story behind the photo is that A had wanted me to wear the suit for posing practice. It was a very weird experience to walk around in an actual gym dressed like this. Thankfully hers is a small private gym so there was no one else there at the time. The general consensus is that I pose better in the suit itself. I know the answer as to why: the criss-cross straps around the back make me more aware of how I'm twisting my body for the poses.
Upper body was on point, lower body always takes forever to truly respond. Lower belly always shows my stress levels: this had been an incredibly busy week with no true rest whatsoever (I spent an entire 7 days only going home to sleep) and it was evident during this practice. It is what it is: this is normal for most people. You all probably can't see it but I can, and I'm bringing it up because everyone has their hang-ups about their bodies that more often than not, the only people that can see them is us. My point: if you want to wear a bikini at the beach, wear the bikini and stop stressing about what others think. For all we know, we only live once! ;)

This was taken following a conversation with Trainer about society's misconception that "lifting heavy makes women manly." No, no it doesn't.

Fun ride on Gracie at the barn. We were originally going to ride both mares. I tacked up Lily and took her into the indoor to lunge, and she was an absolute doll. She was a little spooky in one corner but that was it. However...I thought I noticed a slight hitch in either her RF or LH at the trot. I asked her to canter and she refused. That is not normal: she is usually quite willing to canter on the lunge. Tried it in both directions and she finally complied. There was a definite subtle lameness on the diagonal at the trot after the canter work. I immediately stopped and took her outside to the wash rack so I could investigate further (she had been groomed but she still had mud all over her lower legs). No heat/swelling/cuts/abrasions, so I'm assuming an abscess. I put her back out in the field. In the meantime, Carlos had hopped on Gracie bareback and had been riding her around outside on the property without a care in the world. You'd never know he only started riding 3 years ago.

Of course I had to get on afterwards too!

I ADORE her expression here. We were gaiting up the driveway.
Second round of practicing at the gym. My lat spread (top right) was declared perfect by A the week before.
Compare how much I've leaned out here to the pics from starting the keto diet.

This dude is just...I can't even. I finally had an afternoon where I could just chill at home and he was SO HAPPY. He was all over me: couldn't be close by without touching me. I snagged a bunch of selfies with him trying to catch him in action while he rolled around against my hair and stared at me adoringly.
This is the pic that made it onto IG from the ones above. The way he was looking at me here slays me.
Being loved by a cat that chose you is unlike anything else.