ANBC Nationals, November 16, 1996
When you go through life thinking you’re a tall skinny guy and suddenly find yourself preparing to compete at the national level of a natural bodybuilding contest, your expectations tend not to be too high. Especially if you’ve only been a “bodybuilder” for two years and in your first year of competing–even at 36 years of age. That’s how I was a couple of months ago. Then one of my friends told me that my chances were reasonable to place in the top five, even the top three. If that’s not enough to stimulate your diet, then nothing is. So while I ranted and raved last spring about the beauties of turkey chili and couscous, I found myself living on sweet potatoes and oatmeal this fall. Four weeks away from pasta may not seem like much of a problem to many of you, but pasta is a major staple in my diet. Gone. Unlike many of our breed, pizza is not something I crave regularly–but a little macaroni!! Gone.
Well, it paid off. I hit the stage somewhere under 195 lbs–which at 6’1″ isn’t very heavy by bodybuilder standards. But I was carrying the hardest 190-some pounds around. Though I weighed only a couple pounds more than in the spring, I had lost almost another inch in my waist (29.5″–ridiculous!!), and the focus on my hamstrings and back had added a bit in each of those spots as well as some thickness in my chest.
Not that I was ever nervous, since this is basically for fun, and I still had a job on Monday, no matter how I did, but I was wary in the pump-up room looking at the other tall masters. It’s been said before, but in natural bodybuilding, it just takes longer to get big…and there were some guys there who have clearly been at it for a while. Out of twelve men, I couldn’t see any major slouches, and a couple of these guys were, shall I say, “huge”, at least by “natural” standards.
I’ll not torment with the details. For anyone who has been to the ANBC Nationals, you know that it’s a long day. Prejudging went from 10:00 am to around 3:00 pm. The evening show started at 6:00 pm and was over at about 12:30 am–much better than a couple of years ago when it let out after 2:00 am. Nowhere to eat at that hour.
Prejudging went pretty quickly and before I knew it, it was time for the Masters’ Tall class. I was glad I was in the Masters’ rather than the open, which went much later. While pumping up, I noticed a couple of these guys were pretty huge. I started to think my cuts had disappeared. I felt like my arms were tiny. I was sure that my calves had shrunk down to nothing with my diet. All in all, I was bumming….
They had all twelve of us do our quarter turns, and then they split the group. “Will the following numbers go back to the curtain:…” At previous shows, the first numbers they called had been cut from the top ranks. I listened, hoping that they wouldn’t say my number, 66…”66…” Shit, I thought…”68, 74, 76, 71, 77″ I looked at the other guys whose numbers had been called, and I realized that these were all of the guys I had figured to be in contention for the top spots. I breathed a sigh of relief, and backed my way to the curtain, trying to decide if I should relax or stay tight. I kept pumping my calves, squeezing my chest and arms, tightening my back. I knew I had to stay pumped to even look anywhere near as big as these other guys.
The remainder of prejudging left me hopeful that I had made the top five. I was compared to the guys whom I had figured to win, though neither of the competitors I had placed first were ever put in the middle of the group. The tension was broken at one point, when the son of #74 called to him, “Daddy, do what you did before!” I was standing behind him as we did a right side chest, and when I saw the huge smile on his face, I started laughing, leading one guy to ask me if that was my son! Fortunately, smiles are always well received by the judges. The toughest thing about pre-judging was that I had no cheering section. It became obvious to me how important it is to have someone in the audience watching you to make sure you stay tight or focus on a relaxed body part when hitting the mandatories.
I had #74, John Thompson, from New Haven, CT, as my choice for the top spot, followed by Charlie Moss, who was looking extremely good–better than he had last spring in Fall River, my first contest, when he finished second in front of me. I wasn’t quite sure where the rest of us would fall after that, but I was keeping my fingers crossed.
I watched quite a lot of the rest of the contest, and there were many impressive physiques. Among them, a fellow named Greg Rando, a middleweight from Arlington, MA, had a great physique, and in fact, he took the medium class in the men’s open. What was exceptional was the fact that he is visually impaired, with 10% vision. I think about all the of visual cues that bodybuilding requires, and it blows my mind that this guy could do so well without them. Amazing what people can do if they put their minds to it!
I had been looking forward to doing my routine in the evening show–even the shortened version–and unlike pre-judging, the crowed provided me with plenty of feedback, such that I couldn’t even hear the music for about ten seconds after I mouthed Arnold’s line, “It’s not a tumor!”, pointing to my right biceps in a modified front double biceps pose. The music picked up from there, and as I tried to grow with the music, repeatedly short circuiting until my final demise at the end of the routine, it seemed like the applause never stopped as I mouthed “Hasta la vista, baby” and lowered my head. That was 8:00 pm. The routines finished some time after 11:00 pm. Competitors were informed of the finalists and “best poser” awards, and then the awards were distributed.
Enough suspense…Indeed #74 took the Masters’ Tall Class, and the Masters’ Overall. And he deserved it. At 5’10”, and around 210 or 212, John looked hard as a rock. Sure enough, Charlie took second…and I got third–and best poser!! I figured that was good for my first time to the Nationals in my first year of competing. (By the way, the Men’s Open overall winner was John Lodespoto from Babylon, NY, and the Women’s Open overall winner was Linda McLaughlin from Boston, just in case you wondered. I don’t know all of the other winners.)
Now I get a year off–Next year, Nationals are in Pittsburgh, where most of my family lives. I figure, if I can’t get my mother to come see me in Boston, I’ll just go to her. See if I can get her to cheer me on at pre-judging!! I can hear her now–“Come on Rick…keep those legs tight…Squeeze those arms…Show me that tree!!!!” Well, maybe not….
Rick Silverman, M.D.
Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
University of Massachusetts Medical Center
Worcester, MA 01655
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try……”