The three of us lined up at the back of the stage, waiting for the third place competitor to be announced. It was all over: the quarter-turns, the compulsory poses, the solo routine, more compulsory poses and the pose-down (<— I love that phrase! Makes me giggle!) There was nothing more to be done but wait to hear what the judges had decided.
Third place was called, and it wasn't my name. My heart was pounding in my ears.
"And in second place…." My name wasn't called. I'd won! I had won my class on my first competitive outing as a bodybuilder. I could not believe it.
The MC called my name and announced me as winner of the class. I walked forward to join the other two ladies and was handed a frankly enormous trophy in the shape of a beautiful female bodybuilder. (That morning, in bed – I shared with my Mum – I told Mum I’d been daydreaming about holding the trophy. “What’s it like?” she asked. “A cup?” I told her no, it was in the shape of a lady and it was dull black or brown metal. “Are you holding her by the waist?” Mum asked, ever the NLP Practitioner I replied that no, I was holding her by one of her arms which was bent like a handle…)
I was also handed an envelope which said "Britain invite". I'd qualified to compete at the BNBF's 2011 Britain finals. This was almost too much to believe. I smiled, and smiled, and posed, and tried to see my supporters through the lights.
The three of us were asked to pose for photos: "ladies, let us see your best pose, please." I had no idea what my best pose was so just did one and hoped it looked OK. "Ladies, thank you, your second best pose please." Um… this one? I was then alone on stage and being asked to pose for the photographers. I turned, and posed, and tensed, and flexed, and smiled. I'd WON! This was insane.
There was a short gap whilst all the winners of the various mens' classes went on stage together to do their compulsory poses and to pose down, whilst the judges selected their ultimate winner of the night from amongst the male class winners.
Lucy and I made our way up to the side of the stage to watch the chaps doing their pose down. It was a fantastic sight, loads of incredible bodies in amazing condition – from sharp little lightweights to teens to masters to enormous heavyweights – flexing and trying to out-pose each other for that ultimate trophy of the day.
The guys were asked to line up at the back of the stage before the winner was announced. All of a sudden I was being pushed on stage again by my friend the backstage volunteer. He must have thought I was really dense. It turns out my name was being announced again. I’d won a second trophy – Best Presentation. I still don’t quite know what this is for but apparently it’s for “the whole package” – posing, routine, stage presence, appearance. This almost blows my mind more than winning my class. I would never in a million years have expected to win a trophy for that kind of thing.
I’ll wrap this up now as it’s all getting incredibly long. I was ushered back off stage whilst the winner of the men was announced, during which time I stood there dumbfounded with my two trophies. Lucy and I were then announced back on stage where we stood either side of the huge heavyweight overall men’s winner. We were asked to pose, pose and pose again and we all hit the poses we’d hurriedly agreed on backstage, Lucy and I doing our respective “versions” (Figure and Physique).
Then it was all over. I had to wee in a pot to be drug-tested – easier said than done when you’ve been dehydrated all day. I met a lot of lovely people. I went to find the judges to ask them for feedback and to find out what I have to improve on for the Finals. I hugged my husband, my Mum, Kat and Annie. And then we drove home.
One final note. It struck me some time the next day – after I’d finally cried and cried with joy, relief and fulfillment – that I’d felt the most beautiful I’ve ever felt when I was up there on stage. And this surprised me. I never expected to find that in bodybuilding of all things. When the judges gave me those two trophies, I actually got far more than two bits of metal and glass. I received self-confidence, a sense of purpose, incredible focus and a feeling of arriving somewhere. This picture captures that feeling.
I’ve done a lot of sports throughout my life. Riding horses as a kid taught me to be self-sufficient. Swimming taught me discipline. Triathlon allowed me to feel athletic. But bodybuilding – out of nowhere – has given me all those things and more, things I never thought I’d feel or be described as.
Here’s to the next 10 weeks, and to the British Finals.
Thanks for reading.
Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.