Hello! I really have to get this show report up before there’s another one to write!
For photos and videos see this post But, without further ado:
NPA South East championships
A lot of people asked me why I was doing this show the week before the BNBF Finals. Some asked if it was to get a bit of practice in. Some asked if it was to check out the opposition (one of the ladies in my class is also in my class at the BNBF Final). Some made it clear that they thought it was a silly idea, doing a comp so close to the Final.
Well, I can’t answer for the final point but I can tell you my reasons for doing the NPA SE were about much more than posing practice and checking out the competition. I wanted to compete with both the BNBF and the NPA this year, and the South East was the only NPA show I could do. Happily, it’s held in Kent, where I grew up and where a lot of my family still live, so it meant plenty of supporters (including my sister and her year-old baby) had the chance to come and see what it’s all about without driving all day or shelling out for hotel rooms. Of course, I was grateful for a good posing session one week out from the Final, but it was about much more than that.
Truth be told, I hadn’t thought a great deal about how I might place. I’ve been too focused on the BNBF Finals. When I heard there were 5 in my class, I thought “great – that will really push me”, but I also genuinely thought it probably meant I might not even place. After all, that meant 4 other women who have all been training, dieting and prepping hard. Why should it be me?
However, I desperately wanted to place. Not for me, but for my family, most of whom were coming to their first bodybuilding show and were convinced (with typical family loyalty!) that I’d repeat my BNBF Wales success. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that there was every chance I might come last. I badly wanted to do them proud and make the day out worth their while. So, my goal was to place. Secretly… secretly… my goal was to win, but I can honestly tell you I had so little confidence about this that I barely mentioned it to anyone. If I could only place, that would be plenty.
We got there very early (the M25 is never predictable) and I sat quietly. I didn’t feel like myself. I felt… nothing. I wanted to feel excited, happy, eager to get on stage. In hindsight, I think I was simply very nervous. Too nervous to realise I was nervous.
With my first show, there were no expectations (from me or from anyone else). No context, no benchmark. Just being there was immense. This time round, things were a little different. I knew I ought to be able to do well, but I was by no means confident. Just being there wasn’t enough to get me giddy with excitement. There were 5 in my class and who knew what standard they would be?
Being there early meant I had a great chance to chat to NPA champion Carol Streeter (and very lovely she was too). Throughout the day, I got to meet with and chat to various other big names in the natural scene. I’m just sorry I wasn’t able to sample Carol’s brownies and cakes! Next time 😉
I weighed in, and came in bang on the cut-off weight for when the NPA split the Ladies Physique classes. It didn’t matter for today, but as Michael from the NPA told me, it might matter at the final. I offered to take my contact lenses out. He pointed out that I still had my shorts and top on. I asked him if we could cross the “on the cusp on the Finals weight” if and when we come to it, and he let me off the scale. Interestingly (for me anyway), the lady who everyone was telling me was my closest rival weighed in at precisely the same weight.
We were on first. So it was a quick flurry of activity: finding a spot in the (small) changing room, introducing myself to the other 4 ladies (all of whom were lovely), bikini on, final coat of tan on. My coach was tanning me up in the one air-conditioned room in the venue, when a fire alarm went off. We were told to evacuate, so I spent a nice few minutes standing in the sun talking to my family… in a velvet bikini. As you do!
Before long it was time to start pumping up. I had my sweets and sugars, got misted in glaze by my coach and made my way backstage to the pump up area. Annie U re-glued my bikini bottoms (thank you Annie!) and my coach talked me through some final poses.
All of a sudden, from nowhere, I was feeling good. No, not good, great. Pumping up, I could see that I looked good, and I allowed myself to believe it. One of the guys helping another competitor in my class pump up caught my eye, winked and nodded. “Oh my god,” I remember thinking. “I think I could actually do this.” It was the very first time – throughout prep, throughout the day – that I had actually believed I could possibly win. The feeling washed over me and fired me up. I felt so happy and so ready to step on stage.
The NPA shows are straight through, with compulsories and then routines directly afterwards, and the results of each show directly after the routines. (The BNBF do compulsories, then a “night show” with everyone’s routines). I’m not sure which format I prefer, but it did mean it was all over very quickly.
We stepped on stage and I hit my front relaxed pose. I tensed my legs as hard as I could, and I was shaking. We were called through our poses, and I felt good – as if I was doing them to the best of my ability, anyway! There was a funny moment when the head judge asked me to move around the stage but I didn’t know who was speaking, nor from where, so I went right when he meant left… I apologised to him later on and told him I wasn’t really that thick!
The judges put us through the poses two or three times I think. It certainly felt like they worked us pretty hard. I was glad of it, as it meant they were really taking their time to get good comparisons, and I felt it meant that the class was high quality.
After the poses we went off stage and, one by one, were called back on to do our routines. I was number 2, so it wasn’t long before I was down in a tricep press-up position, waiting for my music to kick in. I heard cheering (not all from my family, honest!) as I hit some of the poses and smiled as I did my routine. The (new) ending could have had a bit more oomph, but I hadn’t realised til then that doing the final move whilst dehydrated is a lot more painful than doing it at the gym or at home! Lesson learned.
I stayed in the wings watching the other ladies’ performances and congratulated everyone as they came off. We were all breathless with excitement and exertion.
Then we were called back on. I felt… I’m not sure how I felt. I knew I’d done my best but I also knew that one lady in particular posed better than me in a few of the poses. Between them, the other competitors had size, symmetry, competing experience, great routines and good posing. Certainly enough to still keep me from being sure of a place. I stepped out for the results genuinely not knowing if I’d made top 3.
The first award given was Best Presentation which (I believe) is for best routine and best posing (please correct me if I’m wrong). They called my name and said it was a “unanimous decision”. I was delighted to get it but – for some irrational reason – I thought it meant I most definitely had not won. I had it in my head that they wouldn’t give BP and 1st place to the same person. I tried to hide my disappointment and focus on placing in the top 3.
5th and 4th place were called… not me! Oh my God, I’d done it! I’d placed! Relief and euphoria washed over me as I realised I’d reached my goal, would have a trophy to show my family, and could say I’d placed at the NPA South East. 3rd place was called… not me! What the…? I was genuinely in shock. However I knew that this meant the other lady – the one everyone had been telling me was my closest rival, the one who will be at the BNBF Final this weekend, the one with the great athletic routine and the fab posing – had won. I felt certain of it, and readied myself to move forward when they called 2nd place. They called… her name. Not mine.
Everything froze and I just looked at the floor, not wanting to make a big reaction as she took her moment getting her trophy. I just looked at the floor, smiled and blinked. I’ve done it. I’ve done it again. I can not believe it, I really can’t believe it.
They called me forward as winner of the class and I received my beautiful trophy. The photographer called us all forward for photos, then top 3, and then asked the others to leave the stage so the winner could have her photos. I shook the other ladies’ hands and congratulated them, still in total shock that it was this way round and not me having my hand shaken by someone else. I was alone on stage as the winner, posing, smiling, posing and smiling!
Before I left the stage, the head judge (I’d worked out where the voice was coming from by now!) asked me to clarify that this was my second comp. I nodded. “Two competitions, two wins?” he asked. I nodded yes again, a bit embarrassed, before smiling and thanking the judges and audience and walking off stage.
Back stage, it hit me like a truck and I burst into tears of relief, joy, shock and utter disbelief. I cried all over my coach, and I think I cried all over some complete stranger. “I told you you’d do it,” said some man who’d been in the pump up area.
The rest of the day passed in a blur – I absolutely hadn’t thought about the possibility of winning today so, now I had, I wasn’t sure what to think! I asked the head judge for feedback and he simply said “you were outstanding”. My family were all so proud and enjoyed the day so much, which means a great deal to me. My coach was overjoyed, which also means a huge amount. I have had so much support – from family and friends, but also from people who were complete strangers a few months ago and who give their time and support and knowledge so freely – and I am just so pleased to be able to repay their efforts. This may seem a selfish sport but it is a team effort, and my trophies belong to a great many more people than just to me.
So – what’s next? BNBF Final this weekend (Sunday, in Glasgow). I qualified here. I didn’t do a proper “peak week” for the NPA show, but I have done for the Final. I am excited and can not wait to get on the British stage. What a complete honour and an amazing experience.
After that, there’s the NPA Final! Yes: two comps, two wins, two federations, two Finals. Even writing that down, it seems crazy and it’s almost too much to take in. I’m just taking it one competition at a time.
Thank you 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.