“I was so proud of what I had done. Don’t get me wrong, everyone wants to win. But it almost seems like just accomplishing what you accomplished, and just getting to where you got, and putting yourself through the torture and making it, is almost a reward in itself.”
~ Fouad Abiad
Holy shit, 2020 threw us all for a loop, right?
I’ve been on team T-Zone Fitness with coach Tamara Knight since 2016, for my first three shows. Back in January 2020, I decided that I wanted to switch things up a little bit. I had started to develop a great rapport with coach Big Ron Partlow IFBB Pro, who is one of the owners of the gym I train at (West Coast Iron in Port Coquitlam). We’re both pro wrestling guys, ya know! Honestly, his style of training appealed to me a little more – he was into Dorian Yates style training, and I thought I could level up my physique with that. Gotta try something different every now and then, right?
Much love and respect to Tamara Knight at the T-Zone Fitness crew – my wife and several friends still train on that team. Tamara was always 100% great to me, I just wanted a little change. And I consider myself a super loyal guy, so in all honesty, it was VERY hard for me to make the change, given the fact that Tamara did absolutely nothing wrong. But we’re still super cool, and hey, it’s just business!
The original plan was to compete at the Vancouver Island Showdown in late June, in Victoria. The cool part was, Lee Priest was scheduled to guest pose. And I’m a MASSIVE Lee Priest fan!
My wife Mandy and I were in Vegas in late February for several photo shoots, and the plan was to start prep the day we got home. That would have been a perfect 17 week prep.
Then Covid hit, and we all got locked down.
Thankfully for us, it was not all gloom and doom. My mother in law Terry (who also competes on team T-Zone) has a place in the Okanagan (Beaverdell, to be exact), with a full home gym. Leg press, smith machine, T-Bar, all of the good stuff, so we’d still be able to train at close to 100%. And there was a fully stocked freezer, we had a BBQ, a smoker, and we were less than an hour out of a major city, so food and protein was not a problem. So even though we were “locked down”, we were still able to move full steam ahead.
WTF is Beaverdell, you ask? It is THIS!
Aside from training and eating, we tried to keep ourselves as entertained as possible. For example, Mandy is quite the makeup artist. She decided she wanted to try to do special effects makeup. That was all good with me, because it gave me things to photograph!
Time for the first cancelled show of the year. With just a few days out, the Leigh Brandt Muscle Classic 2020 got cancelled due to the pandemic. We knew several people who were prepping for this show, and Jesus I felt bad for all of them. One of them was my mother in law Terry. Fkkkkkkkk! Nothing anybody could do about it unfortunately. At least she knew of a photographer though, so she got a Beaverdell photoshoot as a consolation prize. Decent view from the back yard, eh?
And we roll along for several more weeks. Train, eat, sleep. Train, eat sleep.
By the time mid-April rolled around, and the world was still shut down, I decided that I couldn’t handle the giant mop on my head anymore. Mandy was given the unfortunate task of giving me my quarantine haircut! 😐
Some entertainment for ME on the night of April 21. Meteor shower! Time for some astrophotopgraphy!
I don’t remember the exact date, but at some point, the Vancouver Island showdown got postponed from June until December. I thought that was going to be the end of my competition year, so for a couple days, my diet went completely off the rails. But very shortly thereafter, it was announced that the Leigh Brandt Muscle Classic was being re-scheduled for late August, so we were back in business! Back on the hardcore training, and back on the diet 100%.
Thankfully, my diet included a weekly cheat meal! Our favorite cheat was EASILY a sushi place we found in Kelowna, Bluefin Sushi. Legit some of the BEST sushi I’ve ever eaten!
We were in May by this point, and rumors were swirling that the lower mainland gyms were about to re-open. As much as we were getting accustomed to that Beaverdell life, we were excited to return to our normal lives. Or whatever they were considering “new normal”. Just as long as the gyms were open!
The day that West Coast Iron re-opened was the day that we were gonna head back home. And on our first day back at West Coast Iron, it was awesome to see all our friends, including this guy, ShreddZ!
Then at eight weeks out or so (Friday July 3, to be exact) the Leigh Brandt show got cancelled. FFS. For a couple days, we’re back off the rails and into the Doritos and sour candy. Still training hard because I love it, but was definitely NOT dieting. Again, I thought the competition season was over. Oh, and maybe a little retail therapy at the local camera store.
A little photoshoot at home, just to document what I looked like at 8 weeks out. Mandy’s starting to get pretty good behind the camera, don’t ya think?
Then four days later, on the Tuesday, Big Ron sends me the following message:
So for the THIRD time, we’re back in business. And we’re gonna go f’n HARD. Now we’re once again at 14 weeks out.
THANKFULLY there was no more fuckery from the outside world! I just put my head down and grinded my f’n ass off. The goal was to get peeled out of my f’n mind.
The workouts got harder, the cardio got longer, and the food got less. But that’s how contest prep works.
We ended up going back to Beaverdell a few times over the summer. Seemed like so long ago that we “lived” there! We went up with our friend Shawn in late August, and we banged out a sweet photoshoot in the Kettle River. A few sets for Shawn, and few sets for Mandy, and then what the hell… Six weeks out, a set for me!
In September, I hired posing coach extraordinaire Kenny Wallach to help with my terrible posing. He helped my wife Mandy win her pro card at the amateur Olympia in 2018. I met him a couple times while we were in Vegas for that show, and aside from being a super cool guy, he completely transformed her posing into a pro physique. So I figured he could help my sorry ass as well. And he DEFINITELY did!!
Things were rolling along relatively painlessly until Sunday Sept 13, which is when the carbs got cut. That’s when I started having a couple bad days a week, simply due to the long daily cardio, lack of carbs, and of course zero recovery time. But it was still do-able and I functioned decently well.
Then shit hit the fan on Friday Oct 2, which is the day that the carbs got DECIMATED. And also the day before my birthday. The only thing missing from Big Ron’s text that day was, “Happy birthday asshole, LOL”. But thankfully it was only for a little over a week. And we can do anything for a little over a week, right?
I DID have a pretty solid birthday, all things considered. I lined the day up with photo shoots!
My first shoot was a large family shoot at the duck pond at Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver. I was a little early, so I spent some time photographing the ducks and the gorgeous fall colours.
My second shoot was downtown, and it was actually with my coach’s girlfriend. Here is the stunning Emily Adams! (Who is one HELL of a personal trainer, by the way)
As soon as we got home, Mandy had me open my birthday present. I knew I was getting a new winter jacket, but I was absolutely NOT expecting the new Canon R6 Mirrorless!!!!
Then two days after that, we started peak week! Peak week is always ROUGH, but at least there’s lots of other things going on to keep your mind off of being hungry. Picked up my competition suits from The Suit Lady, and I still had several shoots from the previous week to edit. I shot like a crazy bastard the week earlier, just to keep my mind off of being hungry.
And because I’m insane, I continued to book photoshoots into Peak Week. Hey, I had to test out my new camera, right? Who was going to take the Canon R6’s virginity? Why, the one and only Shawn McCallum, way out at UBC!
Then it was my wife Mandy’s turn on Monday. We went full on fall basic bitch!
Shawn and I didn’t get to do EVERYTHING we wanted to do on Sunday, unfortunately, so we re-grouped Tuesday evening at Mountain Secondary in Langley to finish off the shoot. Coloured smoke bombs and graffiti!
I was looking forward to Wednesday night – I had a photoshoot booked with my friend Joanna Moss at the Coquitlam River. (YES, the water was freaking cold) Shoutout to The Suit Lady for the board shorts and classic physique shorts! Kinda weird being on the OTHER side of the camera….!
And finally, it was show weekend!
Friday was registration at the New Westminster Quay. But before that, ONE last photoshoot to do! My friend Demi’s boyfriend, Davin, was one day out from his first physique competition, so we met up at West Coast Iron and banged out a KILLER shoot!
I heighted in at 5’8.5 (WTF, I thought I was a lot taller than that!) and weighed in at 182.5. This put me into middleweight bodybuilding (with a weight cap of 187.5) and classic physique B (with a weight cap of 190). I definitely have some room to grow for my next show!
On Saturday, it was the natural show. While that was going down, I was off buying post-show food! We went to Spent Grounds in Langley, which is a place that sells hand roasted coffee, and locally made vegan and gluten free snacks. Their cookies are UNREAL, and they had pumpkin spice cinnamon that I knew I had to have. Then we went to Tsawassan Mills mall to kill some time. I bought some crazy BBQ sauce and hot sauce, which I was stoked to try.
In the evening, it was time to get my first coat of stage tan! My mother in law Terry, who gave us the place to stay and train during lockdown, came over to our place to do my tan. And holy hell it was COLD!!! Here’s a fun video that Mandy shot – see, my mother in law and I have a strange relationship, don’t you think?! Then after that, it was off to West Coast Iron for one final meeting with Big Ron, just to check in the day before the show. All was well!
And now… SHOW DAY!!!!
Show day started off with what may have been one of the greatest breakfasts of my entire life. 180g steak, 3 whole eggs, and 225g rice. I’m drooling as I think back on this.
Mandy’s mom showed up at 6:30am to finish my tan, and then we had to be at the Massey Theatre in New Westminster for 8:30. Showed up, got the Covid temperature check, and then it was into the venue!
Now, I have to give Corey Swiergosz from Influential Sports (the main promotor) and the entire team at West Coast Iron for putting together a practically FLAWLESS event during this pandemic. It was a no-audience show, and of course, with social distancing in place. If you weren’t competing in the VERY immediate future, you waited outside in your car until you got the notification to enter the building. Thankfully all of my classes were near the beginning, so I barely had any wait time.
I walked in, and the first thing I did was to look at the run sheet, where I could see who I was competing against, how many people were in my classes, etc. For masters bodybuilding, it was going to be me vs Aaron Jewell. Aaron Jewell? Shit!! Aaron is a national level competitor, who honestly, I knew I stood ZERO chance of beating. But if I was gonna lose to him, the least I could do was make him work hard for the win! And I did, god damnit. I can’t even get a little mad about it – he’s been at it a LOT longer, has a lot more experience, and honestly, is THE NICEST GUY. So I was honestly honored to compete against someone of his caliber. I thought I held my own as far as lower body goes, but he definitely exposed every weakness I have in my upper body. But that’s GOOD because it shows EXACTLY where I need to put my effort in this coming offseason.
First things first, my presentation round. These killer photos come courtesy of the official show photographer, Ali Sohrab!
Here are some killer photos of me vs Aaron, once again courtesy of Ali Sohrab!
No rest though, because we went virtually straight into middleweight bodybuilding! This was a much larger class, with a lot of guys much more comparable to me. So I was stoked to see how I would compare and who I could beat.
I got moved around to virtually every position. Dead centre, all the way at both ends, and literally everywhere in between. I don’t think the judges knew exactly what to do with me – arguably my legs were better than virtually everyone else, but my upper body lacks the size. But I fought my ass off, held all my poses while others got tired, and I was rewarded with a VERY hard fought third place finish. I was f’n STOKED!
Honestly, this was a cool experience for me – I knew the judges were watching me like hawks. As we say in the wrasslin’ biz, gotta maximize your minutes!
I had a quick break before masters classic physique started. This was another stacked class with some people who I thought I could beat, but more people who I thought would beat me. Had to bring the fight back! I got moved around quite a bit again, but the kicker here was that it was such a competitive class, the judges held us onstage for quite a long time. We had to hit the poses multiple times, and for a long time. But I kept the fight hard, and surprised myself with another hard fought third place finish. YES!!!
Presentation time once again!
And now master’s classic physique!
At this point, I’m qualified in all three classes for the 2021 pro qualifiers. Fuck yeah.
And finally, classic physique B class! I didn’t crack the top 3 on this one – I think I got fourth, but I’m honestly not 100% sure. Oh well, three out of four ain’t bad, right?
Seven and a half months of hardcore dieting DONE!
Now it’s time to un-do everything. 😉 But first, a quick selfie on the way out with the man who made this all possible – Corey Swiergosz from Influential Sports!
I got changed, said goodbye to my friends at the show, then met Mandy and our friend Shawn out in the parking lot. They were waiting in the car watching the live stream of the show. Our friend Demi ran up with a surprise – KRISPY KREME!!!!
We booked a hotel downtown that night, so we could celebrate, eat, and drink. But we had a couple hours to kill before check in, and there were a couple important candy stops that we had to make!
Our first stop was a little place called Dank Mart, on Main St. They have some pretty cool swag, candy, chips, and hard to find cereal. Definitely dropped a few bucks there.
Then we drove a few minutes down the road to our favorite candy store, YUM! We always drop a LOT of money here because they have such amazing candy, and they’re always rotating their stock. Pumpkin spice malt balls? Get inside me!!!
We needed some REAL food too, of course. We decided to go to the Whole Foods on Cambie, and man, their hot buffet was on point. They had a great thanksgiving spread, in addition to their normal food. I had an awesome meal of turkey and stuffing, along with butter chicken and rice. (I had been craving butter chicken for months!)
From there, we went and checked into our hotel in Yaletown, where I proceeded to rinse my stage tan off, have a shower beer, and eat more candy.
Soon thereafter, Mandy’s mom joined us and we walked to Glowbal for dinner. I had a DELICIOUS 14 ounce striploin and with fries and a Parallel 49 Pale Ale. Sooooooo f’n good!!
Then it was back to the hotel, where we proceeded to eat more junk, then fall asleep for ten hours.
MONDAY – The Day After
We woke up relatively early, and we had a decently busy day planned. More food obviously, a hardcore back day at West Coast Iron, and a photo shoot right after. We ended up going to IHOP for breakfast, and OMG, my breakfast was practically flawless. Oreo cookies & cream pancakes, bacon, eggs, and hashbrowns. So f’n good!!
Then we annihilated back at West Coast Iron, and had a great photoshoot with a dude named Zaine, who is a 19 near old classic physique competitor who competed in his very first show at the natural show on Saturday. Cool dude, great attitude, and an INSANE vacuum!
So now what? We’re jumping straight into offseason! I’m going to stay with Big Ron Partlow as my offseason coach, and I know that together we’ll be able to bring an even BETTER package to the stage next summer.
Stay tuned, and keep training hard!!