As someone who devotes almost every minute of my spare time to fitness, you could say that I was pretty excited when I booked up my flights to Vegas for Olympia weekend. My excitement went to a whole other level when I registered to actually compete in it!
It all started back in 1965 when the first Mr. Olympia was held, way before my time. Growing up, my favourite actor was Arnold Schwarzenegger. The movie “Pumping Iron” was a documentary about the lead up to the 1975 Mr. Olympia. This movie helped launch the acting careers of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno, both finalists in the contest. The movie got me interested in Bodybuilding from a very young age and to this day, I still think Arnold is the best bodybuilder of all time.
Now that you understand a bit of the history of the contest and an idea of how much this weekend means to me, you can understand what it meant to me when I was handed my “Olympia Competitor” necklace!
I am very familiar with the 4 hour drive to Las Vegas from Los Angeles as it was my 16th time visiting Sin City. The billboards on the way are advertising everything from Alien Jerky to STD Testing. There is not much scenery on the long drive, so they actually help pass the time. The route through Death Valley is much more scenic and one of my favorite drives on earth, but it is a much longer drive. This weekend, I just wanted to get to registration!
As I walked onto the trade show floor, it was unlike anything I have ever seen. You have never seen so many hardbodies in one place. It was a mixture of meatheads jacked up on steroids, female bodybuilders that could barely pass as females but the majority were people like me: Fitness fanatics who were just happy to be here for the event.
Every major supplement and nutrition company were here displaying and handing out samples of their products. After walking the floor for a few hours, I ended up with two huge bags full of pills, powders, T-Shirts and shaker bottles. Some companies were running strength competitions as a way to attract people to their booths and other companies had athletes signing autographs. Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler were the names that generated lineups that spanned the length of the Las Vegas Convention Center! It was tough just navigating around these areas because of the huge amount of people trying to get a picture with one of these former Mr. Olympia champions.
After a few hours on the trade show floor, it was my time to become one of the Olympia competitors. I was obviously not competing for the Mr. Olympia title itself, it was for the Muscle & Fitness Magazine SuperPump Max Athlete Challenge. The first portion of the contest is a Put-Up or Shut-Up contest where you have to bench press your own body weight as many times as you can in 30 seconds. You then immediately have to curl 35% of your body weight as many times as you can in 30 seconds. The last portion of this part of the contest is an all-out sprint on a treadmill at a 6% incline. As the other competitors took the stage, I felt like the deck was stacked against me with illicit chemicals and hormones. It was when I watched one of the other guys bench press his body weight 37 times in 30 seconds that I asked one of the judges if he would like to test my urine. Most of the other competitors in earshot looked at the floor or up into the air. Unfortunately, this was not a drug tested event, but I still gave it my all. Because of past shoulder injuries, my bench press performance was low, but I tied for first place in the curl portion with 36 reps in 30 seconds!
The last portion of the challenge is the one that frightened me the most. 90 seconds on a treadmill at a 6% incline. They measure the distance you run, so speed is all that matters. I had only trained up to nine miles per hour, but I watched the other athletes run at 12 miles an hour for the full 90 seconds! At the last second, I decided to run for my life at the maximum speed that any treadmill can deliver: 12 miles an hour!
The first minute was tough, but the last 30 seconds were excruciating beyond description. I could hear my heart beating, I could taste blood in my mouth and my head felt like it was going to explode. When the 90 seconds were up, the entire staff came up to congratulate me as I collapsed to the floor. You could not score higher on this portion of the event. As I laid there to catch my breath, the next competitor tried to match my score and ended up falling flat on his face as the treadmill belt ejected him off the back of the machine in a violent thud that made all the spectators gasp.
After catching my breath, I went to the scoreboard to see how I did, and alas, I was eliminated. My natural strength was no match for the steroid and growth hormone enhanced pectorals of the other competitors. It was the bench press that ended my road to the championship. I would not make it onto the famous Olympia stage the next day for the physique judging phase of the competition. Even though I was eliminated, I could not resist taking a picture of in front of the Olympia wall on the red carpet!
Being eliminated on Friday was not all bad news, this meant I could eat anything I wanted in Las Vegas a day early! My cousin and I immediately drove to the Hash House a Go Go for some of their “Twisted Farm Food”. I treated myself to their famous Sage Fried Chicken and Waffles. Slices of bacon are cooked directly into the waffles and the entire stack is drizzled with a maple syrup reduction. This was the dirtiest meal I have eaten in 4 months and every bite was like a bit of heaven.
Seeing as how it was Friday and we had huge plans for the following night, we made it a low key evening and decided to head to old Las Vegas to get some night photography at the Freemont Street experience. It is completely different from ”The Strip” as the casinos are small, old and smell of stale cigarettes. The same can be said of the clientele as this is an inferior version of Vegas and the billion dollar casinos, just a few miles away.
These last two images are from our night out on Saturday. We headed to Marquee, the hottest nightclub on the strip located at the new Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino. It was an especially exciting night for me as my favorite DJ, “Kaskade” was performing. We arrived at the club at 11:00pm and literally danced until after 5:00am. The show was amazing, with an amazing laser light show, confetti and soap suds sprayed on the crowd, pressurized air to cool the masses and dancers all around the DJ stage unlike I have ever seen. It made me wish I had my professional camera with me, it was amazing!