Just four days ago I competed at the 2016 Arnold Australia Classic in the Figure division. It was a fantastic event, and to make it even better for me I managed to place 5th in my category. So I was very happy about that.
As far as Figure contests go however, this one was pretty tough logistically. My prep and everything went fine, but it just seemed as though one obstacle after another was thrown at us as we made our way from Sydney to get to the show down in Melbourne.
In the end, we managed to make the show and everything turned out fine. And as I mentioned, I also managed to get a placing, so overall I considered it a big success.
The whole event and what we went through during the lead up to it reminded me very much of a blog post I wrote about 18 months ago, where I talked about the path to success almost never being perfect. It’s rarely a smooth journey – there are always problems, setbacks and obstacles to overcome.
You can read the blog post here:
As I talked about in that post, many people are under the mistaken idea that to successfully achieve a goal, everything needs to be just right. That every step along the way needs to go perfectly smoothly. And that’s the only way to succeed.
But this just isn’t so.
Anyhow, let me tell you about our journey to the Arnold Classic.
The saga begins . . .
From the very start of organizing the trip to Melbourne, we encountered little annoyances. We couldn’t get a suitable flight on the Thursday (athlete registrations were scheduled for 2:00pm to 6:00pm that day) so we had to arrange one late on Wednesday evening instead. That meant rearranging some work commitments.
Then we encountered a shortage of hire cars as well as accommodation near the city in Melbourne, but we managed to finally arrange a car, and a hotel about an hour from the airport and 40 minutes or so from the venue for the show. Not ideal, but that was fine.
We later discovered that all these shortages were the result of the Formula 1 Grand Prix being held in Melbourne on the same weekend as the Arnold Classic.
On Wednesday evening, about an hour before our scheduled 9:45pm flight, the airline announced that our flight was delayed for an hour due to engineering issues. An hour later, they cancelled the flight. This was because Sydney airport has a strict curfew, and the aircraft couldn’t be repaired in time to meet it.
The airline advised passengers to reclaim their baggage and return to the check-in area to organize flights for the following day. When this happened however, I was in the bathroom without my phone, thinking I had time to kill before our flight. Fabian had no option but to leave me and run to claim our bags on his own (we had five in total) and then rush to the check-in area as quickly as he could. By then the queue ahead of him was substantial however, and it was about 90 minutes before we got to the counter (I had found him by then). The airline had put on an extra flight at 9:00am the following day, so we booked ourselves onto it.
Fortunately, a close friend had agreed to pick us back up from the airport (we had caught the train there in the first place). We decided that since Fabian had a spare bed in his home and I didn’t (just a couch), we would both sleep best at his place, so our friend drove us there.
A spanner in the works . . .
On the way to Fabian’s place however, he remembered he had left his house keys at my place (we had left from there to go to the airport). He had no option but to call his mother, who lived nearby, at midnight to ask her for his spare keys. After some searching she found the spare keys and we were on our way.
When we arrived at Fabian’s place, we found that the key to enter his apartment building was an old one, so we couldn’t gain entry. Fabian tried buzzing four different neighbors whose lights were still on (it was 12:30am by this time) but none answered their intercoms. Fortunately however, one woman happened to walk out onto her balcony and we were able to ask her to let us into the building.
Once inside, we had another unpleasant surprise. Three of my meal containers had been damaged by rough handling of our luggage by the airline. One of my meals had been spilled out inside the bag, so we then spent an hour or so cleaning out the bag, making one new meal, and repackaging several others. It was 2:00am before we went to sleep.
From bad to worse . . .
After a few hours’ sleep we made our way back to the airport, thankfully without incident, and waited for our 9:00am flight. Once again however, the flight was delayed. By two hours this time. And then again by another two hours. The new departure time was 1:00pm.
The reason for the new delays? The airline was unable to find any nearby accommodation for the previous night’s stranded passengers as a result of a Hillsong convention in Sydney, so they were forced to fly them to Newcastle to accommodate them there. The next morning, we had to wait for them to be flown back to Sydney to join our recovery flight to Melbourne.
Throughout the entire morning and the evening before, we had the added stress of not knowing whether we had lost the booking on our hire care in Melbourne. Fabian couldn’t make contact with the booking department until 8:00am on Thursday, and they couldn’t confirm whether or not we still had a car. And with the Formula 1 Grand Prix on, there were no more cars available.
With over twenty attempted phone calls to the rental agency at Melbourne airport, who never answered the phone because they were so busy, we could do nothing but hope for the best. Worst case scenario, we would have had to get around Melbourne by public transport and show up for my competition in a taxi (if one was available!) with all our luggage. If that’s what it would have taken, then so be it.
Finally, out of here . . .
We finally lifted off from Sydney at almost 2:00pm and arrived at the Melbourne car hire agency office at 3:30pm. Thankfully, the car was waiting for us and we were on our way. But not before having to battle through the hideous Friday afternoon Melbourne traffic. By the time we got to our hotel to drop off our luggage and made our way to registration for the event, we were thirty minutes late for the end of the registration period. I managed to get registered anyhow, and I think I was the very last competitor to do so. It had been an exhausting 24 hour ordeal to get there, but we had made it.
Rain on our parade . . .
Our plan for Friday was to go to the Arnold expo and meet some of our fitness heroes.
The weather in the morning was horrible however, in fact during the night it had sounded like there had been a full-on typhoon. We considered not going, since the rain would have played havoc with my tan base coat, which we had applied the night before. But we decided to go regardless. We figured that if I showered off my tan and started again that evening, I would be OK catching a bit of rain.
At the expo we got to meet Layne Norton for the second time, which of course was a real treat. He’s a super-friendly guy and he remembered us both from the previous time we had met. Unfortunately I didn’t get to meet my hero Oksana Grishina again this year as she wasn’t at the SAN Nutrition stand until the Sunday, and we only attended the event on the Friday and Saturday.
We also got to see the Pro Bikini and Pro Figure pre-judging rounds that afternoon, which was amazing. Candice Lewis-Carter unfortunately had a minor turn on stage, she felt like fainting and even had to crouch down several times to collect herself, but she battled through the round like a true champion.
Candice’s ordeal . . .
In fact, Candice’s journey to the Arnold Classic was even more challenging than ours was. Here’s how her teammate Whitney Jones described it in an Instagram post:
Getting here wasn’t easy. First her international flight was accidentally cancelled, then while in LA she realized her passport was still at home in Colorado so she had to fly back home to get her passport and then return to LA the next day. Then the second international flight that was booked also had issues, then when she arrived in Australia the dogs sniffed out all the meals she prepared and brought with her so all her food was confiscated. Then she finally gets in with 24 hours until show-time and can’t check into hotel room yet for another couple hours because it’s not ready. Then she had to go to athlete check-ins and meet & greet for several hours that night and was supposed to hit the stage the next day looking Amazing – and guess what . . . SHE DID! And this was her 3rd weekend in a row competing. Coming off a top placing at the Arnold Classic 2016 then winning the Phil Heath Classic last weekend and finishing strong here in Australia. She’s a true champion and always does whatever it takes.
We spoke to Candice the next day. She’s absolutely lovely and another big hero of mine. What Whitney didn’t mention was that Candice went on stage on Saturday not having slept the night before, and she had some sugary food before doing so for energy. Under the hot stage lights her blood sugar level then crashed, which caused her problems on stage.
Despite everything that went against her, Candice looked amazing on stage and was able to take second place regardless. That’s what makes her a winner and a champion.
Lessons . . .
When you consider how many months of hard work go into preparing for a competition, naturally an athlete wants to be able to walk onto the stage completely relaxed, refreshed, clear-headed and bushy-tailed. So that she can present her best possible package to the judges, and show them the true results of all her work.
The last thing she wants is to throw it all away through a few minutes of flatness.
But we can’t always control our circumstances. Sometimes you just have to make do with what you have and run with it. I, too, personally have been on stage before with zero sleep the night prior. I don’t like it, but sometimes shit happens.
The only alternative is to quit. And that’s never acceptable.
It’s easy to look at successful people and only see the shiny, glamorous exterior. It looks like perfection, and it can be mesmerizing.
What many people don’t see are the problems, setbacks and falls that happen behind the scenes of that façade. Success has nothing to do with perfection. It’s about managing the imperfect as best as you can.
It’s a battle of attrition.
I consider my experience in the Arnold Classic this year a personal success. Despite all the problems and obstacles we had to overcome, not once did the thought of not getting there or not presenting my very best on stage ever enter my mind. I’m sure the same can be said of Candice with her ordeal.
So often in life things can test our resolve. The secret, however, is to take each challenge on one by one and constantly move forward no matter what. And not stop until we reach our goal.
Never ask yourself, “why?” Only ask yourself, “how?”
I love Whitney’s last line about Candice:
Whatever it takes . . . that’s inspiring!