Friday, September 2, 2011

After the Competition... 10 Things I Learned

On Saturday, August 27th I did my first Figure competition. The journey was long - I began training in March, which was 3 months after my knee surgery (scope & lateral release). I'm thrilled with my placings, and slowly returning to normal life :-) I thought I'd post a Top 10 of what I've learned along the way...

I chose to go the route of the spray tan for my first Figure competition. Aglow Tanning was one of the sponsors of my OCB show, so I made my appointment with them. Originally, we'd planned to use ProTan, which is painted on over several days. One of the drawbacks to ProTan is that it takes a LOT of time (it also wears off in spots in a very not appealing way, lol). The spray tan goes on in 5 minutes, takes another 5 or so to "dry", and you get a bronzer coat the morning of the show, then touchups as needed.

Well, it went on in 5 minutes, but took 5 hours to completely dry (meaning my skin wasn't tacky). It does wear off on clothing and sheets (once your tan is on, there's no showering, deodorant, lotion, etc. so you wear loose clothing and avoid touching your skin), but then again, any tan will do that. It made my trip through the mall a bit awkward as I was holding my arms out to my side and unable to put my purse strap on my shoulder, but the color was good, and the process quick.

They tell you to avoid water. Water is the enemy. You'll remember that I had a major mishap with my tan. It went on on Friday, friday evening I was home getting stuff ready for show day when I got splashed. It ruined the tan on my arms. Frantic calls & texts ensued to Katie at Aglow, and then I was back on the road to Mesa to get fixed. A damp washcloth and a little blending was all that was needed. My heart rate back to normal, I returned home, plopped my butt at the dining room table and vowed to sit well out of the path of potential danger - then the dog licked my elbow. Knowing a damp washcloth would fix it, I ignored it until morning when the Aglow folks could take care of it. Show day, I got my bronzer (fyi, they don't do your face on show day so it's ok to show up with your makeup done - would have been good info to have, lol, as I was the only competitor without makeup at that point). I got through the morning show - all the prejudging, and while the bikini bite took a (haha) bite out of my tan, I knew I could get touched up later. We went to lunch, me with my cooler (plain chicken, plain potato, and Morton's lite salt), and I sat at the table in the restaurant with my family & Tab. Safe, right? Not so much. Suddenly I felt a funky drip & splash on the back of my neck and jumped up - I was sitting under the air conditioning vent and it had dripped on me - you guessed it - ruined the tan. OY! Again, a damp cloth came to the rescue and all was well.

Another great aspect of the spray tan was that all that bronzer and oompa-loompah color came off immediately when I showered that night. I was left with a lovely color (think beach tan), that is only now starting to wear off. Would I do spray tan again? Maybe. But I would certainly know that water mishaps happen and panic is unnecessary. It is fragile, but it can be fixed.

I had this drummed into me before the show, through hours of posing practice - Once you're on stage, you're ON. The judges are watching, and judging. Even the "relaxed pose" is not relaxed, you hold it tight. Tight at all times. A friend caught me in a photo mid-turn (going from front pose to side) and yeah, I'd relaxed - tummy was NOT tight, and it's not a pretty picture. Lesson learned. NEVER RELAX!

My fellow competitor, Donna Wilt, said it best. We were sitting at registration chatting about the ups and downs of prep, laughing over some of the things we've done and thought, when she said it was refreshing that I had such a good sense of humor about it. I responded that you have to laugh, what's the other option? Perpetual grumpiness? We saw a lot of grumpy competitors - who needs it? We did this as a challenge, we should embrace the fun. She said, " When you think about it - we're starved, overworked, painted naked, and paraded nearly naked across a stage wearing 5" clear stripper shoes with our suits glued to our bodies - c'mon, THAT'S FUNNY!"  She had me cracking up, and she's right. Laugh, have fun, enjoy the journey. Yes there are dark times, yes there are tears, but there's a lot to laugh about.

Stuff happens. Tan destruction, missed poses, music mixups - there are so many things that you can't control. It's beyond important to be able to flex and just keep going. Many competitors showed up to find out that their music CD's didn't play (I was one of them, but being anal, I had 3 backups in my bag - all was well), we were told that (during the evening show for our T-walks) if our music didn't play to just roll with it. Understandably, folks were not happy about this. You practice to your music, your timing & poses are woven tightly together, then you hit the stage and they play a different song. I get it. But it's not the end of the world. A- be prepared. Having a back up saved my butt, and I walked to my music. B- be flexible. If it hadn't worked I still had to do my routine, there's no point in panicking, just go out and do it. Well fine for you, Chelle, your music worked.  Yes, my 2nd disc did work, but I had another major snafu that nearly derailed me. What happened? Well pull up a chair, my friends...

My first time on stage, and the gods played a lovely joke on me and put me first in line. I had to walk out by myself, leading the pack. Delightful. Yes, there was panic in my eyes when I realized this. Then I had to just laugh. Just my luck, right? I did this to grow, well here was a growth opportunity. Drat. So, they announce the Novice Figure Short class and the expediter sends us out. I walk onto the stage, tummy tight, head high and take my place on the mark. I struck my modified pose (relaxed pose), tightened up and smiled. Then the judge in front of me waved to get my attention, and spoke to me. I couldn't hear him over the music and the general chaos of sound. I would swear to you he was telling me my boob was out (it happens). I checked my suit. That wasn't it. He speaks again, I still don't understand. Finally, it's clear. In my modified pose, my hand on my hip is covering my button (competitor number). I adjust and re-tighten, smile, and realize I've missed the call for front pose. The head judge (who was more than a little intimidating - killer poker face, that guy) was looking at me like I was the village idiot. He called another turn, and I caught up, but was flustered. I went through all the turns, did my job, but felt like I just couldn't recover. I came off stage that time kicking myself for screwing it all up, then just declared it a loss and moved on. Tab however, set me straight. While yes, I screwed up on one thing, the whole situation wasn't my fault (relief!). The judge wasn't supposed to talk to me, I learned. Oh well. Again, I declared it a dead loss and prepared for the Jr Master's lineup.   I knew I wouldn't place in novice, I knew the head judge now thought I was a fool. I would simply have to show him otherwise when I stepped out again. And I did. I recovered and moved on. (Imagine my shock when I earned a 4th place trophy out of that snafu!). The lesson? BE FLEXIBLE. Fix what you can, then just move on.

First off - the tan gets everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Walls, chairs, doors, toilet seats (really, is using a seat cover so difficult?). Tab and I were often wiping down stuff (including toilet seats) with antibacterial wipes. Competitors should be aware of the mess they make, and be respectful and clean up after themselves. Didn't our  mothers teach us this in like kindergarten? Yeesh. At one point, before the evening show, Tab and I were running around the dressing room cleaning up the trash the women had left behind - banana peels, empty water bottles, etc. Ridiculous.

And then be GRATEFUL - the organizers, volunteers, expediters - these folks are busting butt to allow you to step out on that stage and shine. Play nice. I saw some serious disrespect backstage, and it really bothered me. Leave the bitchiness in the dressing room and be thankful for everything these people are doing to help you. I was truly amazed by the organization of those folks - they were terrific!

The two nights before the show, Tab came over to help me pack my bag. We made lists, we checked them enough times to make Santa throw in the towel, and we organized. When we arrived at the venue, we staked out a corner in the dressing room and opened up the bag. We were so freakin organized, our corner was like a shrine to the organization gods! LOL! Competitors and coaches were borrowing stuff from us all day/night - disposable gloves, hand wipes, vaseline (for the teeth), bikini bite, hairspray, etc. If it could possibly be needed, it was in our bag. Anal organizers rock! :-)

Total honesty is what I promised, so here it is. I am crazy organized. My books, lists, these are tools of my very survival. They keep me on track and sane. But I discovered in the last week of prep, and particularly show day, that I have very serious control issues. When life takes me off-plan, off-book, I freak. And I'm not very nice. From tanning mishaps to makeup application to timing sequences, I quickly moved from fun to psycho, and Tabitha caught the brunt of it. Not cool. At one point, she actually dragged me down the hall to have a Come to Jesus talk - just like you'd see a mom do with a misbehaving kid in a restaurant. Seriously not cool for me to put her in that position. I'm not saying I spent the day in a snit, because I didn't - I had a LOT of fun, but I had moments where I honestly don't know how Tab held back from punching my lights out. She says it's because she didn't want to ruin the tan or makeup. Lol. Her grace under fire and her staunch support and discipline kept me on track (and kept getting me back on track).

What I learned is that I have to put some serious time time, thought, and effort into working on this issue. Competition training, prep, and show peel the layers away from your psyche and reveal underlying issues - it certainly revealed that I have a problem with not being in control. I've always called myself, jokingly, a control freak. It's not a joke anymore. Life happens, and I have to be able to roll with it when things go out of my control. I will be working on this before I compete again.

I knew going in that my family would have to make adjustments. We discussed it, we mapped it out, yes, there was a chapter in my organization book for family matters. Prep time was a series of compromises, adjustments, and sacrifices. Being all-consumed by my prep, I missed a lot of what they were going through. When the show was over, I was holding my trophies and we were all standing around giggling, Bill said, "I finally get my wife back!" The kids responded, "We finally get Mom back!"  It was funny, but it struck a chord. As we decompressed and evaluated, Bill admitted that he felt very alone, especially in the final 6 weeks. Not just the time we normally spend together in the evenings we lost because I was either at the gym or doing food prep or getting my stuff together for the next day, but little things, like talking about work, or the kids, or whatnot. The kids got stuck with convenience foods (gasp!) instead of home-cooked meals. Bill ate a lot of cereal and sandwiches. I didn't realize how much they were missing our usual routines and family dynamic. I'm grateful beyond words for their support, their sacrifices, and will better plan for next time to ease that for them.

Another fellow competitor, Katie, posted on facebook after the show. Bad Food Hurts, she said. Oh yeah - you got that right. After the show, I had a cookie & a truffle, then dinner (hours later) was a bbq bacon cheeseburger, fries, and lemon poppyseed bread. Next morning, I had more lemon poppyseed bread, my beloved yogurt & granola, then on the way to Mexico I think I easily ate a pound of twizzlers, plus orange slices and sweet & sour candy. And a ton of water. In Mexico, I had tacos and more candy, and pina coladas. The next morning, more yogurt & granola, grapefruit and then more candy, tacos, etc through the day. By dinner, I was so bloated I looked like someone should stick a pin in me and pop me. It hurt! I brought myself under control, lol, and bought some alka seltzer. The next day I exercised control, haha, and kept it in line. Felt much better (MUCH). While I still enjoyed some treats, I didn't spend the day shoveling food in my mouth. Trust me, it's not worth the discomfort.

I learned that I can do more than I imagined. I learned that I'm more than I thought I was. I can push farther, harder than I believed. I am capable of doing things I thought I was incapable of. I learned pride in myself... something I've never really had. I learned that there are times when it's ok to say, and mean, "I FREAKIN' ROCK!" rofl! :-) I learned I am made better by my team - my coach, my family, my friends. I never imagined I could walk across that stage and NOT be terrified. I never dreamed I could step into those lights and enjoy myself. I did. Immensely. 

And I learned that no matter how much anyone else believes in me, until I believe in myself, it's not going to happen. I am my own key to success (and I now have the necklace to prove it!). It was inside me the whole time, I didn't have to create or learn poise and bravery and joy - I just had to nurture them a bit. I'm still me, and while I've absolutely grown and changed, it was me who walked that stage. My goal in life, always, is to be "more". More than I was yesterday. More than I am today. That was a big part of this journey to the stage, and while I did indeed become "more", what I became more of was MEMy journey led to something else unexpected...  While I was looking for poise and grace, I found self-acceptance and self-love.

My quest isn't over. There will be more challenges, triumphs and failures. I vow to never stop growing. Never stop striving. I will always reach further, jump higher, and dream bigger.

Thank you so much for sharing the journey to the stage with me. Thank you for the emails, the e-cards (Don & Melanie, I'm still crackin up over the monkey!!), the posts, the wishes & thoughts. You all helped keep me going and I deeply appreciate you. And I promise you, just because the show is over doesn't mean I'm done :-) I've got quite a bit up my sleeve and coming soon :-)  Stick around, my friends - the ride isn't over!


  1. now THAT is the post i have been waiting for.. i have been anticipating point number 10 and anxious to here what you learned about yourself... so so proud!!! what an amazing journey!! and woman! thanks for your open honest authentic perspective... so appreciate it

  2. I <3 following you through this journey. Thank you for letting us in. =)

    Loved this blog and the perspective of everything too!

    I cannot wait to find out what you have in store next!!


  3. What you have accomplished is so awesome! Much admiration!

  4. As of tomorrow, I am 9 weeks away from my first competition. Although, I am doing a bikini rather than figure (I was a little too scared to go for the figure lol). I think I may print this off and put it on my vision board. Thanks for sharing your experience and your wisdom!

  5. 9 weeks! It seems like yesterday I was at 9 weeks, lol! On that vision board, do me a favor and post a big IAAC (I Am A Champion). Look at it every day and know that YOU ARE DOING THIS! You are a Champion!!! Rock the stage, baby!!

  6. love your #10!!!
    cant wait to see whats next for you!

  7. Congratulations! I am hoping by continuing to read your blog I can move forward myself. Keep up the excellent work - you rock!

  8. LOVE your blog and LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! Thank you for sharing your journey. You rock!!

  9. You need to write a book....I love your journey. You can apply your lessons to anything one wants to do in life. It's so inspiring!

    Chelle, unless I missed it, what song did you choose to walk out on stage??? Or, is this what is up your sleeve...a video for all of us to see! I hope so...this is all so cool to be a part of!

    Enjoy your weekend!

  10. I've been waiting for this post! I was checking your blog constantly to see how you did at your competition last week, lol. My friend took me to a competition not too long ago, so I can picture what you're talking about. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to get there. I'm glad you added the part about how your family felt during the process as I would expect the same response from my family. I just got around to the Oxygen issue where you were featured last night, OMG I thought. I follow this girl! You rock, thanks for sharing everything, I really enjoy your recipes too! ~Leslie~

  11. Great post Chelle! Thank you for this post! I take all of it to heart. I am also getting a tan from Aglow next weekend, so I am taking notes!!!!

  12. Aglow was great! They were right there to fix whatever I needed, and everyone was wonderful!

  13. Love this post, Chelle!

  14. Oh Chelle. I am so proud and so in awe of you! This post was fantastic to read, I'm so glad you've gained so much from this competition, and you did SO well! Your abs looks craaaaaazy! Overall you really look like you belong on that stage. You kicked ass! :)

    I'm glad you got to go to Mexico and have time to relax after the show, you definitely deserved some time to relax. And some cookies.

  15. Try paper cups for the restroom breaks! You won't have to rub the tan off on the seat and there are way less drip marks!! LOL Congrats!!!