“…after a while you learn that even the sunshine burns if you get too much.” – Veronica A. Shoffstall, After a while
July 5th, 2014: my last figure competition. My hometown of Edmonton, Alberta was the host city of the CBBF Figure Nationals (an IFBB pro card qualifier) and I could not be more pumped to be on stage in front of so many familiar faces. This would be my 9th show in 5 years, and my 5th national-level competition. With all the excitement and expectations leading up to it, I had no idea it would be my last.
It had been a difficult prep, as I had developed bronchitis about 7 weeks out forcing me to put everything to a halt for several days. Nevertheless I pulled through, and was coming in my best condition to date. I had never been so lean; I had never felt so calm; I never felt more confident in all my life. Even with hiccups like my suit being denied at height-ins, I was totally unfazed. I didn’t care if they wanted me in a garbage bag: I knew my physique was 100% my very best.
The day of the competition I was as calm as pond water. The entire day I was so chill. I knew it was going to be a very long day, with 400+ competitors registered, it was the largest national show the CBBF had ever seen (at that point). I laid up backstage for 8 some- odd hours before going on stage for prejudging, still totally unfazed. My coach said I had done well- the one critique was to get another layer of spray tan before the night show as I looked a lot lighter next to the other girls. Because I don’t tan my skin with sun/sun beds (for health reasons) I have a trickier time achieving that desired competition-dark look. I took my coach’s advice, and was ready to rock the night show.
The night show is where they announce how the judges placed the athletes from prejudging: the awards ceremony, if you will. I felt the expectations on me were pretty high: I had placed 3rd in 2011; 2nd in 2012; and 2nd in 2013. So naturally, one would feel since they are coming in as their best ever, first place would be the next step. I did not feel this was a cocky or arrogant way to be- I EARNED this belief. I worked myself (literally) to the bone for this. They had me up on stage in the night show as one of the top 5. Then they called the top 3. My name wasn’t called. You know how on sitcoms when unexpected moments occur, they play that record-scratch sound?? Well that’s what I’d heard in my head. I actually felt like I heard dead silence after that. I heard nothing. I kept smiling (though in hindsight it was probably the fakest smile ever) and walked off stage. Some of my close friends who were also competing then saw me, shocked. I said nothing. I knew, as hot-tempered as I can be, I needed to say absolutely nothing until I saw my family. And actually, that’s all I do remember saying- over and over: “I just need to find my family.”
I have competed all over Canada, and my family has been there for each and every show. Toronto, Saskatoon, Vancouver (twice)- they were there. This is rare in the bodybuilding world. I am aware I had tremendous support as a fitness competitor- in a sport where many family and friends do not understand (or want to). My heart instantly went to them. It was 12:50 am when I got off stage. I know, because I remember looking at my phone. Once I finally found all of them, seeing their tired, weary, forced smiles on their faces- I said ENOUGH. I sank inside. My coach was there too- and gave me the advice to just take a break, to “reset” I believe he said, and just enjoy life for a little bit.
And so I did. I vowed I would take at least a whole year off from competing and then see how I feel. In that time I did some deep soul-searching. Was competing actually making me happy, or was it just about having a goal? It was becoming apparent after the last few shows I had always had this ’empty’ feeling post-show. I was actually my happiest just training, preparing for something. The sport of figure was also beginning to change. The girls were getting bigger, harder, almost (forgive me) harsher looking- the ones that were placing high. To each their own, I did not want to have to resort to this type of look just to win a trophy. After much introspection, I knew this was no long my path.
About mid-way through my fitness career I often got asked: “how long do you plan on doing this for?” I would always answer “until I stop enjoying it.” And that’s exactly what happened. Each season I was becoming more and more consumed with how I would place, and I was no longer enjoying the process. If I didn’t get the placing/outcome I wanted, I would go through a period of private bitterness and self-pity before picking myself up and thinking about the next show. It was a perpetual cycle. And although I’m flattered that others see me as this fitness competitor, I wanted to show so badly that I am so much more.
Fast-forward to present day 2016 and I am now at peace with my transition. My boyfriend is a top-ranked Muay Thai fighter, and I love that the spotlight gets to be on him. We bought a house last May, and I am so proud to be a homeowner. I am now preparing for a full Olympic-distance Triathlon May 29th, and the new training I have to implement is new, exciting, and challenging! It truly brings out my inner athlete.
Don’t ever let something define you. I say this because I believe each and every person should be so much more than one thing. If you’re following your passion and your dream, and it fulfills your life and your soul- hell yes, keep going! But consider the ‘why’- why are you doing it. If you can’t think of the answer, and you’re just plugging away and going through the motions- that is NOT joy. So what IS your why? Give it some thought. Learn, grow, and know when it’s time to move on.