Oh my goodness! It has been forever since I’ve posted; At least that’s what it feels like because so much has happened since then.
The last time I checked in I was three weeks out from my first physique competition. I wrote in that post that I was hoping to write again the night before we left for my competition.
I also posted some photos of my progress. As a reminder, here’s what I looked like just three weeks from my competition:
Unfortunately, I was right when I wrote that I had a feeling I would be running around like a maniac those last few days before the show. I was so crazy busy, in fact, that I didn’t get a chance to sit down and write about the experience.
After a couple weeks of decompressing and gathering my thoughts, I think it’s time to update you on all of the things that went down prior, during, and after my show.
Peak week is a term that competitors use to describe the last week of prep before the competition takes place.
Prep is not the same for everyone and there are different ways competitors go about their final week of prep to get in peak condition the day of the competition. In my case, I didn’t do anything different through Wednesday of peak week.
My routine and diet was exactly the same as every other week. I took Thursday and Friday off of work, which was nice.
Here’s a sneak “peak” into my week (see what I did there?? lol).
Monday – Wednesday
I woke up and quickly got my oldest daughter on the bus. I then got myself and my two youngest children ready and headed to the gym. After the gym, we went to the store or went home so I could make them lunch and get ready for work. I went to work, came home and went to sleep.
Pretty normal, except for the whirlwind of emotions I was experiencing. From excitement, to nervousness, and even a few anxiety attacks, there were a lot of emotional highs and lows throughout the week.
Our first stop was Miss Aimee B’s Tea Room and Gallery to pick up my favorite protein bars. Brie, the owner of Miss Aimee B’s Tea Room and Gallery, also made us some samples to take with us to the competition, which was awesome!
If you haven’t checked these protein bars out yet, you should! Here is her website (online ordering is now live!). Brie’s bars are absolutely delicious and are much healthier than most other protein bars you’ll find being sold.
From there, we went to my chiropractor’s office. My chiropractor’s name is Joel and he’s located about 40 minutes away from our home. It wasn’t a short trip, but I wanted to stop in and thank him for helping me through some issues over the last year.
Not only has he helped with tightness in my back, and shoulder pain, but he is extremely knowledgeable in the fitness industry and always has helpful advice when it comes to lifting and even posing.
So the drive is always worth it to see him – even if it’s just to say “thank you”.
From there we headed to the gym. I still had to get my cardio in while I was still in a fasted state. And since I was out and about earlier than normal, my hunger was really setting in!
After an hour of cardio the kids and I headed home so I could take a shower before before taking the kids our for a little more shopping.
The kids were being so good while we shopped that I thought I would treat them by buying them a new movie. As an added bonus, it would give them something to watch while we drove to our next destination.
The front has an actual silhouette of me posing with my signature below it. The back has a different pose in a silhouette with the Brie’s Protein Bars and Craig Leonard Fitness logos.
From there, I dropped the kids off at their grandparents’ house where they were staying for the weekend. We thought about taking them with us to the competition, but we ultimately decided not to because there was NO WAY they would be able to sit through such a long day!
After dropping them off, I headed home to meet meet my husband. We waited for Peyton (my oldest daughter) to get home from school and then we headed up to the gym for a weight session. It was my last training day before show time, so I did an exercise to hit every single muscle group (it was my version of a Biggest Loser last chance workout).
When we were done with weight training, we headed to a group exercise room and worked on my posing. I always like having Scott there with me for a second opinion. I can’t see what other’s can by observing myself, especially when I’m not facing the mirror.
When we were done the three of us ate dinner and then Scott headed to Craig’s house to drop his tickets and t-shirts off. Meanwhile, Peyton and I went to get our nails done. Girl time!
We made one last stop at another friend’s house to drop off tickets and shirts. After that we headed home to finish packing and get some sleep. I made sure to prepare and pack plenty of meals just in case. By the time I was finally finished it was 1 am! Only about 3 hours later than I had hoped to be asleep. 🙂
I woke up at 6:30 am and headed to the gym to do my fasted cardio. When I got home, I put my daughter on the bus and got some last minute things packed before picking up a friend who was riding with us and then heading to the gym to meet my coach. As usual, we were running a little late.
My coach couldn’t make it to the competition because of it being out of town, so this was the last time he could look me over and give me a few final tips before show time.
I’ll admit, my head was all over the place when we got there, and that state of mind was pretty constant until I was on stage. Still, we had a good meeting and I felt good about the package I was bringing.
When we left the gym I took a few pictures with Scott and then we hit the road.
After we arrived at our hotel I had just a few hours to shower, shave, and be ready for my first two of three spray tans. That’s right, I said THREE spray tans!
Oh, and there was the polygraph test. I had to take one of those, too! We can’t have any cheaters on stage. All natural baby!
After I was all checked in and given my number, #31, I took the polygraph test and then got both spray tans. Everything was so exciting!
I just couldn’t wait to get back to our room to try on my suit with my dark skin tone; especially after my ab check after the spray tan was applied. I think I nailed it!
Much to my surprise, after I put the suit on, started going through my poses and taking pictures to send my coach, I wasn’t feeling good about myself. NOT. AT. ALL.
I know this probably sounds crazy, but for months I worked so hard and I just didn’t think I looked good enough. Keep in mind, I had no idea what any of the other competitors looked like at this point. I just knew I wanted more. I think I could have looked like a Barbie doll and still thought the same thing.
My poor husband probably wanted to sleep in a different room. I was crabby and easily irritable. I couldn’t even talk to my coach. I had Scott call and talk to him instead.
Something was just wrong. All of it felt wrong. I figured the only thing I could do was to sleep it off.
SATURDAY (Competition Day)
Saturday morning came and I had barely slept at all. So much for that. I couldn’t turn any of my negative thoughts off all night; thoughts of not being good enough, not feeling confident on stage. I was worrying about hitting all my poses just right, or picturing tripping over my own two feet and falling flat on my face.
No matter how many different ways I tried to convince myself it would all be fine, nothing worked.
I woke up before my alarm. Much to my surprise, once I got out of bed I felt ready. I started curling my hair and putting my makeup on.
I was still nervous to put my suit on and send pictures to my coach, because of my feelings the previous night, but I still did it (mostly because I had to).
I immediately felt a million times better about it this time! Here’s one of the pictures I sent him:
My satisfaction with my appearance may have had a lot to do with the fact that I hadn’t eaten yet, and I was intentionally dehydrated, which makes a huge difference, but I felt so much leaner this time!
I wasn’t starving myself. Again, my food was basically the exact same as it had been all the way through prep. Except for Friday when I added more carbs. Yes, I ate more carbs the day before the show and it was magnificent!
Although we added carbs, my water intake was taken away significantly. I went from my usual gallon per day on Wednesday, to 1/2 gallon on Thursday, then down to 32oz on Friday, and only sipping water on Saturday just to help get my food down when I ate.
I can honestly say that being thirsty is even more challenging than being hungry!
So, we headed to the venue where I had to get one last spray tan, followed by our athlete meeting, and then it was stage time!
While waiting in line for my tan my mind started to wander again, as it had the evening before. I began getting anxious and the only way I can think to describe it is that I was freaking out!
It was also hard because Scott and our friends could not be with me the whole time. The next time I would get to see my support group would be when I was on stage.
Self-doubt began to set in. Luckily, the athlete meeting kept my brain slightly pre-occupied. It made it too difficult to hear my negative thoughts and pay attention to the details of the competition at the same time.
After the meeting all the athletes went to the dressing room to put our suits and jewelry on and to do any touch-ups on our makeup. All I kept thinking to myself was, “Get it together, Amber. You got this.”
Still, my heart was beating so fast I thought it might explode!
As our numbers were called for us to line up and head back stage, I was trying to remember why I wanted to compete. Yes, I had already put all the hard work in, and I sure came a long way, but why on earth did I decide to compete and go through this nerve-racking experience in the first place?!
As we approached the side curtain I told myself that it would all be fine. I’ll get to watch a little bit and have a better idea of what to expect. Or so I thought. Before that thought had even processed all the way we were instructed to start walking out on stage!
Oh! We’re going on NOW!? Okay. THIS. IS. REALLY. HAPPENING. HERE WE GO!
As soon as I stepped foot on stage and out from behind the curtain all my fears and all of my doubts disappeared. I knew that this is why I decided to compete: My love for the stage!
I mean, I couldn’t tell you the last time I’ve felt so confident! I couldn’t tell you that because I don’t believe that in my whole life so far I have ever felt as confident as I did right then; not even standing next to 9 other beautiful women.
Let me tell you, though, there was something uniquely special about looking up from the judges’ panel and seeing a whole row of my family and friends watching and cheering me on. I was overcome with emotions and felt so incredibly blessed.
When I spotted my husband in the crowd I wanted to shout, “BABE! WE’RE DOIN’ IT!!” While I was the one performing, nothing about the process was accomplished alone. As a team I got through, was held accountable, and as a team I stood on that stage with my head held high.
Because I competed in two categories, Bikini Novice and Bikini Open, I went on stage twice. You wouldn’t believe how tiring it is to stand up there in poses for 15 minutes! By the time I was finished I just wanted to sit down.
When I walked off stage and into the dressing room I had a sense of pride I’ve never felt before. I was a little scared to hear what Scott had to say, but only because I knew he would be completely honest. I prepared for the worst and hoped for the best.
When I got to the dressing room the first thing I did was indulge in a rice cake with peanut butter on it. It was so delicious that I devoured every bite before heading out to the auditorium to see my friends and family.
When I got into the seats I said brief hellos to everyone in our group. Then Scott and I had a brief conversation about how I looked and what I needed to work on. He showed me a picture and I sent it to my coach.
Then my phone rang. It was Greg (my coach). Scott had been texting him all day and I just couldn’t wait to tell him about how amazing it felt to be up there on stage! So, when he called, we headed toward the front doors and away from the auditorium so I could hear better.
My favorite thing to tell him was that I was the first one called out! This technically doesn’t mean anything, according to the judges comments during our athlete meeting, but typically this means you’ll at least be in the top 5.
I was so ecstatic that I might have a chance to place in my first competition! I was trying not to get my hopes up too high. But, seriously, the moment they called my number to step forward was a moment I will never forget!
After Greg told me the plan of sipping on 6oz of water and laying in bed for the rest of the day until the award show and t-walk that evening, we took some pictures and headed back to the hotel.
Don’t ask me how, but we managed to leave without getting a picture of our whole group together! Here are the pics we took:
After the photo op, I was instructed by my coach to take it easy, eat my meals, and sip on 6oz of water. My energy levels were through the roof, though! How was I supposed to just lay around!?
As hard as it was, I made myself relax as much as I could. It wasn’t easy, but I managed. I tried to take a nap and quickly realized there was no way that was happening. So, while I laid there I put in our pizza order to pick up after the evening show and awards.
Those 3 hours went by surprisingly fast. I touched up my makeup and hair and we headed back to the theater for the evening show, where each competitor would individually take the stage for their t-walk.
The t-walk is where each competitor goes out on stage and hits a pose. Then he/she walks to the front of the stage and does another pose or two, walks to the right and do another pose or two, then walks to the left and hit another pose. Finally, the competitor walks to the center, hits one last pose in front of the judges and walks off stage. We were allowed a total of 1 minute to perform the t-walk.
After everyone did their t-walks the judges then called out the top 5 in each category to the stage. The top 5 candidates were then arranged as they announced 1st through 5th place in descending order.
So all the girls that competed in Bikini Novice were lined up and brought back stage. We waited to hear the announcer call out the top 5 competitors. My number was quickly called and I was ecstatic!
I expected to be called out, but still had lingering doubt over whether it would actually happen until it became a reality.
We were standing on stage and all I could concentrate on was making sure I was paying attention to hear our numbers being called and what we placed.
With each placement that passed I got more and more excited – and anxious. They called 5th, 4th, and 3rd place. None of them were me and I was almost in disbelief. I was getting first or runner-up…
Then the announcer called, “And in second place, number 31, Amber DeLeal.”
What an incredible moment! 2nd place, baby!
The scariest moment was standing back stage with all the girls who competed in the open category that included all the girls competing in the various bikini groups. The judges called out the first two girls. Neither were me.
At that moment I thought I might not get called out there and may not be in the top 5 in the open category. “That’s okay,” I told myself.
It was the last number called, but they did eventually call my number. What an intense 30 seconds! When we were standing out there this time, I knew there was a chance that I wouldn’t place 2nd again, so I prepared myself, while still hoping for a placement in the top two.
When they called my name for second place again I was ecstatic. Second place in the two categories I was competing in my very first competition. What a feeling!
After taking a few pictures on stage with the top five girls, I hurried off stage to grab my stuff so I could see my friends. But not before taking a picture with the first place winner, who just so happened to have the same hair and almost the exact same suit as me. What are the chances?
She was very nice and very much deserving of 1st place. I’m happy to have met her.
After taking the picture I hurried out to meet my friends. What an amazing feeling it was standing to the side of the auditorium just looking at my friends watching the award ceremony. I took the moment in for a few seconds before waving my husband over to talk to him.
We talked about our post-competition game plan… GETTING PIZZA! It didn’t take long to talk it over since we’d been planning it for the past 4 months. We grabbed the rest of our group and headed outside. A few of my favorite pictures were taken as we were leaving.
I feel as though the pics we took really captured my excitement! I admit, though, that I was a little disappointed. After all, I’m competitive and really wanted to win. Still, I knew I had worked really hard – and accomplished a ton – so my excitement and happiness couldn’t be hidden.
The best part was sharing the experience with my friends and family.
And my personal favorite:
Our last stop before heading back to our hotel was Giordano’s Pizzeria for Chicago style pizza! I had brought some Oreo’s to indulge in since I’d been craving them for the past few months. I quickly gave in to my temptation to eat them and inhaled half of them. I tried to wait. I really did. But I just couldn’t resist.
We picked up our pizza and ate it in our room… And… Oh, my goodness! It was INCREDIBLE!!
I knew for dessert I wanted a doughnut with cherry pie filling on top. As you can see, those cravings while limiting my carbs so much the past couple of months were a serious thing!
I went to put the cherry pie filling on top of one of the donuts and realized we forgot a can opener. While Scott and our friends went to a local store to get a can opener, I took a shower.
I felt SO clean washing off those top layers of spray tan! After my refreshing shower I indulged in my delicious doughnut dessert. The doughnut wasn’t just topped with cherries. It was also filled with icing.
Plus, I couldn’t believe it was all over. I had so much fun that I just wanted to relive the whole experience over and over again.
I finally did fall asleep, and when I woke up, it was to a congratulatory phone call from a friend.
That’s a pretty amazing way to start the morning if you ask me!
After getting ready and packing all of our bags, we headed to IHOP for breakfast. And it was delicious!
After eating breakfast it was time to head home. I couldn’t wait to get home and see our kids and to show them my trophies.
After we arrived in town, we stopped and ate dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant. I LOVE chips and salsa – and I was so excited to finally be able to eat it!
I also got fajitas as my main dish. They were amazing.
After dinner, Scott and I picked up our kids from his parents and headed home. But not before getting ice cream to finish off the amazing Mexican dinner we just ate.
At home we all just hung out and talked about our weekends. It was fun to hear all about our kids’ weekends. Hearing their stories reminded me why it’s so hard to be away from them for a few days.
I took Monday and Tuesday off of work to unwind. By the time Wednesday came around things were basically back to normal.
Now that the competition is over, I’ve restructured my eating. Carbs are back in my diet (woo hoo!). Although, I have to say: Even though I can snack here and there – and have that weekly cheat meal – it still doesn’t feel right.
I even have a guilty conscience after eating something as innocent as rice. That’s not all bad, though. Hopefully those small guilty feelings will help me stay focused and not go overboard with my new-found nutritional freedoms.
My new goal is to keep lifting and make some major gains! Now is the time to do it, while I’m eating more carbs and calories, and my body is rebounding out of its prolonged caloric deficit.
I can already see myself on the stage in the near future. I’m not sure how soon it will be, but I already miss it, and can’t wait till it’s time to compete again!
2nd place in my first competition is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s amazing.
It’s time to work my butt off and see if I can take home that first place hardware next time. Ricky Bobby’s famous words capture my feelings about my next competition well: “If you ain’t first, you’re last”.
Thanks for all the support and encouragement so many of you reading this have provided over the past several months. I couldn’t have done it without you!
P.S. My journey to the stage started with Craig’s free ebook. Be sure to sign up to receive your copy by entering your email address in the sign-up form below.