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shawna walker, larissa reis, michelle jin, wrestling, tracey toth, kira neuman, female bodybuilding, cindy phillips, britt miller, casey daugherty, lyris capelle, jill brooks, olga guryev, olga guryeva, kristy hawkins, cheryl faust, lindsey cope, lindsay cope, veronica miller

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My First Competition

By Kat Ricker

I loved the training. For months, it had consumed me until the last two weeks, it was all I could think about. I got the time off work and devoted every minute to contest preparation. I’d done everything from heavy 500-rep sets, to meditation, to practicing posing beside our roaring woodstove while covered in Hot Stuff, to prepare myself for the stage light heat.
The day before the competition I was all keyed up, kept going into the gym to have Darryl check on how I was finishing out, until he kicked me out and told me to go home and rest. The dehydration and carb-loading continued. To really round out my muscles, had me eat one full "regular" meal besides the diet food; I had two big, sloppy tacos and some pineapple to help it digest. All may have progressed nicely from there, but that's when I started to have my own ideas. I went and sauna'd and steamed in the evening, not on the schedule, to sweat anything left to sweat. I hardly worked up any at all. Then I took my ginger bath as Darryl directed - this draws out the remaining water from under the skin. I was really hot by now and so dry. I kept misting my skin with water, constantly, I was so dry and hot. Then I bundled up like he told me and went to bed, in tons of clothes. I couldn't sleep and decided sleep was more important, so eventually shed those. The temperature dropped overnight and I woke up chilly. In the morning I had a yam and eggs, fixed my hair and makeup and my husband and I left for the Tiffany Ballroom in Portland.

Kat Ricker

Darryl was late, he wasn't there. I kept laying down in the hall with my feet up, like he said, to keeps the blood in my upper body. Other people from our group showed up. Darryl called Dennis on the cell and said he had diarrhea and was about 45 minutes away. Our briefing began. We took up a row in the auditorium; I took up three seats with laying down. The place was heating up – it's a historical building, so no air conditioning.
Levi is one of my strong women heroes. She and her husband own the supplement store we buy from. She was a sponsor and had her table there. She's beautiful and charismatic and knows everyone. She'd helped me a lot over the past few months. I’d brought her a present and card, and boy was I glad I did. She said, "If Darryl's not here, I'll go back with you." She did. She painted me, put the hot stuff oil on me, the posing oil, glued my seat down to my butt, just saved my ass.
Just before it was time to go on, Darryl showed up. He was very cool and calm, and talked in a low voice in my ear, and Amber's, I assume; I was only aware of so much. The backstage area was so tiny you literally had to move someone if you wanted to move at all, and we were pumping up in there. Everyone getting painted. Paper all over the floors to catch the oil and paint. Nice rugs on the walls covered with plastic. He had me pump up. I was glad I brought my bands.
We moved into the wings. He told me, "From what I can see, you got nothing to worry about here. You have best of your class and maybe overall, but don't get excited." I was feeling out of it, hypoglycemic, dehydrated. He started to get worried, ran around getting me water to wet my mouth, my recovery drink, the bands. We were right at the beginning of the show, first the three fitness women, then teenage men – which was one man, I really found that amusing, “Teenage Man” – then the three in my class. I was in the middle, which was cool, because it placed me center stage. Because there were over 100 competitors, they wanted to shave time, and they also were running unimpressively late on everything. So all we were to do in the morning was go out and do our turns and hit the poses.
After months of practicing posing for an hour at a time, it was so quick. Despite all my practice at not shaking – it's hard not to shake when flexing hard – to my surprise, my muscles just shook like crazy. There was no sound except for Darryl's booming voice carrying - Hit those legs! Blow it out! Turn and show us! Later I could hear cheering in the crowd on the tape, but up there, nothing but Darryl, which helped. And boom, it was over, we were done. So fast.
No one was there when I got offstage. I didn't know where to go or what to do next. I wandered out into the hallway and watched Amber in heavyweight. A photographer grabbed me and offered to shoot me. I said take me there an followed him upstairs. He sold undeveloped rolls of 12 for $20. Twelve seemed like a lot to come up with. I didn’t have my wallet or anything else on me but my suit. So then I tore around looking for my husband and the food. But all I wanted was ice. I kept dipping into the big barrel of free waters and scooping out the ice and sucking it down. Finally it occurred to me to take a water. I found Reed (my husband). We sat down on the marble hall floor. I ate and started cursing how stupid this whole thing was - and bodybuilding, period. I couldn’t believe I’d depleted myself to this point. I felt so dehydrated and tired, my blood sugar just a mess; it was feeling mighty unhealthy by now. My striations, the idea of my insides being visible from the outside, was actually making me uneasy. But I only ate a little bit. My appetite just wasn’t there. I ran up and paid for the photos. Another girl was getting her pictures taken. They were asking her what poses she wanted. She sounded cranky: "I really just want to sit down!" I laughed.
We drove home while the rest of the pre-judging went on. Thank the gods we were near the beginning of the program. It was getting hot outside, real hot. Out of nowhere, it was a hot hot summer day. I laid down at home and ate some of my regular food, couldn't think what I should eat, just had yams and fish as usual, and drank distilled water. I was so tired, I nearly napped. A couple hours later it was already time to get ready to go in for the evening show. So fast. I thought I should lay out in the sun for 20 minutes and tighten up for the evening show, like I’d read in the books over the last months. It was hot, but I hardly sweated at all. When I got back in, I didn't realize it, but I started to feel like shit. Like I was on the edge of a breakdown. Reed painted me until I got too anxious about getting back downtown and we left with me half done. We took his car for the air conditioning. I was tired and cranky and kept feeling tears well up but pushed them down. The morning show would’ve been enough, I said. It was hard to garner any energy for a whole ‘nother show. I didn’t know where this feeling was coming from.
We got there a couple hours early and somehow got in, even though they weren't letting people into the building for another hour. I laid down on the wooden floor in-between the seat rows and hoped nobody saw me. I just wanted to lie down. Reed sat in a seat beside me. A couple of staff approached him, but he said he needed to be with me to keep an eye on me; I was hypoglycemic. An hour or so passed. Then it was time to get ready. I sat up in a chair and really felt like shit - the room was spinning, kind of. I burst out crying. Reed was alarmed. I said, I want Levi. He got her. She sat down next to me.
“What's wrong?”

The author, Kat Ricker in the center

I said I just really feel like shit, and cried. She started asking me about the last time I drank water. I couldn't think straight.
“She’s really dehydrated,” she said.
She felt my head and said she's hot, let's get her over by the fan. They walked me over by her table. She started having me sip water. I drank my recovery drink, she gave me pineapple enzymes to help digest. It was 6:30 and the show started at 7:00. It was time to get painted, and again, no Darryl. Levi said she'd go back with me and got her latex gloves on.
Then Darryl was next to me. She quickly removed her gloves and handed them to him and disappeared.
“Are you all right?” he asked. I shook my head no. He asked what I'd eaten. I could only remember a yam. Reed told him the rest. I started crying. He said don't cry. I stopped. He asked what I'd done at home. I told him I'd laid out in the sun, and he laid into me.
"You what? You were already tight. You were already dry. Then you laid out in the sun. It must have been 100 degrees today. And you laid out in it. You’re only supposed to do what your trainer tells you, nothing extra."
He later told me he noticed my fingers weren’t moving right when I reached for a water bottle, so he knew my motor skills were down.
“Are you slurring your speech?”
“Probably,” I said.
He tested my breath to see if it was sweet. It wasn’t.
I started insisting it was time to get painted, he insisted I calm down first – meditate, whatever – but calm down. Then I got up, kissed Reed goodbye, and held onto Darryl's arm and he led me backstage. I was so tired and out of it. He told me to sit down on the weight bench backstage and he painted my legs. I laid back against the wall. I wasn’t really aware of what he was doing. He painted all of me shoeshine brown. I started to feel perkier. He painted my face. I hated that! Reed came and checked on me, I said, I'm fine I just f**king hate this part."
Someone must’ve asked me whether I could go on. I said I could pull myself together for a short amount of time. After all, that’s what strength training is, pushing for short bursts. I was full of fluids now. “You shouldn’t have been drinking all that water they were feeding you, neither,” he said. There were no women’s restrooms on our side of the building, only a men’s solitary and a men’s public. I found the private one, and then it was time to get in the wings.
I pumped up hard and wild. Out of nowhere, a surge of incredible energy came through me. Darryl kept fixing my paint and oil while I pumped with the bands. I was pumping and flexing so hard I was grunting. He left for the audience seat and I was just so freaking ready, I was breathing the competition. Couldn't have been more ripe. I had to do it that instant. My muscles were bursting full and my veins were popping everywhere. Backstage a staffer asked where we wanted to be when our music started. A fellow competitor told me we were doing the individual posing routines first. Damn! Nobody else told me. A minute before I went on, I had to switch gears and get ready for that. Okay. I heard the MC giving what sounded like my bio. I couldn't get upstage where I wanted to begin, but made due. My music started. I went out.
I immediately clicked into high performance gear. The place was packed with people. I flowed into my routine. I was having the time of my life. I had control of the stage. I had the crowd. I could feel they were surprised at my unconventional routine and then really liked it and responded. I heard some cheers. The atmosphere was totally different from the morning, with the crowd and all the sounds it made. I hit all my poses hard without a single tremble in the muscles.
In one minute, it was over. Offstage, I jumped up and down. Amber was there, ready to go on next. She jumped with me. It was great. Then we filed back on stage, all three of us. I didn't know what we were to do next. It seemed like they were starting a posedown. I thought maybe I’d heard the word posedown, and that music had started; I realized in my peripheral that the others were posing low, so instinctively I rose high in a Rachel McLish pose I'd taken in while studying “Pumping Iron II” over the months. I hit three other poses I knew I was strong in, without any awareness of what the others were doing. Then they had us stop. Somehow we were lined up again, and they announced third place was Kristin. I got really excited. I was sure I had first. They drew out the next name for what seemed like forever. Then they said Kat Ricker. I was stunned. I plastered a smile on my face. The girl with the second place trophy came out and she tried to give it to Jessica. They had me move so she'd be in the middle. Then the other girls hit poses, but I didn't know what was going on, so just stayed posed in the default relaxed position. I don't really remember picking up the trophy or walking off, but we did.
Backstage, I didn't know where to go. I went and got my bag, asked someone if we could leave; yes, if you didn't get first, you're done. I stood backstage for a moment with my bag, just lost, then Darryl appeared. I said, “I don't know what to do."
"You're done, get dressed," he said. I was still feeling lost. He led me backstage. The only place where there weren't clumps of competitors was through the open door of the men's room, so I ducked into that, dropped my bag, took out a towel and started washing the paint off my face.
Darryl said, "The only reason she won is she's a favorite. They all knew her name. She had more legs than you, but you had them beat on upper body and definition. Now, I ain't saying you should compete next year, but if you do, we'll work on your legs. I know you're Mighty Kat, but you'll be ... Thunder kat." And I started hyperventilating.
“Kat, stop breathing like that, you're hyperventilating." I stopped it.
I said, “I'm really f**king dizzy."
He told me to sit down, I said I didn't want to sit here. somehow I ended up down and Darryl beside me. My teeth stated chattering. He said are you cold? I shook my head no. He said why are your teeth chattering? I said I didn’t know, at the same time he said, You don’t know?
I said, “Don't tell my husband.”
He said I won't. I said, are you proud of me? He said of course. I said even if I didn't win first? He said I'd be proud even if you didn't win anything.
I closed my eyes and felt a horrible sensation, like swimming and being sucked away into blackness. I had to make my way through it to get back to reality. I shot my eyes open and said Darryl, to mentally grab onto him to get myself oriented.
“I'm here, what happened?”
“I was far away. Then I forgot where I was.”
He wanted me to lie down. I argued, he was firm.
“You might know about personal training, but you don't know about bodybuilding, now there's certain things we gotta do. Listen to your trainer, and lay down!”
I did, grudgingly, saying I didn't want to be a f**cking spectacle.
My husband walked in. In that instant I felt totally humiliated, split wide open. Darryl was saying, she doesn't want him here, who blahablahed? Someone said not me. Reed was asking something, I said I didn't want him back there. I wanted to say, I didn’t want you to see me like this, but I couldn’t bear to bring the words out. He said, do you want me to go? I said no. From then on, it was fine he was there.
Darryl and he started arguing. I wasn’t sure what all they were saying. I heard Reed say, “What I'm worried about is she's hypoglycemic.”
And Darryl saying, “She's got plenty of complex carbs in her. What we have to worry about now is getting her core temperature down.”
Someone put ice or ice packs under my armpits. My teeth stated chattering. Reed tried to put my shirt on me. Darryl said no, even though her teeth are chattering, her's temperature's still up, we have to get it down."
Reed put ice on my wrists, Darryl said something, Reed said no, on her wrists.
Then people from our group came in. Bonnie, who’s competing in the Masters, and her husband Dennis.
“Jesus!” I moaned. I didn’t want people seeing me like this.
Darryl said they just want to help, Kat. Bonnie's a nurse. Darryl said just let her do her thing. They put wet cool rags on my forehead and neck, and wet down a towel in the sink and put it over my body. They were pumping me full of All Sport. A staffer kept mixing up bottles and I kept drinking it. Darryl kept saying to tell him if it was too sweet.
“It’s not sweet at all,” I said, and wondered if that was a bad sign.
I was later very unimpressed that AllSport and complimentary waters was the extent of their first aid readiness.
They took my pulse. I remember once Bonnie said, It's up to 80.
At one point, Bonnie said, “She should go to ER.” Then I really freaked.
“No! No!”
A flush of thoughts about being there, explaining to people afterward I’d been there, figuring out insurance and getting caught up in the complications of paying for treatment rushed through my head and I panicked. I mustered every ounce of authority I could, looked Darryl hard in the face and said, “I’M FINE. I’M NOT LYING TO YOU.”
“I don’t think you’re lying to me,” said Darryl.
Until that moment, it hadn't occurred to me I might end up in the hospital.
Things gradually calmed down. It seemed like I was on the floor a really long time. I was lucid and mentally all there and started making jokes. I was just exhausted. People came and went. One guy just wanted to know if he could take a wiz. Another had a loud poop in the stall by my head. People came and went. My eyes were closed, but I heard people offering to help. I heard a guy say, “I'm a personal trainer, if you need any help.” This just struck me as hilarious.
"Bully for you, man," I said, and laughed. A trainer, you say? Thank God you're here! How do my abs look? Darryl quickly gave him the litany of qualifications around us.
Darryl I seemed alone after a while. He shook his head at me.
“It must've been 100 degrees out, and you laid out in it.”
I said, “It was stupid, huh.”
“Yes, I don't want to say it, but yes. I been where you are, doing the same kind of thing."
He and Dennis told me some war stories. Guy who stopped in the middle of his routine and had to have someone bring him a glass of water. Guy who passed out right next to Dennis on stage. They told me how common this was.
“If it's so common, how come I'm the only one down?”
They said every show, it happens. Darryl told me they weren’t worried about the contest, they wanted to make sure they had Kat around, for me to stop worrying about everyone else and concentrate on Kat right now.
He said, “You get too excited. I started talking to you, and you got too excited and that’s when you started – and he acted like he was hyperventilating.
I said, “You’re just such an exciting man, Darryl. You must get this all the time!” And I laughed, but he didn’t. I said, “I am funny, though.” Still no dice. Oh well. Rough room.
I told him a story from my theater days, of when I drove a thumbtack into my foot backstage so firmly they had to take it out with pliers, and I went on minutes later and did the scene - in 5" stiletto heels, no less - then went to the hospital.
“I don’t know what we’re gonna do with you,” he said.
A breeze came through and I said it felt so good. Darryl told me to move my fingers. I did. Said he was checking my motor skills. I made the okay sign. All the sudden I felt so relaxed, I said so, really relaxed, like I could go to sleep right now. Darryl said don’t do that, stay awake, which made me more alert. I remembered feeling such incredible relaxation in between bouts of mourning once years ago when someone close to me had died.
Eventually, they were satisfied I was back in the world now. Darryl and Reed each took one leg of my shorts and pulled them up on me, had me raise up my hips.
“Lord, I’m gonna have dreams about this moment,” I said.
They helped me get up. I'd been really obsessed that I needed to change my tampon – well I did need to. That's hard to put out of your mind, when you think on top of everything else, you may started soiling yourself right there. So I got that done, Reed in the stall with me. We were getting ready to go. I wanted the videotape from the morning show I’d paid for earlier. Reed left to get it for me. Then he went to pull the car around, and Darryl had me take his arm and he led me through the backstage.
It had been so calm after a while in the men's room, it was jarring to be in that cluster of people again. I held tight, he said are you okay? I nodded and felt myself tighten my grip on his arm even more. The towel was still over my shoulders. We took the elevator down the four floors. He had an urgency about his movements, and I couldn’t figure out why, since the danger had passed. He wanted to get me out fast. I felt myself put my head on his shoulder, I was just so tired. I said, “I was surprised when they said my name for second. For a second, I thought I won."
“So did I,” he said.
Then we were outside. It was warm balmy and it felt really weird to be there. Darryl kept asking where we parked. Reed pulled down the opposite side of the one-way street and I got in. Darryl told me to keep the towel on my back and shoulders and put the seat back and when I got home, get in a cool bath. The a/c was cranked up high. I waved goodbye to Darryl. I saw his face through the car window and realized that he looked really concerned. We drove off.
I was myself again, just exhausted. I was still plastered with all this brown paint everywhere, even my face and ears. Everywhere. It was surreal, like I'd been starved down and painted up for death, was one thought I had. We went to Burger King. I got a burger, could only eat half. I wanted fries, but the Evil McDonald's. We stopped there in the next town and I put all three salts on them and they tasted really good.
That night I was so tired. I kept getting up to pee. Reed went with me each time.
About the third time, I was so exhausted, the thought of moving one more time too much, that I just sobbed and sobbed, all the way to the bathroom, on the toilet, and back to bed, then stopped abruptly and fell back to sleep.
The next day I stayed in bed all day long. I could actually see my body becoming rehydrated hour by hour, and it brought me such psychological relief. My breasts, which I feared would never return to normal, filled back out. By the next day, I learned the true meaning of the word “bloated.” Every part of my body was full, was tight and hard to move. Levi told me to take a ginger bath to get rid of some of that water. I did and felt a lot better.

It was five days before I even began to feel like myself and stay out of bed or off the couch for any length of time. It was two weeks before I truly felt like myself again.

Was it worth it? Yes. Because as these scenes replay in my head over and over again, I am grateful that they are my memories, my experiences. Now when I do laundry, it’s not just me doing laundry, it’s me who just did a show, and has these things to think about.
I’ll be digesting the lessons of the entire experience for a long time. So far, I know that I’ve learned a lot about my body and how it can be manipulated. I’ve learned to relax about my physique to some degree. Soft spots no longer frighten me because I know I can control them, and realize that often it’s just water under the skin. I learned the particulars of competing, how to pose, diet, etc. Perhaps most of all, I now move with an ironically humble yet deeper pride, in my physique and my character. And despite my 12 years of hard work in the gym, people now suddenly look at me differently, with a new respect. So while my body changed in the moment, my life has changed forever.


Monday I had to go interview a couple of nuns in the morning for the paper, which I sleepwalked through, then came back home and went back to bed. Today I met a guy about photos then came home and slept on the couch. My appetite is only very slowly coming back. I bloated out bigtime by Monday. I never knew the meaning of bloating until that day. Every part of my body, it was tight and hard to move, I was so bloated. I called Levi, she told me to take a ginger bath to get rid of some of that water, I did and felt a lot better.
So! It was dehydration and then heatstroke. And now I'm really slowly starting to pull it back together. I'm amazed how long it's taking. I still feel soooooooo tired. And the whole night keeps playing in my head like it just happened.
And that, my friend, it the whole story, all the embarrassing details open for your scrutiny. And now I'm going back to the couch.
I did feel fantastically healthy until the finishing off sequence of the final week. I don't see myself ever doing another one. Or dehydrating myself for any reason. And I'm scared to go out in the sunlight. There you go!

Kat Ricker is a personal trainer, freelance writer and amateur bodybuilder. Her articles have appeared in Muscle & Fitness, Fitness Management and many more. She can be reached at