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If you had told me that I’d be taking the stage at my fourth national level National Physique Committee (NPC) bikini competition two years ago I probably would have called you crazy. But, in Vegas July 25-26th, on the national stage once again is exactly where I found myself. My goal was to place in the top 2 and move from the amateur ranks to the IFBB professional league. It’s a big goal that when I started my journey I didn’t even know existed. Now it’s not even so much a goal – it’s a personal mission.
 
My first experience as an NPC bikini competitor over two years ago was taken on so I could lose weight. I’d run track my whole life – youth meets, high school, I even received a scholarship at the collegiate level – and working out had been a second nature sort of thing for me. Or so I thought. It turns out that my fitness wasn’t so much second nature as it was something that I was really good at when I had a reason and a coach breathing down my neck. Without the competition and coaches telling me what to do and when I got more than a little lazy. I gained ten pounds, then twenty, and then thirty as I left track and field behind while maintain my not-so-healthy college nutrition habits.
 
It took awhile, but eventually I decide that I needed to get more fit again; I was tired of feeling like someone other than myself. So I talked to a friend who was a trainer and committed to my first NPC bikini competition. I worked hard, took the stage and achieved my goal of becoming healthier. I didn’t place, but that hadn’t been the point. The point was to feel good about myself again and I’d made that happen.
 
But I’m really, really competitive. The product of parents who met at a track meet, I was practically born striving to constantly improve and finish one step ahead. My personal win was a big deal, but the fire within me knew I could do better. So I signed up for another show. And another. Soon I’d qualified for national level competition four times over. I thought I was ready to take on the big leagues and leave a cloud of dust and sequins behind me.
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My first national show was USAs a year ago in Vegas (the same show I just competed in). I went in to that competition thinking I was unstoppable. Instead, I was totally and utterly blown out of the water. While I don’t know my exact placing at my first national show (they don’t place anyone past 15th), it was very close to the bottom of my class of 35. Initially I was totally devastated, but it was also strangely motivating.
 
Within the next year I went to Nationals in Florida and Jr. Nationals in Chicago where I placed 12th and 6th respectively. Returning to Vegas six weeks after my high placing at Jr. Nationals, so close to an IFBB Pro card I could practically taste it, I went back to Las Vegas expecting very big things. I was in the best condition of my life and I felt ready.
 
Only this sport isn’t one that’s cut and dry. It’s not like running the 400. There is no fastest. There is no clear winner. Instead, seven judges give you a score based on their own idea of what the ideal bikini competitor is. This is not a sport of clearly defined distances and scores, but rather one of total subjectivity. And sometimes, no matter how hard you work, those judges, on that day, aren’t going to select you over the girl next to you.
 
So what happened at the 2014 NPC USA Championship? I once again placed somewhere in that murky area below 15th. However, unlike times past, I wasn’t upset or disappointed or angry. Instead I was surprisingly accepting. In fact my only negative feelings came as I worried I’d let people down – family, friends, my coach, the amazing people here at Xyience. I worried not about me, but them.
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Once I moved beyond that momentary feeling of being a complete disappointment, I came to a place that I can best describe as one of contentment. I realized that while I’d brought my best look it just hadn’t been my day. I was able to look beyond the trophies and pro cards and be proud of what I’d accomplished through my own hard work. This is very much an “any given Sunday” kind of sport. This just wasn’t my Sunday.
 
The lights of the stage have faded, the tan is slowly wearing off and I’m back in Montana still not an IFBB Pro. While it’s something I obviously want, it’s a goal I’m content to keep waiting for. The way I see it, as I work toward achieving one of the highest honors of my sport I’m winning every day that I hit the gym. That gym is a place where, daily, I get to celebrate being in the best shape of my life. I can do pull-ups and bench press and sprint like crazy – all with 30 less pounds than I had four years ago. I’m pretty sure that’s better than a trophy.
 
Here’s to 2015: Year of my Sunday. Year of my IFBB Pro Card. Year of my healthiest body yet!
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