12:36 pm – Friday, September 18th
Today I had an expo appearance as well as tanning on my itinerary. I made sure to get enough rest before heading to the expo and exerting all my energy there. When we got off the bus, the outside of the convention center looked like a Burning Man festival, a huge sea of people forming a centipede line to get into the expo. As we walked through, my Olympia jacket parted the sea–I felt like Moses. Flashing my VIP badge everywhere made walking through the expo a breeze, all-access anywhere and having friends working other expo booths meant that I can pick up goodies without waiting in line. Wearing the Olympia jacket meant those goodies were free of charge. Before getting to Nutrex booth, me and Matt walked around to say hi to a few people. Some of the vendors pulled me aside to give me free merchandise, clothes, a food bag, supplements, most of which I gave to Matt.
After doing a lap, we got to the Nutrex booth where a line of people was already waiting for me to take photos. The entire time there I was treated like royalty, by fans, by my Nutrex teammates and co-workers, it’s an amazing experience every year. Few people came up to me with items I’ve signed for them in other countries when I traveled for other expos, like cellphones and hats. Being mindful of why I’m there in the first place, I took occasional breaks to feed and hydrate. I stayed at the booth for a lot longer than I had expected, time flies when you’re having a good time.
9:25 pm – Friday, September 18th
Made sure to get to the room with enough time to shave before applying the first coat of tan. I didn’t want to shave my face at first and was going to keep a beard for the stage, somehow I talked myself out of it and gave in to the razor’s demands. Something about the smell of tanning solution bring back nostalgia. I remember I used to hate it when I first started competing, now, twenty seven show later, I smile every time it hits my nostrils. First coat of tan was applied and all of a sudden the definition of my body became that much more prominent. The striations were visible without having to flex and the skin looked like it was stuck to the muscle like a piece of film due to a very small percentage of bodyfat. Tanning accentuated the features on my face as well, made my eyes pop with that nice blue tint. It creates a deeper separation between the muscle bellies and evens out skin tones. Competition tan isn’t like regular spray tan, it is absurdly dark and even when you wash it off, you are still left with most of it on. It takes weeks to come off fully and usually starts rubbing off in creases first, wrists, under the chest, elbows, face, neck – when it does start rubbing off, for a day or two you look like you have some kind of a weird skin disease.
Having done two coats in one session, I still felt like I could be darker and made another appointment for morning. I ordered a burger and fries as my last meal, which was dry and didn’t live up to my expectations. The rest of the night I did not want to move, I felt sticky and didn’t want to mess up my color and have it rub off in patches, so I laid in my bed motionless, watching TV and drinking dandelion root tea, patiently awaiting tomorrow’s big day.