After almost eight years of living back in my hometown of Austin Texas, my girlfriend Brenda and I decided to move the magazine we produce to a new town. After some discussion, we decided that Miami would be a great place to land. We know some very successful vegan athletes and restaurants in that area that we wanted to cover for the magazine.
Vegan Health & Fitness magazine is Brenda’s baby which was born three years ago. I have been taking many of the photographs (including 6 covers) over the last year and a half of working for this beautiful creation and now have a column Vegan, Faster, Stronger. I would have never thought that my love for Brenda, photography, athletics and veganism would come together so precisely.
The last two years I have been competing with the PlantBuilt team of all vegan athletes. This third year, I would have to pass because of the timing of this Miami trip. It was very hard to resist flying back to Austin for a third reunion with these amazing, wonderful athletes, but It just wasn’t going to happening this time around.
Brenda and I had discussed the idea of forming a new vegan team to further spread the message that muscle can be built easily on a vegan diet. Discussing names for a new team, I blurted out “Vegan Beef” and Brenda replied, “I’m Lovin’ it” and so the domain name with slogan were decided. Things happen fast in the VH&F office. I built a team of 18 athletes that week and had 10 confirmed for a show in Miami a few weeks later. The show was called The Night of Champions , and was the promoter, Dave Bogan’s first time getting a competition together. This was going to be interesting as this was my first time to assemble a bodybuilding team.
My team had just eight weeks to prepare, and I had the opportunity to do some on-line coaching for two of our members who were going to be competing for their first time on stage. One of my other online clients is a competitive stair climber. His sport inspired me to use our 33 floor building as an alternate form of cardio to the boring machines at the gym. I worked my way up to 600 flights of stairs for a great workout lasting a shade over 2 hours. I would take the elevator to the ground, hustled up the stairs to the 31st floor (there is no 13th floor, so I got 30 floors covered) and take the elevator down to start the process over again. This was almost a transcendental experience, listening to the song of my breath as a leg reached for the next step without thought. This was a very similar experience to the latter hours of an ultra-marathon, when thought is superseded by instinct. I think I will need to enter a stair race sometime this year.
When the show date approached, the contest tanning and venue changed, leaving the team in a bit of a panic. Many of the Vegan Beef Team members had flown from distances as far away as Canada, and paid dearly for tickets,hotel stay and entry fees, but somehow managed to keep a terrific attitude. At the golden hour, everything fell into place, and a couple of days later, we were meeting at the contest hotel, hugging and sharing stories as we loaded our bodies with carbohydrates and waited in the lobby for our polygraph (most drug tested shows require you to pass a lie detector) and spray tanning appointments.
That night, I laid a dark sheet on the bed to keep the tanning products from staining the underlying sheets. If you have ever been spray tanned for a contest, you know just how sticky and uncomfortable your skin feels just moving across the room, let alone attempting to sleep. I awoke, had a small sip of coffee, put on very lose clothes and drove over to the contest venue where the team gathered, eventually turning my nervous energy into excitement.
After a long day of cheering each other on as we competed in our respective categories, the judges were ready to announce the winners. Our small team of ten ended up doing very well! Two of us won Pro-cards. Greg Moormann won his first competition and also the over-all in the other classes to win his card. I got 2nd place to good friend and fellow vegan Will Tucker. One of our other members,Erika Reesa also won 2nd place in her first pro show and we took home the team trophy! This was an amazing evening. The feeling of competing with our team and proving to the entire audience that a winning physique can be build without hurting an animal was amazing. The Vegan Beef Team’s mission was complete ( that is until we do our next show 🙂 )
Vegan pizza and cake did not last long after at our post- show celebration in the hotel lobby.
I just had to kiss our team trophy! I can’t wait to get another event set up in the next several months!!