My Nationals Experience by Alissa Carpio
I guess I'm one of those people that places high expectations on themselves. At least, at this point I am. When I first began competing in figure in 2003, I did average. I placed 3rd, 6th, and 4th at my first three shows that year, respectively. And like most competitors, I vowed to improve and come back better the following year.
2004 was a stellar year for me. I made the switch to fitness and won every show I entered, including the Overall title at the BodyRock/Monica Brant Fitness. Many of my friends encouraged me to do a national show that year, but I really felt I wasn't ready, so I spent the next several months preparing for 2005. (It’s a very huge jump from a local fitness show, with almost no competitors and little competition, to the national-level!)
Junior USA’s was first on the list, and I went in with no big expectations, since this was my first national show. I crossed over to figure as well, and was pleasantly surprised to win my class in Fitness and place 8th in an 18-woman field of Figure girls. I went on to win my class at the Pittsburgh show just 3 weeks later, before taking a short off-season. I already knew I wanted to do the Nationals, and play with the big girls! So, I started preparing a week after the Pittsburgh show, in mid-May. I revamped my fitness routine by changing some of the choreography, putting in more difficult transitions and cleaning up all my gymnastics and strength moves. I was going to make sure I did everything in my power to prepare for Nationals, and then I would be happy no matter what the outcome of the show.
November came very quickly, but I was ready. Two weeks out I knew there wasn't a thing more I could do – I was as ready as I possibly could be. My physique was its best ever since I began competing, and my routine was clean, polished, and full of energy. I was ready to tackle Nationals!
The list came out on the Tuesday before the show, and there would be 9 other girls to contend with in the Tall class. Only 1 or 2 “big names” were on the list for my class, so I felt confident that this might very well be my show. On the other hand, I didn't want to assume anything, and then be disappointed if it didn't go as I wished. But I couldn't hold back my excitement, either!
Friday’s prejudging went well, with me getting center and first callouts in the 1-piece round. I knew that I just had to nail my routine with a great performance, as the physique rounds have always gone well for me and been my strong point.
Saturday morning my team and I arrived at the venue and began warming up. I felt rested, but a bit lethargic and sluggish in my movements. I didn't want to take a lot of caffeine or fat burner since I've done that in the past and ended up with the jitters and a racing heart rate. I decided to just sip on water and keep eating carbs to fuel my performance. I would have the rest of the day to tighten back up before finals. I was first in my class to perform my routine, which I was grateful for. I love going first, because not only can I get it out of the way, but I don't have to watch any of my competition and compare myself to them before I go out! There were about 5 minutes between classes while the judges tallied up scores from the Medium class. I cleared my mind, prayed to God for a strong performance, and calmed and relaxed myself – I was ready! My performance went good, but not great. I nailed all my moves and didn't miss a beat on my choreography. I did feel a bit jittery and not completely in sync, however, but it was over! What a relief! Now all I had to do was relax until finals, when the 2-piece judging would take place.
My team and I took a trip around the expo, and then we headed up to the hotel room for a quick nap before getting ready for finals. We found out at the meeting that the 2-piece round would be live-judged for all competitors, not just top 5. I was the first one called out for 2-piece judging, and of course was very happy with that callout! I was pretty confident that I made top 5 and was still thinking I had a shot at a pro card, or even winning the class.
Once top 5 were announced, we performed our routines again for the evening crowd before the awards were given. Fifth and fourth place were announced and I was still without a trophy. I thought for sure that I would be 1st or 2nd. But then they called my name for 3rd and my heart sank. I graciously accepted my award, but I was disappointed to have come so close and miss by that small margin. By no means did I wallow – I went out with my team and friends and we had a blast celebrating that night!
After a good night’s sleep, I awoke feeling much better about my placing. I thought back on my prep over the past 20 weeks and remembered how hard I worked. I remembered the 8:00am routine practices when my body felt like it got hit by a Mac truck, but I plugged on. I remembered the days of dieting when I bit my husband’s head of a zillion times, my blood sugar was low all day, and all I wanted was FOOD, of ANY kind… but I plugged on. I remembered how far I’d taken my physique and routine since Junior USA’s, and I considered the fact that this was only my first pro-qualifier, and I came that close to turning pro. After reflecting on all of this, I was very happy and the disappointment was no longer there. I knew that day that I’d be back at the Team Universe in 2006.
I've been training for Team U since the week after Thanksgiving,
and I am training with the mindset that this will be my show. Once you
get to this level of competition, you can’t think any other way. Yes,
it’s sometimes disappointing to not win when you're used to winning
at the local level, but national shows are a lot different and you have
to go into them with a completely different mindset. If not, you can
easily get frustrated, burned out, and forget why you started competing
in the first place. So while the expectations may be higher, don't forget
all the hard work you put into the journey to the competition, and you'll
never be disappointed!