2016 Olympia 212 Showdown Report

TAGS: how to get stage ready, 212 Olympia, Olympia, IFBB Pro League, Asia Grand Prix, kevin levrone, prejudging, carb up, Mark Dugdale, bodybuilding

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Nothing exposes a person's idol or their source of identity quicker than when reality fails to align with expectations. Have you been there? Perhaps in school, a job, marriage, or bodybuilding competition? You work hard assuming a given result, yet a perceived imbalance occurs on the equity scale. That which once provided security, meaning, and hope is now the source of bitterness. I suppose in a way this could be me following the Olympia outcome, but it isn’t. Why? Because my hope, trust, and the place in which I find my identity is not tied to the results of a bodybuilding competition. That is why an 11th place finish, in all truthfulness, is personally disappointing but far from devastating.


RECENT: Who’s the Greatest?


I’m sitting on a plane 33,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean in route to Seoul, Korea to compete in the Asia Grand Prix as I’m writing this article, and I finally have a moment to reflect and soul-search the results of this past weekend and my 5th Olympia appearance. The resounding word and feeling that keeps coming to mind is gratitude.

I’m grateful for an identity rooted in an unchanging and loving God. I am thankful for my faith, family, friends, fans, health and ability to participate in bodybuilding at the highest level of competition via the IFBB Pro League. I’m grateful for a wife who endured the pendulum swing of three pro wins to a baffling callout on the Olympia stage, yet continues to be my strongest supporter. Sure, I consider it a challenge, but also a blessing to have tasted the emotional joy of winning and the character-shaping process of dealing with missed expectations all within a four-month period of time.

elitefts photo shoot

Pre-Olympia

As many of you know, I came into 2016 with 28 professional competitions under my belt, but void of a single win. That all changed when I won three in a row from June to July and cinched my Olympia berth. The challenge then became grinding out essentially 12 more weeks of contest dieting between my win in Vancouver, BC and the Olympia in Las Vegas. It wasn’t enough time to completely pull back on my diet, so I simply eased up on training for a few weeks before turning the intensity back up. I hoped to improve my condition marginally without causing my body to fade or lose muscle mass — not an easy task at 41.

Elitefts Shoot

Part of my game plan to ensure I peaked properly for the Olympia fell in line with an email I received from Dave Tate (elitefts CEO) asking about setting up a photo shoot to obtain content for elitefts.com. Dave and I agreed to a photo/video shoot at my gym two weeks before the Olympia. This provided me some added motivation and a target date to ensure I was contest-ready before the actual Olympia competition. I coordinated the shoot with my friend Joel Barham, who was instrumental in filming and editing my entire collection of DVD’s — DRIVEN, Beyond DRIVEN, A Week in the Dungeon, Mark is Numero 202 and LEGACY. Dave graciously gave us license to shoot hardcore training, traditional bodybuilding poses, and family oriented stuff, which made for a really fun shoot.

Friday Night Challenge

This year the 212 Olympia division prejudging was moved to the main stage at the Orleans Arena on Friday night. It was both a blessing and a curse because we were given the same spotlight as the open class Olympia competitors, but it also meant we didn’t go onstage until after 10 PM. The timing presented a bit of a challenge considering the insanity of my typical weekly schedule, which forces me to get up at 3:45 AM on weekdays to train and invariably means I’m asleep every night no later than 8:30 PM. Alas, prejudging would take place an hour and a half past my bedtime!

Mark Carb-up

Carb-Up Process

Despite the late prejudging I decided to carb-up as though prejudging was taking place at noon on Friday anyway. In fact, at noon I pumped up at the hotel gym and posed for about 30 minutes. In the past my condition didn’t fade by the night show, so I treated Friday prejudging like it was just any other finals. You can read about my approach to being stage ready here. In the solitude of the hotel gym at noon on Friday came the moment of truth.

Did my physique fade with the extended diet? Did I maintain or improve my conditioning? Christina is a horrible liar, so as I began to pose I fully expected brutal honestly if things didn't look right. After 20 minutes Christina said with tears in her eyes, “You did it. You’re shredded and nearly filled out. I can’t wait to see how your physique pops on stage under those lights!”

History has proven extended diets in the half year range are not ideal for presenting my best package onstage, but it appeared I beat father time this go-around. I attribute this to training intelligently and Biotest supplements — specifically Plazma and Mag-10 for their muscle retention and recovery properties in light of brutal Meadows workouts on restricted calories. The past few months more than ever Plazma and Mag-10 proved why they’re elite-level supplements and in a category unto themselves.

Mark Prejudging

Prejudging Callouts

I’m highly competitive, but I didn’t expect to win the Olympia. Flex Lewis possesses one of my all-time favorite physiques and is truly untouchable, in my opinion. Additionally, I didn’t necessarily expect to be in the top five, because despite three wins this summer, I didn’t know how I would stack up next to top 212 guys like Jose, David, Eduardo, Hide, etc. My only expectation was a chance to compete; a chance to be compared. I figured three wins would afford me this opportunity or I would not have worked all summer to maintain my condition and muscle mass.

That opportunity never came to fruition, therefore I simply won’t ever know if I’m capable of being competitive against the 212 elite — at least not in the 2016 rendition of the Olympia. Three callouts down the line I finally got a comparison, but the writing was on the wall that a top five or even a top 10 finish was not likely. This isn’t my first rodeo, so I simply smiled and took this as another learning experience. I didn’t bring what the judges were looking for on this particular evening. Sometimes trying to draw rational, concrete conclusions from a subjective sport is an exercise in futility and it’s best to simply move on to climbing the next mountain rather than dwelling upon the one in the rearview.

Feedback

I did reach out to the head judge requesting feedback and direction for improvement as I prepared to switch gears into offseason-mode. The response was, “Hi Mark, you were in great condition, but you could come in a little fuller.” Based on the placement of other competitors, this made sense and was a fair assessment. I went for sharpness and they wanted fullness. I’m also taller than nearly all of the top five 212 competitors, but weighed in at 204 pounds when receiving my competitor number at the athlete meeting Wednesday night. If I can hold my mass for a nearly half-year-long diet then I certainly feel I’m capable of coming in closer to the top of the weight class without sacrificing my trademark leanness.

Per Bernal & Mark

My Reward

The resounding feedback from others within the industry was that I hit close to a personal all-time best in terms of conditioning and fullness (at least for my physique). I’m not sure I could ask for much more. However, I did get to scratch one more item off my bodybuilding bucket list Olympia weekend.

Since turning pro in 2004 I wanted to shoot with Per Bernal. Per, in my estimation, is one of the best photographers in the business, yet working with him despite my numerous photo shoots over the years proved elusive. Sunday following the Olympia finals, that changed when I met Per at City Athletic Club for a FLEX Magazine photoshoot. The experience was rewarding and I’m anxious to see what he captured when it hits newsstands!

Finally, as mentioned previously, my real treasures were not lost in the midst of missed expectations on Olympia weekend. My faith is unshaken as is my affection for my bride, daughters, and friends who walked this journey with me. As Arnold says, “I’ll be back.” Stay tuned to my training log as I get back into off-season training.

Kevin Levone & Mark

Final Thought

One of my bodybuilding inspirations from the 90’s was Kevin Levrone. Those who follow bodybuilding closely know that Kevin made a comeback to the Olympia stage after a 13-year hiatus from competition and at the age of 51! I bumped into Kevin on my way out of the Orleans Arena after finals and he was kind enough to speak with me for a moment while we took the picture above. It was a really cool opportunity and caused me to realize that finding gratitude in the numerous smaller moments of life is often more important than waiting for really big ones.

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