This past weekend, I went on an adventure. I don’t adventure often. I’m a creature of habit and maintain my sanity with routine – work, gym, relaxing in the apt with jesse, repeat. With that being said, I have a lot of vacation days I have yet to take. So when I was reminded that the Arnold Classic was approaching, I knew I had no excuse to skip out! I remember seeing a few friends from Instagram p0sting about the expo last year, and I was sooo jealous. I wasn’t going to suffer the jealousy again. Especially when I knew a MUCH LARGER group of Instagram friends were going.
So. Plans were coordinated the craziness began on Thursday. I flew from Atlanta to Columbus, Ohio. I got a rental car and found my hostel. I planned to room there with Lacey, Marie, Sara, and I believe two others. I picked up Lacey from the airport that evening at midnight, but Marie and Sara weren’t arriving until Friday. Long story short, the hostel was extremely uncomfortable so Lacey and I ditched that situation so fast and crashed with Zoe and Arlene in their hotel. Dees were da roommates for da weekendz.
Friday at the expo was so overwhelming. Honestly, a lot of it was a blur! I got to see SO many people that I knew from Instagram, as well as meet many others. Katie, Joelle, Valerie, Emilia, Justin, many others. I’ve known Justin through IG for over a year and a half or something; so crazy, so it was really nice to meet him. We also went over to the Beast booth to meet Danny. He gave us free tanks so. Yay :D.
Lacey and I went to meet Jazzythings at the quest bar booth and get our free quest bar. Katie and I later returned to the booth to meet Shannan (aka questcreator). That was particularly exciting for me. I love Quest Nutrition and their company; I had spoken with Shannan once or twice before, but never in person. I took the opportunity to really express how grateful I am towards their company and how I respect everything they do. We talked about her vision of healthy foods and it was such a nice encounter. I later returned to the Quest booth on Sunday to meet Clark Pagaduan and Nick Robinson, also two Quest representatives I have spoken with frequently. I’m a complete fan. It made me so giddy to interact face-to-face for once.
Friday, I also got to meet Ronnie Coleman after waiting (*cough*skipping*) in line for the Optimum Nutrition booth. And Emilia and I saw Steve Cook casually walking through the crowds so we HAD to stop him for a picture. He was extremely nice and even stopped to ask where I was from rather than rush away. K cool I’ll tell you my whole life if you tell me yours. Another sweetheard was Jessie Hilgenberg. We saw her Friday and chatted with her. Then I saw her again after waiting (*cough*skipping* XD) in line for the Optimum Nutrition booth again. She genuinely loves her fans and continued talking with us after the picture! So genuine.
Other random spottings: The Rogue booth. I took a picture for my crossfit-loving friend and apparently Dan Bailey is in the picture? Idk I’m crossfit ignorant but I guess he’s a big deal. And I crept on Dana Linn Bailey and her delts but there was no way I was going through that mess of a crowd to meet her. And we met Ashley, who became the arnold international bikini champ that weekend.
Friday evening, Emilia, Arlene, Lacey, and I worked out at rise above fitness. The gym was great and having a supportive group workout was unique and fun. I also accidentally peeved some “IG famous” guy named Zach Deal? Idk what happened but. Just goes to show you that IG followers mean nothing because in the end you’re just another guy in the gym. He posted a picture and you can see Emilia in the back photobombing hahaha. Afterwards, we headed to Level lounge with Zoe, Katie, and Katie’s boyfriend. The service was slow but the company was great :)
Saturday at the expo was a mess. Sooo extremely crowded and almost not worth it. I WAS able to meet Maryana, the 14-year old girl who bench presses 330 lbs or more… So that was rad. I felt silly getting so excited over a 14 year old girl but whatever. She’s amazing. Emilia, Arlene, and I also spent some time watching the men’s amateur body building comp. While rocking stellar leggings. The comp was hilarious mostly because the song choices were… interesting. Our hearts will forever remain with the man who played “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars. Don’t know why he chose it but seemed heart breaking :p Other events I peeked over the weekend were strongman competitions, irish dancing, fencing, crossfit, an arm wrestling comp, a jump rope tournament, and more. All were so fascinating.
The best part of Saturday was the huge Instagram fam fancy dinner at Bonefish grill. I think there were 24 of us? And that’s after many left Columbus early because of the impending snow storm of doom (that only ended up being 2 inches of snow…) I actually returned my rental car early because I was scared ha. I was NOT about to experience anything similar to the Snowpocalypse that happened in Atlanta a little over a month ago. After I returned my car, I used an app called Lyft to get around. They just launched and had a 2-week promotion of 50 free rides under $25. Sweet I’ll take it. Plus all the drivers were really friendly and nice to talk to. Anyways. I got to see many other IG lovers, as well as make new friends at dinner. Such a fun night.
Sunday, the expo crowds were calm again. Not many people were round anymore, but I was with Marie, Sara, and Kelly and her boyfriend most of the day. One of the most exciting moments for me was…. So. I was looking for Furious Pete all day. He’s a huge inspiration for me because 7 years ago he was hospitalized for anorexia. Now he’s a dang beast and does food eating challenges on youtube. Crazy stuff like… Eating bars of butter or tubs of mayo. So. Yeah. I FINALLY found him after hunting for him, and BOOM TIMBAHWOLFFFF and him are together just casually chatting. No biggie. Mind blown. I couldn’t handle two great inspirations together in one place. Timbahwolffff was very humble. Furious Pete and I had a full-on like…therapy session in the middle of the expo. So insane. I explained how he’s an inspiration for me to not like any disordered eating habits ever return, and we discussed related topics and he was genuinely concerned about whether I still struggle with them or not. As crowds waited to take pics with him. It was so kind.
Kelly and I met Billy with P28 high protein bread. He seemed so stoked to meet us both, as were we. Like meeting the Quest reps, it was great to meet Billy since we’d been in contact through email before. I also got hoisted onto the shoulder of the Mancakes Lumberjack. That was a fun ride…
Since the expo was ending, most booths were handing out ridiculous amounts of free samples to get rid of. So Kelly and I went around grabbing free everything. Even entire boxes of protein bars. I took a picture of everything received on Sunday, and then everything over the course of the weekend. So. Much.
Sunday night for dinner, Kelly, her boyfriend, Courtney, and I went to O’Charley’s for one last dinner. My three roommates had all taken flights home at this point, so the company was nice :). I had been getting lonely in my hotel and even resorted to chatting with the front desk guy :p He mentioned he’d be in Atlanta this upcoming weekend, and I told him where the best gay clubs are – I had a vibe from him, and was right ;). I enjoyed talking to him but I’m sure he had a job to do. Or something. Job shmob. Anyways, the four of us had a pleasant dinner and parted ways.
Monday, I flew home. And that’s all she wrote! So many amazing memories made. I got to meet long-time Instagram friends, fitness idols, company representatives I had been in contct with for so long, and new friends! Overall, the weekend was amazing and I don’t regret a moment. I never expected that my dinky instagram account that documented my journey into healthy eating would ever turn into something big enough to lead to great, long-lasting friendships. None of our waiters or taxi-drivers understood how we could have connected through social media, but I have always been a firm believer in the power of social media. There’s so much support and love involved; it blows me away.
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