When I finished my routine, I felt pretty good …

I made some mistakes, like pouring pop up my nose, but other than that I did pretty well. I am pumped.

We wait a couple of hours more and then it is our turn again. Next, we do the bikini round when we are marched onstage as a group to perform the four mandatory poses I mentioned earlier. Then the judges call you out in small groups to compare your bodies.

Phew! At the very end of the show (it’s six hours later now), we are called onto the stage to find out who the top-ten competitors are – who will come back on Saturday.

If you don’t make the top ten, you are done: four months of work for two minutes onstage. It’s quite disheartening, really. But I find out I am back on Saturday. Done and time to go to bed.

On Friday, we get the day off. This is really hard. Usually we are done competing after one day and there’s a big “Hooray!” and we eat. Not this time. It’s one more day of dieting … sigh. Cardio in the morning – yup, again. Then we head to the Expo.

Now, we are told what to expect with regards to crowds of people, but nothing could have prepared us for this. The Expo is enormous; I mean, I have been to huge fitness expos before, but they were tiny compared to this.

There are professional athletes everywhere and people lined up to see them. There are Olympic gymnasts and table-tennis players and UFC fighters (oh, did I forget to mention that UFC ’96 was in Columbus that weekend, too?). Arnold was there, of course (more about that later), bodybuilders, fitness athletes, power lifters, runners and booth upon booth of fitness supplies and supplements.

The professional fitness and figure show was this day and we were there at the main stage to watch our trainer, Jen H. It was almost impossible to walk from the entrance of the Expo to the mainstage. It took a lot of patience.

After Jen did her first couple of rounds onstage, it was time to head back to the hotel for some much-needed rest. That night was the main event with the finals to a sold-out audience. Jen won!

It was amazing to be there with Ms. Fitness International on her big win. And it was truly a big win. She finished her career with the best-ever score card for women’s fitness. Over 50 points ahead of the second-place finisher, which is unheard of in our sport.

We attended a private after-party for her win. She had pizza and beer while those of us who had to compete on Saturday ate our bland chicken breasts and offered her our congratulations.

The energy in the room was unbelievable. A lot of tears and laughter. A lot of fitness greats came by to offer their congratulations. We had to get out of there at midnight as we had to get up at 5:30 the next morning to get ready to compete again.

This time we were on the main Expo stage. This I will never forget. We were placed in a room away from the Expo, to get ready, but I really had no idea of the magnitude of what I was about to walk into. We were lined up in this back hallway and told that our route to backstage would take about 10 minutes, and we were warned not to stop if someone tried to stop us for photos.

I laughed this off, thinking that was crazy.

Well, on the route there were three times when we had a brief passing where the public could see us and it was like being on the red carpet. A zillion flashes of cameras going off and people lined up along the roped-off area to catch a glimpse of us. I kept looking around to see what they were taking pictures of.

There were, of course, a few whistlers and some wows, but for the most part people were polite. Then we get backstage and, as I step onstage I am amazed. There was a sea of people, literally shoulder to shoulder, cameras in the air, trying to watch us do our little turns. There were people as far as I could see.

After we were escorted back to our rooms, we were told who the top five were in our groups, who then had to wait another couple hours until the final awards.

I was in the top five.

So we hung out backstage for one more time onstage. The next time we walked on stage for the awards was even crazier with people trying to stop us to take pictures and bodyguards standing backstage pushing people back from the curtains.

After I received my fifth-place trophy (my fellow teammate got third), the two of us were stopped five times to have photos taken by obsververs before we had to start turning them down.

Finally it was over and we could celebrate with each other. Tons of pictures were taken of our team at the Expo, and we went out for a late lunch.

What did I eat? A large garden salad with dressing and a kid’s grilled cheese … Yum!

This column is provided by Peak Fitness. Mrs. Lee Randell is an ACE-certified personal trainer. Contact information and past articles are available at www.pkfitness.yk.ca/Clients. Anyone who wants to begin an exercise program should consult their physician first.

This column is provided by Mrs. Lee Randell, independent fitness consultant, who is an ACE certified advanced health and fitness specialist and personal trainer. You can reach her at www.mrsleerandell.com.