|PICTURE: CHRIS CALLINAN: Conrad Lowery (left back), and Tanerahi Keno with Rose Lowery and Kirsten Tulloch.|
|By KELLY EXELBY |
Rose Lowery cried for hours when she walked into a health supplements store last year and first laid eyes on international bodybuilder Kirsten Tulloch.
Lowery and her husband Conrad had just given up kickboxing for bodybuilding and Tulloch's voluminous physique _ chiselled from 13 years of serious weight training _ almost proved too much.
"I walked into the shop and right back out again, packing a real tantrum and crying for almost half a day.
"It was so intimidating for me, just starting out, but what I didn't realise is that we're in completely different classes anyway, so I had it all wrong.
A year after they first met, Lowery and Tulloch are team-mates, helping Tauranga gym Fitco to champion honours at the Bay of Plenty bodybuilding championships in Rotorua. Tulloch, who emigrated from Scotland 18 months ago and was 14th at the world championships in Spain in 1998, was the star of the Bay champs, taking the women's physique class and overall best female performance.
Lowery's husband Conrad brought the house down with an impressive debut performance, finishing second in novice athletic, with another Fitco competitor, Tanerahi Keno, fourth.
Conrad won best male performance for his routine and also teamed with his wife to grab second in the mixed pairs section, helping Fitco topple Sunny Gymz and win the Lake City Gym trophy.
"It's virtually unheard of, a small team of four like ours going to a regional competition and winning against teams far bigger," said Tulloch, who was also selected to compete for New Zealand.
Keno, 25, competed two years ago before "letting my body go a bit" but got serious again late last year. Sorting out his diet was the biggest challenge.
Nutrition was also a big obstacle for the Lowerys. "The more people told us we wouldn't do it the more determined we got," Rose said.
Despite winning best male routine, Conrad admits he struggled to put together a one-minute combination of poses.
"I didn't have anything until a few nights before the competition but my [10-year-old] son Patrick came to the rescue and worked out a routine for me based around [WWF] Wrestlemania, which seemed to go down well."
Tulloch is a former figure competitor who outgrew the more slender class and moved to open physique.
"I'm judged on the same things as the guys _ size, shape, symmetry, density and definition _ but it's harder for a women to get the size a guy does.
"Whereas Rose is little and petite and fits nicely into the figure class, I'm not naturally someone who is small _ I'm stocky and strong and always have been."
Tulloch, whose muscular physique attracts plenty of sideways glances, wants to get even bigger.
She already weight trains nine hours a week and does another hour of cadio fat burning a day.
"For me this is a 24:7 way of life _ it's what I do and who I am. I get up, make all my meals for the day, take my supplements and train.
"Even though I hadn't competed for six years before this, stopping training isn't an option and never will be."