That is where she found herself last Saturday, competing in the National Physique Committee State Bodybuilding Championships in Anchorage.
It might be understated to say she was rattled.
“I was pretty nervous; I had no idea what I was doing,” said Cortez, a 2012 graduate of Kodiak High School. “I had never been up there so I didn’t know how it was going to be.”
Cortez, 20, reports that a friend talked her into doing her first show. She ended up placing fifth in the open figure competition and she plans to do another show in October.
Initially, she wasn’t going to compete and even cooked up a plan to quit halfway through her training.
“I was going to pretend that I was sick, but in the middle of March I actually wanted to do it,” Cortez said. “I don’t think I was ‘ready,’ ready, but I wanted to see how it was and wanted to get that experience to see if I liked it. And I actually liked it.”
Despite working two jobs and going to school at Kodiak College, Cortez still found time to train. Her training sessions would start at 3:30 a.m. She said the thought of being on stage kept her motivated during the early morning workouts.
“I would go to the gym three times a day. Sometimes I would go four times and I was doing CrossFit too, but I stopped doing CrossFit because it was just too much,” Cortez said.
She said the hardest part of training for the show was keeping up with work and school.
“I didn’t mind working out more than usual, but staying on track with school and work was pretty hard. I stayed on track but it wasn’t easy. I stayed up late a lot of times.
The time at the gym paid off. With the help of Alaska bodybuilding legend Lindsay Knight and friend Brian Riveria, she transformed her body from 23 percent body fat to 11 percent.
“When I saw results, that motivated me to keep going,” she said.
It wasn’t all about training. She also had to learn how to eat healthy. She stocked her refrigerator with chicken, fish and vegetables. She stayed away from carbohydrates and spent Sundays making meals for the entire week.
Cortez also drank three gallons of water a day, but did have to cut her water the week before the show.
“When I had to cut down the water it was so difficult,” she said. “It wasn’t easy.”
Like most bodybuilders, Cortez let loose after the show.
She went to Olive Garden that night and then the next day went to a Chinese restaurant.
The most important stop was a trip to IHOP for pancakes, the only food she was craving during the months leading up the show.
“I had, like, 10 pancakes,” she said.
Contact Mirror writer Derek Clarkston at email@example.com.