Becoming an Athlete
In July 2007, I weighed 273 pounds. I used food for several years to comfort me as my mom fought cancer for the third time and my parents went through an ugly and long divorce. I went to Germany with one of my closest friends to chaperone an exchange for the school where we teach and we went to an indoor waterpark one afternoon. She and I walked up to the top of a water slide and when we got to the top, one of the employees started speaking to us in German. I didn’t have a clue what he was saying, but I could infer the message: I was too big to ride the waterslide. I ran down the stairs, ashamed and embarrassed. It was at that moment I decided to make a change; I needed to take control of my life and my choices.
The week we came home, I went to L.A. Weight Loss, a place where that same friend had lost a lot of weight and started running; in fact, she had completed several half and full marathons at that point. I was scared to go there and admit I needed help, but once they explained the program and how I would be cooking all of my own food according to their guidelines, I knew it was right for me. I had a lot of work to do, but it put me in charge of all of my eating choices, which helped me change my thinking about food and its purposes. I have not looked back since. I started to add in exercise a few months later and I enjoyed watching not only the scale go down, but also how I felt as the new, healthier version of myself!
In June of 2008, I wanted to do something to celebrate my year of newfound healthy eating and exercise. I had a friend who did the ET Naperville Triathlon, so I looked up the distances and decided to take on the challenge. This was my first athletic undertaking ever in life; I didn’t play sports as a kid or anything! I trained myself all summer from a plan I found online, and in August 2008, I finished in 1:59:26. I was thrilled to have met my super secret goal of finishing in under two hours, and my family and friends were all there to cheer me on, so I felt like a rock star!
From that day on, I was hooked on triathlon. Each year I did ET Naperville and beat my time from the year before, my only goal. I would see the people on the podium and be happy for them, but never imagined I would be up there one day. I was just a “regular” person; people who look like me don’t podium!
Fast forward to the summer of 2013— I started racing Athena and I noticed that I was 4th in the division! I thought, “Wait, me? I still have weight to lose! I’m a full time high school teacher! There must be some mistake.” It was also around this time I started to think about taking on a new challenge— an Olympic distance race. I knew that in order to take my goals and my triathlon life to the next level, I needed help from an expert. I decided to use Experience Triathlon’s Personal Coaching services. That’s when I met Coach Cathy.
Coach Cathy has helped me achieve goals I never thought were possible. With her help, I was the second place Athena at ET Naperville last year— my first podium! I remember getting my results and bursting into tears upon seeing I placed; I felt like an athlete with as hard as I was working, but getting recognized as one by a race was something I never dreamed was possible when I began my journey in 2007. Last September I completed my first Olympic race, another goal I never saw as possible! I had a great race, in spite of it being 36 degrees at the start, because of the way Coach Cathy trained me. I was more than prepared physically and mentally and therefore I could conquer anything Mother Nature could throw my way that day. Crossing that finish line was a tremendous accomplishment, not only because it fulfilled my “next level” goal, but it also got me thinking… what else is possible for me?
I spoke with Coach Cathy at the end of my season and shared another super secret goal: I wanted to complete a half Ironman. We created a plan to work on distance in 2015 and I’d do my half Ironman in the summer of 2016. I was thrilled, excited, and intimidated by the undertaking, but I knew that with Coach Cathy by my side, there is nothing I can’t accomplish! With Coach Cathy’s expertise and help, I had an incredible season this summer as well! I took first place Athena at the ET Naperville Sprint— my first first place! When I got my results after finishing, I ran on my tired legs to find her to share the news; I truly felt this was as much her accomplishment as it was mine! I’ll never forget the look on her face when I told her; we high fived and hugged and jumped around like kids! I also took first place Athena at the TriRock Lake Geneva Olympic; in addition to my award, I took 18 minutes off of my race from last year, PR-ing in all three sports!
Crossing the TriRock finish line, seeing those great results, and feeling as good as I felt showed me one thing: I am ready to take on the challenge of the half Ironman. As I type those words right now, I still can’t believe how far I have come in my weight loss and athletic journey. Today I am eight pounds away from losing and keeping off 100 pounds, and on Tuesday I will be registering for the 2016 Ironman 70.3 Racine. Back in July 2007, I would never have dreamed I would become the person I am today, but in the best possible way. I am beyond grateful to have learned the value of hard work, persistence, dedication, and embracing the uncomfortable through my triathlon and weight loss journey. I have proven to myself and others that “regular” people can do extraordinary things when they embrace the struggle and challenge themselves to become stronger on every possible level. That knowledge, along with the support and expertise of my incredible coach, will get me to cross the finish line in Racine in July 2016!