^^^^ Yep, that was me! It was 2013 and behind that fake smile, I was lost and broken. A self-destructing 36 year-old couch potato weighing in at 267 pounds! I look at these pictures now and they make me sad. How could I have let myself get to this point? I guess you could blame it on the “college 15”, being happily married and going out to eat a lot, kid #1, kid #2, Hurricane Katrina, but the truth was…I did this to myself. I settled. A lot. My standards weren’t very high and I didn’t hold myself accountable. I felt disappointed when I would fail at trying to lose weight. I had no determination, energy or drive to do much of anything. Depressed and feeling helpless, I decided to take drastic measures.
In May of 2013, I had bariatric weight loss surgery and it changed my life. I dropped 60 pounds in the first 6 months without much effort. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds; however. I had to mentally retrain my mind that I could not eat all that I was physically eating before nor the types of foods I used to eat. No bread, no pasta, no desserts. I cried. A lot. Thought I made the wrong decision. Once I starting eating healthy (proteins, veggies, fruits, nuts) my stomach thanked me. I no longer felt sick. I gained energy. As tough as that was, it was only the beginning. The surgery was just a tool to help me on my weight loss journey. It’s what I decided to do with my life after that point that really turned my life around.
I started living for ME for the first time in my adult life.
A friend gave me a book to read and I haven’t looked back since. Swim, Bike, Mom…Triathlon for the Every Woman by Meredith Atwood.
She’s my hero! Hard working, determined mom of 2 lawyer turned full-time triathlete pursuing her Ironman dreams and so much more. Her book gave me the confidence I needed to pursue something so wild and huge no matter my size or lack of experience in the triathlon world. I grew up swimming a lot as a child although I didn’t do it much as an adult, so I began swimming laps, I bought a bike on a whim at my local bike shop, and the running…oh the running! I hadn’t run laps around a track since my high school softball days. I thought I really might die! I read the entire book and before I finished had already signed up for 3 sprint triathlons…in Aug and Sept of 2014. I must have known how much I was going to love them…now I’m hooked!
Because doing 3 sports at one time wasn’t crazy enough…did someone say half-marathon? Yes, my dear friend Sara, ran her first half marathon at the Rock-n-Roll in Feb 2014 in New Orleans. I was so inspired by her hard work that I vowed to run it with her in 2015…4 months of training later, we did it together…13.1 miles!!!! Two years prior, I couldn’t even run a half mile or climb a flight of stairs without getting winded. I’m forever grateful to her for pushing me outside my comfort zone and dabbling with longer distances.
After eight or so sprint triathlons and a few half marathons, I was down another 60 pounds and joined my local tri team, GNO Tri. I was ready for a bigger challenge and decided to relay a 70.3 Half Ironman. Two weeks before the event, I tried open water for the first time and did so well, I changed my registration to individual and did the entire thing myself in April 2016. It wasn’t a pretty finish, but none the less, I finished in some of the toughest conditions I’ve ever raced in with wind gusts and hurricane type waters in the marina. It certainly tested my will and determination to finish. (Swim 00:59:25, Bike 03:53:38, Run 02:56:11 = Total Time 08:05:09). When I crossed the finish line my coach told me, “If you can finish a half IM in these conditions, you can definitely finish a full IM”. That was it…he planted the seed.
Since that time, I’ve involved myself in a lot of charity work having completed the Bike MS Tour (150 miles in 2 days) in Louisiana to raise awareness and money towards Multiple Sclerosis the last 3 years. I also run for an organization called Ainsley’s Angels that assists children with special needs feel a since of inclusion by pushing them in specially designed wheel chairs in such races as the Louisiana Marathon and Lake Charles AA 5k.
In September 2016, tragedy struck close to home. I lost a close cycling friend of mine in a bike wreck in Alabama. Brian Guerrero was a mentor to many, but a very humble and kind man to every stranger he ever met. Since his passing, I helped organized a 50 mile annual fundraising ride as a tribute to the wonderful athlete, father, and husband he was as a way to assist his family financially. I knew I wanted to help give back for all that he gave our cycling community. Unfortunately, I never got the opportunity to complete my first century ride with him as we had talked about the month prior. I’m fortunate that I had a great group of friends that stepped up to do that with me. It was a challenging day, but I felt his presence there with me the whole time. His funeral services were the same night following my first century ride.
He may be gone, but never forgotten.
Last November, I had a weak moment sitting at the computer thinking about life and wanting to challenge myself more. I was contemplating a full Ironman distance and opps, I clicked register! Louisville, Kentucky here I come! Little did I know how epic 2017 was really going to be.
In February 2017 (Mardi Gras day), I was involved in what I hope is my first and last bike wreck. It completely shook me to my core and had me doubting my Ironman future. Two ambulance rides, two emergency rooms, one ICU overnighter, a concussion, a surgery on my leg three weeks later, and countless rehab sessions, I was absolutely the weakest I had been since I started this journey to a better life. I wasn’t sure I would ride again and although I had the best support system at home, my family thought Louisville was out of the picture for 2017.
Little by little, I dug myself out of the deepest, darkest hole and made a promise to myself that I was going to prove the world wrong once again! I had to renew my faith in my “WHY”. Why do I do all this crazy stuff? My simple answer…I just WANT it and I want it bad! I want it for ME to prove to myself that I can, for my kids to see what is possible if you put the hard work in, I want it to bring on my 40’s in style, I want it to prove to others that it’s never too late to change your life around from a 267 pound couch potato to an Ironman if you WANT it bad enough. It would’ve been so easy to give up after my wreck and go back to living the life I used to have, but that just wasn’t me anymore! I’ve changed for the better. I’m not a quitter! I’ve invested in myself and my future to be the best version of myself that I can possibly be.
Today we are 45 days from Louisville and I’ve had some crazy awesome training sessions that still amaze me when I look back at how far I’ve come. I’ve teamed up with two of my favorite BASE Race Team Members and Ambassadors, Craig Clark and Scott Muller, and I’m fortunate to call them my 2017 Louisville training partners. They provide me nutrition and supplement advice and encouragement each and every day that we are going to make this Ironman dream a reality…together! Two weeks ago we previewed the course by riding the entire bike course, swimming in the Ohio River near the start line and running from Indiana to Kentucky passed the IM finish line. Some days I think I’m living a dream…just please don’t pinch me. I don’t want to wake up!
What I’ve learned over the last few years is it’s about so much more than just a race…it’s about a person who once was lost but now am found. This entire journey has taught me a lot about mental and physical toughness, but more importantly, it has taught me who I really am…a strong, confident woman capable of anything I put my mind to! Look out World cuz you haven’t seen the last of me yet!
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