OCR Transformations-Bill Pollackov

ORM presents the series of stories on OCR Transformations. Runners and athletes whose mind body, and spirit have been altered through obstacle racing.

When Bill was young, really for as long as he can remember, he was always a competitive athlete. From swimming to football and wrestling, Bill seemed to always be either practicing or competing. When he got to college, he joined the fire service and served as a firefighter/EMT for 9 years. Food was his escape. Anytime something was stressful, going wrong, or even good, eating helped him get through it. Sweets and ice cream were his go to. For many years this didn’t manifest as he was burning many of those calories.

Bill and his wife Tracy 2013

When Bill got married to his wife in 1995 they moved to Syracuse, NY. They moved so his wife could go through graduate school. It was there that his activity levels began to decrease, and his food intake didn’t change. By the time they moved to North Carolina in 1998, Bill had added about 50 lbs to his frame. “I was never a small guy, so even 50 lbs was manageable”. When he left the fire service is when the weight really began to hit him.

By 2013, Bill’s weight was over 450 lbs and it consumed his life. At that time he says fast food was about, 45-50 percent of his diet he was drinking between 2 and 2 ½ gallons of diet coke a day. One of the biggest shockers for Bill was when he went clothes shopping.  He was trying on shorts and surpassed the size 60 mark.

When Bills’ father passed away at age 59 in 2001 of a weight related disease, he was wearing a size 64 pants. “I remember cleaning out his closet and promising myself, I would never get to that size.” Bill describes that the feeling that came over him walking out of that store with a size 60 pair of shorts was overwhelming. He knew something had to change but was paralyzed with fear. He had tried with family to work out and exercise, but was constantly getting injured. He could not run or jog, and all movements caused him pain.

The motivation to change came from two really good friends that asked to meet with him one day. That morning was the day that reshaped his outlook on a lot of things. These men spoke to some of the areas that he was neglecting in his life including his; ministry, work, and family. It was not until then he realized that he was in a complete depression and was in the process of eating himself to death. He stepped on the scale that day and weighed right at 460 lbs. Something finally clicked for Bill. He had no idea what to do or how to do it, but something had to change.

Bill decided to meet with a surgeon to speak about bariatric surgery as an aid. This is what he now determines to be a turning point in his life. The doctor told Bill that this surgery, if he had it, was only a tool. Surgery would not solve his problems unless he dedicated himself to changing his diet and started exercising more. He was sold on this idea.

Bill’s surgery was on April 27, 2015. By surgery date he had already lost 55 lbs. He had completely abandoned fast food and his last diet coke was on January 3, 2015. There were some complications with his surgery as they had to remove his gallbladder as well, because it was basically one huge stone. In his follow up appointment is where the OCR seed was planted. Dr. Rao told him … “Here is your plan. In 2017 I want you to run the Gate River Run (15k) and in 2018 I want you to do a Tough Mudder or Spartan Race, deal?” He said he was definitely up for the challenge!

About 2 months after Bill’s surgery, he stepped back into the Gym. He walked in that morning very hesitant, not sure what to expect. In December 2015, he went to another gym to welcome a friend who was trying it out. He was very excited till he saw the workout….There in the middle of it was running….a full mile.

“I remember feeling my heart sink and I immediately accepted failure as my Goliath stood looming over me”. But he did his best, completed a full mile and was able to complete the rest of the workout as well. He shared that day with the group this was the first mile he had run since 1997.

The next morning, he went for a run on his own and completed a whole 5k. Over the next few weeks he pushed himself as far as 5 miles and felt good about it. He realized that something had really changed in himself. He was over 150 lbs down, and he felt great. Bill decided that he wanted to finish every distance of a running race that year. 5k, 10k, 15k and half marathon. Done, done, and done. On Thanksgiving day, with his friend Jim running by his side and his family cheering like crazy, he completed a half marathon. Bill ran the entire 13.1 miles with an 11 min pace….but his focus was 2 weeks away….SPARTAN.

When Bill decided to do the Spartan Race, he had about 5 months to train. Completing the Spartan however, has really kept him going! That was his first and only OCR. (That will drastically change this year) He says, “I can remember approaching the inverted wall and being terrified. I almost just went around and did the burpees. But my team was there, I jumped on, and zipped straight over. I was on top of the world…..I truly felt like a Spartan”.

Bill killing the obstacles at his first Spartan

Bill gives thanks first and foremost to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for guiding him through this gauntlet. Without his salvation, he says he would not have been able to endure this test.

Family 5k

His amazing wife, Tracey of 21 years and his kids Luke (16) and Chloe (13) are his greatest fans and partners.  They completed a 5k as a family this year, and he can see his influence in all of their training as Luke aspires to play college football one day and Chloe cheerleads and enjoys basketball and volleyball.

First Spartan finish with friends Anthony and Denea

Anthony and Denea Widener will always be credited with being the largest catalyst in showing Bill his true value and assisting him in achieving his goals and dreams. Jason Palmisano and his family for bravely following their dream of Trinity Fitness and spreading the gospel and wellness to all.

Bill trains 3 times a week in the morning at TF. Those workouts are all metabolic conditioning so they change up daily. No matter what the workout at the very end he adds in an extra ½ mile run. He also adds other runs usually once or twice a week. Sometimes it will be 3-5 miles running, other times it will be about 3 miles with breaks every ¼ mile for some type of bodyweight exercise (burpees, push ups, sit ups, ect…).

December 2014 – resting heart rate 97. BP 135/90. Weight 460 lbs
January 2017 – resting heart rate 61. BP 118/78. Weight 225 lbs.

OCR Transformations- Frannie Steele

ORM presents the series of stories on OCR Transformations. Runners and athletes whose mind body, and spirit have been altered through obstacle racing.
“I have grown so much not only physically and athletically, but mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.”

Frannie Steele grew up in Holland, Michigan up until her college years moving to the east side of the state in metro Detroit and Ann Arbor. She spent her childhood running around on a farm and taking care of horses up until her parents divorced. She believes that was the turning point for her unhealthy lifestyle. Between puberty, peer pressure, bullies, and depression she had gained enough weight to launch her over 200lbs by the age of 15. It wasn’t until she got a puppy that really started her long journey to health. That puppy needed to be walked, and walking turned into running, and she hasn’t stopped accomplishing the goals she set for herself.

Frannie’s first OCR was the 2013 Indianapolis Sprint. At that race she slipped on the Slip Wall (ironically, she admits) and upon impact her knee hit one of the knots in the rope. She limped across the finish and after letting medical do what they could. She rode 4.5 hours back home straight to the hospital. After medical staff found no cartilage to be in her knee with the IT Band under the patella, they told her she would “probably never be able to run again.” But giving up running wasn’t really a choice for Frannie. After about a year in physical therapy she had started to train and condition the IT Band. So re-injury to her knee would be less likely to happen again. It was a hard time for her and there was plenty of pain. But, she says that first mile back running “never felt so good.” Every day she has to deal with her knee injury and some pain but the stronger she has gotten the easier it’s gotten.

Then in late 2015, Frannie saw an ad for Spartan Race again and thought, “you know what, I’m going to do this again and finish the way I should have finished.” Only this time she ran a Spartan Super instead of the Spartan Sprint. It was very difficult for her, but Frannie ended up doing much better than she expected. A few weeks after completing the Spartan Super she thought, “you know what, I’m going to go for the trifecta.” And that’s exactly what she did, which fueled the start of her 2016 racing.

There’s one event that Frannie states has greatly impacted her OCR and running lifestyle, which  was the overnight 2016 Chicago HH12HR. She doesn’t believe her mindset really changed until after completing her first endurance event.  Frannie didn’t even know what it was that she signed up for, she was just participating because a friend talked her into it. There she was introduced to something she didn’t even know what to expect. What they say about the hurricane heats, and the endurance events that Spartan puts on is that you can’t train for them. You can never know what to expect and she admits that it is 100% true.

Frannie believes she was better off not knowing a single thing about it starting out for her first one. She was forced to pull things from nowhere, from deep inside herself, and use knowledge she didn’t know she had. She pushed herself past the physical limits she had previously known that she was capable of and found something within herself that sparked a fire. From that day on it she says “it has been a nonstop grind to see what I’m capable of and the dedication and passion to push myself to accomplish my goals. I have grown so much not only physically and athletically, but mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.”

These are the things that pushed her to participate in the China Agoge. Frannie was medically removed from this race resulting in DNF. Even though she didn’t finish the race…she still left the Great Wall with things no material possession can replace. The things she learned and experienced she says she will have for a lifetime. The people she was with are people she will forever share a bond with. She believes by testing her mental fortitude with endurance events, she is able to physically push herself to the limits.

Endurance events teach you most importantly that you must work together as well as individually in order to complete a task, or reach a goal. The same is true for all things in life.”

Those who contribute to success are her family. Her family shows a huge support for her and her active lifestyle, knowing how much she has struggled with her weight. She is also thankful to Team Warrior State of Mind and Mark Petersen who supported her and had faith in her. Without Team WSOM she wouldn’t have been able to attend the AGOGE 003 in China. But more importantly she wouldn’t have met Mark, whom she says is a role model to her in every possible way.

Currently, Frannie Steele is training for a few things. For 2017, she has decided to switch gears from mainly running OCR to mainly running Ultras and endurance events. She is also gearing up to accomplish the Spartan AGOGE 006 UK at the Isle of Skye. Not far behind that goal is a 100 mile race, a handful of HH12HR, Ironman 70.3, and the Killington Ultrabeast.

For training she currently bikes 3 times a week, runs 5-7 times a week, and swims 1-2 times a week. Weight training is 2-3 times a week following a run usually to build endurance in strength. She also recently started yoga and meditation to satisfy the mind as well in a different way studying doesn’t quite cover.

From 219lbs at her heaviest to 141lbs now, Frannie Steele has changed herself not only physically, but mentally and hopes to inspire others to challenge themselves and to change their lives by being active. You can follow her on Instagram www.instagram.com/fmsteele1

OCR Transformations- Azhar Razak

ORM presents the series of stories on OCR Transformations. Runners and athletes whose mind body, and spirit have been altered through obstacle racing.

Being overweight, suffering from asthma and then surgery on a herniated disk is a lot for your body to handle. But then being told you may have a problem walking and lose feeling in one of your legs, was the breaking point to make Azhar Razak finally take serious action about his health and fitness and lose 57kg.

azhar-3

Seeing the first ever Singapore Spartan Race advertised (Sprint distance) Azhar decided maybe this would be the thing to get him moving.  He started training by simply running, but due to his weight, he could only run 400m around a track in his first session.  Not one to give up, he perserved and managed to finish the course, and his first race, in 1hour 15mins, making the fire jump one of many to come.

Finding like-minded people was key to helping him achieve his goals, which wasn’t easy given the infancy of OCR in Asia.  Luckily for him, Azhar met the “Lion City Spartans” group founder, Shrek, and joined what is now Singapore’s, if not Asia’s largest OCR community group with over 1,900 members.  The group meets weekly for outdoor training sessions where people of all abilities are welcomed.

azhar-4

Soon realising that he may have found his niche’ in life, Azhar pushed himself even further by registering for overseas races.  This dedication and passion got the attention of Spartan Race Asia organisers and Reebok, who decided his story was one that many people could relate to, and they decided to support him with his goals.  Having now raced across Asia, Australia, the Emirates and the USA, his most memorable event is the 2016 Spartan 12 hour Hurricaine Heat in Chicago, at the Richmond Hunt Club.  Interestingly it was one he didn’t finish but it has had the most impact from a mental point of view and has changed the way he perceives things in life, as well as people. It made him stronger and more motivated.

azhar-5

Azhar’s current training schedule consists of:

  • A morning session which is a 5km run followed by some statics exercises – burpees/pushups/leg raises/squats/lunges or a 10km run every day
  • And then evening are dedicated to weight training 8pm

At 175cm dropping from 135kg to 78kg is not an easy task, and he still admits that he is constantly working on improving his nutrition.  With the aim of encouraging anyone on the couch to get moving and try obstacle racing, Azhar hopes to inspire people via his instagram account @ Azhar.snippets.

 

 

OCR Transformations- Amelia Koeppel

ORM presents the series of stories on OCR Transformations. Runners and athletes whose mind body, and spirit have been altered through obstacle racing.

Amelia’s story begins with the odds stacked against her favor. She was born premature and did you know that premature babies are more inclined to be obese? Growing up she had always been more round shaped than her friends. She was never into sports and she always seemed to find an excuse to drop classes at school. As a teenager, Amelia tried many diets to become slimmer. However, she would never add exercise to her regiment or become more active so she would easily gain back any weight she lost.

After a long and toxic relationship, Amelia decided to go back to school to become a Software Engineer. So far, it has been the best decision she has ever made. Unfortunately, some bad habits followed her along the way. Between work and school taking up most of her time, Amelia would was finding easy short cuts with her food. She became a pro at ordering pizza, burgers, Thai, Indian, and anything else that helped her to not have to cook. She was never the person to prep her meals, or even eat that healthy…but her new lifestyle was getting out of hand. Amelia also had a foot surgery during this time, which really affected her habits and caused her weight to go up even more. In 2015 she weighed 65kg (~143 pounds) at 157cm (~5ft 2in), which put Amelia in an overweight category.

march2015-side

When Amelia moved to Canada, she wanted to try a Spartan Race because a friend of hers ran one in France the year before and she wanted to impress him. She began to do Crossfit at Missfit in Montreal, Canada once a week. She remembers it being very hard and she was not losing any weight and that frustrated her. While talking to some of the girls she trained with, she learned about a winter race in Montreal called the 5k Polar Hero Race. On February 21st, 2015 she ran her first ever OCR.

She started in the open wave with some of her friends. She was stressed out before the race, but began to feel a sense of euphoria when she started running. That feeling didn’t last long… she became breathless almost immediately after about 200m. Amelia couldn’t breathe, she couldn’t run, couldn’t jump, her grip wouldn’t last more than one second. She walked nearly the entire race and barely finished 50% of the obstacles. Although she didn’t do as good as she had hoped…she felt a sense of success at the finish line that made her yearn for more.

Polar Hero

Amelia realized that she needed to learn how to run and she also needed to lose weight and gain a healthy balance of muscle in order to be successful in obstacle course racing. So step-by-step she started to run/walk and in July of 2015 her first 5k time was 45 minutes. She even began to meal prep…sometimes.

After meeting a friend (Palmyra) through an OCR Facebook group while looking for a training partner, the two signed up for another event called the Dead End Race in Saint Sauveur, Canada on August 30th, 2015. This was one of the hardest races for Amelia. She had no idea that Eastern Canada races had that much hiking and such large obstacles. After meeting the rig for the first time, Amelia realized she had a lot more work to do with her training. She started organized training sessions in a group at Coexiste (an onstacle training center) in Montreal. The training center, along with the help from amazing people she met in her OCR Facebook group allowed her to reach the goal of conquering an 8” wall, to climb a rope, and many other OCR specific events. Amelia also started to see a nutritionist, Catherine Naulleau, to help her understand how to eat healthier and to be better prepared for her workouts and races.

december2015-absprogress

In 2015, she ended with 7 OCR events from 3km to 8km. She also managed to do her first Spartan Race in Boston that November. After her first OCR event, Amelia suffered from an injury in her same knee she injured from a motorbike accident when she was 21. She no longer had Synovial Fluid between her bones, which meant she should sustain any high impact on her knee. However, the more she trained the better she felt because she was gaining muscle in her thighs that helped take away the pain she felt in her knee.

For 2016, Amelia set a goal for herself to qualify for OCRWC. At the time, she thought it would be impossible, but she continued her training. In April, at the Spartan Beast in Vermont…Amelia qualified for OCRWC. She finished that race in tears because she knew she accomplished the goal she set out for. OCRWC made for her 29th race for 2016 and she was also celebrating her birthday.

OCRWC

CURRENT TRAINING SCHEDULE 

Amelia’s training schedule isn’t really stable. She goes at least twice a week to the gym and the other days she goes climbing, running, and roller-blading. She is usually found racing most of her weekends, but when she isn’t you can find her hiking, kayaking, and biking. She tries to spend most of her time outside and last winter she even found that running in the snow is easier on her knees.

In March of 2015 Amelia weighed 65kg (~143 pounds) with more than 33% body fat. Today she is a healthy 57kg (~125 pounds) and down to 23% body fat.

amelia-transformation

You can follow Amelia on Facebook and Instagram!

OCR Transformations- Mandie Hoppe

Mandie had been overweight most of her life. She had gained and lost weight on all types of fad diets throughout her life, but as an adult (and after her pregnancies) she became obese. One day in September of 2013, Mandie decided to go for a walk with her daughter and her life was changed. They only walked a mile or so, but she felt hot…sweaty…and alive! That very day she made the decision to change her ways.

Mandie with son

Her life changes happened quickly. Mandie signed up for a 3k local run that was at the end of the same September. She would get up between 4:00 and 5:00 every morning to train and run. Mandie was able to transform a room in her house into a makeshift gym and started her training at home. Her main goal for the 3k event was to not walk any of it and she was able to accomplish that goal. Although it took her 28 minutes to do a 3k, she didn’t walk and that’s all that mattered.

Mandie Before

The next week was her birthday and she wanted to celebrate with a 5k run. Mandie loved the way she was feeling and she knew she had to just keep going! She discovered an ad on Facebook for Spartan Race. It looked like something so cool and different that she knew she had to try it. That June, Mandie convinced her sister to do the Hurricane Heat and Sprint back to back.

Mandie with Children

This race was her most sentimental event to date because she did it with her sister. Each year they make sure to do that race together for their “Spartan anniversary”. Also, from this event Mandie’s training changed and she was able to add in a mixture of weights, cardio, and some OCR specific routines. Mandie continued to use her home gym and she would teach herself workouts through research on Spartan and other OCR sites.

Mandie Gym

In September 2014 (one year later), Mandie started working at a local fitness facility…Peak Fitness. Her boss, Nic Palidwar started helping her with her training. She had lost about 120 pounds by this point and went for an abdominoplasty to remove about 10 pounds worth of loose skin along her core area. In January of 2015, Mandie was able to resume her training and she has been training with her boss ever since. Her parents have also helped her along her journey by providing encouragement; love, support, wisdom, and a swift kick in the butt when needed.

Mandie Pants

The hardest and most challenging event that Mandie has participated in was the race in Owls Head in Montreal this year. Mandie and her racing buddy, Keith Oftebro, have been traveling around this season doing a bunch of races together and they raced both days. Both days they raced elite…the super the first day and the beast the second day. The super was so hard that she contemplated not even doing the beast the second day, but she knew she had to. She knew that her training would help get her to the finish line. Although it took her just over 7 hours, Mandie was able to cross the finish line and earn her double trifecta for the year.

Mandie Spartan

Mandie’s current training schedule is Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are functional weight training. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays are endurance days (teaching classes at peak, long runs, hill repeats, etc.). Sundays are used for “rest” days, but as a single mom of two…Mandie doesn’t know what “rest” means. She also uses Sundays as her meal prep days so that way she is able to stay accountable for what she eats. Mandie was heaviest at 310 pounds and she is currently about 170 pounds.

mandie-transformation

Follow Mandie on Facebook and Instagram!

OCR Transformations- Jules Smith

ORM presents the series of stories on OCR Transformations. Runners and athletes whose mind body, and spirit have been altered through obstacle racing.

Author’s Note: The following transformation story is being told by Jules herself. No better way to see the impact of someone’s story than through his or her own eyes. Enjoy this month’s OCR Transformation brought to you by Jules Smith!

BACKGROUND 

My name is Jules Smith and I was born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana. Shreveport is in Northeast Louisiana about three hours from Dallas (to give you a generalization). Although we have a great deal of traffic coming and going to the major cities around… this is actually quite a small city. Most everyone knows everyone, has gone to school with, or knows someone you know.

I had a more normal childhood than most. Saying this because I know that there are kids who are born in more difficult situations than I. The problem I faced most was the wanting to be accepted and understood. I tried hard to fit in growing up despite being made fun of because I was the biggest kid in class. One of my problems that spurred from this was noticing the way other people would look at me. This was very uncomfortable and unnerving.

Young Jules

Little did I know that the way people looked at me when I was younger would still haunt me later in life. As I grew up I reached a point where I stopped trying to be understood and stopped caring. By the time I reached high school, my over all care for anyone or anything was gone. I started rebelling and making youthful teenage decisions. I’m sure if you’re thinking it right now, I probably experienced it.

I struggled in high school everyday and stepped through the entire five years (yes, I did say five not four). My poor choices were not just in the foods I ate, the negligence towards my school work, but also in the company I kept. Everything stemmed from one place, this one circumstance I faced and had no control over… my body. I was angry all the time because I was not like my friends and other girls. If other girls were playing sports and on diets, they had the body results to show for it. Not me. I loved sports too, but I hated the way my body felt playing sports. It’s not the pain from sore muscles that bothered me, but the way my body felt as my weight shifted while playing them. This had to be the most disgusting feeling in the world to me. Not to mention the way my skin rubbed together in the humidity and heat down here. I was a walking dermatologist text book. So naturally I didn’t like wearing short sleeve shirts, or even gym shorts at school. I remember how as a child every time I was called fat, ugly, pathetic, loser, sloth, disgusting slob, POS… I would go straight for the things that made me into this. I ate my weight in feelings. Granted most of the time I was being called these things was because I was mean. I was mean because I was unhappy and I was unhappy because I was overweight. The only time I was at peace was when I was creating art. “I AM MY OWN VICIOUS CYCLE!”

Jules in Highschool

WORLD UPSIDE DOWN

Youthful teenage decisions we all face, yes we all face them in some sort of slightly altered manner, lead up to a moment in my life that would be one that changed me forever. Not just change in one sense, but in many more ways than I would ever expect. After my first year in college, struggling with acceptance still, I came home for the summer and with no ambition or want to proceed in anything in life. Not even a month later, I found myself with what I call a party favor. I WAS PREGNANT!

There was no father, I was not financially stable, I didn’t have a job, I didn’t even have a car. Worst part was having to break my parents heart by telling them I had failed my life again. These were the thoughts I had going through my mind when I found out. However, 9 months later with loving support from my entire family… I realized I was not alone.

Jules

My whole family… aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandfather all helped me. My mother was a saint and taught me step by step and day by day how to be a mother. A year later we were celebrating my daughter Ariella’s first birthday. What a year it had been. It had ups and downs. There were days where I would fight with my mother to be a mother. There were days where I would consistently praise my mother for being a mother. It is very difficult being a new mom, not only being a new mom but a young mom at that. My daughter was a joy, she was never problem. I knew one thing with her and that she was a blessing. I have always known this. Not because she didn’t cry for 10 months. She cried when she needed something but as soon as her needs were met, she was always satisfied. Always smiling and always happy. We even used a program much like the baby Einstein’s, “Your Baby Can Read”, and she would read the flash cards and respond to the by point to a nose or clapping her hands. She loved attending church with my parents. Her favorite part was attending the children’s church and seeing all of the other kids.

At around 10 months old, she started getting sick. I think over the next three months I took her to see about 7 or so different doctors. I even took her to her pediatrician several times. It was a couple weeks after her first birthday, I took her back to her pediatrician demanding an X-ray on her abdomen. She had a huge bulge protruding from her stomach. That day was the last time I napped with my daughter. From that doctor, we were sent to another, then another, before she was admitted into the hospital. The next day going against medical advise, I left with nothing but the clothes on my back for St. Judes in Memphis, Tennessee.

They had already accepted her before my plans of travel had even been made. I never realized that this blessing bestowed upon me would ever have a one in a million disease. A cancer so rare that there are only two cases in the United States per year and that only one would end up at St. Judes. Theres my “Million Dollar Baby”. I arrived on a Saturday and she was admitted into the ICU that Monday. Two and a half weeks later, she passed away from a second one in a million disease that forms due to more intakes than the body has outtakes. Kidneys had shut down and dialysis wasn’t working. The body had to release the toxins the only way left, through the skin. That’s my “Two Million Dollar Baby”. My blessing, dying in my arms. All the nurses would call me such a humble person. I had no idea what they meant. This was one of the first times in my life that people called me anything that wasn’t negative.

I didn’t know how far this word humble would come to play in my life. After that my will to try and get healthy for her, to find her a father, give her the family she was supposed to have..was gone. I remember, its been six years since her passing for those reading this article, people at that time would bring over trays and trays full of food. Dishes, casseroles, and SWEETS!!! My mother, was always good about telling me when I was over doing it on eating. Normally, I would stop but the day of the funeral, I came home after being around friends all night and went straight to the kitchen. I did what I always knew how to do best. I looked at all this food sitting out and started with that one brownie. When my mother saw me that night she reminded me as always, that I was over doing it, I just remember turning to her and saying, “Mom, I just lost my daughter, now please let me eat my feelings in peace.” She did and I did.

The impact of losing her on me was so much more weight than the 250lbs of fat I carried on my skeletal system. First off is the everyday routine. I mean I should say “what everyday routine?” now. I went from waking up to a baby needing to be changed and fed a bottle. To “whats the point of waking up?”. I think for the first week or two all I did was eat and cry. I didn’t even know what to say for the longest. Someone had given me a book at the funeral, “Surviving The Loss Of a Loved One.” I thought it cliche, trivial, demeaning to my situation. I read that book not longer after. That book helped me to find a routine. You see… that book was about the impact that a wife and husband had to endure after loosing their child. It was not at all what I perceived it to be. Just like those stares I got growing up, I would become more than what they all perceived me to be. This was the first time in my life I began to stop judging everyone and everything around me. Before I got half way through the book, I remember asking my mom, what is my everyday routine? In the book this family had other children, this was their everyday routine. My mom replied to me, “Wake up, shower, brush your teeth, brush hair, and get dressed.” There are days where I still wake up lost and confused even now. I wake up, shower, brush my teeth, brush my hair, and I get dressed. I got that down, then decided I might as well go back to work. It could have possibly been too soon but I needed to be doing something aside from looking at her face in pictures trying to understand why my blessing would be taken from me. Why would God, bless me then take from me. Work was all I had left.

Going back to work, stocking merchandise seemed like the only other plausible answer. After a couple of weeks, I was pulled aside and was told to make a decision, either I needed to pull myself together for the job or I needed to resign. Working that day, I thought and debated plenty in my head. The reason I had that job was for her. To get discounts on children clothes and house hold items, I would need to start my family. I don’t have a family anymore, the one person I thought would never leave me, is gone. She’s not coming back. So I resigned and decided to go back to school. After all I have the time now to focus on my studies instead of worrying about my daughter and her needs.

I have a different outlook on life now, maybe it will be a better experience going back to college. Maybe I would mentor troubled kids. That year was even harder than I thought it would be. Although it was tough being away from my family, I needed to rediscover who I was. All I discovered was more trials and more food. Now I started facing real health concerns. I was not able to eat certain foods without getting very sick. I had no idea what was going on. I went to a couple different doctors before one discovered I had gallstones the size of lemons and the only option was to remove my gallbladder. They did laparoscopically.

My mom sat with me the whole time (this was beginning of that spring semester of 2011). Not long after, her and my father began talking to me about this surgery they wanted me to have to help me with my weight. They had mentioned it numerous times before when my daughter was alive, but I lived in fear and worry then. I was afraid of something happening in surgery and leaving my child without a mother too. I didn’t realize that I was already facing these issues being obese. When they mentioned it would be preformed the same way my gallbladder was removed, I said to myself, what else do I have to lose at the point. Aside from the obvious (my daughter), I was about to lose over 100lbs and an entire person all together. I decided to have a gastric bypass. Meaning, I had made the decision to have my stomach stapled down to keep my from eating.

Jules Modeling

I still continued being angry for a long time. Even after the surgery I can remember my mom cooking for the family and being so angry at how good the food smelled, this was during the first month of my recovery when I was only allowed to have water, broth, and juice. I swear I didn’t think General Sao’s chicken could ever make me so upset from just the smell. I think I stayed in that anger phase for almost the entire next year. I was so angry that everyone around me could eat and I couldn’t. I even wrote across my mirror a new motto, “I eat to live, I do not live to eat.” This still holds fast to today. I retaught myself portion control, because at this point, it was no longer an option choice for me, but a life or death choice. I followed my recovery diet to a T and lost 125lbs. I no longer eat certain things either because it. I thought I would miss beef. I really don’t.

MOTIVATION

After a couple months into recovery I became a nanny. I needed to do something, work, anything, to get out of the house and keep my mind off of the FOOD I could no longer have. My grandfather always says a busy mind is a healthy mind. This holds truth for me in so many ways. When I transitioned into being a nanny, it had been a little over a year since the loss of my daughter. I had time to think. So much time to think. I wasn’t able to keep my mind busy during that first year. Some days were better than others. Some days all I could do was think about that everyday routine and think about what I would be doing if she was still with me. One of the things I came to have a realization on was, even if I were to have another child in my life, they would not be her. Nothing will replace her. I always had a void in my heart due to this as well. Not having a child to focus my love on was part of this void. When I became a nanny, I found that void being filled. It was replaced and she’s always in my heart but the emptiness I had inside me after her death was being filled. Like planting new seeds in an old pot. These children, even though they were all boys and not babies, put seeds of faith back into my heart. Where I would once cry, I now began to laugh. I now was laughing so hard I cried. I started hoping again.

Jules Flex

By the time, I reached my goal weight, I was new again. I lost that 100 lbs of hurt, I lost that anger, I stopped being so mean all the time. I started giving. I gave these children what I always wanted to give to my daughter. I gave them a care taker who was happy, fun, and was for once in her life excited to play games outside! I wanted to run. I wanted to do more than I had ever wanted to before. I WANTED TO LIVE! I wanted to give to those in need. I wanted to make laugh those who cried. I wanted to inspire those who’ve lost hope. Because coming from place where I had no faith and no hope, I saw come to pass the blessing I felt promised in my heart for so long. I knew there was something inside me when I was younger, but I wasn’t able to have the faith I needed to see it through. Promising myself after she passed away, that there’s a reason for this. Even if I spent everyday of my life after determined to create a reason why in that day. She Died So I Could Live.

Not long after I felt the urge to go back to school once again. Taking courses strictly for my own knowledge. I took weight training thinking it would help me gain the definition I was now seeking. I started searching everything online from workouts, programs, to even athletes. I wanted to become more. I have such a strong desire to become great now, it can be scary to those who’ve never met me. I always felt held back because of my weight that I feel now, there is nothing holding me back from anything I want to achieve. This digging lead me to Spartan Races. I wanted to be a Spartan. They were tough and over came challenges. I knew enough about the races to get me started or so I thought. Weight training was causing me to plateau. I was keep up with average standards but I wanted to be above average. I took yoga next. This will help me tighten up this loose skin and give me that muscle definition I am seeking. Lets face it although I can fit into a bikini, I still didn’t look good in one. I was also nervous about training my core without instruction. I was told to be very careful after my surgery not to pull a staple or I would internally bleed out so to speak. How am I ever going to be strong enough to climb a rope or jump a huge wall?!

Jules Crossfit 1

I had no initial formal fitness training. Before sports were a way to try to fit in and make friends. Now it’s about the will to thrive. BUT HOW?!!!! Then I found out about Joe De Sena and soon discovered his book, Spartan Up. Reading that gave me what I had been looking for. Theres no correct way to train for a Spartan Race. But the next best thing that could help would be Crossfit. It wasn’t long after finishing my yoga course, did I find that we have close to seven Crossfit gyms in the area. Now which one and how do I choose. I choose one that a friend of mine was going to at the time. I went in to check it out and a couple months later, I became a member of Crossfit SBC. This has been the best decision I have made for my life since deciding to have the gastric bypass. When I started my journey, I wanted to be thin. When I became thin, I wanted to be defined and strong. My goal when I started, was to loose the weight and after a year, the weight was gone and I had a new goal. I wanted to be strong and I wanted to be a Spartan.

I started at 250 lbs and got down to 125 lbs. I started as a person miserable with herself. Now I am 155 lbs with muscles I never knew I had. I heard through out the last five years about how strong I am. Today though, I feel strong. I know I am physically stronger than I was when I started out. July 7th this year I will have been doing Crossfit for two years. I have now an entire Crossfit Family. They’re not just friends you work out with. These people, who I worked very hard day in and out for months to prove that I wanted to be in that gym, have become my family. They do not just encourage me in the gym but also in life. Crossfit while is very intimidating to people looking in, has taught me to be proud of the shell I live in. My gym has taught me to love my body for what it is. Crossfit taught me that while things may seem to be this way on this day, with hard work and consistency, it wont be the next day.

I say things in generalization, because I take what I learn in the gym and apply it to my everyday life. We all face events and unexpected occurrences in our life, yes everyone’s is different from each other’s, but the one thing that holds constant is our reaction towards these circumstances. When in the gym if you can’t get that last rep, you don’t cry about it and give up. Like life, when misfortunate events happen, you don’t cry and give up. You dust yourself off, pick that bar back up and you try again and try harder. My goal while it started as just to become thin, has changed so much. I wanted to be a Spartan so I started training like one. I always dreamed I would become a model and show those who doubted me what I was worth. I have been modeling since last fall. With that has come opportunity after opportunity. Even now, I still look and search for that motivation and inspiration.

Jules Powerlift

I never stop seeking guidance and wisdom from mentors. Some of the things I like to do are listening to Podcasts, reading books, finding mentors, and above all asking questions. Podcasts have got to be the best. I like to listen before bed or in the car. Actually I started with Joe Rogan Experience, then found OCRMedia, and after reading Lewis Howes, The school Of Greatness, found him on podcasts. I also read a great deal of Joel Osteen, he’s a feel good preacher and he makes me feel good. He also part of that mindset I keep so that when I feel stressed or anxious, I can turn those negative feelings into positive ones. His books aren’t the only way to gain this type of mindset either. I have been expanding my spirituality as well. This journey while is about fitness, is also one about faith and hope.

SUCCESS

I owe all my success to God and my parents. Without their constant support and guidance I would not have become the person I am today. They have always pushed me to do the right things. Make the right choices. Be the bigger person. All these morals and values they bestowed upon at a young age were what shaped me into a God fearing young woman. A woman who is grateful and not selfish. A woman who is loving and caring. A woman who is patient and kind. I find these qualities make me richer than any dollar ever could. I also want to say thank you to my mentor Andy Shaw. Starting as my fencing coach at 15 years old, has never given up on me and always been there for me as a coach, friend, but most of all a mentor. He saw the real me when I could not. I’d like to thank my teacher Darrell Chitty for believing in me as a student first but for also unleashing the model within me, that I always wanted to be. Last but of course not least, I just want to say thank you to my coaches, Angelina Moreno and Tyler Bray, you guys have stuck by me from the beginning of my Crossfit journey until now and I know I would not be where I am right now writing this article without you both. Y’all helped me to build that strength I wanted from the first day starting out with that 15 lb training bar. Having people like you all in my life aid me into becoming a stronger, faster, more inspiring athlete and model. I am so grateful to not just know you all but have you batting on my team.

CURRENT TRAINING PLAN

As far as an obstacle race, I have yet to sign up for my first one! I am so ready to be a Spartan, that I am willing to do it alone. I started to sign up last summer but couldn’t get my registration to go through on the website. I have been trying to get my gym to start a team but I haven’t gotten the feedback I am looking for. I know I will be doing plenty of penalty burpees and walking some of the race but to be called a Spartan is worth every burped.

On a usual basis I train at my Crossfit gym every Monday, Wednesday,and Friday 5:15am-7:00/7:30am. Tuesdays and Thursdays I was going at 7:00pm-8:30pm but now I’ll try to get in there during lunch from 11:00am-1:00pm. With my new job, trying to find a happy schedule is key for me. If I can’t make it to my Crossfit gym, I’ll go to a regular gym or try to run over to the high school stadium and do stairs. I have quite a few different things I like to do when I cannot make it to Crossfit. My previous weight at my biggest I think I was close to 270 lbs. They made me lose around 30 lbs before surgery and pre surgery I weighed in at 248 lbs. Now Im a solid 155 lbs. It will fluctuate between 145-160 lbs.

Where this started as a story about a fitness journey, and with careful thought upon many rewrites, I wanted to convey a certain point throughout my story. The message I wanted my readers to gain from this is one of hope and faith. Hope in something and have faith that it will come to pass. While we cannot control the circumstances we are faced with, one thing holds constant, that is our reaction towards these circumstances.

Jules Transformation 3

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