Today, ORM presents the first in a series of stories on OCR Transformations. Runners and athletes whose mind body, and spirit have been altered through obstacle racing. We chose Addie Hayes, a transformational story in her own right, to interview our first subject, Kim Easterling-Stewart, a.k.a The Mud Pixie.
Mother, wife, obstacle course racer and cocktail waitress are just a few of the hats worn by Kimberly Easterling-Stewart. Easterling-Stewart’s racing alter ego (The Mud Pixie) was born out of a series of tragedies combined with an unhealthy lifestyle. The “perfect storm” of unfortunate circumstances that pushed her toward getting active, losing weight and saving her own life.
Growing up, Easterling-Stewart was into sports, but never adapted a healthy diet. Her weight was a constant struggle and yo-yo’d for years. Her pregnancy in 2009 for her son, Justin, ended with a 50 pound weight gain. Eight months post partem, she still topped the scales at 220 pounds.
In 2012, she dropped to 168 and was feeling like herself again. Soon after, Brian Stewart, Kimberly’s husband, was discharged from the military.
“When he got out, I told him that he earned the right to use his GI Bill and follow his dreams to go to school and pursue his passion for a career in the automotive industry,” said Easterling-Stewart. At this time, the family of three started renting two rooms from Millie Easterling, Kimberly’s mother. With Brian in school, Kimberly went back to work as a cocktail waitress to make ends meet. The transition was enormous.
During this time, two car accidents within six weeks that totaled out both vehicles left Easterling-Stewart with a severe neck injury.
“It was also very hard on me emotionally. I began to slip into depression, which is something I have fought with since I was a teen. I gained weight and became more depressed,” she said.
Black Friday of 2012 lived up to its dark name. A miscarriage on that day cast Easterling-Stewart into the darkest period of her life.
“I was 25 and I felt like my life was over and I would never add up to anything,” she speaks of that time. “I spent months like this, lost in a cloud of negativity and self pity.”
The turning point came the following March when John McNeil, Easterling-Stewart’s brother-in-law, told her about the Vampire 5k (V5K). She was intrigued. Many of her friends were trying out these fun runs also. Although she played sports as a child, running wasn’t her strong suit. It was more of a punishment than fun.
“I went home and researched what V5K was all about and it invigorated me! I couldn’t stand living that way anymore. I was 200 pounds and I could barely manage a mile. Right then I decided that I would become one of those stupid skinny people that I hated because they actually enjoyed to run!” she said.
She had eight weeks to train for the V5K. In the meantime, a friend, Kaile Bean, asked Easterling-Stewart to run the Lupus 5k at the end of March. Bean suffers from lupus. More than happy to honor her friend, she also wanted to experience her first race and see how her training was progressing.
“I had never ran that distance so I decided to just see how far I could go. I couldn’t believe it, but I ran the whole thing without stopping and did it in 33 minutes!” she exclaimed.
Another friend, Elaina Najera, ran the V5K with Easterling-Stewart. Najera made a New Year’s Resolution to run a 5k every month which seemed like a good way for Kimberly to go as well. She watched for Groupon deals. After Color Me Rad and Run or Dye, a deal came along for Fair Parks Urban Dash. The obstacles sounded fun and it would be her first OCR.
A few days prior to the race, Easterling-Stewart’s only grandfather died. She took it upon herself to be strong for her family and help them get through that difficult time. She had t-shirts made and ran with her cousin, Kameron Bettell, in honor of their grandfather.
She reflected, “I have never ran like that before. It seemed as if he was with me, and I embodied the strength he had brought to our family! When I crossed the finish line, I finally broke down. It was my moment, and let myself cry.”
During the race, there was an older man that had kept a close pace to her. Afterward, he shook Easterling-Stewart’s hand. He had seen her shirt and thanked her for honoring her grandfather. He happened to have been a 28 year Boatswain-Mate Master Chief, the same as her grandfather who had been the same for 30 years.
“I knew it was not a coincidence. My grandfather had been with me and I had made him proud.”
Again though, she felt herself slipping back into depression in July. Both of her sisters had gotten pregnant after her miscarriage. Her nephew was born only one week before her lost baby’s due date. She started gaining back weight and her training was suffering.
“I told myself NO! I was not doing this again! I had done so much and I was not going back!” said said. “It was at this time that I FINALLY stopped working out because I hated myself, my body and wanted to be something I wasn’t. I began to feed myself with healthy foods and training my body to see what amazing things I could do with it because I loved myself and wanted to be the best version of who I was. It changed everything! I began to see results outside and in.”
Easterling-Stewart trained 12 weeks for Tough Mudder and “killed it.” Then overcame her hatred for cold at Savage Race. Next was a Spartan Beast.
“I woke the anniversary of losing my baby and realized in one year’s time the strength I had found and the woman I had become. Everything happens for a reason. I seriously believe I would have never accomplished what I have if it had not happened.”
This race was the hardest she could have imagined. Five days into bronchitis, she pushed through the Beast, still wondering how she was physically capable of finishing while gasping for breath for 5 hours.
“The last bucket carry finally broke me down. I will always remember emptying that bucket of gravel with the tears streaming down my face. My only thought being that I could not quit on her… the baby that saved me,” she said of the experience. “My life changed the moment I crossed that finish line. It was in that moment that I found myself, who I wanted to be.”
After the Beast, Easterling-Stewart was receiving calls, messages, comments on Facebook from friends and family about how what she was doing was making a difference in their lives. She was amazed that following her own dreams was helping others do the same. Her potential was finally being reached and she wanted more. A symbol that embodied what she had accomplished and would eventually become.
“My middle name is Fay. It means fairy, sprite or pixie. When I created my Instagram a few months back, I just came up with the name @mud_pixie as a username, because my nickname was Pixie [in high school] and I liked to do mud runs,” she said.
To spread her story further, she realized the solution was simple. She would make a pixie costume to run in. Handmade from suede and strong leather pieces, it took two weeks to finish.
“I debuted at Tough Mudder Central Texas and I was surprised how easy it was to run in! Now it has come to be exactly what I had hoped for. More than just a costume but a representation of my journey and my rebirth of mind, body and spirit,” she said.
The wings are the most important part of the costume though. The handmade wings are laced into her Camebak. Easterling-Stewart’s biggest goal at the moment is to race in the elite heat at the Vermont Spartan Race. Given the recent no costume rule for televised races, she’s hoping the wings will be allowed as part of her race attire.
“I can drop the leather and makeup with no problem… just not the wings,” she said. “My purpose is to race and share my story. Running in wings is how I will do it!”
Mud Pixie Stats:
Heaviest Weight: 220 lbs.
Current Weight: 135 lbs.
Current Training Plan:
Spin Class (twice a week),
Runs (usually trails, twice a week),
Strength Training (one leg day, two for arms),
Total Body Conditioning Boot Camp on Saturday mornings
2014 Race Schedule: Mellew 4 Seasons ½ Marathon Challenge, Fair Park’s Urban Dash, Filthy Nation’s Summer Muddin’, Superhero Scramble, Tough Mudder & Spartan Races – SoCal Beast & Sprint, Vermont Beast (x2), Dallas Beast, Mississippi Sprint, Chicago Super, Sacramento Super
Addie Hayes calls herself a bodybuilder, runner, triathlete, OCR addict, and paleo dabbler. She has dropped 50 pounds and counting since adopting a new lifestyle. Follow her at fitfatfut.com