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 Tarren 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 Tarren Soukup!
My weight was never something I had to work at. I was always little. 5’1 and maybe 105 lbs. I was never very active, partly because I didn’t have to be. That all changed when I became pregnant with my son. I was 22 years old, and extremely naïve about the whole thing. I had it in my head that the second I gave birth, I would return to a size 0. The first 5 months went pretty smooth. I didn’t gain too much weight, and I felt good. However after my wedding, my health started declining.
The first indication that something was wrong, was my blood pressure spiking. The doctor’s felt it was too early for pre-eclampsia, so they sent me home with instructions to take it easy and follow up. Over the next few weeks, my family watched helplessly as I worsened. I started ballooning out in an almost comical way. I felt like the blueberry girl from Willy Wonka. Later we learned it was my body filling up with fluid because my organs were failing. By the time the Doctor’s finally realized the severity of the situation, I had already lost function of both kidneys, and was in the midst of liver failure. Just about 2 months prior to my due date, I was being taking to the hospital in an ambulance, with a shaky prognosis.
After several more complications, I had an emergency C-Section. Despite the trauma of it all, I birthed a healthy, albeit tiny baby boy. He would be my only child, as the risk was too great to birth another. When all was said and done, I went from 105 lbs, to 196… nearly doubling my weight.
The next several years were fraught with yo- yo diets and inconsistent workout routines. Despite being married to a professional athlete, I couldn’t seem to make anything work. I would go through bouts of depression, not recognizing the girl in the mirror. Even after a corrective surgery, to restore some of the damage done abdominal wall, I was unhappy.
I remember one time in particular. I was on vacation with my family, and feeling a bit more confident, as I’d recently lost some weight, being the lightest I’d been in years, which was somewhere around 145 lbs. On this day, I was walking down the beach with my husband, and we were laughing at something my son had done. I remember looking up to see two young women walking past us. Tanned, and toned. Beautiful. They were looking at my husband…and then at me. One turned to the other and asked why he was with that.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to fuel the change for me. I hovered around 140 for the next few years. I worked out sporadically, and only to keep up with my family. I did some road races with my husband, and a few triathlons. It was still a struggle. At this time, my husband found a new love. OCR’s. As a former professional downhill mountain bike racer, he was always looking for the next thing. He started Spartan races in 2011. The Killington Beast was his first. I remember hearing him recap his experience and thinking “oh hell no” no way would I ever do that.
Then last year he talked me into doing the Tuxedo Sprint. He would run the elite wave in the morning, and then again with me. When it was time to jump the wall into the starting corral, I need a boost. It made me feel insecure, as though I shouldn’t have been there. Despite struggling through the course, with the help of my husband, I didn’t do terrible. And crossing the finish line was a feeling of pride and accomplishment that I hadn’t felt before. It made me want more.
That summer, I did three more races including the Palmerton Sprint (killer) and the Barre Sprint. While I wasn’t training as much as I should have, I would get excited about the races, and felt as if they brought me closer with my husband. The day before the Barre race, I was outside with my dogs. One was roaming free, and the other attached with rope lead. I was tired after working all day, and not paying close attention. I threw a ball for the dog running loose, will the other ran for it. Unbeknownst to me, his rope was wrapped around my ankle, and when he ran, it cut me nearly to the bone. However being the stubborn person I am, I taped it up and raced anyway.
I was hospitalized later that night with a severe infection. The antibiotics weren’t taking, and there was a real threat of having to amputate me foot. Luckily they got control of the infection before it reached that point. Yet the recovery was a rough one. I was on a crutch for a few months following that, and started eating like crap. Over the next few months I had gained 20 lbs.
In December of 2015 I had enough. My marriage was on the rocks, and I was miserable. I knew that the only person who could change that was me. So I signed up for cross fit at a local gym, Pioneer Valley Cross Fit. I started going 3-4 times a week, and absolutely fell in love with it. The coaches were super helpful, and felt extremely invested in my success. Although I felt myself growing stronger, I didn’t change my poor eating habits, so the weight didn’t really change.
I did not truly have my “ah-ha” moment until the Socal Super of 2016. It was my longest Spartan race to date, and didn’t do very much training for it. And boy did I suffer. I huffed and puffed along the rolling hills, dragging my tired body over the obstacles. I was unable to get over any of the walls unassisted, and failed many obstacles. When I crossed the finish line, I felt an overwhelming disappointment. It was in that moment I swore to myself I would never feel like that again. This was something I could control. I didn’t have to be a slave to complacency. I would become the person I felt I was meant to be…leaner, faster, stronger.
Immediately upon returning home, I did something that would ensure that kick in the ass I needed. I signed up for a bikini competition. It was a training program I had done before with real results, and the trainer was a former body builder, Bonnie Lefrak. She had the nutrition down to a science. Along with my nutrition program, I continued doing cross fit 4-5 times a week, and cardio at least 5 x a week. I began incorporating hill work, and mountain climbs. In the first couple weeks I dropped 10 lbs and felt unstoppable. With the mentality of “Go big or go home” I signed up for the NJ Beast. I was seeking redemption.
By the time the Beast rolled around, I was down to 125 lbs, and was stronger than I had ever been. I was still unprepared for how well I would do at the race. I nailed most of the obstacles, including the rope climb (thanks to my Cross Fit coach) and powered through the entire course. This time crossing the finish line, I felt like a god damn super hero.
The people who helped contribute to my success are first and foremost my husband, Jason Soukup. His drive and motivation keeps me going every day. Also Ryan Katz, and the team at Pioneer Valley Cross Fit, for helping me find a love for weight lifting, and providing an amazing community of support. And Bonnie Lefrak with the Fitness Asylum. Bikini Boot camp will whip anyone’s butt into shape.
CURRENT WORKOUT PLAN
My current work out routine is 4-5 days of cross fit, 3 days of elevation work, 2 days of running, and I try to walk for at least an hour on my lunch breaks. I am training for the Killington Beast, and am hoping to do the Montreal Beast and Super as well. I am trying for a triple Trifecta this year. My weight February was 141.3. Today its 120.
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