Shared Member Journeys
I grew up as an avid softball, basketball and volleyball player. It wasn’t until I was in college that I started running. Running was punishment, why would anyone do it for fun? Lucky for me I was at a small college, Augusta State University, and had the opportunity to run Division 2 cross country and then go on to be the graduate assistant coach. I was in the right place at the right time I guess you could say. Since my college days, I have run 43 half-marathons, 12 marathons and countless 5k and 10k’s. After losing something very close to my heart in August 2017, I felt myself spiraling into a depression and I decided I needed something more. I had thrown around the idea of a half IM but didn’t have the courage. I mean, I couldn’t swim. I could get myself to the side of the pool, but that was it. I was afraid of water. But after being told I couldn’t return and that I lacked dedication to an organization I had been with for 17 years, as a volunteer, I registered for Augusta 70.3. “I’ll show you dedication”. I had the mindset that If I was going to do “just one”, why not where I went to college and in the town that was my second home. “Just one” led me to 3 sprints, 2 olympics and a 70.3 in my first season and it has been a life changing experience as I have met and fallen in love with the community. In February, I couldn’t swim 25m without having an anxiety attack. But thanks to my teammates at Barry’s Coaching and my awesome coach Mike Jotautus, I placed 3rd in my age group at my first sprint and 2nd in my age group at my second two sprints that qualified me for AG Nationals. I’m always up for an adventure so I thought, why not? Lake Erie is no joke and swim conditions were rough, I dropped my nutrition at mile two on the bike, but I finished that race. I remember calling my coach and telling him I didn’t want to do this anymore, I was done. He knew better, as did I, and when Augusta came along, the day was better than I ever imagined. After volunteering at IMLOU at packet pick-up and swim exit and standing on the course all day, I knew it was my turn. I didn’t panic as I hit submit and am gearing up for IMLOU 2019. I warned Coach Mike from day one, my head was going to be harder to train than my body but it has been a fun journey. I’ve loved it, I’ve hated it and at times wondered what I got myself into. I have never been a part of a group who encourages and wants to bring out the best in me as much as the tri community. I like to call this group, my tribe. When I’m not tri’ing, you’ll find me running at Disney World, traveling and spending time with my 6 year old Henry (who is my assistant coach and accountability partner), nagging my husband Vinh and cuddling our three dogs, Maurice, Nona and Aggie. I have a soft spot for folks with Cancer and work for Livestrong at the NE YMCA and volunteer with Aiden’s Legacy, an organization for children with cancer. I couldn’t have done the past year without my tribe and I’m thankful everyday for the friends I’ve met through the Landsharks and Barry’s Coaching.
In 2013 I was 290 pounds when my wife’s friend convinced her to train for the Derby half marathon. My wife’s friend sustained an injury that took her out of running and my wife then recruited me. I reluctantly joined her until I discovered how quickly I shed the weight.
By the fall of 2013 I was down to 240 pounds and ran the Urban Bourban half in two hours and forty five minutes. Then I stopped running and quickly gained all my weight back and then some. By the spring of 2015 I weighed in at 305 pounds. I was miserable, angry and disappointed in myself. My turning point was when my youngest son said “daddy your fat”. This is when I decided I needed to make some drastic changes in my life.
My weight was too much for me to handle running now, I had horrible shin splints, I needed a way to get my cardio some how. One day I decided to jump on my bicycle and see how far I could go. Not surprised, I didn’t get very far, 12 miles I think. That made me even more determined I kept at it day after day until it got a little easier and I could go a little farther. I still needed a goal, something to strive for, something to make me train day in and day out. That’s when I decided to look into getting an actual road bike.
When I was at the store looking at new bikes I saw a flyer for a sprint triathlon. I thought to myself, if I could become a good enough swimmer, I could do that, I mean I like the bike, I know I can run, why not swim too. I joined the YMCA and watched a how to video on you tube. By late summer of 2015 I had completed my first triathlon. It was so slow I don’t even remember the finish time, but no need, I was hooked. After that I was left with one question, what to do next, why an Ironman of course.
I signed up to volunteer for IM Louisville in October and I knew I wanted to be a part of this. I went home that night and started doing some research. First thing I started looking for was clubs. I kept hearing people cheer for the Landsharks and sure enough I found a great tri group here in Louisville.
I spent the next 12 months reading and watching all the information I could find on Ironman training and competing. My greatest resource was Be Iron Fit, a book recommended to me by a former coworker who had done IM Louisville in the past. With the help of this book and the training peaks app on my phone I was able to formulate an intense, but reasonable training schedule. I invested in a tri bike and started my training. I quickly discovered that my tri group the Landsharks had a sleuth of helpful and encouraging athletes. Several members really supported and helped me to achieve my goals. They were quick to praise and give helpful advice whenever I was struggling.
By the summer of 2016 I was doing Olympic distance triathlons and competing in my first half ironman in Muncie Indiana where I finished in under six hours. I was down to 190 pounds. I was feeling pretty good and knew I still had a long way to go. After my half ironman I began my peak training for IM Louisville. I was now putting in about 20 hours of training per week. I would swim in the morning and bike or run every evening. I felt better than ever, I was in shape with lots of energy and feeling happy, unfortunately my Achilles tendon didn’t agree. Two weeks out from IM Louisville I had to get an MRI of my tendon to determine whether or not it was torn. Luckily it was just tendonitis, my running had to be tapered more than I liked, but I was given the ok to compete by an Orthopedic Sports Medicine Physician. The week of IM Louisville I had reached my goal of 180 pounds. Now I just had to reach my goal of finishing IM Louisville in under 16 hours with a sore Achilles tendon.
October 9th 2016 my alarm goes off at 3 am, not that I needed it, there’s no sleeping the night before Ironman. With my wife in tow we headed to transition to check bags, air up the tires and get my numbers put on. Now we just wait in a very long line for the start. All of my family and friends showed up to cheer me on. I Came out of the water at 1:09:12 and headed to T1 made great time and got on the bike, which is definitely my strong suit. My ride went great, after all I had rode this course for months, I finished it in 5:45:01, now I was on track to finish in less than 12 hours, if I could keep up the momentum going into the run. My run was pretty solid, my heel didn’t seem to be causing me any trouble and the crowds cheering were keeping me pumped. 11:39:11, I did it, I finished in under 12 hours on my first ever full Ironman. I did it, I did what everyone said I couldn’t do, I went from being obese with high blood pressure and high cholesterol to being a healthy happy fit Ironman.
I would like to thank my wife, kids, and my parents for all their love and support. Thanks to all the Landsharks who helped keep me motivated and on track with all my training. I could not have done this without the support of so many great people.
ever full Ironman. I did it, I did what everyone said I couldn’t do, I went from being obese with high blood pressure and high cholesterol to being a healthy happy fit Ironman.
I would like to thank my wife, kids, and my parents for all their love and support. Thanks to all the Landsharks who helped keep me motivated and on track with all my training. I could not have done this with out the support of so many great people.
First, I am a Volunteer. At least that is what I used to say as I volunteered for Bike to Beat Cancer with Norton Healthcare and Ironman Louisville in the Norton Medical Tent. That was before I had my husband, Jon Bryant, volunteer with me. When he moved from the volunteer role to athlete, I was supportive in all the events.
That is how I came to know the Landsharks. Last year, after making some changes, I decided that I could “run”. The support of the group was so overwhelming for Jon and I felt the excitement when I ran the Louisville Triple Crown and KDF Mini Marathon. During the ½ marathon, numerous Landsharks were so supportive along the way. As I was nearing the end of the ½ marathon, another Landshark doing the marathon rounded the turn and yelled out support which kept me going!
In addition to my running this spring, I bought a road bike and am starting to ride. The support has been great all along my path and with YOUR encouragement, I anticipate doing more.
Two years ago, a couple of wise guy friends convinced me I could complete “Race The Bridge” Triathlon. The only thing I had ever competed in was obstacle races. Somehow, they convinced me I could do it although I had NEVER swam 1 single lap in my life. A pair of $5 goggles, a rented wetsuit, and a borrowed bike later, I was staring at the Ohio, thinking it's at least 5 miles to those buoys and back.
I made it about 75% of the way to the first buoy with a combination of freestyle, backstroke, and a couple of strokes yet to be identified. I was never so happy in my life to see the Po Po and share a boat for the next 40 minutes. Very embarrassing to say the least.
Since that day my friends have moved out of town. A few swim lessons with Mike Jotautas started me swimming good enough to get completely caught up in this sport. Still lots to learn for me with swimming though.
Currently, I run, bike, and swim 7-12 hours per week and I'm not sure what the limit is yet but I look forward to challenging it and hope to conquer the Ohio this year in the Tri Lou Olympic and then to Muncie for a unique distance race in September.
How long have you been involved in Multisport?
I did my first Sprint Tri last year at Tri Indy. I also finished a duathlon at Tri for Sight.
What discipline do you find most challenging?
I need to greatly improve my swimming. As I'm finding, this is the discipline most adults new to tri have a hard time with. I took a few lessons at the Y, but further instruction will be needed to reach my goals.
What achievement are you most proud of and why?
A few years ago, I reached almost 300 pounds on the scales. As a nurse, I was a fairly active person but I could tell the weight was starting to hold me back physically and socially. I had weight loss surgery in December of 2013. As you may or may not know, surgery alone is not the answer. It still requires commitment and hard work to be successful. My husband committed to a lifestyle change with me and we were on our way. We changed our eating habits and joined the gym. I lost 130 pounds in about 15 months. Along the way, I discovered the love of running. I trained for and finished two half marathons last year and a sprint tri and a duathlon. I'll be running the Kentucky Derby Marathon this year. I'm not in any hurry, so my only goal for this tri season is to do an Oly.
What motivates you?
I'm motivated by how good I feel physically and mentally when I achieve the goals I set out to do. And the calorie burn, for sure!
What advice would you give to anyone just getting started?
Get involved. This is the advice I need to follow for myself. It can be intimidating to put yourself out there, but if you don't you won't find the community you're looking for. The community is what and who will help you be successful. I learned this when I stepped out of my comfort zone and joined my first running group. Though I only have a goal of an Oly this season, I would like to be involved in training groups and as a volunteer at Landshark events and races this season. Oh, and I'm a back of the pack gal and I'm going to need company, so don't let your idea of being too slow keep you from joining in!