ORM presents the series of stories on OCR Transformations. Runners and athletes whose mind body, and spirit have been altered through obstacle racing.
Over the past year I have asked people to share their stories to the OCR community, their friends, and even perfect strangers. I have asked them to share some “embarrassing” moments in their lives, dig deep in their past, and bring to light their transformations so all of you could read about them. Overall, the feedback of the OCR Transformations series has been very positive and readers seem to really enjoy it.
Asking people to be transparent isn’t always an easy task. I have heard those I’ve written about say things like… “wow, that’s really embarrassing to read” or “this is so amazing it brought me to tears” or even “I’m not where I want to be, I don’t think I am ready to share my story”. The truth is, we have all come from something we weren’t necessarily proud of. That’s the point of this series though, to put the good, bad, and the ugly all out on the table to help inspire others that are going through the same things in their lives. No, we won’t always relate to the person’s story 100% of the time and that’s fine. But maybe, just maybe…you will be able to pull out a tiny bit of the inspiration and motivation that each story offers and it will cause you to find something in yourself you didn’t know existed.
Everyone has been on a different journey and it isn’t easy to put all your cards on the table. You feel venerable, embarrassed, and ashamed even…but then you realize that it is all in the past and your journey isn’t over. That is why I have decided that there is no better time than now for me to share my own story. This is my thank you to all of you who have been so willing to be my “subjects” throughout the year to make this series a success.
I grew up in what was once a small town right outside of Hilton Head Island (these days you can hardly recognize it) called Bluffton, SC. We used to have one lane going on and off the Island and the only McDonalds in town was on the South end of the island, which was a good thirty-minute drive from my house. Kids played freely in the neighborhoods, we rode our bikes (without supervision) to the convenience store, and everyone looked out for one another. Oh and we didn’t have outlet malls!
Sports were one of the only activities we had to keep us busy. Most of us would play every sport the town rec offered until we were old enough to play in Middle School and High School. Softball, baseball, and football were the largest sports in the area. Clearly I wasn’t going to make the football team and I was a definite Tomboy, so cheerleading was out of the picture…softball it was!
I was pretty kick ass at softball up until High School. I was on all of the All-Star teams, always team captain, and very well rounded on the field. However, since Bluffton didn’t have their own High School we had to go to Hilton Head High which was made up of rich kids whose parents could afford lessons and club ball throughout the summer…and thus, my dreams of being a star athlete were quickly crushed. I was good enough to make the JV volleyball and softball teams for my Freshmen and Sophomore year, but once I turned 16 I was off into the workforce!
My parents got divorced when I was eleven. I remember when my friends would talk about their parents getting a divorce and they cried and were sad, but that was honestly the best day of my life. My dad moved down the road within about a mile of my mom’s house…it was the perfect distance so I could escape when things got too tough.
“Hello, my name is Allison and my mother is an alcoholic.”
IN THE BARBIE WORLD
I did my best to understand the situation I was living in, but at 12 years old there really isn’t much to grasp. I began being very hard on myself. I strived for perfection with grades and sports just to make her happy. As a teen, my mom convinced me I was manic-depressive because of my mood swings…when really my mood swings were caused from her (but I believed her and I believed there was something wrong with me).
During my most venerable years as a teen I lived in a reality were I was becoming self-conscious and I had no idea why. Maybe it was the “get that makeup shit off your face”, or the “what do you mean you got a B on that, you could do better”, or maybe just the fact that I literally had to tip-toe around my own home any time after 5:00 p.m. and the entire weekend. No wonder I developed control issues!
As soon as I could get a job, I jumped all over it! I started working every chance I had just to stay out of the house. Senior year Bluffton opened a High School and we were all shipped back over the bridge to finish out our last year (talk about a major uprooting). I kept my grades up, but I did everything I could to just get away from it all. I signed up for work-study so I could leave school at noon as long as I had a job to go to. I had three jobs at one time at age 17.
I still felt like something was always missing. I hated the person I saw in the mirror. I would get frustrated with life and hit myself as “punishment”, I would lose my temper very easily, I would cry…a lot. Until one day, I found a new way to control all of my emotions. I started inserting my finger into the back of my throat until my gag reflux would take over. It started out as pure curiosity just to see what was “purging” all about. Then, I realized…I felt free, I felt like I had control over my own body, and I had found my new escape from reality.
On top of the bulimia, I bought myself a gym membership and went to the gym every chance I had. I was only 130 pounds to start with, but you can’t tell a teenage girl anything about weight and have her actually listen. When I went shopping for my prom dress, my size 3 fit perfect…until I just stopped eating all together unless I was about to pass out. By the time prom came around, I had quickly become a frail 119 pound version of myself. It still amazes me that my mom didn’t wonder why we had to pin my dress so much. That night was the first night the boys in my school noticed me…I actually got told I was pretty (no wonder teenage girls have poor body perceptions…just a thought).
Fast forward to College when I moved away and came to Aiken, SC. Living on my own allowed me to actually breathe for the first time! I slowly….slowly….stopped hating myself all the time and I was able to find a healthier approach to my diet and not feel the need to purge anymore.
WE GOTTA START MAKING CHANGES
My weight loss journey has been all over the place! There are two significant times I can think of that attribute to my actual “life change” decision to become healthy and stop treating every other week like a new diet fad.
The first scenario was about four years ago. I had already begun my running journey and become pretty lean, but then I bought another ticket to the lazy train and let all my hard work slip away. I was at a point in my life when I started hanging out with a group of friends that all we did was go out and drink, work, and go out again. I had become a mess and was trying to fit in for all the wrong reasons. Reality set in when I took a trip to Scotland that same year. A majority of the trip was spent hiking and walking around castles which were pretty epic. Except one day we went for a hike that kept going up and up with no end in sight. I was struggling so bad to get up this mountain… I couldn’t breathe, I had to stop multiple times, and I literally wanted to turn around and walk back down. After we made it to the top and enjoyed the view for a few moments, the people I was with cracked a joke (meaningless to them, but a dagger in the heart to me) and said, “I thought you would have been able to run up this thing! Maybe too much Haggis on your trip”.
When I got back to the states I realized two things: 1. It wasn’t the Haggis jackass, I had been gaining weight, so there! and 2. I needed to get myself back in shape and fast. So I made the most logical decision and cut out ALL THE MEAT! I also started a blog (for accountability reasons), started running every single day, and leaned my ass back up (went from 148 pounds down to 135 pounds).
WHO RUN THE WORLD
I did a great job of maintaining my “new” self and I even ran some great PR’s during half marathons and 5k events. My workouts consisted of running, spin class, running, light plyometric, oh and did I mention running yet? That was until March of 2014 when my life changed forever…
I had done a local mud run years ago and vowed that I would never do anything like that again! I HATED IT!!! That was until my boyfriend and his crazy ass friends somehow convinced me to run a Spartan Sprint in Charlotte, NC while it was 30 degrees out. I had NO clue… ZERO clue of what I was about to get myself in to. Fear, excitement, vomit, hypothermia, happiness, and satisfaction are just a few words that I can use to describe my experience (no I didn’t vomit or have hypothermia, but I was close to both). I can’t explain what happened that day, but something clicked in me and I needed more of the crack also known as OCR!
My 2014 race year was a whirlwind of first experiences. I was able to meet the most amazing people from what is known as “the OCR community” and I even traveled to places I wouldn’t have before. I stopped writing my own blog and started working with this dude Matt B. Davis and Obstacle Racing Media (you made heard of him, he’s kind of famous ☺). Even earned some mental scars on Wintergreen Mountain during the Spartan Super (that took me seven hours…yes I said seven). Then the 2014 race season ended and life took over; which leads me to…
ISN’T IT IRONIC
The second scenario of my weight loss journey was when life took over and denial set in. A lot happened at the end of 2014—I bought a house and changed jobs all within 3 months. I knew I had started to let myself go a little especially after the Carolina Beast and Super that October. I’d find myself eating Zaxby’s or Checkers more and use the excuse “it’s fine, I’m active I can burn it off” (yeah if I were Michael Phelps training for the Olympics). Reality really set in this past February when I ran my first half marathon for the 2015 season. My time was incredibly slow (maybe due to lack of training and my new muffin top) and this was the first event that I developed an injury from. For weeks after, I had MAJOR foot pain so I went to the foot doctor thinking I may have fractured something. The doctor couldn’t find anything truly wrong other than, “maybe your shoes or weight gain can cause issues as well”.
“Weight gain…what weight gain sir? Sure I am a little fluffier, but it will be fine it will fall off!” – Denial.
My clothes kept getting tighter and not in a cute way where it was politely tapping me on the shoulder saying, “excuse me ma’am, but I am about to make your life miserable”. It felt like I woke up one morning suffocating in my own body! I wanted to claw out of my own skin. I don’t recall ever looking at myself the way I did during this time. I was sad, I hated the person staring back at me in the mirror, I was confused, I was determined to NOT buy new clothes even though I couldn’t breathe in my dress pants at work, and I was in pure denial! In my mind I was doing everything right when it came to eating and my health. I was meal prepping, eating clean, and working out…or so I thought.
“None of it made sense…twenty pounds? How could I have gained TWENTY freaking pounds in a matter of three months? This can’t happen to me! I am healthy and I’m active, why do I feel like I have a load of bricks in my pocket? Something is wrong with me this isn’t right!” – Denial.
I scheduled a physical with my Physician and convinced him to run blood tests and all. I just knew something was wrong with me that caused my weight gain. All of my results came back nearly perfect (well all except for my weight at 158 pounds and a BMI above the range it should have been). I still wasn’t convinced that “I” was actually the problem. Shit got real one Friday night when I had to tell David our Friday date night was going to be at the ER. I had to leave work early in agony I couldn’t explain in my abdomen and lower back. After six hours and a few crazy tests later I was told I had a bad Kidney infection.
I had to go back to my Physician for several follow-ups because I kept having Kidney issues or I would pull a muscle at the gym. I HAD IT! I was done getting injured, I was done getting sick, and I was done feeling like a sausage stuffed in casing…DONE!
I finally made an appointment with my Physician in August to get to the bottom of it all. He gave me the reality check that literally everything that was happening to me was directly related to rapid weight gain (I mean I went from 138-140 pounds to 158 pounds in a matter of six months for goodness sakes, there has to be consequences DUH). On that day, the Sheriff (a.k.a my Doctor) laid down the law and set me up with a plan of action!
“Hi my name is Allison and I had caused my own weight gain. I ate healthy, but I ate a lot and I kept telling myself I was active even though my activity level went from 90 to literally nothing. I was responsible.”
THIS GIRL IS ON FIRE
That appointment forever changed my life. I knew I was going to walk in at my next appointment and I was going to show my Doc I was serious and I was determined to make a difference. I cut my portions literally in half and I limited my foods for the day, but I don’t have to count calories. I discovered what a typical day needed to look like for myself in terms of food and I kept at it. My secret weapon: I got my fat ass in the gym and started working out FOR REAL this time!
My goals and drive to lose the weight and feel normal again really motivated me to find myself again. By mid-October I had reached my healthy weight at 140-142 pounds again and my BMI had gone back down to the “average” goal. The difference in my performance was incredible! I ran the Savage Race in Georgia late September and placed 11th in my age group for the open heat, 16th in my age group for the Atlanta Spartan Super in October, and 12th in my age group at the Carolina Spartan Sprint in November (my Sprint time in March 2015 put me at 87 in my age). Basically, I had been training with a twenty pound “weight vest” on so once I shed that weight I was able to unleash the beast that had been brewing inside of me.
I am still nowhere close to my full potential. To survive a race I still have to do a ton of penalties for monkey bars, rope climbs, and most upper arm obstacles…but I train to my weakness and still make decent time with 90+ burpees on the table. For the upcoming 2016 season I am concentrating on my weaknesses to build them into my strengths. We built an 8’ft wall so I can practice climbing on my own and we are in the process of building a monkey bar set using Olympic rings. Training for the actual obstacles has been the key to a better race day experience. I have a 40lb sand bag I run around my neighborhood with and I am definitely the girl in the corner of the gym sweating to death from 50+ burpees after every workout.
Becoming the person I am today hasn’t been easy. I truly believe that without the struggle, I wouldn’t be able to appreciate and hold on to the good I have in my life. We will always have ups and downs, but OCR has taught me how to adapt to the obstacles thrown in front of me. We are all capable of more than we ever thought possible…you just have to believe in yourself, stop saying “no”, and keep moving forward because there is a feeling of satisfaction waiting for you at the finish line (and so in life as well).
I know without a doubt that I wouldn’t be the athlete I am today without David pushing me harder each and every event (I probably would have never even signed up for my first event). He kept telling me I could even when I kept yelling I couldn’t…hell the man has even built me a mini obstacle course in our back yard just because I want to get better. For all the times I needed a lift over a wall, or even a running push up a hill I couldn’t thank Monsi and Jeff enough for always being my positive inspiration (and for the occasional ass grabs to keep it interesting ☺). My dad who encourages me to keep chasing my dreams and reminds me that it is okay to be just a little crazy (I get it from him). Also, the constant encouragement from my friends and acquaintances on Social Media keeps me motivated each and every day to be a better version of myself!
CURRENT TRAINING PLAN
This may sound crazy, but I don’t have a “real” training plan. I have had to adapt so much lately to figure out what seems to work for MY body and it has reminded me that everyone’s body does something different. Here is what has seemed to work for me: I eat less fruits (1 banana and a handful of grapes a day), I start each day with oatmeal, for lunch I eat a tuna wrap (everyday, except on the weekends I switch it up with an alternative light option), I may have my grapes or a handful of chips with my wrap (I love chips ☺), and for dinner I make pretty clean meals (I just eat a smaller portion than before, living with a guy causes you to try and eat more). I have started to eat for fuel and not just because I am bored which has made the biggest difference. For my workouts: they are still all over the place because…that’s life. I made a commitment to myself to get at least 5 days of real activity in (whatever that looks like) and I have started using my lunch break for runs just to make sure I don’t find an excuse not to. I am currently working two jobs so finding time for the gym has been a struggle, but I am about to start a half marathon training schedule (I’ll keep you posted on how that goes). When I find a routine that works for me…you will be the first to know. Until then, just follow me on Instagram because each day looks different and I am figuring it out as I go!