The Afters! Wahine Sprint Relay Tri Race Report

“The Afters” Pam Johnson, me, and Cindi Morrow

This is a very special race report! I’m so excited to share this story!

Isn’t racing great? I mean, don’t you just meet the most amazing, inspiring people? I’m constantly blown away with people’s stories, how they started, what they’ve endured, obstacles they’ve overcome, achievements they’ve made, how racing and this community has impacted their lives. My friends, Cindi and Pam, are two of those people.

The After’s team was born from my friendship with these two remarkable women. Pam and I met during my first triathlon season, when we kept bumping into each other on the podium and decided we needed to get to know one another. We’ve become great friends and training partners, and had teased each other that we should do a relay together some day and be on the same podium step! I met Cindi, a runner, a couple of years ago and really developed a friendship after unexpectedly bumping into each other at a vegan potluck put on by NW Veg. Cindi has been a great supporter and inspiration, coming to races, sharing race reports, and I’ve been threatening to take her over to the “dark side” of triathlon! While getting to know these ladies, we discovered that we had each undergone transformations of fitness and weight loss, and often talked about this in the context of “before” and “after.” During a dinner last winter, one of us called ourselves “The Afters” and a fantastic idea emerged…we should form a triathlon relay team and celebrate our “After” selves! We chose the Wahine all-women’s triathlon as our event.

Below are our stories.

Cindi Morrow

Cindi “After”

On June 1, 2009 I weighed 312 pounds. In five months I would turn forty. I’d tried scores of times to lose weight. Some of those attempts lasted a few days some for months but none of them took. This time though instead of one more failed attempt to lose weight I succeeded in gaining my health.

There’s a big difference between not wanting to be fat and wanting to be healthy. More than losing 141 pounds I’ve grown as a person and as a citizen. I’ve learned that my food choices impact not just myself but my community, the environment, and animals that in the past I saw not as sentient beings but as food. I’ve gone from being someone who took the shortest path between to points to a recreational athlete who has run three marathons, six half marathons, and countless races of shorter distances.

Cindi “Before”

Between June 2009 and early October of that year I was a dedicated walker. I walked to shed weight. One night when I was out exercising after work it began to rain. I was tired after working a twelve hour shift. It was dark. I was a mile from home. And, now it was raining. Instead of walking, I figured, I’d run home. I’d be home that much quicker. Well, my first attempt at running lasted about a minute and left me grasping for breath, my heart pounding, my legs burning, but my spirit determined. How was it that I couldn’t run? How was it that I’d allowed myself to become so incapable? I tried again the next day. It was no better. Same for the day after that one, too. I stuck with it and a month later I was able to run that mile without stopping.

It was a 14 minute mile but it was running!

I was a new person. I was becoming the person I always wanted to be. Confident instead of unapologetic. Making things happen instead of making do. Controlling my body instead of my out of control body controlling me. I’m was a runner. I am a runner! Not a gifted one but a dedicated one. I’m slow (32:22 5K PR) but I finish. Sometimes I race against the clock, sometimes I race against my personal best, sometimes I race just to cover the distance. Each day I run I’m a healthier and happier person. Each step is a joy. Even the steps that are ugly and difficult on an uphill course on tired legs.Sometimes my standard four mile run on my home course starts like a punishment and ends with me wishing I had miles still to run. Running changed somewhere along the way from exercise to a passion . . . it influences what I eat and when I sleep . . . it’s earned me health, friendship, and pride . . . running makes EVERYTHING else in my life easier.

Pam Johnson

Pam “After”

I’m one of those people that should “know better.” I’ve done active things all my life (skiing, snowboarding, swimming, triathlon, mountain biking, etc.), but I’ve also had issues with my weight all my life. I seemed to always go through phases of all or nothing when if came to my weight and fitness level. I was either super fit and training for an Ironman or being overrun by stress at work with no outlet of physical activity and eating totally unhealthy. As I was approaching my 40th birthday though, I knew something had to change. I realized that I needed to get healthy in both body and mind…and for good this time. After all the turmoil of the down economy, I decided that no job was worth dying for. I wouldn’t let my drive to excel at work cause me to lose drive in other parts of my life. I decided that as a gift to myself for my big birthday, I would finally take responsibility for my own health and happiness.

Pam “Before”

So I made a plan. I set a realistic goal of one year to lose 90 pounds (with a provisional 80 pound stopping point if I felt good). I started exercising daily, which was difficult at first. And I decided to use Livestrong.com’s calorie tracker to keep track of all my food intake and calorie burn. I started running on my lunch break, since we have showers at work, and went to the gym near the office after work. Running at lunch was a super stress reliever. I’d come back from a run ready to tackle the world. Going to the gym near work served 2 purposes. One: I had no excuses. I had to go to the gym. None of the getting home and losing motivation stuff. Two: I avoided the rush hour traffic on the highway. By the time I headed home, there was no traffic. This also served to ease my stress levels. Bonus!

After a very tough year with lots of ups and downs, I had lost 65 of the 90 pounds I had planned on. Ironically I wasn’t disappointed in myself. In the past I would have been bummed that I failed at my goal. It took another 6 months to lose the last 15 pounds for a total of 80. Finally, I realized during all that hard work how to find balance. Balance at work. Balance in my fitness. Balance in my relationship with food. Balance in my personal life. I figured out that taking some time to better myself made me better at my job. I found that I dealt better with the pressures and things followed suit at work. I figured out that you really do have time to fit exercise into your life….even when you’re busy. And you notice it more when you don’t make time. I found that eating healthy makes me happy. I feel good when I eat the good stuff, but also figured out that an occasional ice cream cone isn’t going to kill me either. I also started to like myself again. I wasn’t doubting myself anymore and I stopped putting myself down. I like who I am, which means that my heart is open. Open to limitless possibilities. Open to love?

Me, Cindy Thompson

Me “After”

You may not remember February 2010, but it really was a pivotal time for me. I was the heaviest I had ever been in my whole life (I actually didn’t even know what I weighed, was afraid of the scale!) and other than just starting to change my diet, was very complacent about my fitness. I wasn’t really happy about my situation, but was pretty resigned to it.

My Fire Department had received an Assistance to Firefighters Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to develop a fitness program along the guidelines of the Firefighter Wellness Fitness Initiative developed by the International Association of Firefighters and International Association of Fire Chiefs. This program was not mandatory. The first step involved an initial fitness assessment, including lipid panel labs, body fat composition testing, and a physical fitness evaluation, and  I was very uncomfortable about this! I knew I was not in the best shape, but it was very important that I be a role model as a Captain in my department, and step up and participate in this voluntary program.

Me “Before”

I had my fitness assessment and it really encouraged me to make some changes. I started doing P90X  (on- and off-duty) that showed up at the station and participated in a firefighter-specific health program called PHLAME (Promoting Healthy Living; Assessing More Effects) with my crew.

Since February 2010, I dropped 60 pounds, 7 uniform pants sizes, 3 uniform shirt sizes, and dropped my cholesterol and blood pressure readings. Beyond looking better, my fitness level soared, and gave me new athletic outlets I never even dreamed of:the Seattle to Portland bike ride, Portland Marathon in 2011, a two-day team adventure race this summer in Central Oregon called the Wild Canyon Games, 2012 Open Water Swim National Championships, and an addiction to triathlons.

In March, my department asked me to head our Wellness Fitness program! What a turn of events! I’m now a certified Peer Fitness Trainer through the American Council on Exercise and excited to share my story and experiences with others to help them succeed and be inspired myself by their success.

Wahine Sprint Relay Triathlon, July 28, 2012, Blue Lake Park, Fairview, Oregon

“The Afters” Pam Johnson, Cindy Thompson, and Cindi Morrow

In all, “The Afters” team was 281 pounds lighter than the Befores! It was a thrilling day, celebrating our health and watching Cindi participate in her very first triathlon!

Pam and Cindi setting up transition with Race Monkey!

Pam returning from the bike to set Cindi in motion for the run

Cindi bringing “The Afters” home!

So how’d we do? Third place! And we had such a great time doing it too!

“The Afters” after!

But, the amazing thing was sharing the story of “The Afters” when people asked us about our team name. And you know what? We heard more inspirational stories from amazing women who are Afters too! I knew Kelly from the tri club, but I didn’t learn her story until after the race while we were waiting for awards, when she shared with us her “Before” picture that she was carrying with her. Here is Kelly’s story!

Kelly Johnson

Kelly “After”

I don’t know where to start my story. I got married July 31, 1988 and I was at that time very fit from running and eating good portions and making good choices.  Then I got pregnant a year later and was told to hold off on my extreme exercise.  I then at that point started eating more and more. I gained 85lbs; let’s say baby fat.

After my daughter was born, I was a yo-yo. I couldn’t lose the weight, added running then I figured I was in the best shape in the world and I could do anything—without proper training. I entered in the Hagg Lake Run. It was a 10.2 mile hilly race and I didn’t even think twice. After a mile and running uphill, I saw my daughter and husband I stopped and said take me home.  It was the first race that I did that I didn’t finish.

Kelly “Before”

This was the start to my weight gain that up me over 270 lbs. I was so depressed that I let my family and mostly myself down. I started to have the job I had and I did what every person did, right? I went to the kitchen and ate everything in my path. I was angry and very sad at the same time. I kept turning to food and what a way to live.

I finally decided one day to stop and make changes in my life. It took me over 18 years to make that decision.  I started to walk a short distance, then longer then started to jog/run again. Having such a great support from my husband, I closed my business and returned to College. I was getting better with my weight loss but it has taken over 2 years to totally drop the 110 pounds and I still have 30 pounds to go. I am a work in process, really. I love to eat food; good and bad but it’s really a state of mind now.  I have goals and I still have to learn about portion control.

In 2011, I started to do triathlons and I currently am working to be an Ironman. My goal is to do the Ironman Wisconsin 2013 and finish standing upright and fit.

Are you an “After”?

Doing this race, sharing our stories, was just an incredible experience! I know there are others. Would you like to share your story and join “The Afters”? Please, male or female, send me your story and photos and we’ll share them on our new “Afters” Team Page I’m developing on the blog. Let’s celebrate our success and fitness together!

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