By Julie Sadar, CTC Member and active CTC Board of Directors contributor
Most friends and family know my story. I shared it a few times during my 12th Ironman last Sat during the marathon and was told how inspiring it was and was encouraged to share. So here it is…feel free to scroll by-but if this helps give someone encouragement through tough times then it was worth the time to post it.
"Disabled to Ironman"
In my late 20s I became disabled. I was not able to go to the grocery or carry a laundry basket by myself. It wasn’t an overnight occurrence-but over a period of 8 months I put on a tremendous amount of weight and was in constant pain. I was still swimming and lifting; because I could push myself in the water and not suffer afterwards. I didn’t understand what was happening and finally got to my breaking point and reached out for help.
It took 4 years of advocating for myself-interviewing specialist upon specialist-needing to find the right doctors that would listen and not just judge me on first glances. I grew up a gymnast, dancer and cheerleader. I had always been active-what happened that I could no longer get out of bed in the morning? I was in constant pain. I finally-after so many tears and so much judgement, I found the right “team of doctors” that pulled up their boot straps up and were willing to work together to come up with some answers. This in itself was amazing as not all specialists are willing to work with other specialists to the degree I required.
I was in multiple organ failure. You see, the inflammation in my body was not just in my joints-it wasn’t supplying adequate blood supply to my organs or my bones. They were in essence dying. Constant tests and blood draws and we began to find some answers.
I began being treated for psoriatic arthritis, Hashimotos disease (low thyroid), sleep apnea, multiple vitamin deficiencies, multiple GI issues and deficient HGH (human growth hormone). I knew that if we were able to start treating the primary diseases I hoped many of the secondary would subside. The list is too long to list and really is irrelevant. I started on Enbrel for the arthritis. It wasn’t overnight-but eventually, after a few months, I woke up and realized I slept through the night without waking up from the pain. I realized I was able to get out of bed in the morning and walk without having to lay there for some time to move my joints before I could put weight on them. My constant pain was improving!
My incredible rheumatologist was in my corner the entire time! As I began to be able to move more she was always encouraging me (it helps she suffers from rheumatoid arthritis so she understood me). I started being able to move and regain my life back!
I was able to become more active, able to take off the weight (which has been a life long struggle). I found a wonderful friend group at the gym and started running with them and meeting for workouts. Baby steps. 5k, then 10k. My rheumatologist laughs that I am like a child, you give them an inch and they take a mile! Haha! I progressed to half marathons. Don’t get me wrong-I have a degenerative disease-the medication only helps slow the progression and steroids decreased the inflammation. I still have constant pain daily-it is just more tolerable.
About this time I was introduced to triathlon (swim-bike-run). I was already swimming and running-why not add biking-it’s non-impact! Dr Azem gave her approval. Well, I was hooked! I found my tribe! I had ridden a bike as a child but never a bike with gears and shifting! Haha! I had so much to learn!
I started with short course races-was introduced to Cleveland Triathlon Club-and that was the beginning of an amazing journey! The people I have met and the amazing friends I have made enrich my life so much! I have grown as an athlete and a person, words cannot describe the transformation I have had in my life. I approach each day with an “attitude of gratitude”. Even on the bad days I am a better person, athlete, girlfriend and friend and family member because of triathlon!
Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined how much this sport would give to me! I found that long course was my sweet spot. I am not the fastest. I have had set backs and challenges but even a hard day of training is so much better then being stuck in a bed! Friends have described me as a Diesel engine-I am slow and consistent! I decided in 2015 to push myself to the full Ironman distance (swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 and run 26.2). Could I do it? Would my joints cooperate? Was this possible? 2016 I completed my first Ironman-Maryland-the year of the flood!
It’s all about the journey for me. I have grown so much in so many ways! I fell in love with biking, and that is the area I have made the most improvement. Every year and every race presents its own challenges! It requires you to adjust and persevere. And I have had some epic races for sure!
As my joints continue to go through the degenerative process my ortho and I had to have some real heart to heart conversations. He will allow me to keep pursuing my dreams as long as my joint spaces maintain their integrity and I can deal with the pain. No one holds a crystal ball. Will I need joint replacements in the future? Quite possibly. But no one will know when that will be. I choose to keep pushing myself and doing what I love until I can’t! This sport has allowed me to travel the world and have some pretty spectacular experiences! I would not trade that for anything!
There is a legacy program in Ironman. Complete 12 Ironman fulls and you are eligible to put in an application to get a legacy spot to Kona in a lottery system. Kona is the super bowl of triathlon. It is held in Hawaii where the first IM was held! It’s a once in a lifetime experience-and one I never dreamed possible for me. It’s the iconic race that if anyone who is not a triathlete-the one they televise each October.
We found out last year that IM was changing the qualifications for legacy status in 2024. You still need 12 official finishes, but it needs to span a time frame of 12 years. As I continue to have more joint issues I know I don’t have 12 years of fulls in my joints. I never booked my races to get to Kona. That was never my goal. My goal was to keep doing what I love with the people I love doing it with, seeing different parts of the world and be living again!
Last Saturday I completed my 12th IM finish. (Technically my 14th completed distance-since we did 2 the year of Covid at home with CTC) Although it wasn’t a great race for me and I wish it had been better-I finished and that was the ultimate goal! I have had to walk more marathons then I would have liked-but I have finished! I have earned legacy status! I will put my application in this year and see what year I get to go to Kona. It is mind blowing to accept I have accomplished this!
This has become my lifestyle! Spending long rides with friends have become my ultimate joy! I love the training and the friends I have made! I am so blessed!
I have found many benefits that come with being a triathlete. Some of these are obvious – improved health, increased energy, higher self-image, meeting new friends… the list goes on. One of the hidden or not so often recognized positive character traits that is often developed through triathlon is our time management skills.
Most people outside of our sport cannot appreciate the immense amount of time that goes into being a triathlete and the decisions and sacrifices we make to be successful. Think about some of the things other than swimming, cycling, and running that consume large amounts of our time: meal prepping, laundry, travel time to your next workout, bike maintenance, training plans, hydration and nutrition plans, yoga, foam rolling, weight training, etc. These are just a few of the things that all add up as extra hours during the week that we need to fit into our lives in addition to the 8-16 hours of actual swimming, cycling, and running.
Now add in our jobs, our spouses, children, grandchildren, pets, board meetings, vacations - and how about time to rest? How in the world do we get it done? It’s simple, our decision to succeed at triathlon drives us. We find time to fit it all in. We start our day between 4:00-5:00AM and plan every minute of the day to make sure we are making the most of it. I call it squeezing every drop of juice out of the orange. We have a plan for the next day when we go to bed at night. We become better time managers.
As we head into race season, I encourage you all to work on your planning and time management skills. I think you will find yourself being more successful at all areas of your life and that you and others in your life will be happy you did.
How would you like $80 to spend on any nutrition brand or product that you love? That’s right, as a Cleveland Triathlon Club member, your newest perk is a $80 annual credit at The Feed.
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It is simple to join the Cleveland Triathlon Club at The Feed and takes less than 30 seconds.
Introducing Derek Stone from Working Triathlete! Derek is a veteran run and triathlon coach currently based out of Nashville, TN but will be making Cleveland, OH his home base in 2022. He is both an Ironman and USAT certified coach with a tremendous track record of success, having coached numerous national and world championship qualifiers.
An accomplished athlete himself, Derek’s endurance career began at the age of 13 and continued through college where he competed as a middle distance track athlete. During his collegiate career, he was a 3X conference champion and 3X NCAA National Championships Qualifier.
After college, Derek began specializing in triathlon. Notable multisport accomplishments include overall amateur champion at 70.3 Chattanooga, 2nd Overall in the draft legal duathlon national championships, and numerous triathlon wins.
Derek is fully committed to the multisport community and creating an exceptional coaching experience with Working Triathlete once he settles into Cleveland. His goals are to partner with the Cleveland Triathlon Club and offer additional opportunities for group workouts and be a resource within the multisport and running communities. He believes group workouts not only create camaraderie but also help us push each other in and out of sport. He will be making the move to Cleveland with his wife Hannah, who is originally from Wooster, OH, with their new son Beau and dogs Louis and Francis. You can expect the whole crew to be cheering at any local events!
Working Triathlete is a resource to help you assimilate high-performance endurance training into your schedule so that you can devote appropriate energy to all areas of your life, giving you the tools to conquer the competition and the conference room.
Derek offers 1-on-1 custom coaching, training plan options, and team membership. All give you access to their vibrant community and resources like Working Triathlete University, in-person and virtual training sessions, a private forum, weekly webinars, a book club, and team camps.
WT athletes come from all walks of life, ranging from some of the best triathletes in the world to individuals looking to take their first steps into the sport. Members include high-powered executives looking to KQ, athletes on the AG-Pro bubble, national champions, students, pure beginners, and full-time professional athletes. The common thread between our members is a hunger to be better, do more, and inspire one another.
Visit Derek's website here: https://www.workingtriathlete.com/
Someone recently asked me what signifies a "Club Race". This was a GREAT question. The board designates several club races of different distances each race season. The goal of having a club race is to designate a race that members can specifically train for AND know that there will be lots of other CTC members attending. Races are a lot more fun when we have friends to cheer for and to get cheers in return. We build camaraderie, friendships, a team spirit and a lot of memories with Club Races. We also plan other events around Club Races like a picnic or dinner. The club has a tent and flags posted at races as a rally point before or after the race. This way members, family and friends can gather at the tent to cheer for the athletes. It also shows great club support.
We try to pick races that have something for everyone's ability from sprint on upwards. We also pick a long course race 70.3 and 140.6 as a club race. The Board discusses what races we believe will attract members and we do our best to pick races that are in driving distance. Is there a race you love and think others would love it too? Let the CTC Board know and we'll discuss it at our planning meetings.
Lastly, there was a question about our tent and flags. These are always available for other races with board approval. Ask any board member and we'll work it out. Just understand that club races take priority and you will be responsible for pick-up and return.