Hello everyone! My name is Erika and I’ve created this blog
to document the journey I am taking to qualify for the USA Olympic Trials in
2016. I would like to begin by telling you a little bit about myself and my
history of being a runner, or actually, lack thereof.
I was born in Miami, Florida and grew up in a traditional
Cuban household. Both my parents emigrated from Cuba in 1979 in hopes of living
the American Dream with their two daughters. I have an older sister named Angie
and I am happily married to Milo Fernandez.
My family and I (Left: Angie, Ana, Me and Jose)
My husband Milo and I
For as long as I could remember, I had always been a chubby
girl. While growing up, the “diet” staples at home consisted of fried steak,
rice, black beans and fried plantains. You could only imagine what I looked
like! Needless to say, I acquired the nickname “Gorda,” which literally
translates to “Fat,” but it was purely a term of endearment.
I wasn’t a very active child. I’d play recreational
volleyball at school, but I was more of a homebody and self-proclaimed nerd. A
typical weekend would look something like this: Wake up in the morning, eat, do
homework, eat, watch television, eat, watch some more television, eat, play
video games, eat, sleep. I had very unhealthy habits, to say the least.
My dad and I (I was
about 7 years old)
By the time I was in high school, I became very involved in
my classes since I planned on going to college. I was still inactive and
gaining a lot of weight. After graduating high school in 2001, I was accepted
to the University of Florida.
My high school graduation in 2001
It was during my sophomore year that I learned the true
definition of the “freshman 15.” I was looking through some pictures I had
taken throughout the year and then I stumbled upon a photograph that changed my
life. When I analyzed the picture I realized that I had gained about 40 pounds
my first year in college! It was that very moment that I realized I had to
change my life. What used to be a lifestyle of eating pizza and having mid-night
desserts, turned into a lifestyle of eating healthy foods and exercising.
The picture that
transformed my life
I would love to say that it was very easy to transform my
life, but that was not the case. I asked a friend to suggest the best way to
lose weight and she said that I should run. My friend was doing the Weight
Watchers diet during that time, so I asked her to lend me her Weight Watchers booklet. I was still in college and I didn’t have enough money to be a part of
the Weight Watchers group, so, I photocopied the booklet and I began running
seven days a week.
I will never forget my first run; it was during the summer
of 2004. Let me just say, the run was just shy of being my worst nightmare and
the most dreadful experience I had ever gone through. After running my first
mile at a 14-minute pace, I thought I was going to collapse and die. I was fatigued
and out of breath. My thoughts at that very moment were, “What am I doing? I
CANNOT do this!” I quickly recovered from my negative thinking and I decided to
walk home. After that painful day, I vowed to at least give running a TRY. I
had nothing to lose (except weight) and everything to gain (not fat!).
As I continued running to lose weight, I decided it was time
for a new challenge. My gym buddy Loren, suggested that I run a marathon. I
thought she was crazy, but there was something about her enthusiasm for running
that planted a seed in my mind. So in 2008, I decided to run my first marathon
ever. I asked my co-worker Kevin, who had been a distant runner in college, to
write up a marathon running guide for me. Kevin’s guide served to be a strong
foundation for the later years to come. After training for about six months, I
ran the Miami ING Marathon and I finished in 3:58. I was very proud of myself! I
thought I would never run another marathon, but after I was done, my body
begged for more!!
Miami ING Marathon in January 2008
The next marathon that followed was in 2010 when I decided
to run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. With no formal training, I
finished that race in 3:16. It was in Chicago where I realized that I possibly
had a hidden talent. I couldn’t believe that I finished in 3:16. I thought my Garmin GPS watch was broken,
but it wasn’t. I had actually qualified for the coveted Boston Marathon without
even trying to qualify.
Chicago Marathon in October 2010
At that point, I made up my mind to run a sub-3 hour marathon.
I didn’t register for the Boston Marathon that year, but I did register for the
2011 New York City Marathon. As I continued training, I sought help from my
friend Omarto to tweak my running abilities. Many people thought it was
impossible to PR in New York, but my wish came true. I finished that race in
2:59! My hard work and sacrifice had paid off.
New York City
Marathon in November 2011
My sister made me
this poster for the NYC Marathon. I ran the race one week before getting
married to Milo in Costa Rica (it was a destination wedding!).
After running the NYC Marathon, I registered for the Albany,
Georgia Snickers Marathon. I finished that race in 2:58 and I came in 3rd
place overall female. That was the first time I had ever placed in a race.
|Me in the Albany, Georgia Marathon March 2012|