About Me


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




My journey began eight years ago on that hot summer day and it is far from over. Through the years I have accomplished a lot of goals such as, losing 80 pounds, running my first marathon and running a sub-3 hour marathon, but I want more. My dream is to qualify for the USA Olympic Trials in 2016. That means that I have three years to run a 2:46 marathon in order to qualify. I invite you to follow me on this journey—I assure you it will be an exciting one! I have many more races to run and many more challenges to overcome, but my heart is set on the future.

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62 comments:

  1. You have done well for yourself, you look fantastic, you likely feel better for yourself and it shows. Great Job Erika you are defiantly are on the " Right Track "

    Don C

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    1. Don, it's been challenging, but well worth it! I feel great and healthy. Thank you for the encouraging words.

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  2. Such an inspiration! I have no doubt you'll achieve your dream. Your discipline, dedication and love for the sport isn't a hobby, it's an avocation! God bless on this fabulous journey (and I have to add looking like a gazillion bucks while you're at it!). Looking forward to seeing you in Boston in April!!

    Kelley

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    1. Thank you Kelley! It's hard work, but with some determination, ANYTHING is possible! =)

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  3. Simply amazing story. thanks so much for emailing me so i can follow your journey to 2:46!!!

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  4. Thank you Nicole. I also look forward to following you during your races and motherhood!

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  5. Erika, I think I just clicked through every single one of your posts. I too was heavy all throughout my youth and in college I decided to start changing my life. I recently started getting into running--I ran my first 7 miler last Saturday. Unfortunately I hurt my feet as a result, not sure exactly what I did. Any advice how to go hard? (My body loves it and doesn't want to stop...but I feel the pain later on). You're great! Can't wait to follow the rest of your journey!

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    1. Cassie, first of all, thank you for reading my story. Since you're new at running, I would suggest easing into it. Perhaps your feet hurt because your feet are acclimating to the pounding of the ground or perhaps it could be your shoes. Are they new or old? It's best to log the amount of miles you put on your sneakers so you don't run on them while they're worn out. That could lead to ankle and foot injuries. How is your running form? That too could be causing the pain in your feet if you are running incorrectly. I wish you all the best!!

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  6. SUCH an inspirational story! Running is truly a gift, and I don't know what I would do without it. As a MA resident, I've been watching the Boston Marathon the past 27 years of my life and will be cheering you on this Monday as you work toward 2:46! GOOD LUCK!!

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  7. Thank you Jen for those encouraging words. I am looking forward to running at the oldest marathon in history. It's truly an honor. =)

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  8. Hey, Erika! I found your blog through SkinnyRunner's and after reading your story, all I can say is WOW. First, I want to say thank you for your service as a police officer. Second, your story is amazing and truly inspiring, and I look forward to following your journey and watching you in the 2016 Olympics! ;)

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    1. Thank you for following me! It's my pleasure to serve my community and running just puts a cherry on top!

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  9. YOU are amazing. I have often thought that we ALL have a hidden talent, a true gift. And life is a journey to figure out what that gift is. Congrats on finding yours and good luck!

    The Kidless Kronicles

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    1. Nikki, I am very thankful that I finally discovered my gift. Like you said, it's been a journey, but one filled with many special experiences. Some people create art with their hands, others with their feet =)

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  10. I'm new to your blog but WOW nice work and based on how amazing and far you come I'm sure you can qualify! Good luck!

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  11. What an incredible and inspiring story!! GO GATORS!!!

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  12. Wow, I loved reading your story! What an inspiration you are - and freaking fast! You look amazing!

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  13. Wow. Truly impressive! You're an inspiration! I'm a single momma who works full time and I struggle to find moments to even get runs in! How do you manage your schedule??

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    1. Jessica, first of all, I applaud you for being a single mom and a full time worker- it's not easy! I'm not a mother yet, but I work many hours a week. For me, the best solution has always been time-management. I have a black agenda book and I swear by it. I take it everywhere I go to make sure I am on time! Good luck!

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  14. I saw you featured on SR's blog. Glad I found your blog! What an amazing journey you have had! And I'm excited to follow you as you continue in your dream of qualifying for the Olympics :D

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    1. Thank you for finding me! It's people like you that motivate me to do my best =)

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  15. Came across your blog thanks to the Skinny Runner post about you at the Boston Marathon- I'm so glad I did, you're such an inspiration! I wish you all the best! I will keep following you and your amazing accomplishments!

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    1. Thank you Martina for following me! =)

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  16. Found your blog via SR. Your story is amazing and I look forward wait to following along on your path to 2016! :)

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    1. Thank you Lindsay! It's my fellow friends (online) that motivate me to do my best!

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  17. I must thank Skinny Runner for introducing you to me....you are so inspiring! I'm a big fan now! You're story is amazing, and I can't wait to watch you train for the Olympic Trials, and of course cheer you on the whole way!
    A hot lady, who runs fast and carries a gun....you go girl!

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    1. Thank you Stephanie for motivating me! I'm glad SR introduced us =)

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  18. I read about you on SR too and OMG, this is such a great story!! I won't be surprised to see you in the Olympics one day.

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  19. Wow, you are truly an inspiration and one super fast chick!
    I ran my first half marathon two weeks ago and feel like a fire has been ignited inside me. I loved every minute of it (even the hard hills). I can't wait to run more races and with strong women like you to look to, I'm sure I'll never be short of inspiration.

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    1. Fizz, congratulations on your first race! Welcome to the addiction. You're going to love it. Good luck and stay motivated- you'll do great! =)

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  20. What an inspirational story Erika! I love that I stumbled upon your blog and look forward to following your journey. You go girl! I too have had weight battles. Was successful with Weight Watchers in 2010 but gained 20lbs back. Now I am back on it again and discovered my love of working out again and desire to run. Keep it up and you'll go far!

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    1. Thank you Emily!!! I wish you the best of luck too =)

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  21. You're journey into running is so similar to mine, me only being ahead of your age/college story by a year. You've come so much further than I, but I'm still inspired by your story. Good luck qualifying, I am sure you'll make it there!

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    1. Thank you Kate! With sacrifice and determination anything is possible, right? ;)

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  22. I love this! I too grew up in Miami and went to UF :) I've been trying to run more but I've noticed I am quite injury prone. Thank you for sharing your journey!

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    1. Thank you for reaching out! Just take it slowly and you WILL see the progress. One day at a time.

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  23. Amazing job! I'm so excited I found your blog, I can't wait to follow your journey!

    www.projectfit4life.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you so much for following me!! Looking forward to read your blog.

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  24. WOW again! love your story. I read through some of your old posts and I just love the motivation and determination that you have. Happy to have found your blog and can't wait to see what the future has for you! I'm curious though, with my first marathon coming up what type of training did you use for your first marathon? some trainings say the most you should run is 20? some say 22?? Im so confused LOL

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    1. When I trained for my first marathon I didn't have a structured running plan. I sort of just put on my running shoes and went out the door. The fundamentals for marathon training though is putting in the miles. I separated my training runs into short runs, medium runs and long runs. My short runs were either recovery runs (the day after a long run) or sprints at a track (speed work). My medium runs simulated marathon pace, so they were anywhere between 8-14 miles. The long runs were usually at an easy pace and they were about 16-23 miles long (the miles progress through the training). The most I'll ever do for a long run is 23 miles. I hope this helps. Good luck!! ;)

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  25. SUCH an inspiration!!! I found you through SkinnyRunner (like everyone else!!:) I loved reading your story. I have been running for years and haven't come CLOSE to the progress that you have made in a short number of years. I am SO amazed! I am excited to follow your blog and am SO excited to read about you hitting that Olympic Trial number! When you do- I will look for you around Colorado Springs (Olympic Training Center!)- :)

    One quick question... do you ever use the treadmill in your training? Whats your view on it? Just curious! I am so curious if you had a running coach or if you just naturally progressed as a runner. So glad I found your site!

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  26. Hello Tori! Thank you so much for those beautiful words and for dropping by to say hello. I never use the treadmill simply because I get bored (LOL). I'm not opposed to it for let's say, recovery runs and such. I just don't have the patience to stand up in the same spot.

    I actually progressed as a natural runner. When I decided to run my first marathon in 2008, I had a co-worker who was in the military and he had run cross-country when he was in college in the 70s. Well, I asked him to help me come up with some sort of training guide for the marathon and he did. He must have been pretty amazing because I ran a 3:49 marathon that year. I used the same guide for Chicago in 2010 and finished in 3:16 (I qualified for Boston in my 2nd marathon). Pretty cool huh? I attribute my success to having determination. I want it really bad =)


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  27. I am so motivated and inspired by your story! I am battling hamstring tendinitis right now after finally PR'ing in a half marathon in December. I was getting faster, then crashed and burned. I had Boston on my "Dream Bucket List" because I haven't thougt it would be possible for me to qualify....I was scared. Since everything that happened in Boston this past week has sunk in, I am now determined to qualify! It is now on my "real" bucket list, lol! I plan to get healthy, run NYC Marathon in 2013 (supposed to run 2012), then start working toward qualifying! Thanks so much for such an awesome story! I hope to BQ while following your journey to the trials!!

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  28. I have no doubt you will qualify. People ask me how I've done it and the only thing I can say is: Determination. One's mind is a powerful tool. If you believe you can, you WILL do it!!! Good luck and keep me posted. Thank you!

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  29. Erika eres un modelo a seguir. Cada uno de tus logros con seguidos con tanto sagrificios llenan de alegria a todos los que te conocemos. Eres una campeona desde que un dia de verano hace ocho años comenzaste este viaje. Me emociona el coraje , la pasion y la determinacion con que emprendes todo lo q te propones. Me orgullese q mi hija sea una de tus mejores amigas. Adelante , q lo conseguiras.

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  30. Gracias Emma por esas palabras tan bellas. Usted, como Alyssa, me motivan a ser una persona major. El apoyo de mis amistades me a ayudado muchisimo durante este period de tantos cambios. Un beso =)

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  31. You are a beautiful woman, and you are a inspiration to myself and so many others.I would love to marathon, and just seeing how you eat and run to stay beautiful and healthy, is very wonderful. I am in the law enforcement field (the admin side). I have dreams of becoming a woman with a badge in the future. Thank you for all that you do, and continue to do!!!

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  32. Thank you PG for those words. Never lose sight of what you want to do and you will see things come to light! Good luck =)

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  33. I just found your blog and I'm so inspired by your journey and your BIG goals! Really! Thanks so much for putting your story out there:)

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    1. Hello there! Thank you so much for reaching out! I am happy to inspire and teach others about running and living a healthy life overall. :)

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  34. I woke up looking for meal-prep ideas on pinterest and found your blog. I am so inspired. You have given me today's motivation to move forward with my journey. Gracias <3

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    1. Hi Kellee! Thank you so much for those words. If you ever need any suggestions about running and fitness, let me know! Good luck :)

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  35. You've done great, I'm so proud of you! We need to catch up soon!

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  36. Do you have a schedule that you would recommend for a half-marathon?

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