Humble, to say the least. Kelly Ramos took her first swim lesson hours after completing her first marathon. I reached out to Kelly about featuring her in this blog. She was unsure if her story was inspiring. You tell me?
You spoke of living an unhealthy lifestyle up until 12 years ago. What was your turning point and where would you be today without your transformation?
I started smoking cigarettes at a young age. I quit when I became pregnant with my daughter, but then resumed the habit about a year after having her. I didn't quit again until I became pregnant with my son 9 years later. My athletic journey began with an effort to lose a few pounds after having my son. I started walking on the treadmill at the gym in our apartment complex. When the walking became too easy, I started to jog. Bored of jogging on the treadmill, I sought out the track team at the company where I worked. I started attending practices with them and began to run outside on a regular basis. That's when running officially became my new addiction and I knew there was no going back.
Had I not stepped on that treadmill, I fear that I would have resorted back to the unhealthy lifestyle I led before. This journey has enabled me to discover and showcase positive traits that I never knew I possessed. I have also made some amazing friends who I may have never met had it not been for this transformation.
You qualified for the Boston Marathon your 1st Marathon (The Maine Marathon). At what point did you realize "I am good at this"? Would you say you are a natural born runner and athlete?
Growing up in England, the school I attended didn't have a huge sports program. We had our annual sports day and it was always my favourite day out of the school year. I fared well in the running events, but outside of that day I never did any running, so I really had no clue what my running potential could be. I ran a Boston qualifying time back in 2010 at my first and only marathon thus far. Running a qualifier was not my goal, I just wanted to finish feeling good. I managed to accomplish both, so I was thrilled. I know they've changed the timing standards since then to make it a little bit more difficult to qualify. But that's okay. I plan on running a qualifier again sometime in the near future!
In 2006 I ran my first 5K. I went by myself, ran it and went straight home. Later that week I received a certificate in the mail saying I had won 1st place in my age group. I couldn't believe it. That was the day I thought to myself that I might be okay at this running business.
I don't necessarily consider myself to be a natural born athlete. I have to work hard at it and like most people; I definitely have days where I struggle.
From not knowing how to swim to completing 2 Half Ironman Competitions. Can you talk about this journey?
I could doggy paddle my way the length of the pool but that was the extent of my swimming skills. I signed up for adult swim lessons and had my first lesson the same day I completed my first marathon.
Learning to swim as an adult is no easy task. Even though I was in good shape with all of the running I was doing, I felt like the most out of shape person when I was in the pool. It took a lot of patience and perseverance, but one day it all came together. Although slow, I was able to swim the 1/3 mile comfortably without stopping.
The next challenge was to overcome my fear of open water swimming. My first open water experience and first time wearing a wetsuit was at a swim clinic I signed up for a few weeks before the Tri. The second I stepped into the ocean the cold water took my breath away and I immediately knew that this was going to be very different from swimming in the pool. As I headed for the first buoy I was not able to put my face in the water. I flipped onto my back, waves started going over my face and I began to swallow some water. I was feeling extremely fatigued, but the fatigue I was experiencing didn't correspond with the effort I was exerting. Luckily my friend was right by me and she started to side stroke beside me. A person in a kayak asked if I wanted help getting back to shore. I refused. I had to finish by myself.
When I finally made it back to shore I could barely catch my breath. I instantly developed a cough with a coinciding rattling in my chest and started to cough up pink foam. My husband took me to the emergency room where they whisked me past the crowded waiting room after taking my vitals and seeing how low my oxygen levels were. I had a chest x-ray and was put on a nebulizer. I never received an official diagnosis; just the thought that I probably inhaled too much sea water. When my oxygen levels were back to normal, they sent me home with antibiotics.
I decided to sign up for another swim clinic the following weekend. Before the clinic, I went out to the ocean again in my wetsuit to get better acclimated to the cold ocean temps. My second swim clinic went great and I felt ready for the Tri. On race day I started running into issues as I rounded the second buoy. The same fatigue I felt in the first swim clinic kicked in, my breathing was labored and again not in line with the effort I was exerting. I flipped on my back and eventually made my way back to shore. Completing the bike and run portion was one of the hardest things physically that I've ever done. I could barely breathe and wanted to quit so many times. I pushed through and managed to cross the finish line. Since I hadn't inhaled any water this time, I knew something else was happening. At this point, I felt like my days of completing Triathlons were done.
After many hours over the span of a few years googling my symptoms, I finally stumbled upon an article with the right diagnosis. "Swimming Induced Pulmonary Edema" otherwise known as SIPE. A very rare condition that they don't have an official cause for, but it is believed the combination between the tightness of the wetsuit, over-hydration and, cold water temperatures may be the trigger.
A few years after the Tri, I met my friend Kristie. She's an amazing open water swimmer who convinced me to get back out there and give it another try. She has the patience of a saint. Some days we'd go through the process of putting on wetsuits only to be out there for 5 minutes as I got comfortable acclimating and putting my face in the water. Working with her my confidence swimming in open water has grown. I had a few mild cases of SIPE, when I first got back out there, but last year I managed to train for and complete my second Half Ironman without having one episode, so I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on it now. The warm-up swim is vital and I always start in the back of the pack and take my time slowly building up momentum toward the end. I have also completed the Tri for a Cure twice since then. I managed to place 2nd in my age group one year, which is a feat I never would have dreamed possible.
*Here is a link to the article where I discovered the condition I experienced when open water swimming: http://www.endurancetriathletes.com/sipe.html
How does living an active and healthy lifestyle improve your day to day relationships with family, friends, co-workers?
My kids much prefer post-run mum compared to pre-run mum! I always feel better and have a clearer head after working out. My family has been massively supportive, particularly my husband and son both of whom have spent many hours in all types of weather at events just to see me for a few seconds on the course. It's amazing the boost you get in a race for those few seconds that you see the smiling faces of your loved ones. Their support means the world to me.
What is something you think all runners have in common?
I believe most runners are goal driven and want to see results. In order to see results you have to put in the effort. Our drive to achieve those results overpowers any excuses we conjure in our heads not to complete a workout, enabling us to just get out there and get it done.
What is one challenge and lesson learned from your training?
I have had my share of injuries over the years. Some of which were likely made worse by my continuing to run through the pain. I've learned to listen to my body and to stop when something doesn't feel right. Rest days are a challenge for me, but I've come to realize that they are vital to reap the benefits of training and to help prevent injury.
How important is having a daily routine and setting goals for yourself?
Daily routines and goals are important as it gives me the drive to complete what I have set out to do. If I don't complete it, I feel a sense of failure. I like to have everything ready for the day in hand and also having a back-up in place is important when things like the weather throw a wrench into my initial plans.
What is one piece of advice you would offer to someone who thinks they could never run, bike, swim, or become active?
Aside from running what other activities do you enjoy?
I love the beach and spend many hours there in the summer. I also enjoy crossword puzzles, traveling, being a spectator at my son's sporting events and spending time with my family.
What is your favorite running app?
Strava is my go to App. It's user-friendly and it allows you to connect with other runners and cyclists all over the world which is a really cool feature. I also rely on Zwift, a virtual riding app to help keep me sane whilst biking inside during the winter months.
What are some races on your horizon? Boston Marathon? A full Ironman?
I hope to get a spot in the Tri for a Cure again this year. I do have Boston on my bucket list and running the London Marathon would be awesome too. I haven't 100% ruled out a Full Ironman. I am still on the fence. Training for an event like that is pretty intense, so I'd need to find the right time in my life where I feel I can put in the effort needed to become fully prepared for it.
What is your proudest personal and professional accomplishment?
On a personal level it's tough for me to pick just one moment. Every time I complete an event that I've invested a lot of time and effort in, I feel proud. They all took hard work and there's not one that stands out to me more than the rest.
I actually feel more accomplished when I experience success as a team. Of all the races and triathlons I've done over the years, one of my favorite races is the 4 x 100-meter relay that we competed in at States for the Corporate Track Team last year. As the four of us toed the line and eyed up our competition, I don't think any of us anticipated a win. I was lucky enough to be on the anchor leg of that race. When I saw my teammate approach me with the baton first, I knew I could bring home the win for our team. Seeing the excitement on the faces of my teammates as I crossed the finished line was the best. That win was far more gratifying than any of my personal achievements.
On a professional level, I have always given 100% in every job I've had. With that work ethic I have been able to work up the career ladder over the years. I have been with the same company for over 12 years now. To me this is an accomplishment in itself.
What is your favorite motivational/inspirational quote?
Staying true to my British roots – "Keep Calm and Carry on". I've found myself reciting this, whether I'm dealing with a personal issue or if I'm struggling during an athletic event. Panicking doesn't accomplish anything, but keeping calm does. This quote has helped me avert many a potential freak out moment!
In one word describe yourself: