One year after the bombing took place at the Boston Marathon, runners laced up their shoes, pinned their bibs and some hopefully, some nervously, took to the human lined roads of the city. Amongst those runners was a woman from South Florida who had qualified for the race in her first attempt a couple months prior at the 2012 Miami Marathon(3:36:50), well under the time requirement for her age-group . She recalled the race with a slight grin on her face, “It’s an incredible race. 26.2 miles through a sea of people, outpouring love and gratitude on runners with eccentrically dressed up fans. Every gaining mile marker lead to more surprises from food and snacks to comedic posters, and even college girls offering free Kisses. As whole the experience made you feel like a rockstar from start to finish!” To her, the most incredible part of the race was that at no point do you feel alone!
With her 2014 Boston Marathon finish of 3:36:30, she re-qualified to compete in Boston this year where she will line up once again to run through a city that magically transforms into a runners wonderland. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, she will also be lining up with the finest competitors in the Chicago Marathon this October, as well, for a chance to prove once again that it’s not your body that moves you, but your inner power. She will line up for both these races having overcome shoulder injuries, continuous pain, and a lifetime of other obstacles that would have sat anyone else out of these races…but not her, not Estela Ortiz.
Who she was?
Pregnant at 14, mom at 15, she grew up in the blink of an eye. While most of us were worried about what dress to wear to prom, she was looking for daycares and sitters to watch her 3 year old daughter so she could complete her studies and graduate. While raising a young daughter without the support of a father or her family, she not only had to deal with the social implications, and emotional adjustments from teenager to mother, she also had added physical pains, and trouble digesting. While under the care of a gastroenterologist, he suggested they were looking in the wrong place after 2 years of searching for answers and yielding no conclusive results. She continued undergoing the previously stated symptoms along with uncomfortable weight gain/weight loss until one afternoon, while reading some medical material she had gotten her hands on, she realized that it may be a problem with her thyroid.
Upon entering the office of one of the top endocrinologist in Colombia, he confirmed her suspicions. To her utter disbelief however, he revealed that the cause of it all was a cancerous tumor in her thyroid that needed to be operated immediately. First things that popped into her head was her daughter. “I can’t leave her alone. Who will provide her with opportunities to succeed in this world”? Though the removal of the tumor was successful as was the treatment that followed, she shortly after did develop Fibromyalgia, a chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in localized areas.
After years of living with crippling pain, suffering from depression, and struggling to find herself at peace, she awoke one morning to an event that would change her life. While hobbling across the street from her apartment to walk her dogs after a knee surgery in 2009, she saw mobs of people running out of the water to their bikes. She witnessed herds of competitors, all shapes, sizes, abilities, and disabilities push past their limits, pain plaguing their faces one minute and smiles flashing across them right after. She wanted that. She wanted to turn her pain to smiles. A sense of inquiry, peace, and emotion enveloped her with every passing soul. That day she said “Esto (el dolor) no me puede quitar la vida’’/ “This (pain) can’t take my life away from me.” That race was the 2009 Escape to Miami Triathlon.
She set out to control and manage the pain caused by the fibromyalgia with the advice of her brother, a sports medicine doctor and nutritionist. He gave her training plans and a nutrition program to follow. As time went by, she became more and more addicted to pushing beyond her pain threshold, showing herself that she would decide what she would and would not do, and that no physical limitation would stop her. As she gained control, she felt an interior peace growing.
Who is she now?
Flash forward 6 years and she is now a two-time Bronze Ironman All World Athlete who’s competed in two USAT Age-group Duathlon World Championships (France 2012/Canada 2013), and completed three Full-Ironmans, seven Half Ironmans, and numerous shorter distance Tri/Duathlons, not to mention the countless running events she’s participated in from the 5k to Marathon distance.
“When you have a purpose, a goal, with the objective to improve, the universe conspires to make it happen.” In the process, she’s turned her journey to renewed life, and later even to a new profession. She has since become a Life Coach; helping, guiding, and assisting others here in South Florida community and in her home country of Colombia, to reach a healthier, happier place in their lives.
She has witnessed countless miracles in her own life and in the lives of others around her. But she adamantly affirms that each of us has the power to orchestrate our own miracles when we successfully connect with the infinite force of goodness. “We have to connect with that source within each of us. It is your effort, your work, your physical, emotional and spiritual exertion that brings about miracles in the physical world.” And it’s a workout that must be performed daily.
Dan Gilbert, in the “Surprising Science of Happiness” Ted Talk discusses the two types of happiness. Natural happiness which is the one that you feel when you get what you want. The other, Synthetic happiness, which is what we make when we don’t get what we want. But to this Iron-soul, there is only one now. Through the power of positive thoughts, she has morphed the synthetic with the natural. She has turned her pain to motivation; Where pain and fatigue once constricted her, her ability to harness both over grueling miles and hours of competition have set her apart as one of the top endurance female athletes here in South Florida and her in Colombia.
When she lines up for Boston on April 20th, she will celebrate the miles with smiles, for the mere fact that she is competing in as a living testimonial of the transformative effects this sport has on people’s lives. She continues to prove to herself, her clients, and her friends, that it’s not your body that moves you, but your inner power. She once again will not be alone for a single step of Boston’s race course, as she hasn’t been since she began training. In spirit, her brother and father will be joining her who’s passing broke her heart but strengthen her will. Her best friend, her daughter, as well as, friends, and souls she’s inspired, transformed and guided along her journey will also accompany her. South Florida will be cheering and tracking your success. Good luck in Boston, IronSoul!