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La Joya teacher completes half Ironman

20131030 Esmeralda Chavez Triathlete Iron Man JB 2909“Being realistic is the most common path to mediocrity.”

This motto has become the daily creed for La Joya physical education (P.E.) teacher Esmeralda Chavez. Over the past two and a half years she has quit living her life realistically and began living it in a way even she never imagined would ever be possible.

With her weight having reached nearly 300 pounds Chavez knew she needed to make changes in her life. Changes that would not only help her get healthier and feel better about herself but that would also allow her to be a better example to her students at the Thelma Salinas Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Early College High School in La Joya.

Participating in a 5K and reuniting with an old friend through a social media site were what it took to start Chavez on the path to a lifestyle change. The results: She has lost 96 pounds since July 2010 and just this past weeked she competed in and completed the Austin 70.3 half iron man competition.

“At my heaviest, I weighed 286 pounds,” said Chavez. “I had lost weight twice before and I had some success keeping it off, but I was back up to 256 pounds when I signed up for a 5K on July 3, 2010. It took me an hour and three minutes to complete it, so I decided right then and there that I had to make a change.”

“It was actually a chance meeting with an old friend named Lori Tijerina that inspired me to start exercising,” added Chavez. “I saw a video of her on Facebook doing a 40-mile bike ride and I was really impressed. I decided that was something I wanted to do.”

Thanks to the support and encouragement she received from Tijerina and some of her biking friends, Chavez started down a path that has resulted in her now weighing 160 pounds and participating in races that she never imagined she’d ever be able to compete in.

“Lori and I started riding our bikes on the Mission Bike and Hike Trail,” explained Chavez. “My first bike ride was a distance of 14.7 miles at a pace of eight miles per hour. Then I met Erica Womeldorf, Erica Proffer, Farah Fazal and Cathy Fonseca. We decided to form a group of women cyclists who never stopped dreaming of better fitness. We called ourselves called the Cyclepaths.”

While her newly-formed support group played a big part in getting her on the right track to a healthier lifestyle, it was another social media site that became Chavez’s personal accountability system.

“Iris Cisneros Buitron saw a picture of me that Eric Jimenez posted on Facebook,” said Chavez. “She invited me to join her Run, Walk or Crawl Facebook group. Members of this group are encouraged to post their daily workout regimens and to encourage others with positive comments. This group became my accountability system and my day was not complete until I had a workout to post on this site.”

Chavez became more serious about cycling with the help of Ramon Hermida and his 5 a.m. Wake Up and Ride Group. Members of this group ride bikes every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday mornings. Eventually, she began running as well.

“Duathlons followed,” explained the 46-year-old mother of two. “I figured why not run and cycle? In order for my running skills to improve I enrolled in classes offered by Valley Running and coached by Hector Gandara. All I wanted was to improve on my 5K time so my duathlons times would be respectable.”

“Once I graduated from the class I was able to run my 5K's at a 33-minute pace,” continued Chavez. “The next step was to prepare for a half marathon. Coach Gandara told me that I had already laid out the foundation so I ran the Rock and Roll half marathon with my biking friends.”

Having previously completed a century ride from Austin to Shiner, Texas and having just completed a half marathon, Chavez set her sights on becoming a triathlete. There was only one problem – she couldn’t swim.

“Only one of the original Cyclepaths knew how to swim,” said Chavez. “So we spent long hours viewing instructional videos which led to swims at the Nikki Rowe pool which in turn led to open water swims. With the help of people like Lindslee Brunson and Lori Heridia we became strong enough swimmers to complete the Ironman 70.3 in Austin this past Sunday.”

Chavez credits many people for the help they so willingly offered her along her path from obesity to a triathlete. People like Earnesta Taylor, LoriLyn Orsulak, Herman Medrazo, a 10 time full ironman, and Karen Watt, a two time full ironman and a nine time participant in the Austin 70.3 half ironman, were among those that inspired her to quit dreaming and start doing. With their help she was able to complete the grueling 1.2-mile swim, the 56-mile bike ride and the 13.1-mile run that makes up a half ironman in a time of 7:56:23.

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CoverageAreaThe Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.

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