From Alcoholism to Ironman: Part 1

A Man's 1-Year Journey from Alcoholism to Ironman Wisconsin 2020.

For several years, Chad Unger has had the dream of completing an IRONMAN on his bucket list, only to come face-to-face with challenge after challenge fighting his addiction. He has finally hit a point in his sobriety where he once again desires the chance to give his dream another shot, and our IRONMAN certified coach, and Tri Fitness founder, Vicki Ostendorf, will be by his side the entire time training and supporting him. Chad has offered to share this 365-day journey with you. We hope you find courage and inspiration in his story and through his journey, and give your support to him as part of our community. You can follow our blog, Instagram and Facebook, as well as Chad's Instagram to give him your support and encouragement.

Alright...let's hear a little from Chad and let him introduce himself and share how he got to this point:

Hi, my name is Chad and I’m an alcoholic (the group collectively responds, “Hi Chad!”).

That is my introduction at every AA meeting I’ve been to, and I’ve been to hundreds. I’m 48 years old and I’ve battle addiction my whole life. As with most addicts, I have experienced all the typical consequences: a divorce (twice), lost careers, bankruptcy (twice), foreclosure, repossession, three DWIs, eight rehabs, jail time and last but definitely not least, damaged relationships (especially with my kids). The insanity of addiction is the fact that I continued to abuse drugs and alcohol despite all the negative consequences - year after year.

Currently, I am 25 months sober. Not just sober, but for the first time I’m in “recovery," meaning I am recovering from this illness - healing my mind and body.

Once again, I am chasing my dream to become an IRONMAN. I’ve tried before, only to become derailed by bad choices. The last time I decided to attempt this amazing feat was in 2016. I was in reasonably good shape, I had just completed a 36 mile trail race and figured I’d give it a go. I couldn’t swim very well and I didn’t own a bike, so I bought a secondhand bike and I began asking around looking for recommendations for a trainer. I knew I couldn’t do it alone.

The same name kept popping up, Vicki Ostendorf. I met with Vicki at her facility, Tri Fitness, in White Bear Lake. I told her the plan and she of course was completely ready. She had this completely positive attitude and batted down every fear and negative thought I could come up with. She had me believing.

I trained with Vicki for about 5 months. It was great! I was getting stronger, faster. I even learned to swim. Things were going as planned until history repeated itself – I began drinking, again. It hit hard and fast – out of control. In three months I found myself in Hazelton Treatment Center.

Over the following two years I stayed sober, went to AA meetings and Vicki kept in contact with me; periodically, sending me words of encouragement and support. She never mentioned training or Ironman. She was no longer my trainer, but rather someone who simply cared, which was a rarity in my life (ask any addict, after enough relapses, no one cares anymore – people get tired of the rollercoaster and the pain).

I quit smoking again in January, was sober and in decent running shape. I once again set my sights on the dream – the IRONMAN. I asked Vicki for advice finding an Ironman training plan (I am unable to pay her for her valuable time). She stated that she wanted to see my dream realized and offered to train me – for free!! Why?! I have no idea. Is she kind or crazy? I haven’t decided.

The journey begins now. I cannot wait for this adventure to unfold. The question is, "Can I do it?" I don’t know. Can I handle it physically? Can I handle it mentally? I’m not gifted in either department. I’ve heard you learn a lot about yourself while training for something like this. What will I find? What will I learn? Many questions to be answered. Mostly, will fear hold me back like it does in other parts of my life?

I’ll keep you posted.


916 views3 comments

Recent Posts

See All