CUPCAKES WITH THE CARTEL

LANDON LOEPKER 

We are super proud to share the inspiring stories of our Cupcake Cartel members in the weeks ahead. Triathlon has an uncanny way of leading us on a journey of self discovery, and bringing out personal strengths that we didn't even know we had. This was certainly the case for Colorado based athlete Landon Loepker; who had a powerful motive for competing in his first ironman, just a year after he started in the sport. Here is Landon's story.

Name: Landon Loepker
Age: 34
Occupation: Plumbing Designer (Professional Turd Herder)
Location: Arvada,Colorado, USA
Nationality: United States
Years in triathlon: 1

 
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Tell us a bit about yourself, your story, and what attracted you to the sport of triathlon:

My story starts from being a young sensitive kid with lots of highs and lows, and not being able to control my emotions. I was in trouble a lot for acting out and not paying attention. I’ve always cared more about others than myself. My first time admitted into a mental hospital was my senior year in high school. By then I figured out that alcohol would temporarily numb my feelings and make my racing thoughts subside. But even in high school my friends knew I needed help but I didn’t see it. I was diagnosed Bipolar type II shortly after. Being diagnosed with Bipolar type II was detrimental to me and with all the stigma associated with it I felt like I had a scarlet letter on my chest. I was embarrassed, felt not enough, felt like I was broken goods, who would want me? ALCOHOL wanted me! And it would make that feeling of brokeness go away. The loud thoughts would stop. This method of numbing my feelings and taking away the pain only worked for so long. Scared to ask for help in fear of looking weak and afraid of what people would say or think of me I just kept trying to numb the pain, quit what was hard or run from fear. I thought a lot about suicide but never could commit. On March 25th, 2016 I had a letter of all the things I hated about myself written so my family would understand why I was giving up on life.(I carried that letter everywhere because I never knew when I would finally commit) If it wasn’t for a certain person seeing this letter and doing the right thing I would not be here to tell my story. Them calling the police was what I needed to see when I was at the bottom. On April 4th, 2016 I was in a behavioral health intensive outpatient program and this is also my sobriety date. After BHIOP I did chemical dependency intensive outpatient and that is where my triathlon journey began. I set my goal of an Ironman because I knew the intense training would require structure, accountability to my coach, and fill a lot of my time which I believed I needed early in my recovery. At the time little did I know how much this journey would teach me about living a happy, fulfilled sober life.

If you could offer one piece of advice to other triathletes, what would it be?

Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Why did you choose to be part of the Cartel?

After completing my first Ironman in Louisville,Ky I got a friend request on facebook from someone I'd never heard of, but I always wanted a friend with a cool accent so I accepted it. I came to find out he got 2nd at IM Louisville and it was the legend himself, Callum Millward. To be honest, to have Callum, a very respected and talented athlete friend me after my first Ironman meant a lot especially because I was feeling as though I let a lot of people down with my not so good performance. I knew if Callum would associate himself with an average age group athlete that he was in triathlons with his heart and for the love of the sport and THAT I wanted to be a part of.

If you were a cupcake, what flavour would you be and who would likely eat you?

I would definitely be a Skittle flavored Cupcake topped with Mt.Dew Icing that I can only imagine being eaten by the Care Bears

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How has triathlon changed your life for the better?

I learned to be honest with myself and ask for help when I don’t know how to do something. ~In October of 2016 I humbly walked into George Myers pool in Arvada,Co and asked the masters swim coach if he would be willing to teach me how to swim. He said of course and then I had to tell him I have exactly 1 year to go from a pitiful doggy paddle to a full Ironman distance triathlon swim. He loved the challenge. 10 months later I swam my first 2.4 OWS. I learned how to be okay with being uncomfortable. ~During the summer to get prepared for OWS I did the stroke and stride series in Boulder,Co. Every Thursday I would show up so nervous and scared of the OWS but I would do it and not quit or give up. I may have come in last or close to it but I learned to be okay with not being perfect or not being in the top. It was actually okay to be honest with myself and to be patient with the process of learning and to not quit when I felt embarrassed or not good enough. I finished every OWS I started, not to say I didn’t have my moments of panic or fear. A kayaker once told me “you know dude it’s just water” I learned not to give up when things get hard. ~On the fourth of July (Merica day) I had a tough track workout followed by a century ride. It ended up being almost 100 degrees fahrenheit (37.7778 celsius) and at mile 50 I started to lose my mental drive and at mile 80 I hit the wall known by all endurance athletes. The last 20 miles was the biggest struggle of my Ironman training. Every muscle,bone, and hair (the few I have) on my body was screaming and wanting me to quit. But That’s when I thought of all the pain I was living with in my addiction and mental illness and it DIDN’T compare. I finished that ride with tears of happiness and for the first time in my life I knew what I was doing and that I needed a platform to ge my story out there and build up the courage and tell it. I hope my story helps just one person to build up the courage to ask for help to leave the pain and suffering and to start their own journey on a life of happiness. The more we tell our stories of addiction and mental illness the more we chew away at the horrible stigma that surrounds it.

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This post originally featured on The Cupcake Cartel Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/TheCupcakeCartel1/posts/178610009440629