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A Journey of Recovery and Endurance: The Start of Something New

Journey of Recovery and Endurance Ernest Vigil How It All Started
Ernest Vigil
Year started: 2020

Stories often begin with a desire for change, a longing for something more. For Ernest Vigil, his journey into the world of triathlons didn’t start with the typical athlete’s drive or passion for competition. Instead, it began with a profound need for transformation and a battle against addiction and mental health struggles. Ernest’s journey of recovery and endurance is as inspirational as it is in being able to teach us to value others.

Discovering the Spark: Finding Purpose in Movement

“I lost a lot of weight in 2020,” Ernest recalls, reflecting on the pivotal moment when his journey began. “I had a full bypass done, three days before they shut down the hospitals.” Despite the world’s turmoil, Ernest saw an opportunity for change. “When everybody was sitting at home and complaining and eating chips… I used it as a time to really get out there and capitalize on the opportunity I was given to lose some weight.”

But his journey didn’t stop at weight loss. It evolved into a newfound passion for endurance sports. “I got tired of walking and hiking during my recovery,” he explains. “And then it just kind of went from there.” From hiking to running, and then to biking and swimming, Ernest found purpose in movement.

Overcoming Obstacles: Battling Addiction and Depression

Years of addiction and neglect had taken their toll on Ernest. “I was a high school athlete,” he shares, “but I lost my way… I had some college scholarships I didn’t take advantage of and ended up having kids right out of high school.” Addiction and depression consumed him for years until a wake-up call in 2018 landed him in the hospital, weighing 580 pounds.

“I woke up in the hospital… surrounded by family,” Ernest recalls. “And when you think you lose people and they’re there for you still, it’s just like, I don’t want to go back to that lifestyle.”

Triumph on the Course: Conquering the Sprint Triathlon

In 2022, Ernest decided to challenge himself further by participating in his first sprint triathlon. The event consisted of a 750-meter swim, a 20-kilometer bike ride, and a 5-kilometer run. Ernest didn’t have a coach or advice from anyone because it was all so new and different. He turned to the internet to do some research, as he put it, but he didn’t know what to look for. That made the information he found confusing.

Despite the lack of knowledge and anxiety around an open water swim, Ernest went forward. His lack of knowledge of what he was ‘supposed’ to do was less intimidating than what he had gone through in his life. This was a chance for him to do something new and he took it. Ernest tackled each leg of the race, pushing past his limits and proving to himself that he was capable of more than he ever imagined. The journey of recovery and endurance was now another step along the path.


Finding Strength in Community: Embracing Compassion and Support

Endurance sports became Ernest’s lifeline, a source of strength and healing. “Even on my worst day when I don’t want to exercise,” he says, “I still smile… I did that. I feel better for it at the end of the day.”

After he crossed the finish line of that first sprint triathlon, he registered for more events. The knowledge that he could do more was powerful. He recalls the moment during a tough climb in a race where he was passing people. That feeling of triumph continues to fuel his desire to see what he can accomplish. This has led him to register for his first 70.3 event later this year.

Yet, Ernest’s journey isn’t just about personal triumph. It’s about compassion and community. “People with a drug or alcohol addiction do recover,” he asserts. “Everybody’s been through their own shit. Be a little kind to people.”

Gratitude and Guidance: Acknowledging Support Along the Way

In his recovery journey, Ernest found support and guidance from organizations like Advocates for Recovery Colorado. “Huge shout out to them,” he says gratefully. “I could not be here without so many people today.”

As Ernest continues his journey, his focus remains on growth and resilience. “Keep learning and growing,” he advises. “Be willing to try new things… If you can’t be consistent, you’re never going to accomplish anything.”

A Journey of Redemption: Crossing Finish Lines with Hope

Ernest’s story is proof of the transformative power of endurance sports and the human spirit. It’s a reminder that every journey, no matter how challenging, holds the potential for growth and redemption. And as Ernest crosses each finish line, he carries with him the hope and resilience that define his remarkable journey of recovery and endurance.