Grismel Alonso-Soto was in a dressing room trying on pants. They didn’t fit — her regular size no longer fit. Again.
What came next might have been the accumulation of a million different feelings or the pain and frustration of watching the number on the scale climb while her ability to do the things she loved slowly slipped away. But Alonso-Soto remembers that day in particular as the one in which she finally declared to herself and to the world: I’m done.
“I was not going into the next pant size up. If that means walking out of here naked, then that’s what it’s going to have to be,” she remembers thinking. “It was, ‘I’m done. This is only going to get worse. You need to do something.’
“Every time I put something on, every time I looked in the mirror, I didn’t like who I was looking at,” she said.
It was more than what she saw, though. It was how she felt. She felt unable to do things with her two young daughters; she felt incapable of pulling off anything physical.
She was close to 220 pounds. She couldn’t run, so she walked. She signed up for exercise and dance classes. She changed the way she ate but not in a way that made her unhappy — in a way that she could live with and that she could sustain.
Her mom’s tamales? Great for lunch. No longer great for lunch, dinner and breakfast the next day.
“Kale and quinoa? They are not in my fridge,” she said. “I had to find something that works for me.”
The zumba and boot camp classes were working and she was feeling better. So she kicked it up a notch. She started driving from her home in Cloverdale to take P.E. classes at Santa Rosa Junior College.
“She was just head and shoulders above everybody else in work ethic,” said Lacy Campbell, the women’s basketball coach at the JC and a physical education instructor. “It was like a freight train. She would not stop.”
Campbell had to modify her class workouts for Alonso-Soto — not to make them easier, but to make them harder.
“It’s the mindset,” she said. “You don’t find people like that very often.”
And so it was last spring when cross country coach David Wellman was shooting the breeze with Campbell while her P.E. students ran through a conditioning workout.
“I saw this woman just hammering the workouts Lacy was giving her,” Wellman said.
Campbell told Wellman that Alonso-Soto “crushes my class.”
Wellman was silent for a bit. Campbell suspects he was timing Alonso-Soto as she did interval training.
He liked what he saw and approached the 31-year-old mother of two and asked her to join the cross country team.
“I told him, ‘I have no idea what you are talking about,’” Alonso-Soto said. “I never knew what tempos were, I didn’t know what pace was, I didn’t know my mileage.”
“I’m 31 years old. What the hell just happened?” she said. “I get a knot in my throat just thinking about it.”
This is not a gimmick for Wellman — or for Alonso-Soto. She is now the team’s No. 1 runner.
At the Delta-Mustang preview in September, Alonso-Soto was her team’s top finisher, coming in seventh by less than two seconds behind the sixth-place finisher. By all accounts, she would have been in the top three, but she got lost on the course. Alonso-Soto was the top Bear Cub finisher at the Sonoma State Invitational last weekend, coming in fourth overall on a hilly, difficult course.