May 29, 2013
Carleen Lessard: Paying Tribute
By Robin Runyan

“My life is so much better today and CrossFit has played a huge role in my recovery."

Carleen Lessard is heading to the North West Regional ranked sixth after the Open. For Lessard, this year isn’t just about making it to the Games. It’s also about paying tribute to her father.

Lessard lost her father, Charlie, on February 7, after complications post-surgery for diverticulitis.

“It was the worst day of my life,” she says.

Her father was her biggest fan, cheering her on at competitions after seeing her compete at Regionals last year. At first, he didn’t understand CrossFit, but after Regionals, he told her he would never miss another competition of hers.

“He ended up driving two hours each day of Regionals to watch me,” she says.

Lessard’s father constantly bragged about how much his daughter could deadlift, and he often shared videos of her competing. When he passed, Lessard told her father she would get to the Games for him.

Before CrossFit, Lessard’s athletic background included softball through college and hours on the treadmill as well as various boot camps. She found CrossFit X Factor in Portland, Ore., after making it through another difficult time in her life — overcoming addiction.

August 2013 marks three years of recovery from an eating disorder and October 25 will be her three-year birthday free of drugs and alcohol.

“My life is so much better today and CrossFit has played a huge role in my recovery,” she says.

“Growing up, I always struggled with body image issues. Once I finished my softball career, I struggled to find who I was outside of softball. I began seeking attention and acceptance from others and myself through my body,” she says. “I restricted, over-exercised and eventually binged and purged multiple times a day. I did not know who I was and thought if I looked a certain way, I would be happy. Boy, was I wrong! Once the eating disorder got bad, my drinking and drugging got progressively worse. My family was worried, and I pushed away, because I was in denial that I had a problem.”

Lessard realized she needed to change her life in June of 2010. She committed herself to intensive outpatient treatment for her eating disorder. But while in treatment, other problems arose.

“As I learned about myself and who I was through treatment, I noticed my drinking increase,” she says. “I completed treatment successfully, and thought I was on my way to a new life. However, I had just replaced one addiction with another. I began drinking more and finally hit rock bottom. October 23, I went on a two-day drinking binge, where I made horrible decisions that left me waking Monday, October 25, 2010 hating myself and throwing my hands in the air. I went into my therapist’s office and told her everything and said I was ready to make a change.”

Lessard found CrossFit X-Factor a couple months after getting clean. She worked out with James Massa and loved the group sessions. She began to embrace her athletic build and what her body could do for her. She had a new motivation to not drink and found herself wanting to come to CrossFit every day. After she and her coaches noticed big strength gains, she started exploring the competitive side of CrossFit.

After finishing 47th in the 2012 Open, Lessard finished 18th at the North West Regional. While she struggled with muscle-ups last year, she looks forward to the burpee muscle-ups the most this year.

“I cannot wait to redeem myself this year as muscle-ups have become something I love to do now,” she says.

Lessard thinks she can hold her own in the overhead squat event, but there are strong competitors in the North West who can put up big numbers. She looks forward to the 100s event because she enjoys long workouts.

“It will be a struggle for me, but the time domain is in my wheelhouse.”

Her training has shifted focus to the Regional Events. She spends up to four hours a day training, five days a week, with two active recovery days. Her goal is ultimately to make the top three, but she knows this is a tough region. She is also trying to train with other strong athletes in order to push herself.

Lessard is grateful for the coaches and community at X-Factor.

“The CrossFit community surrounded me with love and support during the week after my dad’s passing,” she says. “On the day of his service, several local and not-local boxes did the Charlie Lessard Memorial WOD I programmed in honor of my dad. The turnout of support from people I knew and didn’t know was amazing. Together, the CrossFit community raised $1,500 to help my family with funeral costs for me and my family.”

Lessard plans to leave it all on the floor of the Showare Center in Kent as she works to make it to the CrossFit Games, both for her and for her dad.

Photo by: Aaron Buck