Julie Reed grew up on her father's dairy farm in Loveland, Colorado. She went to college in Seattle and then moved to the Denver area in the mid-90s. Since then, has been working steadily as a CPA and enjoying her five children with her husband. Emily, their oldest, just finished her sophomore year of college and her younger daughter will be a freshman this fall. Her twin sons are well-adjusted, rising high-schoolers, and her 15-year old son was a star athlete for most of his life.
When he overdosed at age 14 and spent several days in the hospital on a ventilator, Julie and her family were shocked.
"It came right out of nowhere," says Julie. "My first two girls were on the opposite extreme and had nothing to do with the kids who were smoking and doing drugs. Neither my husband or I had any kind of history with drugs, so we at a loss about what to do."
Julie took her son to several counselors after he left the hospital, but they didn't have much success. She was also on a waiting list to see John Davis, the founder of 2xtreme. John works exclusively with at-risk, adolescent males.
Right away, Julie could tell that John was different.
"He starts out just firing questions a million miles a minute, and I think the kids are almost dumbfounded by him initially," explains Julie. "Then at the end of the session he gives the kids the option of continuing with him or not. That was scary for us because he had already gone through several counselors who didn't work, and now John was giving him the option of not coming back."
At the end of the session, however, when John asked Julie's son if he would return, he said he would. He continued to meet with John weekly at 7AM so he could fit the sessions in before school and work.
"There's not a good way to explain it except to see it firsthand," says Julie. "My first impression of John was, 'You are sure out of the box.' But I thought that if anyone was going to work for my kid, John was going to work. It's not a career to John. It's a calling. As the boys get to know John, he becomes more like a mentor than a counselor."
Julie is near tears when she describes the months after her son's overdose. "It was rough," she says. "Honestly, it was just awful. It was the most horrible experience, and I hope I never have to go through anything like that again."
To cope, Julie joined 2xtreme's Mom to Mom support group, one of the programs organized and run by their non-profit - 2xtreme Foundation, Inc. - which John Davis moderated.
"This group helped me through. When you are in the midst of this, it feels very lonely. But none of the other moms made me feel judged or looked down on me," said Julie. "That was a big help."
Julie explains that mothers of children with drug problems often feel shame and a sense of isolation.
"So much comes up. Shame. Anger. And can I ever trust my son again? There are times when things are going great but it's just not as easy as before. These are the things no one talks about."
As part of the group, Julie was also forced to to do her own inner work and confront previous judgements.
"It's been an eye-opening experience," she admits. "I used to be think that any child who had trouble with drugs had no parental support or guidance. Then you're in it, and you're like, 'Wow, I had no idea.' And that was really wrong of me to be so judgemental."
When John Davis proposed the idea of forming a 2xtreme team to compete in the XTERRA Beaver Creek Sprint Triathlon on July 15th, Julie signed up.
"I've done a triathlon before but I'd never call myself an athlete," she says. "But I'm really internally driven. And I wondered, this thing - this XTERRA - is it a way to get me back? I feel like I've lost a little bit of myself in the last 20 years raising the kids. It's not a bad thing -you want to devote everything to your kids. And I've loved the last 20 years being a mom. But it just seems like after a while there is a little bit of a hole."
Julie signed up right away, because she knew if she didn't, she would find a reason not to. Next, she told her daughter Emily she was doing the race and asked if there was any chance she would want to join her mother?
"Emily said sure. Then she looked into it later and said, 'This looks intense.'"
The two started training in March. Julie bought mountain bikes for her twins, which she and Emily used to train, and they both found gyms.
"During the winter, I just ran," says Julie. "Emily was at college, so we would FaceTime when we were working out at the gym. It became a new and different way we could exercise and connect."
The weekend before XTERRA Beaver Creek, Julie explained that the past six months of training have been important for both her and her daughter in ways that are difficult to articulate.
"All of it feels like a process," she says. "I feel so much better about myself now that I'm fit. That's more than half of it. And I just think with my daughter - she has never done anything like this before and just supporting her - " Julie trails off. "Emily's strong," she continues. She's stronger than she thinks she is."
When asked what this race will mean to Julie, she admits she isn't sure yet. "At first I just wanted to finish. We'll see how it goes. I do have a little bit of a competitive side in me, so we'll see when I get there what kind of fire I have to compete."
It turned out that Julie and Emily Reed had plenty of fire. Emily finished second in the 20-24 age group and Julie was third in the 50-54 age group.
"It was probably the most physically difficult thing I have ever done," says Julie. "But it felt so good, not to mention that it was beautiful. And I'm super proud of Emily."
Julie is going to sign up for another XTERRA. And two of her daughters want to join her and Emily at XTERRA Beaver Creek next year. Julie is looking forward to bonding with her children this way.
"Training will give me more opportunities to spend time with them," she said.
The last six months have also been a training of sorts for Julie's son. He met with John in those early mornings before school. He's stayed clean. He even went to a music festival with friends in July, and was successful. With Davis' coaching, he came up with a plan to stay clean and sober at the festival, even if people around him were using. In many ways, Davis' coaching and visualization mirror the strategies used by coaches before big races.
"Our relationship with our son is getting rebuilt," says Julie. "We are going in the right direction."