“Just have the weekend off”
“Why would you want to do that?”
“I can think of much better things to do with my time”
“I don’t envy you”
These words and many more, were repeated to me on the regular during my journey to completing my first 70.3 – a half Ironman race – a triathlon – an endurance event.
So why would I want to do that? Well why not!
I started the journey to a better lifestyle in 2018, I was 30kg overweight and not doing anything for myself that I enjoyed. Instead, I felt like I was a martyr for my son, for my workplace, for my family and friends.
One day I looked in the mirror and I decided enough was enough, I didn’t like the reflection looking back at me, so I started. I joined Red E’s 8 Week “Little Black Dress” Program and I was petrified, I had no idea what I was doing.
I had tried to get into fitness before but was never successful in sticking it out, for no real reason – I was full of excuses – I didn’t have time, I was too busy, I was too tired, I couldn’t afford it. The team at Red E were so supportive and helpful and assured me from day one that by just turning up once a week, I could make a difference.
So I did. I turned up, every week and slowly began to learn how to fuel my body on a budget and with healthier choices. I didn’t go crazy, I didn’t try change everything. I just chose one thing at a time and stuck to it. I learned there were many things I couldn’t do – I couldn’t do a single push up.
But I trusted the process, and it wasn’t long before I started to see some progress. That one push up that I could not do fuelled a fire in me. I wanted to prove that I could do anything if I applied myself. I worked every week with my trainer to build strength, to improve my fitness. I started a program that combined strength training and cardio. I had what felt like huge successes in the Little Black Dress Challenge, the people around me were noticing changes and the compliments were coming thick and fast.
Six months down the track I entered the Push-Up Challenge for “Headspace” and completed 3128 push-ups over 28 days. The feeling of success I felt following this was like no other feeling. Those excuses I made during previous attempts to better my health and fitness were no longer.
What was next? I couldn’t wait to find something new to push my limits, to feel that feeling again. So I set a goal to run the half marathon at the Mackay Marina Run in 2019.
Could I run? Absolutely not. The purple bin runs my trainer made me do (200m) nearly killed me, I puffed, I was red faced, I sweat, I jiggled in places I felt you shouldn’t. But again the frustration of my limited ability drove me to improve.
I wasn’t able to commit to the run program set up by Red E. Being a single parent and working full time limited my options to attend. So instead I took it home and I chose two sessions from it per week to do.
I completed that half marathon 12 weeks later in 2.45hr – was I last… no, but almost… did I care.. no way, as the saying goes, I lapped all of those people sitting on their couch.
In April 2019, I also committed to another 8 Week “Little Black Dress” Project with Red E, and again had incredible results by the end of June! I lost 5.5kgs and dropped 19cm in 8 weeks! That took the total to 12.6kgs and 49cm in eight months!
The weight was falling off and boy did I feel good about it. I started to love the person looking back at me – she looked good! She had gained confidence. She had this positive vibe. I realised for the first time in a long while, I was genuinely happy with the person I had become, I was kicking butt. I committed to a more active lifestyle, I wanted to be a positive influence on my 7yo son. We bought paddle boards and kayaks, we started hiking, we dusted off his bike and scooter and we got out, often.
The end of 2019 rolled around and the high from completing my first half marathon had worn off. I had competed in a few smaller events that I enjoyed but I felt like I needed something else to push me as I knew how easy it would be to slip back into old habits.
Red E created a group event to attend the Women’s Only Triathlon in Mirani in October. I thought, yeah why not! It was 200m swim, 8km ride and a 2km run. Which felt big at the time! I was confident going in, thinking how much I had improved my fitness, I had dropped 25kg, I had this.
Until I didn’t.
I couldn’t swim to the end of the pool – I had to stop four times in the 200m, I was almost last out. I was pedalling eight rotations to everyone else’s three and going no where fast, I walked the run.
I finished it and felt like it was one of the toughest things. I could have quit then and there. But that desire to improve attacked me again. A friend of a friend was working towards an Ironman. Wow I thought, I could never do that. She is so amazing. Then I got to wondering.
Why could I never do that? What is stopping me? Nothing really – except my own thoughts and disbelief in my own ability. I played with the idea for a while, and the more I spoke about it with other people, the more I was interested. I knew it would be tough, but once I decided the ambitious goal I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. I knew this was the right thing for me. I can’t explain why, I just felt so good about it, I kept imagining myself finishing it and kept thinking, whoa that would be so amazing if I could pull it off.
So it began!!
I needed a coach! I needed to learn how to swim again. I needed to get a bike that those speedy people had. I needed to do so much, I literally had no idea what I was in for, but I knew what it felt like to cross a finish line that was sitting just outside of your reach. It is empowering. It is like a big up yours to all the haters. It is proof that you can do anything you put your mind to.
My program started and I was madly timetabling everything – I had to find ways to fit in 30-60minutes of run, swim or bike where I could. Often it meant running while my son attended his weekly scouts meet, or riding my bike in the lounge room on a trainer while he watched a movie, or while he slept. I lead a busy life, but we didn’t give up anything – we still went to the family events, we still made time to go to the park, the beach, have a PJ day at home!
We made it work. It was a commitment, set the schedule and stick to it. Turn up. Don’t make excuses. #NFE (No F*cken Excuses) was the motto that got me through. So often I was tired and could have skipped that treadmill run, or that ride.
But I would remind myself of the end game, how would I feel if I didn’t complete it. After all the time, money and effort I’d given so far. Rubbish – not finishing was never an option!
So I got it done. Despite how I felt, or what hurdles were in the way. I participated in the Eimeo Triathlon early in the training and had another practise triathlon a few months later. Both were challenging in their own ways, but my mindset never faltered, instead it built me up.
I discovered what I sucked at and that informed my training for the next few weeks, it is so easy to say well that was crap, I can’t do this. Instead I laughed about it with my friends and they shook their heads at me wondering what I was thinking continuing on this road.
Fast forward nine months and the event is around the corner. I battled with sickness, family emergencies that pulled me away, Covid-19, challenging days at work, study. The list goes on. But I had constant NFE reminders, almost daily and I felt ready. I was calm yet nervous and excited. A hard emotion to explain. Just ready to give it my best shot.
I arrived on the Sunshine Coast where the Ironman 70.3 was to be held. It was pouring rain. Of course it was! I felt like 2020 had thrown everything it could at me, and this was just the icing on the cake. I laughed about it and figured, I couldn’t change it. I can only control how I perform, and I didn’t come all this way to quit over rain.
I dived in head first, literally. I got through the 1.9km swim leg, the part I was the most worried about for time, and I was faster than I expected, even with the rain. I had to trek 1.2km back to transition along the beach, and when I got there…. a spanner in the works.
When I got there everything was saturated. So the wet shoes and socks went on and I headed out on the 90km bike leg. Your feet are clipped in, something I learned about for the first time this year, (the clip anxiety was real) I managed to take off without falling. A feat of its own.
The rain whipped me, you had to blink tenfold to see through the droplets. 25knot wind pushed against me for half of the bike leg.
I was at about 70kms when an official told me I may not make cut off. For a split second I thought, well that’s the end. I’m not good enough. But I quickly reminded myself of NFE and pumped those legs as hard as I could to make it in time.
I got past the point I needed to, to stay in the race and that same official said to me with surprise and a bit of a scoff “Huh, you made it,” like he didn’t expect I would… Bloody oath I made it mate! Not making it was just not an option.
I repeated NFE to myself more than once.
Pouring down rain… NFE
Crazy head wind… NFE
Wet shoes… NFE
…the list went on
I got to the end. I was THE last bike. Everyone behind me, not many I might add, were cut. I dismounted with a wobble and stayed upright and knew from there it was home run. Just 21.1km run to go. I set out and knew I was last. At first I was embarrassed. I was last!
Hang on a second – it’s a freaking ironman!!! Who cares!! I had already achieved so much more than many. This put a grin on my face and off I went. My legs hurt a little, my shoes were wet. But I enjoyed every second of the run. I had to walk up hills. I even passed a few people.
On my last 10km, there were not too many people around. I was passing people who were going home, but they didn’t judge me, they cheered me on. Encouraged me to finish. The finish line was such an incredible feeling.
I did it. I bloody did it!
Suddenly I was hearing…. “you are so amazing”, “wonder woman”, “I am so proud of you”, “what an achievement”… The mindset of the people around me was changing.
Ok, the “You’re crazy” stuck, but that concept of thinking I was ridiculous for sticking to my schedule months prior suddenly turned to admiration for achieving the goal.
Do I have crazy good motivation? Nope.
Am I some kind of super mum who doesn’t have issues to manage? Nope.
Am I amazing? You bet your ass I am, because if we aren’t our own biggest fans, why would anyone else want to be!!!