If you are a female and are training for or have done an Ironman, you have probably been asked whether you find it offensive that it’s called Ironman not “Ironwoman” or the extremely politically correct “Ironperson”…
It’s not that I find it offensive. And I certainly won’t be stopping Mike Reilly from yelling “You Are An Ironman” at the finish line. Nope. I earned that moment!
But, what I’ve learned on this journey is that everyone has a story. That’s what makes it such an emotional day. Everyone you speak to, read about or know of will have a story.
A reason they decided to give it a go and push their limits in every conceivable way.
I have one too. This July 28th will be the 4 year anniversary of being cancer free.
Diagnosed with Melanoma just a few days after my 25th birthday was, as you’d expect, a life changing moment. In an absolute instant, you feel compelled to change your life. I don’t know how else to describe it.
It almost feels like that moment when you’re a kid and you’ve lost something you know you will get into trouble for losing so you pray to God “PLEASE LET ME FIND IT – PLEASE!!! I’LL DO ANYTHING!! JUST PLEASE LET ME FIND MY SCHOOL HAT!!”
I never particularly excelled at sports, and back then I was also a smoker. I’m embarrassed to say I smoked the whole way through my diagnosis, the biopsy, the surgery and the second surgery..
Then the doctor sets a results date to find out whether it has spread and to give you “your chances”.
And it was once this date was set, on July 28th 2011, that I made a vow (to God maybe? I’m not sure) in exchange for a positive result.
I would change my life. I would stop smoking. I would get fit. I wouldn’t waste it. I would cherish my friends and my family. I would be different.
July 28th came and went, and after the all-consuming relief of finding out your number isn’t up, decided I’d better keep my promise *suspiciously looks up to the sky and nods*.
A triathlon seemed like the most natural way to tackle the fitness thing… and I did give up smoking I’m proud to say. So, my partner being entirely supportive, registered with me for an Olympic Distance triathlon in February 2012. Unbeknownst to us it was the State Championships and I would end up finishing last… but the rush of completing it was addictive. Even if I did need to hold on to the stationary craft twice during the swim and did the bike on a mountain bike.
Next was the Great Wall Marathon in China in May 2012. Then, a few days after I got back, I saw an advert for the Ride To Conquer Cancer for October 2012. I didn’t even own a bike let alone think riding 200km was even achievable. But, for some reason, I took it as a sign of something I should do.
So off I went to get a second hand bike and started the painfully hilarious process of learning to ride, clipped in and all. (Funny stories to follow in a separate article).
After October came and went, and getting through my first remission anniversary, I decided if a little bit of fitness was good then more must be better.
What else is there besides an Olympic Distance tri? Ironman 70.3, that sounds good. Ok, I’ll do that. So – I registered for the Yeppoon 70.3 in August 2013. Clearly, what had started as a way to satisfy a promise I made 2 years prior was starting to change my life.
My family came to watch me and I burst into tears when I crossed the finish line. But why? The marathon in China had taken me longer in terms of time spent exercising… I couldn’t figure it out.
Then in November 2013, I suffered another setback. A Transient Ischemic Attack. Also known as a mini-stroke. NO! But I’d been working so hard to be fit!! I made you a promise up there, Mr., and I’ve kept it! What about keeping me healthy?
After I recovered, I realised where the tears had come from.
Ironman is a special event, no doubt about it. I suppose it has to be because it’s filled with triathletes who are definitely special people… Obsessively, unrelentingly determined to achieve things that literally no one else (besides other triathletes) cares about.
It’s an event you need to sacrifice for. Normal wake up times, social time with friends and your partner, gluten, dairy, consciousness at work. For months. On end. You sacrifice until you hate it. But then you remind yourself of why you pushed the register button in the first place and you drag your ass out of bed for that windtrainer session or that swim.
That was the answer. The reason needs to be something worth sacrificing for. Each person has something which drives them. Every. Single. Morning. Through the darkness of winter, the humidity of summer, the windy days, the rainy days, the days where you don’t feel like it. The days where your best friend’s 30th was the night before. Each one of those days is a person fulfilling their own promise to themselves.
And that’s why the word “Ironman” doesn’t offend me. But I’d prefer to call it IronJord, if it’s all the same to you.
PS – my step-dad made a super cute video of the day. Check it out below!