The Real Reason I Became an Ironwoman.
Medal around my neck, I wheeled my suitcase out of that Bolton hotel to head to Manchester airport, and proudly said hello to a new chapter of my life.
As I pressed my eyelids shut – trying to blank out discomfort of shivering limbs, tears squished out onto my cheeks. I furrowed my forehead, bowed my head and pressed my fingers into the hand of my friend. My heart fluttered. I asked the doctor in the medical tent for the third time, “am I going to die?” To which he replied, “yes, one day.”
That night in my hotel room in Bolton, I fell asleep eating Jaffa cakes and woke up the next day – to my relief – next to a medal.
On the outside, I did an Ironman. On the inside, I stared my fears squarely in the face for a very long time, and not just for the 14-and-a-half hours that it took me to finish the race, but right through and past that finishing chute, until the moment I fell asleep that night.
“One day I will not be able to do this, today is not that day.” – Sophie Radcliffe
On July 19th 2015, I stood at the edge of a huge, cold, wavy lake at 6.45am in a blue swimming cap with 140.6 miles to swim, cycle and run ahead of me.
I was surrounded by 1798 men and 198 women, numb with anticipation and relentless rain. A few tears slipped out on that start line. The day was the pinnacle of years of maybes and a year of anticipation, of lying awake in the night convinced I’d made a horrible mistake.
I woke up on the 20th July 2016, very much alive, and ready to do it all again. I haven’t looked back until now, writing this piece. I have newfound confidence in my ability to do whatever I want with this gift of life and able body.
When I started triathlon, anxiety had me stop in bushes mid-way down busy roads, walk my bike down many a hill and climb into a rescue boat on my first open water swim. My chest would tighten and I’d find myself singing out loud in an effort to calm myself when cycling down the smallest of hills. I would just get back on my bike and do it all again – little by little my confidence grew.
Over two years, 10 metres in a lake turned into 2.4 miles. Walking my bike down a hill turned into pushing through punishing headwinds to race in rolling Lanzarote. I am now able to cycle clipped in down gigantic hills on open roads with a massive grin on my face, I can swim for over an hour in mirky lakes with weeds and fish, I can cycle in pouring rain on skinny wheels, and I can finish an Ironman – got the medal to prove it.
It makes me a stronger, happier, freer person.
The people I meet through this sport, the writing and creative outlet that it gives me, and the strong, fit body that it provides me with are a wonderful yet entirely incidental bonus to what this is really all about – the strength and freedom to live the gift of my life to its fullest in many ways including, and beyond triathlon.
This is why I tri. #whywetri