Finishing My First Half IronMan Was Much More than Athletic Ability

Finishing My First Half IronMan Was Much More than Athletic Ability

Finishing My First Half IronMan Was Much More than Athletic Ability

Most of you know, I have a long history of obesity. 

At 34 years old, I weighed 134kgs, and a few major life triggers later, I decided to change the narrative. 

I had a bariatric sleeve surgery that saved me half a million dollars, I started training, found and fell in love with CrossFit, and then found running. Which, for the record, I hated until I challenged myself to run Marathon des Sables, a 251km ultramarathon across the Moroccan Sahara. 

Two ultra-marathon finish lines later, I was sipping a Moroccan green tea, and someone stuck a camera in my face and asked me the big question, ‘What’s next?’ 

‘I need to learn how to swim,’ I said. Random, I know, especially for a guy that had just spent six days trudging across the Sahara desert, but I wasn’t entirely out of my mind.

This is where my IronMan itch started.  

The IronMan triathlon was all around when I was at Marathon des Sables in April 2019, almost like the universe was flashing a big next-goal sign in my face. 

The athletes mulling around the gift shop had IronMan backpacks on, some even had IronMan tattoos on their ultra-runner calves. Now I knew it was a triathlon, and I knew it involved running, biking, and swimming, and I knew I wanted a more multi-dimensional challenge than ultra-running. 

And that was about the extent of my triathlon knowledge. 

But before I left Morocco after Marathon des Sables 2019, I had made my new goal as public as possible (thank you, Instagram!): I was going to compete in the Half IronMan in Dubai in February 2020, and then the Full IronMan in Port Elizabeth in March 2020. 

So there, now the world would, hopefully, hold me accountable. 

I then shelved any significant training efforts for the summer, went on holiday and got back in the grind in August 2019. I started to work with a swim coach, who I quickly realized wasn’t the person to take me to the finish line. 

So one heavy coach-search later, I started my serious IronMan training only in October 2019: Five months away from my first Half IronMan, and six months away from my first Full IronMan. I was a pathetic swimmer at that starting point. 

But as I write this, I’m halfway to my goal. I finished that first Half IronMan, the IronMan 70.3 in Dubai on February 7th, 2020, and I’m a few weeks away from my first Full IronMan race in South Africa. 

And I’ve been thinking: This whole journey has been way more than athletic ability. 

Here’s what I believe it took to get me from zero triathlons to the finish line of a Half IronMan in just one season:

  • Support from my family My wife and kids have been an undeniable force in getting me over the Half IronMan finish line. I’ve been training 12-18 hours a week, six days a week, for six months now. 

They’ve been flexible, understanding, and even made room for my training in our family time. So, a day out on the beach was a family day out and an open-water swim training session for me. 

They let my training take over and almost internalized my goal. I could see they wanted me to finish strong, and I think ultra-athletic or tri-athletic training is a difficult feat without that support from your loved ones. 

  • Careful time management: Fitting in an extra 18 hours of training a week meant that those hours had to come out of everything else on my calendar. 

It meant I needed to be more efficient with my time with my clients and more efficient processes and team conversations to keep the business running smoothly.

It also meant making time with my kids more meaningful. I still managed about four school drop-offs a week and was home for dinner with the family every night.  

Careful planning, discipline, and this time management system were an integral part of the journey to the Half IronMan finish line. 

With my swim coach, Rory Buck
  • The right coaches: This feels a bit like an Oscar’s speech, but I could not have done this without my phenomenal swimming coach Rory Buck, who patiently took me from basics to finish line, and my tri-coach, Tom Walker who was patient and held me accountable every time. 

Tom brought my focus back to the triathlon every time I strayed. And after 18 hours of training a week, it’s easy to stray and lose sight of the bigger picture, the end goal. 

Post-race photo with friend, client and phenomenal athlete, Siddharth Peters
  • The power of community: Training with Tom Walker also plugged me into his circle of triathletes, which was exceptional company for me for learning, experience, motivation, and that great, positive camaraderie that comes from sports. 

I always like saying that I want to be the dumbest person in the room so there is the entire room to learn from. In this circle of superhumans, I was the least-experienced athlete, and I walked out of every training session, every gathering with so much value, knowledge, and inspiration. I attribute a lot of my success to being around the right people on this journey. 

Post-training photo with the MAIN MAN: My legendary Triathlon Coach, Tom Walker
  • Mindset: If you’ve read anything I’ve written before, or heard me speak anywhere, you know that I’m a big believer of the ‘Mindset is Everything’ theory. 

It really is. One of my goal-setting-and-slaying rituals involves waking up in the morning, erasing, and rewriting all my goals. That is, essentially, a mindset exercise for me. 

When I head out for a 4:30 am bike ride, I like to leave focused on the fact that this particular bike ride is getting me closer to a much larger end goal. 

Mindset is where you get the energy to go out and do those things, day after day, that get you closer to the end vision, the results that you want to create to lead a full potential life. 

I think it’s safe to say that all of this played a more significant role in getting me over that finish line than how many minutes it took me to run a mile. 

I’ll end this on a challenging note: Who’s ready to drop the ‘I’m not an athlete’ excuse and take on a big goal? It’s worth it in more ways than you can imagine. If you are, then shout it out loud for us, will you? Comment below with an ‘I’m in!’

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