Battling self through a half Ironman: A superman like no other

“Of COURSE, you can do this,” I told myself. “Not only can you do this, you can beat your


One second before crossing the finish line and breaking down into an ugly sob about how hard that race was.

time from last year.”

That’s how I convinced myself to stand at the start line of a half-Ironman distance event called the Outlaw Holkham Half in Norfolk (1.8km swim, 90km bike, 21km run) with very little relevant training.

I registered for the event last year, shortly after finishing my Ironman last September in a time that surpassed any of my expectations. Since then, I travelled frequently, fasted the month of Ramadan, went through a few bouts of therapy-worthy depression and anxiety, and lacked a general motivation to put in the necessary time to train for a half Ironman-distance event. So with a month to go before the event, I was telling myself that I might as well just pull out. I hadn’t trained for it and it was ridiculous to even give it a try. 

But then, in the final week before we were due to travel to Norfolk, I thought, “Oh, what the heck. You know you can do the swim. Every single time you enter the pool, which is at least once a week, you swim more than two kilometres. You know you can do the bike. It might take you longer since your longest rides haven’t been all that long – or frequent – at all, but who cares. As for the run, if it comes to it, just walk it. Or pull out at any point if you can’t do it.” My husband was doing the race, we were going anyway, so I’d consider it a “nice” day out.

With two days to go, I was filling my head with pretentious (but almost necessary) confidence. “It’s all in the head, Nadia. And yours is the most stubborn of all. It might hurt, but you can even beat your time from last year. It’s all in the head!”

I woke up in our tent at 4AM on race day, however, realizing how utterly stupid all that was. I was feeling terror in the pit of my stomach and could not for the life of me understand how I managed to take my self seriously.

To make what I could easily turn into a long story short, I did the race and I crossed the finish line. It took every last ounce of willpower to do that. My time was 25 minutes slower than last year; but given my lack of half-Ironman-fitness, I figure that means I’m superman.

It’s a boost I probably needed. Long before I started telling myself how utterly


Looking A M A Z I N G on the bike.

miraculous I am, I was telling myself that if I ever tried to do another Ironman, I would fail. That was me just being stupid. If there is anything I know about myself, it’s that I can do whatever I set my head to do. The reality probably was that I was struggling with the fact that I really don’t feel like I want to do another Ironman – I had ticked that box – whereas so many of the triathletes around me had gotten into doing one after the other after the other. I was supposed to get addicted to it but that wasn’t happening. Something was wrong with me.

I’m glad I did the Outlaw Holkham Half. And despite the pain, I really enjoyed it. But I still find myself wondering: What next?

I love the triathlon community, so I’m probably going to stick with them in one capacity or another. But I can’t help but feel it’s also time to learn something new, and it’s time to go back to a few things old. I did a bit of mountain climbing in the past few months. I’ve done a bit of diving. I’m happy to be reunited with those two sports.

There is so much to do in life. I don’t want to feel like one particular pastime has me imprisoned in its claws. I want to do it all. I have a couple of ideas in my head that I will try to explore further. And I want to find a way to do the things I enjoy without feeling all stressed out about them. That sentence sounds so wrong, but it is exactly what has been happening to me in the past few months.

My lessons learned from the past few days:

  • I can still do whatever I set my mind to.
  • A base level of fitness goes a long way, but proper training for an event makes it feel almost easy. My base level of fitness got me around the Outlaw Half course in a significant amount of pain. When I crossed the finish line, I broke down in my husband’s arms, sobbing about how difficult the race was. Towards the end of my Ironman last year, which I had trained for religiously, I was thinking, “This isn’t as difficult as people make it out to be at all.” When my husband stopped me near the finish line to give me a kiss and tell me how proud of me he was, all I was thinking was, “You are costing me time!” and I pulled away while screaming ecstatically down the red carpet.
  • I need to quiet the negative voices in my head.
  • I need a new passion without giving up on my old ones. The only way to do that is to try new things until I stumble, yet again, into something I enjoy.
  • I don’t have to be like “everybody else”.
  • It’s OK to slow down, eat brownies, and try to figure out what you want to be when/if you grow up.



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