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AWA member’s inspirational story to IRONMAN Champion

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AWA member Shari Livingston has an inspirational story, and recently she dropped in to share her story with us on becoming an Australian IRONMAN champion. Shari has her own training business Shari fitness, and after reading her story, you’ll think anything is possible. 

Shari’s Story:

I played representative netball for many years before I started to try out triathlons for fun! I still remember my very first triathlon like it was yesterday at the Geelong multi-sport festival in 2013, 6 years ago. A standard distance triathlon that scared me so much I almost pulled out on the day. 1.5km swim, 40km ride, 10km run. To me, this was virtually impossible, how will I ever finish I kept saying to myself. Well, I did it, and the rest is history. I have since competed at 3 world championships in Canada, Europe and the USA in the sprint distance. Having huge goals and achieving what I had only dreamed, getting 2 silver medals one in the USA and one in Europe, and now IRONMAN.

Women are almost an endangered species in the brutal Ironman challenge. It's often regarded as one of the toughest endurance race on the planet and involves a 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride, and a 42.2km run. I became fixated on the one golden, glittering ambition – to become an Ironman.

So, I signed up to do Busselton Ironman in WA last year. It's only a year of intense training, a funeral for my social life and constant blisters, no big deal right? I told my coach, family and friends it was now official, it was time to dig deep, very deep. However, was this sacrifice going to be worth a reward?

Here's a statistic about Ironman triathletes: there are more men than women. Many more, in fact, the longer the distance of the triathlon race, the fewer women there are.  So a 30-year-old female in the world of long-distance triathlon is nothing short of a rarity in December 2018. The big day arrived. The sun hit Busselton very hard. I was oblivious to the other 3000 triathletes as I attempted to sink the temptation to run far, far away from this day ahead of me. Instead, I tentatively entered the water and began a fight for survival.

A "mass" swim start can accurately be described as -epic. If you're among 3,000 people swimming along one invisible line towards a series of buoys, you are going to get battered. It's like doing seven rounds in the boxing ring. You have to battle your way around the swim course. It's aggressive; you're going to get kicked, punched, semi-drowned, and possibly winded. This war zone is most definitely "man terrain".

If you survive that, it's on to the bike. 180kms with no toilet stop. It's like a long picnic on the bike. Eat, drink, pedal and Repeat. This is the part of the race where some of your demons may try and take over. It's a very long time on your own with no one to talk to and your body starting to fatigue. However, having a support crew is like seeing a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Next up: it's only a marathon. If you ever want to travel to dark physical and mental places, this would be a perfect holiday. By this time it's a case of blocking out thoughts of resistance that your body is desperately trying to rest: commonly known as "mind over matter". My strategy – DO NOT WALK.

I completed my first Ironman in 10 hours and 24 minutes and came 4th in my category.  In some ways, it is evident why this ruthless challenge is called Ironman. I thought I was done with this long, taxing sport until my coach said to me ‘you are made for this you have to do Ironman Australia in Port Macquarie’. I tentatively agreed, and after another gruelling 3 months of training straight after WA Ironman, I took the start line on 5th May for my 2nd Ironman. I was much stronger this second time around I could feel there was more pressure and expectation on me to do well. That made me more nervous.

So here I am again with my feet in the water surrounded by 1000s of people and the gun goes off. There’s no turning back now. I had this burning fire in my belly. I don’t know why I guess I wanted to prove something.

IRONMAN starts with a dream that dream transforms into a goal. That goal can become a reality with belief. In my case, it’s IRONMAN, but this is relative to everything, and you need to have a team to believe in you. I didn’t know I was going to be the Australian champion 30-34 years in 10.5 hours.

My journey as an IRONMAN triathlete has not been easy, but it has been worth it. "You move towards the picture you paint in your mind." I had painted the picture of me crossing a finish line first in mine. I have learnt life has limitless potential, whether it is in sport, education or career - there are no limits. Once you learn this you will not be the same, and you will become some who continually pushes boundaries striving to achieve.

IRONMAN was always my biggest fear. That is no longer a fear now, I faced it, and I conquered it. Now my fear is KONA when I am racing again in October at the world champs.

Turn your fears into habits and conquer them.

We wish Shari the best of luck at the World Championships. We will follow her as she continues to unfold her story.

If you wish to learn more about Shari Fitness, click here

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