UltraHumps – Can Ya Do An Ironman…My Story!
I discovered Ironman simply by chance which I will describe in this blog. I was intrigued, in my mid-forties, but also overweight, had high blood pressure, was unfit, couldn’t swim, didn’t know how to use clip-in shoes on a bike let alone know where the gears were on the brake levers, ate crap food and drank too much alcohol. When I look back I was on a path of self destruction. So when I turned a new leaf and signed up for my first Ironman I decided to change my ways described above. People even told me or laughed in my face that I was kidding myself and couldn’t do an Ironman. This is my story to hopefully encourage others. The Ironman motto after all is “Anything Is Possible”!
Team Qwik Kiwi has to be made up of the best athletes in the world. We aren’t the pro’s making a living out of sport, although I know Coach Ray has coached some high level athletes, but mostly we are every day people or athletes that have a desire and a goal. No matter what each athlete’s goal is or the distances involved, we are all proud of our achievements and love reading each other’s blogs. It shows we are in this together and no-one is above anyone else. So I thought I’d write this blog to explain what lead me to my first Ironman. Who knows where it will take someone who might be inspired by it.
Turn the clock back to February 2011 when the Christchurch earthquake hit. People died, my family home where I was raised was destroyed, neighbours broke in to get my mother out and also my niece and nephew, who were staying with their grandmother. My daughter was missing, but later after an emotional roller-coaster we managed to make contact and confirm that she was safe but shaken after her apartment (close to Cathedral Square) was shattered beyond repair. It was a miracle she was safe let alone survived. I flew my mother, niece and nephew to Palmerston North, as I was living there at the time, and my brother flew into Auckland from overseas. We arranged to meet halfway in Taupo and it happened to be Ironman weekend. By the time we met up it was pouring down with rain and the marathon leg was on as we downed non-Ironman food in a restaurant/bar, washing it down with beers. A smart-arse called Humps (me) said to my brother as we looked out the window at the Ironman going on “Look at those idiots. I don’t get this shit”. I should of known what was to come as my brother had completed a couple of Coast to Coast events and said “Come on Army man. Put your money where your mouth is and do one”. With a few more beers under my belt I said “How hard could this shit be anyway”.
I signed up soon after and went to an Army doctor requesting a medical review. After all this is 226 kilometres in one day made up of swimming, cycling and running. The doctor was a guy by the name of Lincoln Nicholls, who became one of my best friends. He sat me down, reviewed my medical file, ran some tests and told me some hard facts about myself. It was time for a change. Lincoln had done a couple of Ironman events and said he would be at the start line with me and making sure health wise he’d get me to the finish line.
My next port of call was to the Linton Camp swimming pool. I told the Lifeguard Richard of my goal and he said jump in and he’d have a look at my swimming form. I literally struggled through one length of a 25 metre swimming pool knowing that Ironman is 3.8 kilometres in open water. Richard said, “Stay with me and I’ll get you there”. I turned up almost every day and before I knew it Richard had me swimming 40 lengths, which was 1 kilometre. On occasion he would jump in the pool and deliberately knock me about, as that happens at Ironman with other swimmers bumping into each other. Once I reached the 1 kilometre swim mark Richard left me to it and I simply added 10 lengths every fortnight, swimming 3 times a week until I reached 4 kilometres. I trained at that distance until Ironman started.
At the same time I borrowed a bike off a mate called Bart. He and his family were supportive of my new endeavours. He even lent me his cycling shoes. I looked at them and asked, “How do these work?” He shrugged his shoulders and gave me a demo (last time I rode a bike you would slide your sandshoes into cages on the pedals). Bart saw me studying the bike and when he said, “What is wrong?”. I answered, “Where are the gears man? There should be little levers on the frame or handlebars”. He said, “You’re definitely behind the 8-ball”, and showed me how things worked with the gears being in the brake levers and off I went (Bart and his family turned up to my first triathlon to support me).
Running was the other requirement. I ran a marathon at the age of 13 or 14 to simply better my sister who was doing a half marathon (sibling rivalry). I Googled and turned up to an event near Palmerston North opting to take it easy and run the 10 km event. I finished it, but I was absolutely buggered. I knew I had to do more time on the roads.
I didn’t have a coach so self-coached with no idea of what I was doing. Eventually I was able to cover all three distances in training, but was wondering if I could put them all together for an Ironman in one day. I signed up for local triathlons and the Rotorua Half Ironman and felt confident.
Race Day – Ironman NZ 2012. I rocked up to Taupo and true to his word Lincoln was there as were a few other Army personnel who were competing. I had lost 20 kilograms, my blood pressure dropped to near or where it should be, I had reduced my alcohol intake and sorted my nutrition out (sort of), learnt how to swim, bought a bike and was running pretty damn good. The people who initially laughed at me were there supporting me as they could see the changes I had made. Then a storm hit Taupo and the event was cancelled. I was quietly happy as I was packing myself with nerves, but then on the day I was pissed off and spent the whole day of what would of been race day glancing at my watch and working out what part of the course I would of been on. Once the storm passed the race officials put on a Half Ironman the next day. I was really pleased with my time and competitors received a cheap entry to Ironman Australia a couple of months later, where I ran across the finish line (wearing a smile I couldn’t remove) with my sister and her family in support (as she lives in the location). Now I have completed an Ironman every year (7 thus far) and crossed the finish line at two Ultraman events in Australia where I fund raise for a charity of my choosing, which I will soon be explaining more about in future blogs (Ultraman is where Coach Ray gave me the nickname UltraHumps, adding to my Army nickname of Humps), plus multiple other events of various duration/distances.
So trust me, read the first paragraph of this blog and if you are thinking of doing an Ironman or other event, but are unsure of yourself, I hope I have proven ‘Anything Is Possible’. However, 2+ people will help you decide. I say 2+ because you have to have the “want” to get there and the other is your coach. I don’t sign up to any event (even an Ironman) without consulting with Coach Ray, as he is my gauge. The + is your family. It’s a commitment, a huge commitment and your partner will be referred to as an Ironman Widow or Widower, but take them to race day. Spectators have such a blast and find it just as exhausting. Mel my other half will vouch for that!
Take care team and I hope you enjoyed this blog.
Regards John Humphries (Aka UltraHumps).
Humps will be writing weekly as he continues his journey raising funds for the Fallen Hero’s Trust.
Read Humps’ article from last week here:
And all his previous articles are stored here: