Hey Beautiful Ladies,
We are so excited to share this next story from Larissa.
Larissa lives in New Zealand and is a lady that loves LIFE to the full and is a KAW that Tri's!
She is a phenomenal Yoga Teacher, Triathlete and all round amazing lady. She will definitely inspire you to GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY!
A truly great read about, resilience, vulnerability and being true to yourself and your goals.
We hope you enjoy this read as much as we did.
In Larissa's own words:
Skipping hand in hand with a gorilla over the 140.6 finish line
Why would a yogi decide to do an Ironman when she turned 50?
There’s a short answer: in my early twenties I’d had a fling with triathlon, and loved it, but then adult life happened, and yoga became my plus 1. The idea of one day doing a full Ironman faded into the murky recesses of my mind until my 50th approached. I was bored with myself and my long-term relationship with yoga was way too comfortable. I needed a challenge that could take me somewhere I’d never been before. And there it was – Ironman, a finish line that promises to change you forever.
Then there’s the long answer, and it also begins in my young adulthood.
It all started when I was a young graduate lawyer in the early 1990’s, working under a tyrannical bully of a legal partner. He took great pleasure in giving me tasks I wasn’t skilled to do and then abusing me for my general uselessness. He would scream at me, scratch the pages of my drafted documents with thick red pen crosses, and even bang his head on his desk in disgust. I suspect he was a misogynist too. My workdays were lived in constant fear.
I was a shy, sensitive person, without the defences to deal with such constant aggression, and worst of all I wondered if I was indeed as pathetic as he declared.
A fellow lawyer was a triathlete, and having loved riding my bike everywhere as a kid, I was drawn to give it a go because it looked like fun. I found it gave me a way to train the pain away. The suffering of pushing myself hard anaesthetized me against him, because my attempts to speak up were ignored. No one seemed to understand – don’t take it personally, it’s just a job, life is tough, just get on with it, they said. As the reality of life as a lawyer dragged me down, my successes as a triathlete picked me back up. I’d never been sporty as a child or engaged in sports at school, yet I was soon nipping at the heels of the elite, and sometimes even found myself on the podium.
But I was desperately unhappy and unwell. I was so stressed that I often had no appetite – then I would binge in the evenings with desperate post-training hunger. This disordered eating morphed into bulimia and an irritable bowel. My back ached constantly from hours hunched at a desk and over the handlebars of a bike, so bad that I never slept well. As my body started to fail me, I fell into depression as eventually I couldn’t train properly or race with focus. At my worst, I had lost faith in myself. Twice I was selected for the New Zealand team to race at the World Champs – and both times I declined, because I didn’t believe I was good enough to compete internationally.
I quit law and found another job, but I didn’t feel any better. I tried every sparkly self-help secret I could find, seeking to regain a healthy relationship with myself and my life. Yet nothing changed. However, I refused to give up on myself, and I embarked on a mission to heal. I studied Ayurveda and gained a personal training qualification. Soon I was working in a gym and training for a body building competition.
That was when I discovered yoga!
At the time it was simply to gain flexibility for my posing routine. But even after my 2nd placing at the National championships, I knew I wasn’t going back to pumping weights. Instead, my future was patiently waiting for me on a thin black mat. Yoga brought me back to life, calming my anxieties, dissolving chronic pain, and most importantly giving me a profound sense of purpose.
I became a teacher, and then a double-degree qualified nutritionist and holistic health coach. I met my husband who enveloped me in kindness and helped me to rebuild my confidence. Yet I still suffered from not-good-enough syndrome. The business goals I strived for and sacrificed so much to manifest throughout my 30s and 40s never come to fruition despite my constant best efforts, and that just intensified my pervading sense of failure. As my 50th approached, I realised that I wasn’t truly enjoying my life, or enjoying being me, because whatever I did, I judged myself as lacking in some way. I was dangerously secure with the idea of myself as never quite measuring up, and passively allowing that to tarnish my world. I desperately wanted to silence forever the voice that had been murmuring ‘you’re not good enough because…’. I hadn’t been able to peacefully meditate it into oblivion – so now it was time to take much stronger action.
My best therapy has always been moving my body – it energises me, motivates me, and soothes me. So, it made sense to look for a physical challenge that could both excite and unnerve me and force me beyond my comfort zones. I thought about running a marathon – that’s hard, right? I’d been mucking around with 5k fun runs and race walking for a few years, so it seemed doable. I decided to track down my coach from triathlon days long gone and see if he could give me any advice on getting this mature body back into competitive shape. Sure, he said, let’s talk about it. When I said I wanted to do something that would test my absolute limits, he had a one-word reply: Ironman.
I felt scared, very scared, at the idea, and for me that was the green light I needed. So, I said – hell yes, let’s do this! We picked the race, Ironman New Zealand in March 2019, and then I went home to tell my husband what I’d committed us to. He had no idea what the next year was going to be like for him as I became his part-time wife, part-time wanna-be Iron woman.
I made a promise to myself that day: if I can do this Ironman, on 12 months of training, then I will have proven to myself that I CAN achieve what I put my mind to. If I can do that, then I will be MORE than good enough. I will be (insert Mike Reilly voiceover) an Ironman!! I promised myself that once I had that finishers medal, I would never judge myself as lacking in any way, ever again. I knew I would need to get back into a pool and relearn how to swim. I’d need to buy a bike and get back out on roads that I hadn’t ridden for 25 years. And I’d quickly find out whether my much older yoga-infused body would enjoy being more than a weekend fun-runner.
There were a lot of unknowns and many doubts to overcome to just get started on this journey. Having a triathlon coach who has guided some of the best in the world helping me to make it happen was invaluable. I diligently followed what he said, I listened to my body and I observed with a little pride and a lot of amazement as I started to get fit and strong again. I liked the way the training felt and how my body responded. It was like coming home after being away for too long. Doing this felt RIGHT. Each few months we’d tick off another milestone.
My coach compared the Ironman event to getting into a cage with a wild gorilla that could tear you apart if you weren’t being attentive and you showed it any sign of weakness. My intention all along was not to be afraid of the gorilla, but instead to find a way to make friends with it so that it helped me to achieve my goals on the day. I was worried that my irritable bowel wouldn’t tolerate the training load – I was haunted by ancient memories of long runs with frequent toilet stops and crippling cramps. Each time something didn’t go well, I looked for what I could do to solve the problem. There was a lot of trial and error around what I could and couldn’t eat to keep me well fuelled for training and recovery while not upsetting my gut.
A calf tear just before my first Half Ironman event almost derailed my Ironman program, costing me 8 weeks of precious mileage on my feet. But I still completed the Half, walking the 21k run segment, and crossing the finish line with sobs of delight. The gorilla hadn’t beaten me down that day, and I started to believe that Ironman was achievable.
Some of the training in the final weeks tested my absolute physical and mental limits. The cumulative fatigue was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, slowly dragging down my spirits. The long rides never gave me grief – the bike had become my happy place whether I was spinning for recovery or punching out 20-minute big gear intervals in the wind. But the runs tested me. I remember a 150-minute session in 29’C and 100% humidity which almost crushed my will and I only kept going because I’m so damn stubborn. I’m not wired to give up. That day I started to feel deep fear about the event – how much was it going to hurt? This much? Or worse?
The Big Day itself was everything it promised to be, and more. My coach’s primary aim was for me to finish the event feeling I could have given more and gone faster. My personal goals were to run the marathon without stopping and to finish in daylight – to do that I needed to finish in under 13 hours, a big ask for a first timer. The swim didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, and there were a couple of issues at T1 before the bike, but the rest of the day unfolded with streamlined perfection. I rode strong but conservative so that I had reserves for the run. I had no digestive issues. I ran relaxed and confident, sticking to the plan of never stopping except at the aid stations.
I started to smile and enjoy myself. I remember running past one woman who called out to me ‘I wish I could run like you’ and that’s when I realised that I was doing better than good enough – I was nailing it! Then on the final lap the gorilla grabbed my hand and we skipped together across the finish line in 12 hours 37 minutes under a hot, lazy sun.
That finish line wasn’t an ending.
I realised that 2 days afterwards. It was merely the ending of the first book. And first books are meant to wet your appetite, make you interested to find out what happens next, and get you excited about the sequel. It was an ending of the old me, the Larissa who felt she wasn’t good enough and couldn’t achieve things of real worth and value in her life. It was the beginning of what comes next. I wanted to do Ironman to gain confidence in myself and rebuild my self-esteem; to prove to myself that I could do something that would test my limits, and might even bring me to my knees, so that I could confront whatever weaknesses were still holding me back in life, and uncover the strengths that would guide me across the finish line.
I discovered that my perceived weaknesses were non-existent and that my strengths were huge. Ironman brought the best of me to the race and threw it all over me like confetti – it showed me how much potential I have to still do great things. Completing Ironman was my gift to myself that I am good enough. This event represented tangible proof to myself that I am stronger than my weaknesses, more successful than my failings, and capable of going beyond the limits of what I think is possible for myself if I just get out of my own way.
Getting out of my own way means no longer entertaining negative thoughts, judgemental commentaries and emotional sabotage.
On the drive back home to Auckland my husband said ‘We need to find accommodation closer to the event next year because I’m not walking all that way back and forth from the motel again.’ I laughed, because I’d not told him I was thinking about coming back for a repeat performance, but he just knew.
Since then I’ve done two more Half Ironman events and will soon be standing on the start line for the full Ironman NZ again in March. Now, I’m not afraid to set audacious goals. I want to carry on the journey that I started as a young triathlete and see where it takes me.
After a very encouraging first season in the Ironman distance, where I’ve been ranked in the top 10% of my age group worldwide for 2020, I’m setting my sights on the World Champs. Every day that I take this body out for a training session I feel blessed to be able to do this.
I finally have self-faith, rather than self-doubt, as my internal support crew – and that burly gorilla ready to join me for another 140.6 miles.
You are never too old to rewrite your own life story, and it’s never too late to begin turning your long-held dreams into reality. Just get out of your own way. If I can, you can too.
WHAT A STORY EH?!
Larissa wants you all to take from this story that you should never give up on yourself until you find a way to break free of the things that hold you back. Participating in the Ironman was merely the vehicle to realign herself and get on with her life free of the old baggage she was carrying.
We are so proud of you Larissa for sharing such an amazing story!!
You can follow Larissa @theswimbikerunyogi on Instagram.
She also has a website with recipes, tips and blog @www.swimbikerunyogi.life
We finished with asking Larissa a couple of questions:
- Who would you like to mention and thank for helping you along in your journey? My Husband Steve deserves a huge shout out as he has been 100% supportive and uncomplaining about the time it takes away from our limited free time. His support has made my comeback easier. Also my Coach Jon - his expertise and confidence in me has been invaluable.
- What would your advice be to anyone that has or is in a similar situation as yours? Whatever your #metoo might be, don't allow it to define you. It's not about reclaiming your power even if you've felt powerless - it's about allowing yourself to become everything that you want to be irrespective of the past. Strength is always there but in pain its easily forgotten. The power is in taking the present moment and being strong in your intentions in just that moment. Then the next moment. And the next. Little by little. That's how i did it.
- When is your next race? My next race is Ironman NZ March 2020.
There you have it KAW Tri Community.
We are always interested in hearing from you with your stories, you never know who will read this, be inspired and go KICK ASS!!!