At the age of 65, Heather Allison of Red Beach says she couldn’t turn down an opportunity to take part in next month’s Ironman World Championships, 10 years after she last competed in that same event.
She qualified by winning a hard core Ironman in Taupo in March, where weather caused havoc and several athletes pulled out. In that race, as in every other, Heather says it was the “top two inches” (mental toughness) that got her through.
Heather moved to the Coast in 1981 and joined the Hibiscus Coast Harrier & Triathlon Club to keep fit for netball: she is still a member. “I’ve been running with some of those guys for 30 years,” she says.
Her first Ironman was in 2007 and she came second. Heather got to compete at the World Championship in Kona, Hawaii after the woman who won that race and qualified pulled out. “She’d done the World Champs before and remembered how tough the 40°C plus temperatures in Hawaii were on the body,” Heather says.
Heather remembers massive blisters on the bottom of her feet caused by heat coming up through the tarmac. She also lost all her toenails but says the wonderful sensation of being at the world champs with some amazing athletes overrode all the hardships.
She says when she turned 65, she decided rather than say ‘woe is me’, she would celebrate getting a Gold Card by challenging herself.
“It’s so important to keep moving and keep fit as you get older, because it makes your quality of life so much better,” she says. “You move better and have more energy. I know that illness or injury can take this away at any time, so I am grateful every day that I’m able to run, swim and cycle.”
Running a 42.2km marathon is the hardest part, coming off a 180km cycle, she says. “My typical race is I come off the bike in first spot and the gun runners always pass me.”
The Ironman World Championships begin on October 14 and Heather has been training full time, although she admits to having “a nana nap” most afternoons. “Compared with 10 years ago I have a few more rests, but I still feel strong. I feel 16 inside – in fact, I’m probably fitter and with more endurance now.”