Grant Harding Ironman Life #30


Hawke's Bay Today deputy editor Grant Harding will start Ironman New Zealand on the first weekend in March, his second tilt at the event which requires a 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and 42.2km run. He shares his Ironman life.

Lance Armstrong? No, I'm not going to join the condemnation of the once-great Tour de France champion.

All I'll say is a great athlete, a great story has been ruined - a cancer sufferer who went on to be a seven-time champion, and gave back to other cancer sufferers.

Unfortunately the story was too good to be true. He said it himself - nobody could win seven titles in such a punishing event without taking drugs.

On the day Armstrong confessed his sins I picked up a magazine, the March edition of New Zealand Triathlon and Multisport. Flicking through its pages, I came across a story headlined: "Ironman Dreams".

It featured three athletes sponsored by Ironman New Zealand 2013's main sponsor Kellogg's Nutrigrain - Prime News presenter Charlotte Bellis; Josh Harrison, a promising athlete who suffered serious injuries when knocked off his bike in a hit-and-run early last year; and Napier's own Kathy Eggers.

I don't know Kathy, but I did cycle with her briefly one day coming back into Napier, and saw her in the water before the Taupo Half-Ironman. I certainly didn't know her story.

Kathy takes drugs. But unlike Lance, and many of his teammates and competitors, let us not forget, the 38-year-old described in the article as a "pure Kiwi battler" is not looking to enhance performance by doing so.

In 2007, the happily married mother of three's life fell apart.

She was struck down with Guillain-Barre Syndrome which, in short, is when the body's immune system mistakenly attacks part of the nervous system.

Dramatically, she collapsed one morning while walking with her children.

A nurse, she spent much of the next seven months in hospital as a patient, facing the prospect of life in a wheelchair because of muscle weakness and paralysis.

But a miracle occurred. She gradually began to recover her strength.

And while she lives a life of "aggressive drug treatments and blood transfusions to keep the disease under control", in the knowledge that GBS could catch up with her, she has trained with incredible dedication towards her first Ironman. "Being so helpless, dependent and paralysed gave me the determination to really make the most of what I've got while I still can," she said in the article.

"I will do Ironman 2013 because I actually can, and for the many people with GBS, as well as others with serious illnesses that cannot."

Nutri-Grain have helped out with entry and coaching fees, and gear.

They recognised a drug-taking athlete worthy of our support.

She is a good reason for the rest of us to stay on course and be on the start line.

While I haven't found enough time for swimming, and have rested my knee this week (my run on Wednesday was my fastest in years), when I hit the final key for this story I'm heading out the door to cycle 160km fuelled by bananas, nectarines, Leppin gels and water.

I might also stop for a milkshake and a punnet of hot chips.

My motivation?

To make something of my training week, to keep pushing towards Ironman - and because I still can, even if the wind is getting up.

Thank you, Kathy. It's people like you who inspire others to dream.

In association with Hawke's Bay Today.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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