Fours years ago Levin man Mike Ball set out to do an Ironman. There was fly in the ointment though. He couldn't swim.

"I couldn't swim. I would sink like a stone," he said. Determined to learn, he took lessons.

It took months before he was able to swim an entire length of the Horowhenua Aquatic Centre, but gradually he improved and before long he could swim two lengths, then five, then a kilometre.

Now he has completed five Ironman events, a gruelling contest made up of a 3.8km swim, a 180km bike ride and finished off with a 42.2km run.

Levin man Mike Ball, 56, only recently learnt how to swim.
Levin man Mike Ball, 56, only recently learnt how to swim.

The 56 year old moved from England to New Zealand in 2006. He said there wasn't much emphasis on learning to swim as a child.

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"Swimming wasn't a big thing. There were very few public swimming pools. There was certainly no swimming at school," he said.

"There would be a large number of English people who can't swim. It wasn't readily available."

The push to attempt an Ironman came from watching friend conquer an Ironman event. He saw the raw emotion of the finish on a live stream, turned to his wife Susan, and said "I'm going to do that".

"She said 'okay...but you can't swim. That was the fly in the ointment," he said.

Ball had completed a Coast to Coast event in the past, a gruelling event in its own right, but one only included running and kayaking. No swimming.

He has now done the Taupō Ironman every year since 2016 and also competed in the Cairns Ironman in Australia in June last year.

And the training continues, as he entered an Ironman in Taiwan in September. In the months leading up to an Ironman he trains six days a week.

On a Tuesday and Thursday he swims and runs, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday he bikes, and on a Saturday he combines all three disciplines.

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To vary the training, in the summer months he travels to Palmerston North and uses an outdoor 50m pool there as it involved "less turning".

"If you don't do the training you are going to suffer big-time on the day. There is no easy way of doing it. There is nowhere to hide," he said.