The 31st Ironman Canada ran Sunday, the first year in its new location Whistler, British Columbia. Ironman is the Granddaddy of triathlons, consisting of a 4km swim (2.4 miles), 180km bike ride (112 miles) and a 42km run (26.2 miles) and the competitors have 17 hours to complete the entire distance. 

As a competitor in the past my favourite part of the race was always the swim start, when we were all crammed onto a small beach singing the national anthem with our arms wrapped around each other regardless of whether or not we knew the person beside us, all of us dressed in black tight wet suits, with pink or blue bathing caps, looking like clones of each other.

We were not clones but rather the complete opposite. Each person standing on the sand waiting to swim the 4km route like a school of spawning salmon has their own story as to why they are there and how they arrived at the start line. Every competitor has their own goal for the race, their own mantra going through their head, their own fears, their own excitement and their own obstacles that they had to overcome to simply get to the start line.

Some are out there to win, some are out there to have fun, and some are out there to prove to themselves that they can overcome anything.

When I was competing in Ironman it was not unusual for someone to say to me, “Wow, you are amazing, I could never do that” which always bothered me because I am not amazing and yes you can do that. I am healthy, fit, goal-oriented, driven and competitive so it just seems normal that I would do something like that but ANYONE can, it is simply the desire to want to.

99% of the competitors in Ironman Canada on Sunday are like me but it is the 1% that are the true heroes of the race, the ones with the stories like this one  – battling pancreatic cancer. Some might call Sindy Hooper crazy, that she should take care of herself, rest and put her energy into fighting the disease. But this is her way of fighting, of proving to herself that maybe if she can do what most feel impossible then maybe she can outrun this terrible disease and do what most people tell her is impossible – beat pancreatic cancer.

I am sure there are many more stories that were out on the course: stories of paralysis, missing limbs, impaired vision or overcoming tragedies, all of which are stories of not giving up or making excuses. But it was this story that touched me the most because of what Sindy said in the very last line of the article:

“I think we are all capable of more than we even believe in ourselves.”

Sindy finished Ironman in a time of 16 hours and 24 minutes, 36 minutes before the 17 hour cut off. Every swim stroke, every pedal stroke and every running stride was proof to Sindy that she could do anything she put her mind to.