YARMOUTH, N.S. – By any measure, finishing an event like the Ironman 70.3 – or Half Ironman – is a major accomplishment, but for Holly Amirault it was particularly special.
The 33-year-old resident of Bell Neck, Yarmouth County, achieved the feat recently in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, where she swam 1.9 kilometres, biked 90 km and ran 21.1 km. (The number 70.3 refers to the event’s total distance expressed in miles.)
The journey that eventually led Amirault to Mont-Tremblant started about three years ago, when she decided it was time to make some changes. Significantly overweight, she started going to the gym.
“I just woke up one morning and I said, ‘I can’t live like this anymore,’” she recalled. “I couldn’t walk to the end of the driveway without being out of breath.”
After losing 60 pounds and getting down to where she needed to be in terms of weight, she thought it would be good to have a goal of some sort to strive for.
A friend of hers with some Ironman experience suggested she consider a triathlon, saying an Ironman-type of event was within her reach, although Amirault wasn’t so sure.
She couldn’t swim, didn’t own a bike and wasn’t a runner. Indeed, she recalled having “no cardiovascular ability at all.”
But she was determined. Last September she hired a coach and, that same month, she went in the pool for the first time. She learned to swim by “getting pointers from some of the lifeguards at the pool, but never an actual lesson,” she said. “It was just watching and learning and a lot of practice.”
Finding the time to put in the triathlon training was a challenge, she said, but she knew it was necessary and she became consistent in her workouts.
A couple of weeks before Mont-Tremblant, she did a sprint-distance triathlon in Hampton, New Brunswick. Pleased with how that one went, she was ready for the Half Ironman.
She ended up finishing the Mont-Tremblant race in six hours and 56 minutes. She had some bike trouble late in the cycling portion of the event and had to wait about 20 minutes for help, but it didn’t prevent her from achieving her goal.
Finishing the race made her “super excited,” she said. “It was an incredible day.”
She was sore and her legs were fatigued afterwards, so she took some time off, she said, but she’s training again and looking ahead to next summer, when she plans to return to Mont-Tremblant, first for the Ironman 70.3 and later for the full-distance Ironman.