Since the beginning of 2013 I set out on a quest to become and Ironman - an endurance triathlon consisting of 2.4mile swim, 112mile bike and a 26.2mile run which has to be completed in 17hours. Becoming an Ironman was a lifetime goal of mine and I blogged my progress to becoming one here; http://holliesroadtoironman.blogspot.co.uk/. I achieved this dream on the 8th September 2013 in Wales (said to be the toughest Ironman course in the world) in 14hours 5minutes, exceeding my own expectations.
However, with my euphoria came tragedy. Since crossing the line I discovered that my nineteen year old niece, Rosie died whilst in Tenby supporting me. My relief and pride was swept with grief. Rosie was more like a sister to me due to our closeness in age, I was only three when she was born and from a young age we became inseparable and the best of friends. Twelve members of my family came to support me that weekend and we were all faced with this horrific tragedy on what was meant to be the best day of my life. My family and I are still grieving but personally it made that day the best and worst day of my life.
Following this I have made a new lifetime goal and promise to Rosie; I want to get to the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, in honour of Rose. Although I can now say I am an Ironman I am not a natural athlete, I could never run well and merely knew how to cycle. I would do the 1500m at schools sports day as no-one else would (and that was a long way back then!). Getting to the level of fitness I am at now has taken a lot of work and determination. I was however lucky to be taught how to swim at a young age and by my teens I was competing at county and national level, but not in endurance racing. This love of swimming is what got me into triathlons 4 years ago and after fixing a knee injury which halted me from running I decided to step up the distance. I did however face an excruciating knee pain during the Ironman which almost forced me to quit, but this shows the sheer grit and mental strength I have gained from dreaming to cross the finish line.
My journey to Kona is not going to be an easy one as I need to cut off at least 2 and a half hours off my time to even think about qualifying (I need to be the winner of my age group to get offered a slot - I was third this year). Cutting this amount of time off in one year is no easy feat. So I shall be going for qualification in Wales, on the 14th September 2014. With Rosie's spirit, her constant pride in me and the support of my family, friends and followers I hope to make this dream possible.
On top of this challenge I also swam the English channel in August 2014. This was a dream of mine as well as being one of the scariest things I agreed to take on. I am a decent swimmer but have a fear of the dark, sea creatures and being cold. I also doing this non wetsuit so it required a lot of acclimatisation training.
I braved the emotions by returning to Tenby in 2015 and there qualified for Kona. I will be competing against the best in the world at Ironman at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii on October 10th 2015.
SUDEP Action tragically have become a cause so close to my heart. Rosie had lived with nocturnal seizures for most of her teenage life but as the bright and lively girl she never let it overtake her enjoying life. Tragically a seizure then took her life. SUDEP stands for Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy. This is a condition our family hadn't even heard or been told about despite her having nocturnal seizures for many years. Never did we expect them to be life threatening despite seeing many doctors. Many may not know that three people in the UK die every day from epilepsy - that is more than cot deaths and HIV deaths combined yet we and many of the general public will not know about SUDEP. Moreover 42% of the 600 annual deaths in the UK are potentially preventable through individualised treatment and by being given the facts so that lifestyle choices can be made. By raising money I aim to raise awareness and hopefully one day we can save a life and another family from going through this horrible pain. If I hit my target it will enable the necessary funds for an apnoea device to be given to epilepsy sufferers at night which would well have saved Rosie's life.
This has been an emotional journey and Hawaii will keep her memory alive. This is Rosie's legacy. It's is all for you Rosie xxx