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We call it drafting. To get too close to the bike in front is not only dangerous but cheating. There are a series of official penalties for anyone caught doing it, but people still do. If anyone does it to me, I let off a warning shot, and they usually back off. It is yet another reason to keep yourself hydrated.

A Life Without Limbs, a Life Without Limits

The final leg is when even the best start to wrestle with their demons. After miles sitting on an unforgiving saddle, crouched low over the handlebars to maximize your aerodynamics and pumping your legs remorselessly, taking to your feet for the marathon can be a strange sensation. Your legs will feel like jelly for the first few minutes, but that will pass.

Soon they will feel like lead. It is impossible to swim, bike and run for the best part of a day and not experience bad times. Illness, dehydration and physical niggles, not to mention full-blown injuries, come and go throughout. This is when the mind must take over.

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Ironman is as much a mental game as a physical one. Everything is redeemed, though, by the sight of the finish line. The crowds, whose exhortations around the course lift many a flagging body and soul, focus all of their energy around the final few yards. Whether you finish first or 1,st, they make you feel like a champion. Your body may be wrecked, muscles cramping, skin chafing, toenails falling off and feet blistering, but you have joined a special club. After all of my races, I stay at the finish line all night to welcome people home. Julie Moss was the first great hero of the sport, but there have been countless others since, and most of them get nowhere near the podium.

People fighting old age, illness and disability, those recovering from horrific injury, others simply wrestling with the demands of a day job—these are the heroes of ironman. Sport has a unique ability to inspire and empower. If used correctly, it can be such a force for good. Maybe this freshness is what gives it its energy, but there is something about its grueling nature, as well, that inspires people to find the best in themselves and in each other.

Faces of Change: Life Without Limits

Because, make no mistake—that is what it does. The ironman walked into my life quite suddenly, and changed it forever. Unfortunately, I have no such tale to tell. Mine really is the story of the accidental athlete. When your nickname is Muppet, the chances are you are not a child prodigy. But if there was one thing that marked me out as unusual it was my drive. I would go so far as to describe it as obsessive-compulsive.

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I have, and always have had, the most powerful urge to make the best of myself. At times I have not been able to control it; at times it has taken me to some unpleasant places; but it is also an essential part of who I am, and I cannot make any apology for this. My early sporting career might have been modest, but my academic career was more impressive. I attribute that to my determination, as I do the success I enjoyed as a civil servant in my career before triathlon.

But, as a sensitive soul who has always worried—too much most of the time—about what other people think of her, this obsession with self-improvement has often spilled into other less positive preoccupations. My relationship with my body has been a difficult one over the years. At times I have loved it, at times I have despaired of it, at times I have seen it as little more than a plaything to be bent to my will, as if it were somehow separate from me. I am a control freak, basically.

Which is good and bad. And then there is the danger that the idea of being in control itself gets out of control, so that it becomes an end in itself and causes you to lose sight of everything else. Addiction might be another way of putting that. I have an addictive personality. Sport is my drug of choice these days. It keeps you fit and healthy, even if, in the case of ironman, it pushes your body to the limit.

Family, friends and coaches are invaluable sources of objectivity, able to know you in a way you can never know yourself—from the outside—and able to look out for signs of negative addiction that you may be unable to recognize. But in time you get to know yourself, and with a better understanding of yourself comes the ability to modulate the highs and lows. More of the control, less of the freak.

I love my body now, not because I like what I see in the mirror particularly, more because I no longer look in the mirror and see just contours of flesh and color, there to be scrutinized and manipulated.

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Now I see my body as a holistic system that enables me to do what I do. More importantly, I see it as bound up intricately with me , enabling me to be who I am. That change has been a gradual one, but it is sport that helped me to initiate it and certainly to consolidate it.

It was simply a way of making friends, which is its beauty, no matter how good you are at it.


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I have barely any sporting pedigree. My paternal grandfather, Harry, was a keen cricketer and cyclist. On a weekend he would think nothing of cycling from London to Southend. But neither of my parents, Lin and Steve, have ever shown any passion for competitive sport. They have always loved the outdoors—so much of our family life was spent in the fresh air—but I know of no sporting ambitions before or after my brother, Matty, and I came along.

Even if they had harbored them, there would have been no time to indulge, what with all the ferrying around they had to do, taking Matty and me to this and that. Because I might not have shown any exceptional talent, but I was mad about sport. I was mad about everything.

My overwhelming memory of childhood is of a happy one. I was born in Bury St. Edmunds Hospital in and brought up in the house where my parents live to this day, in the village of Feltwell in Norfolk. We were never rich, but neither did we want for anything, especially in the way of love and support.

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Dad worked as a printer and then, when I was a young girl, he became a sales rep, selling paper to the print trade. I remember the excitement when he was given a company car. It even had a cassette player! Mum used to work in the evenings at the U. Air Force Base at Lakenheath. Dad would get home at p. It meant she was able to take us to and from school and be around during the school holidays, while she and Dad earned enough to keep us ticking over.