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Ladner triathlete shows an iron will

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They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. But for Ladner’s Sarah Foisy it really began three years ago with a bumper sticker on a car that simply said “26.2 miles.”

After enquiring about the number she learned it was the distance of a marathon. The 28-year-old hairdresser, who works at Atomic Hair Studio, has always considered herself an average Joe (or Jane, if you prefer) but she was intrigued by the challenge and decided to begin training.

Her goal? Just to finish. Little did she know that completing the marathon was just the beginning of a much bigger journey that would test her physical and mental limits.

“When I ran the marathon there was a woman with a t-shirt. It doesn’t take much to inspire me,” says Sarah, pausing to laugh. “She had a t-shirt that said ‘Ironman finisher’ and I said to my girlfriend, ‘I want one of those shirts.’ And she said, ‘you’re crazy, let’s finish this bloody thing first.'”

Sarah joined the Steveston Athletic Association in Richmond to begin training for an Ironman Triathlon. For those who don’t know, the sport is a single-push combination of a 3.8 km swim, a 180 km bike ride, finished off with a 42.2 km run, all without taking a break.

Sarah began training six days a week, sometimes twice a day, with help from Ladner running coach Malcolm Smillie. She also received encouragement from her fellow Triathlon competitor and coincidental Ladner neighbour, Joel Chamaschuck.

When the date finally came on July 24, Sarah started very strong, coming sixth in her age group (25-29) for the swim portion. But then came the gruelling bike ride up the brutal hills in Whistler. Sarah had only started to cycle a short 10 months earlier, so she had practiced the route in preparation for the Ironman event.

“So, having done that twice I just kept telling myself, ‘do not get off your bike, do not get off your bike. Keep going, you can cry when you get to the tent.'”

After a seven hour bike ride, she dismounted and began the marathon. That’s when she hit the proverbial wall. She stopped running about five kilometres in, grit her teeth, and began walking to the finish line. In retrospect, Sarah says she felt sick, exhausted, and her brain began feeling “loopy”, but refused to quit.

“I kept telling myself, ‘your goal is to finish, just keep going.'”

To add a little spice to the marathon, runners were diverted by race officials after a bear charged a participant. Growing up as a Ladner girl, Sarah says the biggest animal she’s used to seeing is a raccoon. The thought of a bear attack, even now, sends shivers down her spine.

Sarah crossed the finish line in a time of 16 hours, 16 minutes and eight seconds. After the race she went with her friends to the Olympic rings in Whistler and had a champagne toast.

“I don’t think it’s until the next day you can believe it’s finally over. It’s not just the 16 hours, it was the 11 months of training that led up to that finish line.”

Afterward, Chamaschuck’s wife made a friendly Facebook joke congratulating her on her “podium finish”, coming in third place among those who live in the 57/57A block of Ladner.

“I had somebody congratulate me on my podium finish in Save On,” laughs Sarah. “I just said thank you.”

With the Ironman behind her, Sarah says finishing the race becomes a motivation for anything in life, whether it’s a long day at work or a difficult situation. Just keep going, and eventually you’ll get to the finish line.

“You can do anything you want to do. There’s no goal that’s too big if you want to do it. You just have to put the time into it.”

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