Ironman race firmly in sights
Less than two years ago Arien Hielkema could only dream of competing in an Ironman.
The 27-year-old weighed almost 100 kilograms and was gulping down fast-food meals around his 12-hour shifts at Auckland Airport.
He got on to a healthier path but was knocked off his bike in February 2013 and was unable to walk for six months.
This Saturday he’ll take part in his first Ironman in Taupo and he’s steeling his nerves for the 3.8 kilometre swim, 180km bike and full marathon. ‘‘I’ve gone from doing nothing to jumping head-first into this insane world.’’
In early 2012 Mr Hielkema weighed 98kg and was feeling so tired he was worried he would fall asleep at the wheel driving home from work. He visited a nutritionist and got stuck into a healthy eating plan.
‘‘The weight pretty much just fell off me within three or four months.’’
He started training under coach Andrew Mackay and was deep in his programme when he was knocked off his bike by a car that ran a red light.
The accident left him with a snapped posterior cruciate ligament in his knee, broken bones in his wrist and elbow and a partially dislocated shoulder. He wasn’t able to walk for six months.
‘‘I’m a very determined person so for me to stop training for six months was interesting. I went through bouts of depression with that as well.
‘‘It was hard work, so hard, and it just wasn’t fair to have it snatched away.’’
Mr Hielkema got back on his bike in August and has been training furiously to get back to peak condition.
Working as a Media Design School lecturer is his break from training each day.
He hopes to complete the triathlon in 11 hours. The cut off time is 17 hours and every year a number of athletes don’t make it, he says. ‘‘They say the race doesn’t actually start until 23 kilometres into the run. That’s how full-on it is.
‘‘They have this thing called the ‘ironman shuffle’ when your legs are just so tired it’s all you can do. I hope that’s not me.’’
Ironman New Zealand event director Janette Blyth says anyone can take part given the time, dedication and training.
There are more than 430 firsttime participants in this year’s event, she says.
‘‘For many it is about achieving this monumental test, tick off a bucket list, and that experience alone can be life-changing. From that point on in their lives they will know they can achieve anything.’’
Go to ironman.com for more information.