Ironman helps conquer fears
Petrified of open water after almost drowning as a child, and with a real hatred for running, triathlon might not have been the natural sport of choice for Alice Williams.
But the 31-year-old Aucklander hopes signing up for Ironman 70.3 Taupo¯ might be just the push she needs to overcome the fear that has haunted her since her childhood. Admitting she’s “a bit annoyed” at herself for being afraid of lakes and the sea, Williams hopes by treating the event like an appointment she’ll get rid of her fear once and for all.
“I tend to do a really massive version of something I want to overcome — and Ironman is just another example of this.
“Previously, when I’ve tried to overcome my fear of open water, it’s been something I’ve tried to do by myself. With an organised scenario like Ironman I can treat it like an appointment — something that has to be done.”
Williams was about 4 years old and at a family party when she almost died in a swimming pool.
“I’d wandered off by myself and decided to get in the pool. Everyone was inside having lunch and they had this weird feeling because suddenly it went quiet. My older brother found me floating halfway between the top and bottom of the pool and pulled me out.”
While Williams doesn’t remember details of the incident, she remembers being physically sick after being resuscitated and everyone crowding round her, crying.
“I remember it being an upsetting lunch.”
It was only several years later, after a panic attack on a beach holiday, that her mum told her the details and the fear of the open water made sense.
She initially took up rowing as a first step towards overcoming her fear of the water.
“I didn’t tell anyone I was petrified of open water — when I was put in a boat I was secretly freaking out, but the technical nature of the sport distracted me.”
It was through rowing she discovered Ironman was “more than just a Marvel character” and the event was put on her bucket list.
“I hate running, I’m petrified of the water, but I just think why not. My body is fully functioning. There’s many people who couldn’t do it even if they wanted to — I’ve got friends in that position — and I think, if I can do it, I should. You never know when that might change.”
Thankfully for Williams, she loves cycling, so is relishing the thought of the 90km ride out to Reporoa and back.
“I could cycle all day. It’s my favourite leg and it’s 50 per cent of the race.”
After breaking her foot in October 2018, Williams has been training properly since April, but credits a decent level of base fitness with helping her efforts. The lead-up has seen Williams tick off the Auckland Marathon and enter the Kohi
Summer Swim Series.
Williams says the bulk of her training plan has concentrated on running, as it is her weakest sport of the three.
She says the best piece of training advice she’s been given is that “rest is part of training and sleep is king”.
It’s that mental fitness which will prove important as she lines up at the start line.
“I expect the 70.3 will be what we call ‘type two fun’ — ‘type one fun’ is fun at the time and fun on reflection, ‘type two fun’ is awful at the time but fun on reflection. I suspect it will be character-building.”
And there’ll be more of that character building in her future with the 70.3 event being the stepping stone to the full-length race in Taupo¯ in March.
Alice Williams will be facing her fear of water at the Ironman 70.3 this Saturday.