There’s nothing like a bit of friendly rivalry to motivate you. But what happens when your husband or wife decides to do something crazy and you have to decide whether to come along for that ride, or miss out? Just ask Melanie Humber whose husband Justin told her that he was going to do a 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride and 42km run… on the same day. They both recently crossed the Ironman finish line in Cairns after doing just that. Here they put down their celebratory chocolate and beer for five minutes to tell us about the amazing experience that, just months ago, seemed so impossible. Meet Mr & Mrs Ironman.
You’d both done a few endurance events before, including Half Ironmans (70.3), but what made you decide to take this huge step up?
Justin: Having tested the waters on 70.3 (1.9km swim, 90km ride, 21km run) in Cairns last year, I had the feeling of wanting to see if I could push myself for more. Having experienced the overwhelming feeling of the red carpet on the 70.3, I wanted to know what that would be like in an Ironman.
Mel: I wasn’t too sure at first, but ultimately what made up my mind was seeking that feeling that you get when you achieve something you’ve worked really, really hard for. Three years ago I couldn’t swim with my head underwater, and — although I swim comfortably now — I still occasionally have a moment in the ocean where I panic. I wanted to know I could do it.
So what steps did you take to get the ball rolling?
J: I had it in my head not long after the 70.3 that I wanted to give the Ironman a go, but I kept that to myself. Having never ran a marathon before, I turned my focus to the Townsville Marathon. After doing that last year, I just wanted to keep as much fitness as possible, so I continued training pretty solidly. Then one day Mel asked, “What’s going on? Why you still training so much?” so I had to come clean.
M: Yes, so Justin decided he was going to enter the Ironman. We were used to training and doing events together [both did the 70.3 the year before], but I was hesitant — I worried that I wasn’t ready, but then I didn’t want to miss out either. So we bit the bullet and entered on Christmas Day and started training in January. We got a coach [Graham Pemberton] and committed to the training.
What was the training load like over the six months?
M: It was hard work, took a lot of organisation and our social life was put on hold. It’s basically 4am starts six days a week with double sessions most days. But we had fantastic support from our coach, friends who were training for the IM, and our other non-IM friends!
How did it feel to be able to do this journey together?
J: An Ironman is such a big commitment and knowing that we were doing this together made it even more special. We supported each other and experienced the highs and lows, the sacrifice and enjoyment together.
M: We had the same training plan so nearly every session was started together, but completed solo as we have different speeds.
Do you get competitive with each other?
M: I don’t like to let him get too far in front of me — I’d like to beat him one day!
J: Not really, so as long as I’m in front (laughs).
Did it help in the lead-up that you both had the same goal?
M: For sure; having someone right there to talk to about a session or how you were feeling was great. On the days where you couldn’t be bothered training usually the other was keen so you had no excuse but to do it!
How did you support each other emotionally when you were nervous?
M: Justin is my rock — he calms me down when I panic in the water and then makes me get back in and conquer it.
What was it like finishing the race and seeing all that hard work pay off?
J: The atmosphere was amazing — especially that last lap with everyone high-fiving and cheering. Then it was the red carpet to the finish chute — to hear them call my name and experiencing the joy to have made it and realise, “I am a Ironman!” blew me away.
M: I’m still stoked and had a great day. Although my heart sank when I saw how rough the swim conditions were, I told myself, “I am going to be an Ironman today,” and it actually went unbelievably smoothly — no panicking at all and I was blown away with my time. I felt fit enough and mentally prepared.
Biggest lessons learned?
J: That speed isn’t everything.
M: To trust in the process and believe in yourself.
What do you think it takes to be an Ironman?
J: Commitment and dedication.
M: Our coach gave us a great quote: “Nothing comes from nothing”. It’s true anyone can achieve what they put the work into.
Registrations are now open for Cairns Ironman 2017. Find out more here.