Anita did it!!!! She became an Ironman yesterday! I am SO proud. This is a person who had to fight all odds. She was in a traumatic car accident when she was a little girl, putting her into a coma. She was not expected to leave. She awakened with total amnesia and had to start over from scratch with no memories prior to her 7 years of age. As she progressed, it became apparent she had suffered severe brain damage. As a result, Anita has a difficult time with spatial reasoning, communication, and memory, making it challenging to complete day-to-day tasks. Despite it all, she completed a masters in film-making from the Chicago Institute of Art on a Fulbright Scholarship. Can we say, "Wow!"? Afterwards, she battled with a period of severe depression.
One day, she had an awakening, and on an impulse, moved out to San Diego to embrace the triathlon lifestyle. She had a feeling it would help her to heal and move on. She's had to fight poverty, loneliness, and a very conservative family background. The Triathlon Club of San Diego (www.triclubsandiego.org), inspired by her drive, helped fund her pursuit of becoming an Ironman, and we all raised money for her slot at Ironman Arizona. Meanwhile, Anita trained like a demon. Her coach (Terry Martin, empathizing with her, charitably donated her services), had to constantly convince her not to overtrain. Anita also took classes to enrich her film-making skills at a local community college. With barely any money and living on disability, Anita somehow managed to make ends meet.
With a freshly tuned up bike and a new pair of running shoes, a fellow TCSD member picked her up on Thursday and they set off for Tempe. I waved goodbye with a huge lump in my throat. Sunday morning, I tracked her on-line. All of us in TCSD did as well. Somewhere around 8:30 pm, it said "DNF". I was devastated. Holding back tears, I went to bed, thinking of words to console her the next day. But on the phone (in line to sign up for 2010), she told me she had finished.
"What happened?" I asked. "I thought you DNF'ed."
"Oh, I got lost," she admitted. "I missed the last 6 miles."
I chuckled to myself, shaking my head. Ah, Anita. She was always getting lost, everywhere she went. She proceeded to tell me how she had crossed the finish line, in disbelief at her incredible 11-something hour time.
"It's a miracle!" she thought. She went back to her hotel room, changed into her sweats, and called her coach. Her coach looked on-line, and told her the facts.
"You didn't finish. You missed the last 6 miles."
"What do I do?" Anita asked.
"Go back and finish!" her coach urged. Wearily, she put her running clothes back on, and fighting exhaustion, went back to the course. She convinced the race officials to let her back onto the course. More than an hour had elapsed since her first "finish." She ran the last 6-miles, finishing for real this time. She persevered, and became an Ironman, against all odds. I can't imagine how amazing she will be next year.
Her story is incredibly fascinating. There are many more twists and turns but it's not my place to divulge it all here. That is for her to tell one day. Anita is an inspiration to us all. She became an Ironman when the whole world seemed to be against her. Anita has proven to us that if your will is strong enough, and you want something badly enough, you can overcome. Anything is possible. And that is a gift for all of us.