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This St. John’s woman left the couch to chase the Ironman dream — and it saved her life

Four years ago, Cheryl Myers didn’t even own a bike or know how to swim, and her life was completely different.

“I didn’t do anything. I’d go to work, go home, I would eat, I would watch TV,” she said. “I was extremely overweight. I didn’t have any goals and had no drive.”

Myers, 40, has since lost over 100 pounds and credits one of the most gruelling athletic races in the world for turning her life around.

Myers is surrounded by her family and, to her left, coach Ben Hayley, after completing the 2016 St. John’s Sprint Triathlon. (Cheryl Myers)

Her journey into the world of triathlon started with a small splash in 2015; before trying to race in the water, she first had to learn how to swim.

“I was afraid of the water my entire life,” she said.

“My nephew, he was five, wanted me to go swimming with him … I was terrified — so I decided to take adult swim lessons.”

By what can only be considered a stroke of luck for Myers, her instructor turned out to be ultra-triathlon competitor Ben Hayley. 

Intrigued by the sport, Hayley decided to watch all the swimmers during the mass start of the St. John’s Triathlon that year.

“I had just planned on staying for the open water swim, but I stayed for the entire thing,” Myers said.

A month later she and Hayley started doing strength training in the gym. When the calendar flipped over to 2016, she bought a road bike, then running shoes.

“Since I started the triathlon I’ve lost more than 100 pounds,” she said. “I’ve started to have goals.”

In August 2016 she completed the sprint race at the St. John’s Triathlon. Her only goal was not to finish last. 

She didn’t. 

It was Myers’s nephew, Colin McAllister, who helped her learn how to swim. (Cheryl Myers)

That feat pushed Myers to devote more time to swimming, biking and running, with evenings on the couch, at that point, a distant memory.

Myers may have been losing weight, but was also making gains she never thought possible.

“I’m happier, I have more confidence. I used to walk around trying not to be seen. I spent most of my adult life trying to be invisible,” she said.

“Now … I’m a whole different person.”

Myers now surrounds herself with triathletes and even joined the local Pancake Triathlon Club, a group focused on helping athletes get faster while having a little fun.

“Even though I had lost so much weight, I don’t look like the typical triathlete, and I probably never will,” she said. “I thought I would be laughed at. [But] everyone has welcomed me.… I have met people that I will be friends with for the rest of my life.”

Myers hopes to complete a full Ironman race in 2020. (Cheryl Myers)

Members of that group helped her train to push herself to a new level by completing the Ironman 70.3 Eagleman race in Maryland in June.

That means she swam 1.9 kilometres, biked 90 kilometres and ran 21.1 kilometres — and did it in a time of 6:46:30.

“There is a point in the run where you turn the corner and you can see the finish line. You can hear the music and you can see the crowds cheering and you just know that you’re so close and it’s the best feeling ever,” she said.

By Myers isn’t satisfied with completing the half-Ironman.

She has her sights set on the full distance: 3.9-kilometre swim, 180-kilometre bike ride and a full 42.2-kilometre marathon.

That’s her 2020 goal. On Sunday she will line up with some of the province’s best triathletes in the 35th St. John’s Triathlon.

Just four years ago, that finish line looked awfully far away. But Myers has a new outlook, she says.

“Triathlon did save my life.”

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