Ironman Cairns: The Comeback Trail Leads to Cairns for Mildura’s John Fisher
Training in Sunraysia with four layers of clothing to protect against the brisk morning air, Mildura’s John Fisher isn’t complaining, he is just happy to be up and about and dreaming of the warmth of Cairns and his IRONMAN comeback on 10 June.
One of the Gold Coast’s triathlon early adopters of the late 80s, John lost touch with the triathlon when he moved to Victoria for work and study, but eventually making his debut at IRONMAN Australia in 2013 and then racing IRONMAN Melbourne in late 2014.
“I originally got into IRONMAN through a friend of mine who passed away from cancer. He was hoping to make the event but didn’t quite get there, so I actually did that race on his behalf. But in late 2013 and throughout 2014, I got quite ill. It was a mystery and no one could work out what it was. I ended up going to a doctor in Melbourne who diagnosed me with a thing called Fibromyalgia, which is a cross between a chronic fatigue and arthritis.”
“Fibromyalgia is incredibly painful and I would get up shower and have no energy so I would go back to bed. It affected the whole of my body, you suffer constant migraines, your body is in total pain and even talking is painful .It is debilitating to the point where you wonder if you are going to get better. Some days you wouldn’t have a bad day and others it would come back. But most days I would be bedridden.”
Dramatically restricted by the soul destroying and debilitating condition, John credits the remarkable Turia Pitt for providing him with the inspiration to kick start his life and literally get him back on his feet.
“I went to IRONMAN in Port Macquarie and I happened to meet Turia Pitt who was racing there and she inspired me and I ended up doing a seven week program that she had over the internet on motivation. I thought, ‘That is it, I am sick of lying around’. So I got up and started walking.”
“I remember the first day I got out of bed and was walking along, tripped over a driveway, fell on my face and this old guy came over, picked me up and asked me if I was alright. I walked back to the car and thought ‘I am not going to do it. That is it, I am finished’. But I fought my way back and went down to the oval and did half a lap, a few weeks later did another and slowly got better.”
“That half a lap turned into a lap, then a kilometre. I started off from scratch again with everything, swim, ride and run. I couldn’t even get my leg over the bike when I started it was so hard. When I did a reasonable training session it would take me about a week to recover, it was that bad. I didn’t get better straight away, it came and went over a three year period. The doctor said that I would find that after a while the good days will get longer and the bad days will get shorter. At the moment I am feeling pretty good, so I am bit excited.”
“My first actual race back that I tried was Busselton but they had to cancel the swim. I got onto the bike and I thought I am feeling good I am going to do this and I got cleaned up by another rider and ended up in the medical tent and told not to continue. So I was devastated so IRONMAN Cairns is me having another crack. It is my comeback race.”
“Cairns is a significant race in a lot of respects. I have lost another friend to cancer, a friend of 39 years that I used to train and do a lot with and he has been my inspiration as well. He had a saying that I placed on my cap that I train with and every time I am feeling down I look at it and keep going. It says “Every day is a beautiful day’. Before he passed away he just said to me ‘Keep going’,” John recalled.
The small contingent from Mildura has put all the hard work in but there is no pressure, all they are focused on is getting their fair share of the warmth of tropical sun and enjoying all the region has to offer.
“We have a little bit of a team going up to Cairns, four competing and a couple coming with me have been really inspirational in helping me out. So it should be good. They have told me I have to finish, there is no stopping.”
“We were training in four degrees this morning with three layers of clothes and a jacket, so I am hoping when we get to Cairns we can ditch all the layers and get down to normal training gear. A transition here at the moment would take about 30 minutes. We are going from one climate to another so it will be interesting. I have never been to Cairns so I am really looking forward to getting away and we are staying for a few days to take in all the attractions up there.”
“I used to do about 13 hours but I just happy to be competing and finishing will be a bonus. I don’t care about the time. If I cross that line it will be the happiest day of my life,” John declared.