60 Months to Iron Man

I used to be an athlete. Then I weighed 368 pounds. Now this. THIS.

It’s my birthday today. I’m 45. I have three years left until my bonus years start. Let me explain:

My mother was 48 when she died. I was 24, exactly half her age.

There are plenty of sad things about that statement.

Like the fact that my mom was half done with her life the year I was born. Or how she put pretty much everything on hold while she raised us, then died the spring after her youngest child graduated from high school.

I’ve lived my whole life knowing that before I even had the chance to get old, I’d be older than she ever was. I have always thought of the years I’ll have when I’m older than 48 as my bonus years and the closer I get to them, the more that freaks me out.

In July 2015 I did something pretty drastic to give myself a better chance of getting to have those bonus years. I had 80 percent of my stomach removed, which caused me to lose about a third of my body weight.

I had a few reasons for pursuing weight loss surgery. Not the least of those being that it’s easier to detect cancer early in smaller boobs.

And also the desire to bridge the continental divide that had opened up between the things I wanted to do and the things I physically could.

My husband said something to me as I was struggling through a horrifying pre-operative diet.

He said, “You’re doing this so you can be an Iron Man, aren’t you?”

I was speechless. I could barely walk to the end of my driveway. I weighed 368 pounds and my days of being a teenage athlete were so far removed from my reality in that moment, that it was ridiculous to even consider what he was suggesting.

He’s known me a long time. Long enough to sense this underlying thing under my “I had to start using a CPAP this year and I’m scared” reasons for having weight loss surgery.

After I was finished laughing, I realized that he was right.

I was an athlete when I was a kid. A serious athlete with Olympic dreams. Kevin has walked in often enough on me watching Youtube compilations of people finishing Iron Man to know that once I was healthy enough, I would want this thing.

The idea that came next popped up so fully formed that there is no doubt it had been brewing in the background for a while.

I want to do something big when I’m 48. Something to start my bonus years with a major bang. Something scary and undeniable.

Five years after my surgery, I’ll be 48. And that year, I’m going to compete in an Iron Man triathlon.


I’ve never said that to anyone. I’ve never even really acknowledged it to my husband. Sure, he figured it out before me, but I’ve never admitted it.

Nothing like coming out with a bang, right?

I’m actually fifteen months into 60 Months to Iron Man. The first two years of this thing are dedicated to getting to a weight where I can safely train.

Today’s my birthday. I’m forty-five. I’ve lost 120 pounds. I’m going to become an Iron Man when I’m 48.

I can do this.

I don’t know if anyone will ever read this. Maybe I’m sending it out into world like a note in a bottle. Still I know myself well enough to know that A) it doesn’t really happen if I don’t write about it and B) f I write it, I’ll do it.

That’s the way my brain works. That’s the way my soul works.

You, dear reader, if you’re out there, you are my accountability partner.

I’ll post on the 28th of every month for the next 45 months. (And maybe some in between.) See you in November.

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Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She lives in Reno with her husband, three superstar kids, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes, is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nation, and is the original Ninja Writer.