WHEN you leave the consultation rooms of Coffs Harbour cardiologist, Jon Waites, you have no doubt that you are in the right hands.
Only eight years ago, Waites was 96kg and a little overweight.
Realising that he needed to take a "do as I do" approach, rather than the "do as I say" mentality of a lot of health practitioners, he set about changing his lifestyle to set a positive example to not only his patients, but his employees, family and the community in general.
This Sunday, May 5, Jon Waites will line up with 1500 other athletes on the start line of Ironman Australia at Port Macquarie. He will start the 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and 42km run at a super-fit 73kg.
Not only has he shed in excess of 20kg over recent years, he has built up his muscle percentage, increased his lung capacity, and improved the efficiency of his heart.
He is not in the Ironman to survive. He intends to race it, hoping for a high placing in his 50-54 years age category.
With training weeks in excess of 20 hours, the endless laps of the pool, bike hill repeats, and long runs will all be called upon when the going gets tough this weekend.
Along the journey, he has had the company of another 50+ year old in a lot of his training sessions. Rod Jozeps will also contest the Ironman.
With the heart and lungs of a 25-year-old, along with a minimal body fat percentage, Jozeps is capable of pushing toward the pointy end of his age group. His goal of obtaining a qualifying spot for the World Championships in Hawaii is not out of the question.
Both Waites and Jozeps will give a start out of the swim leg, but can be expected to work their way through the field on the cycle portion, with both very strong on the bike. Having shed all the excess kilos, the run leg will seem just that little bit easier and will determine the success of their race.
Also participating in the event are locals Andrew Wellington, Glenn George, Peter Wood, Jenni Williams, Kath Porter, Luke Williams and Clint Rowlings.
All have overcome their own difficulties in preparing themselves both physically and mentally for one of the toughest single-day sporting events in the country.
Wellington has been nursing a calf injury, but is still in the best physical condition of his life. With sensible pacing on the run, is capable of setting a new person best over the distance.
Also coming off an interrupted preparation is Glenn George, the fittest he has been for a long time.
Nobody has been through the same preparation as Peter Wood. Renowned for his low volume training regime, he also had to factor in an operation to have a kidney removed, leaving him only a few weeks to throw together a few swim/ride/run sets. With in excess of 20 Ironman finishes to his credit, his experience will see him through.
Woolgoolga's Jenni Williams is again facing the starter, and is another experienced distance athlete.
Kath Porter from Raleigh has been unable to run for the majority of the last few months, with a lot of time spent water running to adapt the legs for race day's 42km final leg. Her solid swim and bike combination will have her in good position hitting the run course, and then patience is the key to a solid finish time.
Making his debut over this distance is Boambee's Luke Williams. He is young, fit, confident and sensible.
Possessing a very fast swim leg, Williams will be out of the water in the top 10 percent of the field, so will need to be pace-aware on the bike to ensure there is enough fuel in the tank to complete a marathon on heavy legs.
The wild-card among the Coffs competitors is Clint Rowlings, who only found out four weeks ago that he had a start on race day.
A rushed preparation is not ideal, but there is no doubt his natural abilities will have him prominently placed in his category for a large portion of the race.
For Rowlings, anything is possible, with the key being his ability to keep the excitement level low enough to ease off marginally on his default speed in the cycle and run components.
Also competing are Grafton father and son Craig and Jason Limbert, both having raced this course on previous occasions.
Ironman Australia gets underway this Sunday at Port Macquarie, and will feature some of the fittest people in the country. Spare a thought for the Coffs Harbour participants when you hop out of bed on Sunday... or even consider taking a page out of Jon Waites' book, and head out for some exercise. You never know where that first step will lead you.