I am the youngest of five siblings. My oldest brother died at 54 from colon cancer. One of my sisters has multiple sclerosis. Another sister had diabetes and recently passed away. My other brother had lymphoma. I am fortunate to have my health, and I choose to give thanks and to take advantage of my healthy body. I completed my first Half Ironman when I was 60 years old. When I am in training, I am in my Church. To date, I have completed two Half-Ironman triathalons and a Half-Ironman relay. And I’ve done two 100-mile bike rides (the actual rides are only 95 miles, but I want 100 miles, so after the race I continue to ride in circles for another 5 miles).

Before I started training, I had never run a 5K race. I couldn’t bike 2 miles. And I couldn’t swim the length of the pool. I’m not sure I even knew what an Ironman was. The Ironman started in 1977. The mantra is, “Anything is possible.” This has become my mantra as well—I am living proof that this mantra is true.

I love the people I train with. We take care of each other. We’re not competitive. We cheer each other on. They are all younger than I am, but there is no ageism. They see me for who I am, not for the length of time I have been on the planet. It’s empowering. They are the congregation in my Church.

I realized that one of the reasons I trained and still do the races was to ensure that I would continue to feel relevant to myself, in my own way. I have proven to myself that I am not afraid to take risks.

And I know I have shaken to the core the stereotype in our society that as women age, they become invisible and are marginalized. I am strong, and therefore I am not invisible. I am powerful, and therefore I cannot be marginalized. I am breaking barriers by participating and meeting my goals. I will continue to make myself strong as long as I am able. And with my proven strength, I gain confidence.

And the funny thing, with that confidence I became less concerned with my outward appearance. It’s not that I don’t care about my outward appearance. I still do. I want to look as good as I can. But it’s my inner strength that I now concentrate on. I have found my way to retain my uniqueness. And I am a very happy woman!