When Queenslander Elle Goodall crossed the finish line at Ironman 70.3 Cairns she was greeted by her two very happy and relieved parents, Paul and Julie. Happy that they had just seen their daughter accomplish one of her amazing personal goals but more so relieved that they still had their daughter in their lives.
For Elle, the race was another part of her incredible journey that had seen her rediscover herself and turn her life around, incredibly losing more than 115kg in the process.
“Two years earlier my parents thought they were going to lose me, so to have them there to watch me was a huge deal for me. The finish line was incredibly emotional and, both mum and dad were crying. Dad looked at me and I have never seen him look at me like he did. All he said to me was – ‘You are alive and you have just done a half ironman. Your mum and I were preparing for the worst and look what you have just done. I am just so proud of you’. He had never said that to me before, so for him to express that meant so much to me.”
In 18 months Elle has totally transformed herself physically but she believes her story is really about the process of rediscovery and proving that anything is possible.
“I don’t call my story a weight loss story because it is more about living a healthy lifestyle. I had surgery, so weight loss was going to happen but that is not a big part of my story. My story is about where I have come from and, how dedicated and determined I have been and that I am about to do an Ironman.
“The message I want to get out to people is find something that you are passionate about, that you are going to love. It doesn’t have to be triathlon – it could be anything. The weight loss will come with you making little gains and as you get better with the sport that you are doing, eventually the weight will start to fall off.”
“Live a healthy lifestyle and get outside and do stuff. See the world because it is such an amazing place when you are not sitting on the couch watching TV. Anything is possible and that is the bottom line of what I am trying to say to people. You can do anything you want to do. You just have to put your mind to it and be 100 per cent dedicated to it. It is not going to be easy and if it is easy you are not doing it right,” she stated.
Born in a little town called Motueka on New Zealand’s South Island, Elle moved to Cairns at the age of six and quickly became a Queensland kid, getting heavily involved in the swimming scene and competing at State Level as a breaststroker.
“When I was a kid I was always an incredibly determined person. Even in swimming. I started off in learn to swim but I would look over and see the big kids in the big pool and I was determined that I wanted to be there. I worked really hard to get there but that wasn’t good enough I wanted to be in the top squad. I was always incredibly determined.”
Leaving school Elle was employed in the local tourism industry and loved her life working in the natural beauty of Tropical North Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef.
“I am what you call a Coxswain or a captain and I used to drive boats for a living after school. I drove reef boats and I was working on Hamilton and Brampton Islands and used to take jet ski tours, drove ski boats and taught people how to sail – all the fun stuff. At that point, I was still very active. The last island I worked on was Hamilton Island. After that, I was back in Cairns where tourism was taking a very big hit.”
“When I couldn’t find work back on the boats, doing what I loved, I ended up in an office job with Queensland Health. That was where I quickly started to stack on the weight. I just started to get a little bit down on myself and I started to lose who I was – that was where it all started. Getting an office job right above a chocolate factory didn’t help. I wasn’t happy and wasn’t feeling great. I really lost myself – I lost
Her loss of drive was shadowed by a steady increase in weight, which peaked at 184kg and brought with it a whole range of health, emotional and lifestyle issues.
“Life was incredibly difficult, I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t tie my own shoes, I couldn’t walk 100m without having to sit down and have a rest. If I fell over I couldn’t get back up, which was very embarrassing. For me back then that was normal. Sure, it was embarrassing but it was my life and how I was living. I was in a really bad frame of mind.”
“I spoke to my doctor and he made me hop on the scales. It read ‘error’ because I was too heavy. I hadn’t realised I had gotten to that point and I said to him, ‘What do these scales go to?’ He said the maximum was 150 kg and I went, ‘Far out, I am heavier than that.’ He looked at me and didn’t say anything. We went in and hopped on the industrial scales and it read 184kg and I was just in shock. He made me do a whole bunch of tests for diabetes and that sort of thing. He came back and said, ‘If you don’t do something about this you are going to lose your life before you turn 40’.”
“I didn’t know what to say. I had to have a conversation with my family. I am a real family person and I love my parents and my life so I had to get on the phone and tell them. I had never heard my mum and dad crying before but both of them were in tears and really concerned. I had diabetes and I wasn’t in a good way, I was really sick. At that point, hearing my parents cry, I just knew that something had to change. It really did because I wasn’t going down a very good path.”
“That would have been January 2015. I really think that was the point where ‘Elle’ came back. That was where I found myself again and started to get that drive. I don’t know where it came from, it kind of went on holidays and for some reason it was back and I was determined to make this change – a change for good.”
Elle’s journey of rediscovery started with the more traditional approaches to weight loss but it quickly became obvious to her that she would have to find her own path, which eventually included surgery, discovering her love of triathlon and an intense desire to train the house down.
“I tried pills, shakes, everything! They worked for a little bit and I would lose a little bit of weight on them but they are just not maintainable and something you can continue to do. I have been offered endorsements for shakes recently but it is not something I agree with. If people want to lose weight I don’t think telling them to have a weight loss shake is how you do it; especially someone who is addicted to food – that was my thing. You can’t just take food off me and give me a shake. That is not going to work. I am not going to keep doing that because I hate it. You have to love what you are doing.”
“I actually said no to surgery the first time my doctor recommended it because it is such a risky thing to do. You are putting your life at risk and it’s a really big, serious operation. Originally I wasn’t prepared to go down that track but as time went on I realised that if I kept going the way I was going I would lose my life.”
When Elle decided to have surgery she was 184kg but doctors advised they needed her to lose weight before they could operate. The hard work started immediately with Elle losing more than 10kg before finally being admitted
“The week after I got out of hospital I was living in accommodation in Townsville. I had surgery with a friend and all she wanted to do was sleep but I wanted to go out and explore, so I went hiking and found some really cool beaches by myself. So, I was walking from the day I got out of the hospital and then about four weeks later I started to do more full-on exercise.”
“I bought myself a standup paddleboard. When I was out at the local lake paddling along some of my friends were on the shore and they called me in. They were with some of their friends who had just got back from training with the local tri club.”
“When I was a swimmer I was also training with triathletes and I had always sort of wanted to do it because they looked so cool doing three sports. So I just mentioned that I would love to do a triathlon but I didn’t think I could because I was still quite a big girl. One of the women said, ‘You could totally do a triathlon. You could be doing triathlon within a month’.”
“Old me would have gone, ‘Righto’ and kept on doing what I was doing, but instead I said, ‘Let’s do this’. The following Monday I started training for my first triathlon. I couldn’t run, I couldn’t even really walk a 100m without being puffed out but I was determined and with really small steps I was soon able to run my first kilometre – now I can run 20 or more,” she said proudly.
With the help of her first coach Vicki Nicholson, Elle soon found herself on the start line of her debut triathlon, an Enticer distance event in Mt Isa at the beginning of 2016.
“I was really proud of myself and I hopped out of the water first but I struggled a bit on the run. I had to walk a bit of it still but it was only a month after I started training. I cried when I crossed the finish line. I was so proud of myself because I had just done something that I never thought would be possible and I burst into tears. I was really proud.”
“Vicki and I sat down and put a plan together. The Julia Creek ‘Dirt and Dust’ was going to be my first sprint distance, with the Noosa Tri Olympic distance race being my ultimate goal. I fell in love with Noosa, it was an incredible course and I can’t wait to get back there again this year. But after I crossed the finish line I got a little depressed because I had been training for that race for six months and all of a sudden it was over.”
With Elle rapidly ticking off her triathlon ‘bucket list’ she went looking for her next challenge, which happened to be Ironman 70.3 Cairns. “I needed another goal and I thought it was time to do a 70.3. I made my decision and people were looking at me like I was a little crazy. That was when I found my new coach, Emma Quinn from T:Zero Multisport. My progression with Emma has been amazing.”
In a little more than 12 months, Elle had gone from laying on the couch to Enticer, Sprint, Olympic distance triathlon, to the Ironman 70.3 but she still wasn’t finished.
“Emma thought I was a little crazy when I suggested doing a full Ironman and thought I was just on a high after Cairns. But it was soon full steam ahead to Busso and Ironman Western Australia in December. Every single goal I have set on this crazy journey I have done and done well. I am so proud of myself and I am not slowing down. So Emma just got behind me.”
With Elle’s meteoric and life-changing journey has come an equally important role to promote healthy living and support others facing the same challenges she has experienced.
“I am just going with the flow. With my social media, I get millions of messages every day but I am only one person and can’t respond as much as I would love to. It is surreal when I am walking down the street, in a place that I have never been before people come up and introduce themselves. They know all about my life and it is like they know me. That has been strange for me to get used to because I never thought that would happen.”
The SunSmart Ironman Western Australia in Busselton on 3 December is the next main event on Elle’s schedule but she knows that once that race is completed she will have her eye on one day competing in the Ironman World Championships in Kona.
“Things got a little difficult trying to fit training in with my move from Mt Isa to Brisbane but since I have been in Brisbane I have been smashing my training and am really excited to see how I am going.”
“I am doing Noosa again this year but instead of it being an ultimate goal, this year it is just a training run. My lead into Busso is going really well and I’m happy with how I’m travelling at the moment.
I am not under any illusion that Busso is going to be easy, it will be a massive challenge for me and I am going to have to push myself really hard.”
“If you had have told me two years ago that I was going to do an Ironman I would have laughed at you. It wasn’t something that I ever thought would be possible. It is pretty crazy but I am going to get to the finish line and I am going to hear the guys say – ‘Elle Goodall, you are an IRONMAN’,” she declared.