To start, describe yourself in 5 words…
Funny, stubborn, outgoing, adventurous, passionate.
What’s your favourite mantra or motto to live by?
For my ‘bad days’, I have a mantra, which I say to myself over and over: ‘I may feel bad today, but I won’t always feel this way’.
For those who don’t know, share a little of your story with us…
In 2011, aged 24, I was working as a successful mining engineer when I was badly burned during competing in an ultra-marathon.
I was trapped by a grassfire and suffered burns to 65% of my body. My burns were so severe that I was close to death and in desperate need of skin grafts. Australia’s shortage of tissue meant my best option was to have tissue imported from the U.S.
I’m alive today because of the generosity of 16 Americans who donated the skin that saved my life.
Through it all, what was the hardest thing you’ve had to overcome?
My recovery was pretty dramatic. I went from being a 65kg fit, active and healthy woman to a frail 45kg. I had to re-learn how to sit up in bed, how to stand, how to walk, how to open and close my mouth, how to talk…. Etc etc
Doctors told me I would never run again and that was a massive moment for me. You know, I was 24 years old, my whole life was ahead of me and I’d always prided myself and drawn a lot of my self belief from my athletic ability so it was a huge change to come to terms with.
But I refused to let the doctors words or my new body’s limitations define me. I set to work training for an Ironman almost immediately, and, quite literally, one step at a time.
What was the pinnacle moment that turned you into a true believer?
One day, quite early on in my recovery, the doctors sat me down and told me that I’d never run again. It was like a lightbulb went off in my head. I remember thinking “I’ll show you! I’m going to do an Ironman one day”. I didn’t even really know what was involved, but I knew it was like this ultimate challenge. Mum and my partner Michael would come to the hospital each day and get me up out of bed and walking along the hospital hallways, saying “come on Turia, time for your Ironman training.”
Crossing that finish line almost 5 years later was just incredible, and something I’ll never forget.
To me, if I could finish an Ironman then it was proof that I was fitter than before the fire, so that was my big motivation. Even in the early days, I was determined that I wasn’t going to let what happened define the rest of my life. So I’ve been chipping away – starting with learning how to walk again, getting back on the bike and in the water. Now I’m fitter than I’ve ever been and in May 2016 I took on my first Ironman competition in Port Macquarie, Australia. Kona entered my sights not long after and I was so humbled to be invited to compete alongside so many Ironman greats on the Big Island last year.
Crossing that finish line was just incredible, and something I’ll never forget.
What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learnt?
That truly anything is possible if we don’t give up.
If you could go back and tell yourself something, what would you say?
I wore my compression mask for two whole years. It was on both my driver’s licence photo and my passport photo. I hated wearing that mask. It was uncomfortable, it drew attention to me whenever I was out, and worst of all – it affected my ability to communicate easily with people. No-one could read my facial expressions. And it’s not until you lose the ability to use the cock of an eyebrow to express a reaction that you realise how many cues are passed between humans without the use of words.
But the more time I spent in that mask, the more I came to realise that we all wear masks. It as like I was let in on some great big human secret. And I began to wonder: why are we all so afraid to show people who we really are?
And so, even though I’ve always been pretty true to who I am, I resolved while inside that mask that I wouldn’t waste a second of the rest of my life pretending to be anyone other than myself.
Would you do anything differently?
No. I believe in learning from mistakes and accepting that how we respond to challenges is totally up to ourselves. We get to choose how we feel. Mistakes get made, it’s normal- we’re human!
What do you hope people can learn or gain from hearing your story?
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – Lao-tzu
Goals can seem so scary at first, but all you need to do is break it down into smaller pieces that you can take one step at a time.
This is something I’ll be exploring in more detail in my upcoming course – Turia’s School of Champions. The School of Champions (SOC) is an online motivational course I’ve created and it’s designed to inspire clarity, confidence and purpose in those who enrol.
SOC is for adventurous people who want to kick big goals. It’s for people who want to challenge themselves, feed their passion and accelerate their success.
We’ll be launching very soon. Subscribe to my newsletter to be first to know when it’s ready! bit.ly/ TuriaNews
And some fast fires, just to finish off…
Cheese or chocolate? Chocolate
Summer or Winter? Summer
Smoothie or juice? Smoothie
Books or movies? Books
Tea or coffee? Coffee
Yoga or boxing? Boxing
Finish this sentence…
The most important thing in life is…self belief