From Attempted Suicide to Ironman is a Tough, But Rewarding Road
Shane Niemeyer was running to catch up when he became an Iron Man competitor. Niemeyer had spent much of his youth drinking, overdosing on drugs, getting arrested, spending time in prison, and barely graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi when he was homeless after getting kicked out of a long-term treatment center.
His story, told in the recently-published The Hurt Artist: My Journey from Suicidal Junkie to Iron Man, turned when he tried to hang himself after a few days in prison – when the withdrawal symptoms were bearing down – and the extension cord snapped.
Achieving Your Goal
“I had never been able to quit or tone it down,” he says. “I didn’t want to live. I needed something to latch on to.” He read about Ironman in an Outside magazine in his cell and made a championship at Kona his goal. “It was the seeds that would grow into an ideal, a vision for myself,” Niemeyer says. “It helped me pull my life together as a person, not only as an athlete. It helped me start healing myself.”
In the decade since, Niemeyer, 38, made progress despite injuries and his body’s reluctance – “you start trying to compete at a very high level with people who were competing when you were getting drunk and doing drugs,” he says – and qualified four years in a row for Kona. He has won races as an amateur and found himself in the top 10 among hundreds of competitors in some contests.
One surprise as he began to compete was the debilitating effect of cramping – sometimes engulfing his body, including neck and face.
I was completely unaware that cramping could be so severe,” Niemeyer says. “The longer the event is, the more important nutrition and hydration and food levels become.
Not paying attention to details you don’t know about, coming into these things late in life, it became more and more clear that I needed something.” I don’t have to worry about taking pills. The Right Stuff is a liquid concentrate that goes easily into your water bottle. The Right Stuff was the solution. “I don’t have to worry about taking pills,” he says. “It’s concentrated and it takes you a lot further. You don’t need to focus on it. I need about 1800 milligrams of sodium an hour, so two bottles, two-and-a-half bottles will get me through the bike portion of an Ironman. That’s what works for me.”
“You’re going to get out of a thing whatever you put into it,” he says. “The goal from here forward is to try to win a world championship as an amateur, a couple of Ironman championships.”