Triathlon is a sport full of people with incredible stories. For the most part, these people just get on with the task of life without complaint, but their stories deserve to be shared if only to remind us that you just never know who is battling, who is struggling and who needs those kind words today.
We are humbled to be able to bring you one incredible story. Radele's journey from Traumatic Brain Injury to one heck of a TRI life is one that will inspire you, and remind you how precious life is. You only have one, and it's what you make of it. We hope you enjoy.
The FOHER Team
“You’ll never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.” Radele Berriman
Pic: Nothing on earth could prepare me for my life 2.0.
Pre February 26th, 2012, I had been a part-time working / stay at home Mum to 6 year old Jake and partner to a hard working and extremely loyal Warren. We thought raising a child was hard, things were about to become a little more interesting. We all had our own little hobbies and mine was riding my bike, running and doing strength training.
I have ZERO memory of what happened when I ventured out for my usual solo Sunday ride along Beach Rd, Melbourne. Witness accounts were I was struck from behind by a car as I was riding through a roundabout, I then landed heavily on the back of my head, yes I had a helmet on but it was crushed. The driver and a witness stayed with me until two Senior and very experienced Paramedics attended the scene where I was transported to the Alfred Hospital. I’d suffered a fractured skull and extensive bleeding on my brain which required an emergency craniotomy (Google it if you’re not sure what it is, its slightly gory but extremely fascinating). It even astounded the Neurosurgeon and medical staff that I survived and for their work I’m eternally grateful. After 5 days in ICU I was then transported to Epworth Hospital in Camberwell, where I would stay in the Brain Injury Unit. I had to learn how to walk and talk, among many other challenges until I was deemed well enough to return home. The constants in my day were 1% eating, 5% exercise / rehab and 94% sleep. This was like The Hilton Hotel where I was cared for like Royalty, hospital staff are next level amazing xo. After 5 weeks I was still very frail but so keen to return home to my family who wanted nothing more than to be by my side.
Pic: Recovering in hospital after the emergency craniotomy
Pic: Still smiling in true Rads style
This was where my true-life challenges would begin. Initially I thought I would rule the world empowering others through my experience. Oh boy was I in for a battle to even survive. I was extremely FRAGILE mentally, ‘please handle me with care’ but unfortunately, I was no match for this fast-paced world. For over 5 years I felt like I had to prove my self worth. Resulting in numerous nervous breakdowns, countless amounts of Psychiatry, Psychological, Neurological and what seemed endless Doctors’ appointments. Nothing was changing, I felt like my life was worthless and not improving anytime soon. I had gone from an independent woman to relying on others for years to help me with the most basic of chores. During this time, through all the lows and dark days there were always 3 constants in my daily life.
Pic: Radele's son Jake was an enormous support
Pic: Partner Warren always by Radele's side
With zero swim ability I learned how to swim in the Rehab pool at Epworth, a whole 5 meters long but that was good enough for me. Bike training was all done indoors and running outside was the go. No help was required, as I had all the gear but no fucking idea!!!
So now the satisfying, crazy, unpredictable, out of comfort zone addiction begins.
300m/10k/3k St. Kilda Beach, Victoria
Full of nerves, excitement and pure adrenalin I’ve wanted to do this forever now let’s get this party started!
Surrounded by others (which is rare for me) I run and dove - flopped into the water, thinking OMG this is amazing, I’m doing it. Then BOOM I stop and looks back to shore. I want to be back there, let the mind games begin! I hesitate then raise my hand to nearest lifeguard politely ask for help. “Please can you paddle next to be to the next swim buoy?” Champion Lifeguard “Yes, lets go.” From there it was a mix of Freestyle, Doggie Paddle, Unnamed Stroke for survival. Somehow, I got through that 300m alive. Went onto the bike and run Mad AF about the swim. I finished but was embarrassed and hating on myself. But for some reason I was hooked I wanted to get better.
I went from surviving 3 ‘Fun’ Triathlons, trust me they were all the same as the 1st, to wanting to compete in a Half Ironman. I loved training for long hours, it gave me mental peace and personal satisfaction.
I have now competed in 8 Half Ironmans but it definitely hasn’t been smooth sailing and to be honest it never will be but I’m OK with that! I have coached myself through most parts of my TRI-LIFE, I do all my training alone, !00% pool swimming, always indoors on the bike, 50% running on the treadmill and all strength work at home, this is me keeping control of the controllable. At times Coaches have helped me along the way. However as with my brain injury I like to work out what I’m capable of and what I need to work on to improve.
Here’s a rundown of the highlights, crazy and fun times of my 70.3 Triathlon Racing
2016 Ironman Ballarat 70.3
Did Not Start – Bike racked pre race, didn’t sleep because I thought I was going to sink to the bottom of Lake Wendouree in my wetsuit. Yep that’s how naive and scared I was. I’m happy to cringe and laugh about it now.
2017 Elite Energy Bendigo Ultimate 70.3
OMG how do people run 21k after 1.9k swim and 90k bike, but I did finish in 6hrs 8min. My first Half Ironman completed, it hurt and I loved it. Give me more!
Pic: Radele's first half ironman at Bendigo
2017 Challenge Shepparton
5hr 45 Hooray! got under 6hrs but how are those women in my AG still 60min faster than me. For many years I was highly intimidated by these fast athletes. However, as the years go on, I’m truly inspired and determined to close the gap as best I can. I’m more focused on my own desire to be faster and of course I still want to catch them. Even if it takes another 20 years.
2017 Challenge Melbourne 70.3
DNS Bike racked and ready to go but I was seriously petrified, OWS does that to me, WTF is in there??? Lightning and Thunder did strike during Transition Setup and that’s where I drew the line. “See ya fucking later, that’s not for me”
2018 Challenge Melbourne 70.3
Stayed awake all night crying and fearful. Warren encouraged me to go and get in the water to make a decision. That I did, still crying and scared AF, went back out to Warren and said “I cant do it”. He politely pushed me to the start line and said “Just Go!” Don’t know how but I did. As I swam under the pier I could hear Warren yell “ Go Rad xo” so yeah I started crying again! Happy Tears though. The rest of the race was an absolute blur. I was stuffed mentally but finished in 5hr 24min
As I stutter (another side effect of my ABI) reliving this to Warren, he breaks down crying because he’s lived through the lowest of lows with me and he’s so proud to be by my side as we live our best lives.
2018 Challenge Shepparton 70.3
5hrs 9min My fastest 70.3 , my goal was to crack 5 hrs. I thought this was a long shot but still something I was training towards. Better luck next Time! Still happy that I’m able to improve and this race has given me more confidence I’m on the right track.
2019 Ironman 70.3 Geelong
I wanted to be super competitive in my age group for this race and I trained that way. On the bike I was fighting hard and heading for a 2hr 28min time until 75k hit and I went hunger flat. Pedaled squares / dug farking deep and ended up with a 2hr 36min bike. It was pure grit, determination and a few gels that got my run going. I was groveling big time but somehow managed a finish time of 5hr 14min. 5th in my AG. Straight after the race I was disappointed as I wanted to be faster. However, looking back this is my best performance to date and a day I’m proud of.
2019 Challenge Melbourne 70.3
5hr 25min DSQ - long story short, in my eyes I didn’t commit the crime and when you can’t appeal a drafting penalty mid race, I just continued on my merry way to a disqualificationJ
2019 Murrayman 70.3
5hr 25min In Windy AF Conditions. Pretty happy with this as I was on a winter diet and just here to see where I’m at for the upcoming season.
2020 Ironman 70.3 Geelong
Goal – Crush last years’ time!
For 11 weeks I felt my training was on track unfortunately race week I became ill and did not feel great. I made the choice to give it my best shot. Slogged it out a 5hr 17min. I try not to take things too seriously, but its hard not to have an element of disappointment considering all the hard work that’s put in. Anyways fingers crossed, I’ll be waiting to pounce in my next race.
Pic: Radele smashing IM 70.3 number 7 in fine style
Competing in an IRONMAN was a dream in my 20’s but fear of failure and feeling like I didn’t belong ruled my world, so that put a quick stop to chasing any dreams. Nothing like a near death experience and years of dark days to get me doing what I’ve always wanted. I’ve got nothing to hide in sharing this with others, as now I’m ok with failing many times to get to my sweet spot of success. My short term goal is still to get under 5hrs in a 70.3 and my long-term goal is to compete in an Ironman. Time to start saving up the big bucks and never quit trying.
I hope you’re chasing your sweet spot!
NOTE: Find Radele on instagram @oneradlife and be inspired.
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