Nicola Grace didn't own a bike or even a pair of bike shorts when she first entered Iron Maori.
Three years later and 60kg lighter the Wellington woman wants to conquer the half ironman in under seven hours.
She will be one of 2100 competitors taking part in a 2km swim, 90km bike and a 21.1km run in Napier this morning.
Iron Maori was the brainchild of Heather Skipworth and Missy Mackey who wanted to encourage Maori to live a healthier lifestyle.
"Our people are getting bigger and bigger, it's imperative we help them," Mrs Skipworth said.
The event is open to everyone, no matter their size, age or race, but Mrs Skipworth said the Iron Maori name helped attract Maori people who would usually be put off entering an ironman.
And it seems whanau have spread the word since the inaugural race in 2009 when 300 people lined up at the start line. This year's event sold out in just eight minutes.
Miss Grace believed it was the kaupapa Maori and strong whanau values behind the event that encouraged people.
"There's no way ever I would have done a half ironman before if that's what it was called. You don't have to be skinny and fit to be able to do this and you're not going to get laughed at."
Miss Grace was talked into doing the bike leg of the race with her sisters in 2010. At that time she was unfit and overweight. A friend lent her a bike and helmet while others gave her the cycle shorts and gloves needed to train for a 90km ride.
The 33-year-old had been trying to lose weight her whole life but it wasn't until she started training for Iron Maori that it started to come off.
"I've been able to lose 60kg and been able to keep it off for the last two years because there's always goals to work towards."
After completing her cycle leg in 3 hours 21 minutes she was spurred on by friends to tackle the race on her own, finishing the half ironman in 7hr 21min last year.
Miss Grace is confident she can better her time today as she has the support of her Wellington-based training group, Te Poneke, behind her.
The before-and-after photographs of Nicola Grace show what a difference going out and getting fit has made to her. And we know from a friend in the Hawke's Bay that Nicola's story is far from unique; dozens of people have transformed their lives simply by setting a goal and going for it.
To Heather Skipworth and Missy Mackey; congratulations for coming up with an idea that has already had tangible benefits for many Maori; getting them off the couch and onto a bike or into running shoes.
And to all those who are tackling Iron Maori today, especially those who are participating for the first time, a huge "kia kaha" to you. Exercise does not always come naturally (which we know from personal experience!) so good on you for giving it a go and getting outside your comfort zone. Here's hoping all competitors have an unforgettable day; you are all winners.