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Fleur Pawsey - Athlete


"In 1999 I decided to take up ‘multisport’ and entered my first Coast to Coast endurance event as part of a two person team. Together we would cross the width of the South Island – for my part I would tackle a mountain run and a cycling section.

I trained and trained, and got more and more tired. I read about carbohydrate loading and tried to nourish my body by filling up on bread and pasta. On race day I felt sick. I put it down to nerves.

The next year I decided to take on the race as an individual. As my training increased, so did my exhaustion levels. I thought that was normal for an ‘athlete’. My stomach would always hurt after my morning toast. I blamed it on my coffee.

One day a friend persuaded me to donate blood. The nurse tested my haemoglobin. She sent me away from the blood bank and straight to the doctor. I was dangerously anaemic. Luckily I struck a forward thinking GP who suspected something was not right and ran tests for coeliac disease. A gastroscopy, biopsy and gluten free diet followed in quick succession.

My energy levels picked up immediately. It wasn’t until I began to feel better that I realised how sick I had been. It had simply become my normal.

Thirteen years of gluten free living later, I have proven that being a Coeliac need not limit an endurance athlete. I have raced for days on end in expedition style adventure races, been fortunate to compete around the world, and had a wonderful moment in 2007 when I won the Longest Day world championship event of the Coast to Coast.

This year I’ve ticked off the Kiwi Brevet (a 1200km unsupported mountain-bike tour in the upper South Island), Godzone (a 5 day non-stop expedition race) and the Wild Descent (a four day source to sea Kayak race down all 260km of the Clutha River). All these adventures have been fuelled by a gluten free diet – I’ve come a long way from the anaemic and undernourished gluten eating days!"