CYNDIE HORNER REDEFINES WHAT IT MEANS TO LIVE WITH MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS BY COMPLETING TWO IRONMAN TRIATHLONS

by Zach Nehr

Blog ▸ CYNDIE HORNER REDEFINES WHAT IT MEANS TO LIVE WITH MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS BY COMPLETING TWO IRONMAN TRIATHLONS

Despite living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Cyndie Horner has had the honor of hearing the words “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” from triathlon legend Mike Reilly two times in the past two years.

Both times, she may have been nearly the last person to cross the line in the entire race. But for her, crossing the line at all is something of a miracle.

Cyndie was diagnosed with MS several years ago and was repeatedly told she would likely have to give up exercise and the ability to do a lot of everyday things in life due to the degenerative effects of the disease.

But, instead of letting the diagnosis define her, she decided she would “give MS the middle finger” and continue pursuing her passions. 

Using her positive attitude and MōTTIV’s triathlon training plans that focus on building up the body instead of tearing it down, Cyndie is thriving and keeping her MS symptoms well in check… and yes, finishing full IRONMAN races, with many more races planned in the future.

WHERE SHE STARTED AS A BEGINNER RUNNER

Cyndie was in the first year of her Anesthesia residency in 2006, having just received her medical degree. She worked as many as 100 hours per week in hospital and found herself unable to participate in any of the team sports she had loved her whole life.

Unfortunately, that’s also when she was diagnosed with MS, when strange body symptoms came out of nowhere. But being a natural go-getter, Cyndie wasn’t willing to stop chasing her goals because of an illness, regardless of some old-school beliefs about MS, specifically that people with the disease couldn’t and shouldn’t exercise. She just kept moving forward.

A few years after beginning her medical career, Cyndie realized how much she missed being active in sports. So on a lark, she decided to participate in an 8K running race – jumping into training only three months before the event.

Much to her surprise, she not only loved training for a solo sport, but she was also totally invigorated by the race day experience.

“I instantly fell in love with the community and the camaraderie, and the fact that at this race, they gave you a pizza and a beer afterwards. BING! It was just awesome. So then I thought, well, what other races are there?” says Cyndie.

BECOMING A BEGINNER TRIATHLETE WITH A BETTER WAY TO TRAIN

After that first running race, Cyndie moved on to longer distances, eventually running a full marathon. She thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of running and pushing herself, and felt every new milestone was another “screw you” to her MS diagnosis.

After her full marathon, Cyndie sustained a running injury and was prescribed swimming and cycling by her physical therapist as part of her rehab. But she saw the positive when she realized she suddenly had all of the ingredients for a triathlon. Once she was cleared to exercise again, she signed up for a local try-a-tri race.

Once again, she found herself hooked.

Cyndie immediately bought a road bike (a hot pink bike she nicknamed Jezebel) and spent a season doing Sprint distance races, then a season doing Olympics and half-IRONMANs (70.3), before making the jump to the full IRON distance in 2019.

PROVING EVERYONE WRONG AND FINISHING HER FIRST IRONMAN TRIATHLON

Cyndie put together her own training for IRONMAN Mt. Tremblant and ultimately finished IMMT with 16 minutes to spare before the race cutoff time of 17 hours.

Despite being one of the last people to cross the line that day, she was thrilled to have finished and was excited to do more in the future, with hopes of being faster.

While she was preparing for IM Mt. Tremblant, she entertained herself by listening to Taren’s MōTTIV Method podcast, which inspired her to sign up for the MoTTIV training app to get ready for IRONMAN Tulsa the following year (as well as a handful of different running races she planned to tackle.)

She knew the app would take all the thinking out of the training process; she could enter her IRONMAN plus a couple of marathons and trail races, and the app would set up the proper training schedule to accommodate them all.

She felt comfortable that she could dive into the training and know she was getting the very best workouts for an amateur athlete without worrying about over-training or injury.

Cyndie also says the ability within the MoTTIV training app to move her workouts around to accommodate her crazy work schedule was a relief. It allowed her to properly manage her fatigue, which is critical to keeping her MS symptoms in check.

FINISHING IRONMAN TULSA AND FEELING GOOD DESPITE CRAZY WEATHER

When race day for IRONMAN Tulsa came, Cyndie felt totally prepared. But Mother Nature had other ideas for the athletes in the field that day. Gusting winds pushed swimmers up to a full kilometer off course in the water and derailed many athletes on the bike.  

Cyndie says despite having swum almost 30 extra minutes due to the chop in the water and having to pedal even when going downhill thanks to the gusting winds, she felt so good coming off the bike that she was excited to see what she could do on the run.  

The weather woes ultimately added extra time to everyone’s race, and Cyndie found herself crossing the finish line as the last official finisher – this time, with only 45-seconds to spare. But she was thrilled at how much stronger she felt all day compared to IM Mt. Tremblant after training with MōTTIV, even on the swim and bike, which she considers her weakest disciplines.

And what about those other races she put into the MoTTIV app to train for?

Well, she did 78kms of the TransSelkirks trail race in British Columbia, Canada over three days, just three months after IM Tulsa. And she has the New York City marathon on her schedule coming up shortly.  

Says Cyndie, “Every day I get to move my body and make it a little sore, and it makes me realize I’m alive and that I have the privilege to do this. I wouldn’t be an IRONMAN if it wasn’t for MS. I just needed to do something, and needed to prove to myself I was still an athlete. I can still be an athlete with this disease. Some people would say, why would you do that? Because I can! Because my body is allowing me to do this, so why wouldn’t I continue to try?”

Zach Nehr

Zach Nehr

Zach has a degree in Exercise Science and Psychology. He is a certified coach, Cat 1 cyclist, and is a freelance writer having been published in many of the worlds largest endurance sports publications.

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