eliza berkon is a features writer and musician based in washington d.c. 

A will of iron

“Everything you want to know about yourself, you’re going to learn on the Ironman,” says Will Artley. The decorated chef, who has served as guest chef at the White House, competed on Food Network’s Chopped and is executive chef at D.C.’s Grist Mill Restaurant, has completed two of the famed triathlon competitions, two half-Ironmans and eight marathons. He’s now training for his first Double Anvil triathlon, a process expected to take two years.

Yet just three years ago, Artley’s health outlook was vastly different; in 2014, he weighed about 370 pounds and had just been diagnosed with liver disease, thyroid disease, diabetes and sleep apnea. Though his doctor was fairly certain Artley would need to take medication for the rest of his life to manage his conditions, he became determined to beat them on his own. “I set the goal of the impossible, and that was to do the Ironman,” he says.

Working alongside a friend and trainers from Speed Sherpa, Artley began ticking off goals on his checklist, like learning how to swim. The Ironman requires swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running a marathon, all within 17 hours. Artley trained several days a week to develop the stamina for such a grueling toll on the body. “You’re kind of punishing it,” he says.

When Artley is outside training, he says he revels in the freedom: “It’s just you and outdoors. You’re not picking up your phone; you’re not texting people.”

Today, Artley has lost 130 pounds, is disease-free and attributes much of his personal health revolution to clean eating and goal-setting. “Limitations are set with your mind and broken with your heart,” he says.

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