Aucklander with arthritis completes Ironman New Zealand, sets sights on marathon

An Aucklander who once could barely walk has just competed in the gruelling Ironman competition - but she already has her sights set on an even bigger goal.

Kylie Frost has lived with pain most of her life, and just six years ago she couldn't manage everyday chores.

"Silly little things like making the bed would really wear me out. I had to have crutches quite a lot. I actually got to the point where I was looking at a walking frame," she tells The Project.

"I'd go to the doctor when it got really bad, but they could never find a reason for it."

Finally, in 2015, a specialist told Frost she had ankylosing spondylitis - a form of arthritis. It's a rare and incurable condition that causes the vertebrae of the spine to fuse together - but that's just the beginning.

"Because my rib cage is not moving out, the lungs are not expanding properly which means I can't take enough air in," she says.

But Frost refuses to take it easy.

"The only way to stop the inflammation is to keep the joints moving. If the joint remains immobilised for too long it actually calcifies and forms a bone."

She's now fighting back. Her physiotherapist, Aron Wilson, says she started off easy with hydrotherapy as a gentle way to stretch and strengthen her body.

"She learnt what her body could tolerate, the amount of training she could do, how often she could train," he says.

Kylie Frost.
Kylie Frost. Photo credit: The Project

Frost was visiting her pool three times a week and would be waiting at 5:30am for them to open the doors. It wasn't until a receptionist asked her if she was training for something when Frost mentioned she'd always wanted to do a triathlon.

Nine months later Frost completed her first ever triathlon, and over the next few years she ran, biked, and swam in 100 events. Then this year, she took it to the next level and competed in the brutal 17-hour Ironman New Zealand. 

"She's pretty determined and you can see with a goal like Ironman it's a big event to take on," says Andrew Mackay, Frost's coach.

But Frost already has her sights set on her next goal.

"I would love one day to go and do the Great Wall of China marathon."

But as for her ankylosing spondylitis, she says she knows one day her running dream will be just that - a dream.

"I can't slow the progression of the disease down completely. It hasn't stopped. It's still there and it's still getting worse," she says.

"It would be really nice when it gets to that point that I have this massive wall of medals to look back on to know that even for that little tiny point in time I was actually able to accomplish everything I wanted to do."