In September last year I competed in my first Olympic distance triathlon, having tested the water with two sprint distance races in 2009 and 2010. To ensure I was fit enough to get round the course I joined a triathlon club. The first two sessions were so tough I cried, and it didn’t get much easier as the weeks went on.
By far the worst part of triathlon training for me was the swimming. As the fat kid who was always picked last for team sport at school, swimming was my arch nemesis. What could possibly be worse for a body conscious ten year old whose puppy fat stubbornly refused to disappear than shoving said fat into a tight, unflattering swimming costume and belly flopping into the pool in front of her classmates?
Fast forward twenty years and I still lack confidence in the water. Even after numerous lessons and triathlon club drill sessions I couldn’t shake the feeling I was the uncoordinated whale of the group, bringing up the rear behind the graceful, frolicking dolphins before me.
But nonetheless I fought my fear. And, whilst the mile long swim on race day felt like swimming the Channel itself rather than a lap of the Docklands, the fact is that I not only did it, I finished the race in a very respectable three hours and thirteen minutes.
Now I can’t say I’ve been back to the lido since the race (it has been winter!) but, just over three months down the line, I can feel the beginnings of that familiar fire in my belly; the seed of desire for another challenge.
When I think back to the pain of those 90 minute spin sessions, the stress of fitting training around work and social life and the general exhaustion that comes with taking on a massive sporting challenge as an addendum to normal life, I wonder if I’m mad to want to do it all again.
But then I think back to my chubby ten year old self and tell myself I’m doing it for HER-I’m making up for all the shame and embarrassment that she felt because she wasn’t good at sport in a school that valued being good at sport almost above being good at academia.
It may be time consuming, stressful and exhausting taking on extreme physical challenges, but it’s also exhilarating, motivating and a great way to keep fit.
And with this post I think I’ve just convinced myself to sign up for the sixteen mile run I’ve been deliberating over for the past few days. Here we go again…