I’ve been in the travel blogging game long enough to start to become familiar with the memes that you often see with wizened words encouraging you to travel. One you’ll often come across is the well-worn phrase that ‘life begins at the end of your comfort zone’; and it’s pretty obvious just what activity it is that skirts the edge of said comfort zone.
In previous posts about our upcoming Tanzania expedition I’ve talked about how a big part of this trip has been about helping the girls we’re taking realise their potential, and, in the process, pushing them out of their comfort zone. But there’s no use me pretending that I’m an objective observer, analysing things from the outside looking in; I’m very much part of this expedition too, and I certainly can’t expect them to do anything I wouldn’t be willing to do myself.
This library wasn’t about to build itself, and a not inconsiderable sum of money needed to be raised in order for it to be built. Having made certain expectations of the girls to raise this money, as part of the team, I felt honour bound to raise some money as well. And, as a member of the team, this meant doing something out of my comfort zone.
Classic, unflattering post-run pose
Now, I may be a reasonably fit person in the sense that I have completed the UK’s Three Peaks Challenge and scaled Mt Kilimanjaro, but climbing mountains is something I’m well accustomed to. Doing something that can be considered athletic – i.e. a race that requires something at least partly resembling regular exercise – is a different matter altogether.
So when a colleague of mine at work suggested that, as a means of raising money for the library, I should consider doing a mini triathlon? Well, I laughed. Swimming, cycling and then running, all in one consecutive, lung-bursting, muscle-aching burst? When I generally get out of breath in the act of climbing two or three flights of stairs? A ridiculous idea, sure to end in tears, about as fun as attending Midnight Mass when all your friends are out on the town…and out of my comfort zone.
In short, the perfect thing for me to do as part of my personal development in the build up to the expedition.
A benefit of early morning bike-rides is you get to see sunrises like this…
Of the three disciplines, swimming is my strongest, having been subjected to the childhood rite of passage that is regular swimming lessons on a Saturday afternoon. Thing is, the swimming is a mere 450 metres, so annoyingly the thing I’m best at is the first, and quickest, to be done with.
Cycling I’m OK at over short distances, but over 21.5km it becomes a bit more of an endurance test; the sort that makes your inner thighs and calves tighten, so much so that when you dismount from the bike your on decidedly rubbery legs (well, if you’re me you do anyway) and would like nothing better to lie spread-eagled on the floor for a few minutes.
So it’s (dis)heartening news indeed that you then have to go and go running for 5km immediately afterwards. Doubly so when you consider that it is comfortably my weakest of the three; when I’m just doing the running I resemble a puppet that’s being severed from its strings, comfortably overtaken by such high speed traffic as overweight sausage dogs and small children on scooters. So how I’m supposed to run a decent pace straight after a swim and cycle…well, I’ll just have to find a way.
Not doing it alone…and a reminder we’re doing this for a library!
I’d like to think that no one finds doing a triathlon of any sort easy, no matter their level of fitness. But as a supremely unathletic specimen, I’ve found it hard going indeed, especially the running, where I had to deal with the flaming rods in the bones sensation of shin splints, a common ailment among beginner runners. Heck, even in the swimming I would need breathers after three or four lengths.
My training has been ongoing for several months. It certainly hasn’t been easy, having to get myself motivated for training sessions several times a week. But gradually I have got better, and my fitness/endurance levels have improved. A side bonus is that I seem to have lost a bit of weight too. So, you know, form and orderly queue ladies etc.
I forgot to mention that several of my colleagues are doing this with me – including someone who is accompanying me in raising money for the Tanzanian library (thanks Becca!). Suffering alongside others has sure helped in making the whole thing not feel like a solitary ordeal…more like an ordeal with the comforts of solidarity and company to help us all get through it!
So after all this am I actually ready to complete the triathlon? Time will tell…