I’m genuinely lost for words when it comes to tell you about the completion of these challenges. It has been such a weird two months, so different from any other of the challenges to date. For starters these challenges would be just as much about mental ability as they would physical. For these challenges I’d be losing my crew of eager challengers, and embarking on a solo mission to swim the distance of the English Channel (35,000m or 1400 lengths) in a pool, and cover the distance between Lands End & John O’Groats (874miles) on a gym bike / my mountain bike. When I first set the challenges back in December 2010, I did initially have my concerns that these two wouldn’t be as hardcore as the other trekking or running challenges. Boy was I wrong about that!
The challenges were supposed to be carried out over consecutive months, but my stress fracture hadn’t healed quickly enough to allow for more repetitive strain to attack my lower legs, so under orders from my physio, we decided to tackle both simultaneously across the two months, allowing for less impact on my leg – a wise decision Adele!
So on the 8th October I headed off to the gym to start the mammoth task of cycling 874 miles. I really had underestimated the amount of time this was going to take, especially as I was still working full time – in fact work hadn’t been as busy for a while as it was in October.
On the first day I managed just over 61 miles. I was elated. I couldn’t believe how far I’d gone on my first day. Then I realised just how long I’d been in the gym. Hours had passed. People had come in for their classes, taken their saunas and were sat across in the restaurant having lunch while I was still turning the pedals, rotation after rotation. But I wasn’t going to let a few hours in the gym break my spirits, so after a well needed shower (it really is ridiculous the amount I sweat), on went the rather fetching black Speedo shorts, and I dived into the second part of the two month challenge. I don’t think I’d been swimming since the triathlon, so wanted to break myself in slowly – 80 lengths did me just fine.
Groundhog day then ensued. As each day passed across October & November, and while the miles and lengths slowly got crossed off, my enthusiasm and motivation to continue was slowly depleting. These challenges were so alien to me, as I quickly realised they were the first personal challenges. Everything at the start involved other people – swimming in the sea with a group of other crazed folk, running the streets of Edinburgh or Manchester, and then I was joined by fellow challengers for the National & Yorkshire 3 Peaks. These were different. I’d go to the gym, get on the bike, set my iPhone up with either floorfillers or episodes of Modern Family to watch, and then cycle a stupid number of miles considering I’d been at work all day. Then get off the bike, with no-one really bothered what I’d done, as no-one else there knew what I was doing. I’d go home. I’d go to bed. I’d get up at 05:30 to get the pool before work, and so the cycle continued. I think my face says it all.
These two images became extremely familiar over the 8 weeks. I’m sure I dreamt about them while I wasn’t there.
I did feel bad thinking this way though. I knew I shouldn’t have been so self involved in my thoughts, but I really found it hard to motivate myself to cycle so far, and not actually get anyway. For those people that really know me, they’ll back up the pain of swimming in a pool – I’d much rather be in the sea. Being stuck in a gym and a pool was very much not me. Well, not the me I’d become at least.
I luckily managed to get out down the Mersey a few times and actually have some real fun on the cycling part of the challenge. But for the majority of the challenge, it was a slog to the finish line.
However, it’s not all negative. My usual reminder of why I’m doing all of this would kick in when the going got tough. The reminder that I’m seriously lucky in my world, and that there are other people out fighting and putting their lives on the line, so that I can be so lucky. Whenever I thought that I couldn’t be bothered to go the gym or wasn’t in the mood to go swimming, I’d remind myself that I had a choice. And by the pure fact I had a choice, it reminded me of the lack of options and choices open to some people. So it was a mixture of chin up & man up attitude that pushed me on.
I’m proud to say that in true [21:21] style, I completed both challenges ahead of schedule, in fact within hours of each other, on Saturday 26th November. The last week was definitely the hardest, covering over 15,000m in the pool, and over 200 miles on the bike. OK, so I might have left a bit towards the end! After a unbelievably tough 5k swim on Saturday, it was time for the final cycle, which I thought only seemed right around the water park. It rained, and got dark, but I didn’t care. The finish line was in sight.
A triumphant and muddy finish was achieved. My body ached like it had NEVER ached before. Even more so, than after climbing Kilimanjaro. Every ounce of my being ached. But every ounce of my being also felt amazing. The fear of rowing the Thames is now starting to dawn on me, but I’m going to think about that in the New Year. For now, I’m going to remain content in my achievement.
For now I’m going to remain happy, and start thinking about the final challenge of 2011 – my first marathon, which is now less than 3 weeks away.
Onwards & upwards!
Help for Heroes [21:21] Challenge