I am sure that there are many people that look in the mirror on a daily basis and wish their lives were different. Perhaps it’s they suffer from depression, or an unsteady marriage, or a relationship that is unfulfilling, or a boss that that deserves to roast in hell, or a general unfit feeling and a desire to improve. You are generally happly in life but increasingly feel the need for a challenge without actually changing circumstances. Perhaps you need a physical change or to find some courage to do something different, especially if there are people who you know that do not believe that you are capable of changing.
After some time of riding a hybrid to work through the streets of Barcelona, and cycling to the dive centre when I worked in the Caribbean (oh thanks for stealing that bike by the way, whoever you were), the thought of buying a better bike has niggled me constantly over the years. When I moved to Dubai I bought a hardtail for 800 Dirhams in a bargain store and mistakenly took for the Dubai roads, cycling from Mirdiff to Bur Dubai and back. This was in 2005 when the roads changed at a moment’s notice and hence your route was never set in stone. It was hard going so I gave the bike to my gardener and bought a Trek mountain bike. Also a hardtail, and it could handle rides in a granny gear up the Jumeirah beach in the hard sand but still didn’t cut it. The bikes in Wolfis seemed unattainable at 15,000 Dirhams at the bottom end and road biking in fast groups appeared daunting.
One day I had one of those “look in the mirror days”. I had played rugby, freedived quite a lot, scuba dived for over a decade and done a variety of gym training programmes such as CrossFit and Les Mills, but I still wasn’t satisfied. On the postive side of 40, I needed something else. I cycled with a friend one afternoon in Ghantoot. She was on a sexy Planet X roadbike. I was on my clunky Trek. She left me in the dust, at which point I went out and bent the credit card on a sexy Planet X of my own (and six more bikes since then!)
My world changed. I met new people, a like-minded man (now husband), wonderful friends, massive groups of cyclists, went on exciting group rides, solo rides, sunset rides, girlie rides, social rides and night rides. And then I got the bug. What’s next? Rule #42 of the Velominati Rules states that a bike race shall never be preceded with a swim and/or followed by a run. Well I was never one for rules.
I started triathlon training with a friend. We cycled and ran together, sometimes in 48 degrees C. In the beginning I couldn’t run more than 1 kilometre at a stretch. After five months of training I was on a plane to Thailand to race in a half Ironman in Phuket. This goes to prove that triathlon is for everyone. And there were all types in that race. From the slinkiest svelte to the liveliest large. Sprinters, walkers, joggers and plodders. All heading for the finish line with their own personal goal in mind.
You don’t have to be born to bike or built to run to do triathlon. Or swim like a fish for that matter. All you need is a little application and desire. The fitness and strength comes with time and training. The results are rewarding, but not so remarkable as the feeling of finishing your first triathlon. After 5 years of triathlon I still get that feeling. The buzz of everyone at a race, the bikes, the sights, the people and the variety of different athletes all trying to give it bash is an exciting experience.
Triathlon is about personal achievement and while you may have your eye on someone else’s time to do a race and secretly train to beat that time, achieving a PB every time you race is the greatest monitor of self-improvement and the biggest booster of self-confidence.
And so finally stand in the front of the mirror. It doesn’t matter how tall or how small, how thin or how large, or how old, there is a place for you in the race, every time, as you are always the winner.
In memory of my splendid late mother-in-law, S.H., who grasped life with passion and zest.
A life well lived – 9th March 1932 – 16th April 2015