Never save anything for the swim back …

It seems that winter has hit, we’ve bypassed autumn, although I am thankful for the warm weather that remained resilient to the supposed changing seasons. The dark mornings and dark evenings, the rain, wind and general greyness have arrived. I feel like I am prepping for a form of hibernation, watching lots of TED talks and searching out motivational quotes and videos, all spurring me on to plan next year’s challenges but more importantly reviewing what has happened this year.

I stole my 2014 mantra from Tim, ‘Year of the Vo2 max’ and it certainly has been. I made a list to see just what I have done this year and I love it. Most of them are challenges my friends had signed up to and asked me if I wanted to take part, making me realise two things, I am most definitely a ‘Yes’ person and I am also very competitive. I know that most people see this in me but it took one of my best mates to point this out to me as I was claiming otherwise. All she had to do was dare me to down my drink, for no reason at all, to prove her point. Every day is a school day especially when it comes to self-development.

There were so many challenges from the summer that I am not sure which individually was the biggest triumph, cycling 80 miles in hideous weather for Prudential Ride is up there but I think completing the coastal triathlon in Perranporth tops the bill. Making it around the 1000 meter sea swim was the best feeling ever. I had encouragement from people I had never met in the lifeguards who supported the event. There was no pressure, just a gentle unspoken reassurance that there was no rush and we were getting round, no matter what. I wanted to stop as soon as I was out of the water but reminded myself that I still would not have completed a triathlon. The cycle daunted me, it was so hilly and more importantly, unknown. I took the first lap slowly, taking it all in then sped up for the second lap, enjoying it slightly more. The last bit was a 10k run along the beach and up over the hills. I mainly speed walked this bit, knowing in my head that all I had to do was put one foot in front of the other and I would have completed my first triathlon. I wasn’t going for time, just completion, although the Perranporth course is quite difficult there are no time limits which took the pressure off for me. I can’t turn round and say it was amazing, but I can say that I finished it and that makes me smile.

The whole summer created a classroom for my self-development. Going from a team environment in rugby to solo events was hard to adjust to. Even though other people were taking part, you instantly go into your own head to find a comfortable, calm place to get you through the moment. My original issue was trying to find that place and then staying in it for so long all the while trying to quieten the ‘you should just quit’ demons that seem relentless.

At the beginning of my triathlon quest I believed mind-set could get you anywhere, it can, otherwise I would not have completed the challenges I did over the summer. However it does need to be backed up with a bit of training and some knowledge, if only to make the course more manageable and the finish line visible, in a realistic achievable way not the gold at the end of a rainbow type of way.

This rugby season is a like an old friend – we just click. I can play this sport, I’m actually good at it. I love the training outside, the gym work, the camaraderie and more so, the unsaid words that hang in the air reminding me how much we all desire crossing the finish line, together. I’ve found the transition from solo back to team easier and feel I have come back more passionate than ever to a sport I have now been playing for 20 years, with this being my ninth season at Wasps, not bad for someone who thinks they have commitment problems.

A summer of doing events on my own has taught me not to hold back. I felt I should do this to make other people feel better but always to my own detriment. Through cycling and swimming I learnt you don’t survive this way, you have to be conscientious but also selfish as your own well-being is the priority. Once you realise you are not surviving but in fact thriving you relish each moment. Your competitiveness is then unleashed, spurred on by a reinforced self-belief that you won’t just get through this, that you can give it everything you have to ensure you finish making sure you leave nothing behind, to confirm that this really was another test of yourself. You can then tell others that it’s never too late to start… or finish anything. You just need to act in those few seconds when the voice saying you can is louder than the one saying you can’t possibly …

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