On the day of the triathlon the telephone woke me at 9.15am with a request to go wakeboarding by the VITAL team who had arrived late the night before. Still recovering from jet lag having arrived in Ranzo 48 hours before from Colorado, I looked out the window to see snow on top of the mountains, rain clouds, and wind.
We picked up the team and boarded for nearly 3 hours until the rain came.
Then it was a mad rush to register the team and prepare 3 year old Harry for his 2.15pm start. The lucky little chap was to swim indoors!
My take off time at 5.55pm meant I was one of the last 50 to start. Worried by the thought of embarassing myself, I was not prepared for what lay ahead. The lake was so cold that my legs immediately started to cramp and my head started to hurt from one of those brain freezes one gets from an ice cream headache!
Every time I took a breath, I swallowed water. The lake was so choppy I was being thrown around like a rag doll. I completely lost my orientation and simply aimed for the yellow buoys. So much so that I ended up underneath one of those huge yellow buoys which was quite frightening.
So many times I wanted to give up. I felt like I had been thrown overboard off the Titanic and had to swim to shore to survive. As I have said to many of my donors, “it is you who inspire me to continue to the end when the going gets tough.”
Out of the 542 men and women who paid to enter this event, 134 did not show up whilst 16 were pulled out of the lake. I was the second oldest woman to participate along with 15 men my age or older!
I considered myself a strong confident swimmer (I trained as a teenager up to 60km a week) but this water frightened me. I was actually deluding myself thinking I could better my 11minute time of 4 years ago! My time of nearly 17 minutes was in the top 30%.
I was so cold and so out of breath I couldn’t put on my bike shoes. My transition time was a massive 6 minutes, but I was fed up. "Chin up chicken" was all I could say to myself and the smiles returned for the bike ride against the wind.
Once again I was hoping for a faster time having now had 6 years experience up my sleeve, but it was not to be. At one point I was tempted to get off the bike and walk up the hill. I longed to cycle with the pack bombing down the mountain. Even my support team didn’t bother to drive up to cheer me on – it was a lonely cycle although I did hit 45kph at one stage which was a highlight of my bike ride!
Being the very last person left in the race I had the good fortune of an official accompanying me on his bike as I completed the last leg. There was no way I could walk this with this man encouraging me on as I was sure he wanted to join the pasta party so I slowly jogged, chatted and lo and behold, the time went very fast indeed. I was very pleased with my time of 36mins!
So what are the lessons learned from this experience? That I am absolutely insane? Must I really go through such traumatic experiences to raise funds for these children to have a better life? If you have donated already, I thank you from the depths of my heart. And if you havent please comfort me in knowing that my efforts have not gone to waste.
Terminator 2 : Judgment Day - “Hasta la vista, baby”
What can I say? What a terrific effort by the 2011 VITAL triathlon team. What heroes they all turned out to be in the face of great challenges. An International team of Kiwis, Dutch, Italians, Americans, Aussies & of course the good old die hard Brits surviving the torrential monsoon rains.
Starting of course with my loyal husband Mithra, doing his first triathlon at the tender age of 64 after losing 11kg in weight
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?
He completed the mini tri with no problem & now thinking of doing the olympic distance next year – what a hero.
Luigi’s first triathlon attempt having just returned from a hurricane in the USA & combating jetlag – he too gave us a wonderful smile at the end of his race
And then there’s Amanda who had lost kg, competing in her first triathlon in the UK finishing the race 20 minutes faster than she expected.
And good old Fede doing the mini as a warm up to the swim leg of the relay team early the next morning. He too only just returned from a hurricane & earthquake in the USA. What a star.
Then there was Jessica doing only her second triathlon in her life, tackling the Medium Distance in heavy rain whilst Patrik finished as we took shelter from the rain in the car!
The VITAL UK team consisted of first timers with Philip’s rhythm disrupted by the many swimmers around him but he surprised himself with an excellent swim time of 48 minutes for the 2.5km. Andy Playboy enjoyed riding in a pack of 20 bombing down the mountain, not understanding Italian when told not to draft & Carlos, our 5km runner who joined the team one month before the race preparing for a 10km run! He couldn’t believe his run of 82 minutes! Excellent work guys, see you next year do the Olympic distance!
The VITAL EU team started with poor Fede talked into wearing a wetsuit for his 2.5km swim. His suit kept filling with water making him float off the course like the Michelin man. Then came Koen who thought his role was simply to drive the 17 hour journey from the UK to Locarno. He didn’t know he was to cycle the 80km Swiss mountains but bravely stepped up to bat only to be blinded by stinging rain & abandoned the race when the officials removed the markers thinking all the cyclists had finished. Allegra was relieved she didn’t have to run in the cold heavy rain especially after her ordeal with an earthquake & hurricane in the USA.
All in all, a wonderful weekend was enjoyed by all with much laughter, before & after the race with everyone successfully getting up on water skis/wakeboard.
We’ll all be back ! Thank you to all our wonderful VITAL supporters whose donations were the inspiration to keep one going when the going got tough!
Oh by the way, those of you who envied Mithra’s body in the mankini - the body was loaned from Borat!!
After an unpleasant bike fall last summer & a sprained ankle earlier this year, there was absolutely no training whatsoever this summer for the triathlon. But I had to do it as there were six willing, able & enthusiastic “youngsters” excitedly preparing to raise funds for VITAL so I had no choice but to lead the team.
As D-Day approached, Aravinda said he would send out an email to all on his list & suggested I do the same with my list. I was reluctant, as how often can I ask my friends to donate? Mithra wisely mentioned that my friends would be only too pleased to support me in my crazy endeavours but more importantly, through these small gestures, people wouldl be inspired to help others and feel the emotional satisfaction that comes from giving.
Charitable giving strengthens confidence in oneself and faith in humanity.
I was inspired by all the sponsors that poured in. Thank you all once again. If you still haven’t sponsored so far, here;s the link
If you have time you may like to read about the work VITAL does
and see the photos of the children where 100% of your donation goes to enhance their lives
Photos of the triathlon are here
Thank you all once again
Much love to all
The past 3 days before the event on Sat 6th Sept, it had poured non stop with rain & temperatures plummeted. The morning of the 6th I awoke to thunder, lightning & more rain. I honestly did not want to go through this all over again but once again, there was no way I could back out. I had raised another £1000/$2000 & the 4 guys from London who had also raised between them nearly £1000 were eagerly awaiting to participate in their first ever triathlon, amongst 459 competitors, of which very few spoke English !!
When we arrived to register, Adam nervously pointed out that everyone seemed so professional looking in their racing outfits on their fancy racing bikes, checking everyone else's fancy bikes out whilst we looked a sorry lot with the boys in their surfie board shorts with no seat padding.
Adam borrowed a 20 year old race bike but didnt have clip on shoes which hindered his hill climb whilst the other 3 picked up their rented, chunky looking road bikes. Not having time to check them out, poor Jav's bike would not pedal going downhill, so those two will definitely be doing faster times next year!!
With the five of us wearing our VITAL tshirts, we looked more like a football team than triathletes but we were a team, connected in spirit, to raise money & hopefully raise awareness around us, of the plight of millions of children around the world, suffering in conditions that we, in the west, take for granted - clean drinking water, education or basic health care .
We decided to inspect the route from the swim to the bike,& to the exit where we were able to commence the cycle leg. We could not believe the 6 inches of mud we had to run through. There was no way you could run through mud that deep without your shoes sticking in the mud like quick sand & who wants to cycle & run in shoes filled with mud??
Mithra always knew I was crazy but this time he thought I had really flipped! All summer long I would, much to his embarassment, wear a wetsuit, whilst swimming in the lake. Come the end of summer, 3 days of heavy rain with the lake rising 2m/6 feet from cold mountain water feeding into the lake, I decided to do the swim without a wetsuit. Surely I could put up with 12 minutes of freezing water. There was no way I was going to suffer another panic attack in a wetsuit!!
I was pleased with my swim, concentrating on a good strong swim rather than feeling sorry for myself in such cold water. Tom was opposite me in transition & threw me a much appreciated warm smile (he's such a cutie) as I raced off with my bike. Meanwhile Adam was hopping around on one leg trying to put on his bike shorts whilst the pro next to him whipped off her outfit in a quick orderly manner & was gone like lightning.
I decided to clip my shoes onto the pedals & run barefoot through the mud carrying my lightweight bike. I then wiped the mud off my feet on where ever I could find grass, unclip the shoes & wear them without socks! As I pedalled out, I missed the clip & scraped a 4 inch long scratch down my shin, which drew blood. The open wound was then splattered with mud. I hoped it would not get infected. Oh dear, when did I last have a tetanus shot? I ignored the pain & fear of lockjaw as there were more gloomy things to think of ahead of me! (Incidently, at the end of the event I noticed the pain was more than the achy sore muscles!!)
It was not long before the guys whizzed past me. I was accused of going on a sightseeing tour I was so slow!! Once again I froze with fear as a new challenge lay ahead of me - the strong wind blew in sideways rather than head on, tilting my bike at times to 30 degrees (well at least that's what it felt like but probably more like 15 !!) I actually thought the bike would slide sideways underneath me like motorbikes do in the movies but I pedalled on, once again in the rain.
Then came the uphill climb that I was aware of & dreaded. The wind changed & was now head on. I thought I would have to walk the bike as I ran out of gears, when what seemed like a never ending hill, finally plateau-ed out. How does one do a U turn without stopping??
Now the return down the hill in the rain. I stopped pedalling at 48kph/30mph as that was plenty fast enough for me. I have no hesitation at driving 120mph/192kph in either a pruis or a porsche but on a bicycle, I'm afraid of speed.
The first km of the run all I could think of was - I'm getting too old for this. The 2nd km I thought - I really mustnt force Mithra into doing this next year for fear of him suffering a heart attack!! At the halfway mark I was offered an energy bar. Concentrating on chewing this disgusting tasting bar over the last 2.5km made the run so much more bearable. Must remember to carry one next year as Adam said he was never offered one!!
So, thank you cheer squad for enduring the rain, the wind & the cold to cheer us on - you guys are the greatest. Thank you friends & family for your support & generous donations.
Please take a look at this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfAOVKjmDfg & KNOW that your donation WILL HELP hundreds of children like that little girl, receive an education, & remove her from the cycle of poverty. If you wish to donate again & help many more like her, you can still do so at www.mycharitypage.com/YvonneNeuman
See you all at the House of Parliament black tie dinner next year ok??
God bless you all & those children
Having cycled over 250km over the last 2 months & swimming half a dozen times in my new wetsuit, I was feeling quite prepared to tackle my latest challenge. Despite my confidence, the sleepless nights before the big day were filled with butterflies in my stomach or my heart pounding away furiously.
The agonisingly slow drive of 10km to the Excel Centre on my own took nearly an hour in pouring rain. It was difficult to concentrate on anything let alone the traffic.
Entering the Thames with 450 female competitors at 5pm, I felt good. I was surprised by the slightly salty taste of the water. At take off, I sprinted 30m then I started to panic. I couldn't believe what was happening. I couldn't breathe. I was gasping for air & couldn't swim. I wanted to quit. I started pulling myself along the rope in between trying to swim a few strokes. I was amazed at all the strong swimmers passing me. I wanted to end this fear & call out for help but then I thought of all you people who believed in me – there was absolutely no way I could let you all down.
Towards the end of the swim I could hear & see my cheer squad urging me on, giving me the extra oomph needed. Thank you cheer squad!!
As I exited the centre on my bike it was pouring with rain, & strong head winds – once again I was gripped with fear as I had never cycled in the rain before, let alone battle strong winds that made cycling on flat ground like cycling uphill !!
It was cold at 15C. I was drenched after the first lap. My shoes were heavy. I was glad to change into running shoes. The rain stopped but the wind was still strong. The run was more a shuffle. Stitches appeared on both sides or was it stomach upset from swallowing too much Thames water? The knees started to ache. Had my torn knee ligament last year not healed completely? Why am I putting myself through 2 hours of torture? I lead such a wonderful cushy life, doing as I please with no worries or stress…this is absolutely crazy!!
At the finish line I was not buzzed up as I had anticipated. I remembered to drink my glass of coke to kill the Thames bugs!!
Do you remember how you felt when you received your first pay check? That is how I felt. I felt I really earned the £3000/$6000 you all so generously donated. I really would like to thank you all but more than this, I am grateful to you all for your support & belief in me, and most importantly, in VITAL.
TOGETHER WE WILL make a difference in the lives of thousands of children.
For those of you who still haven't donated & those of you who would like to donate again, I've decided to do it again – a triathlon in Locarno on Sept 6th (didn't I mention somewhere above the words…never again??) I promise no more this year after this
Here is the link www.mycharitypage.com/YvonneNeuman
With much love & gratitude