In the first part of my blog post we left off halfway through my challenge at 8am on the Friday morning, where I had completed just over 5.2km of swimming and 160km on the bike in the first 12 hours of my Aquabike. The other highlight of that time of day was that the YMCA gym had opened and so I could use their toilets, yay, how exciting, indoors weeing! I was feeling pretty smug as I did my fifth swim and then set off on my next two hour bike ride.
And then suddenly things started to hurt. The wind had picked up and the hills around Richmond Park were starting to feel harder and harder. The sun might have finally come out, but my mind started to torment me for being so self-congratulatory. It was 10am and I did the thing I told myself not to do – think about how long there was left to go.
As I cycled back into our little base I shouted out “ok this is officially bloody hard!” and got off my bike trying not to cry, thinking that I had done 15 hours, but still had 9 hours left to go. I tried to not be too grumpy though as one of my swimming buddies from the Serpentine, Fiona was there smiling and waving some homemade protein cookies at me.
I got into the river for swim number six and was aware of how busy the water had become. Ever the pro though, Hila had my back and kept me clear of the groups of rowers who had now come out. At one point I was aware of her talking to one of them and then the rower shouting at me “Well done, that’s amazing, keep going!” It immediately lifted my spirits and made me feel proud.
It was time for another 20 minute break and a chance to eat something half decent. Chicken with egg noodles, even though it was cold, felt like a real pick-me-up. I thought I would also treat myself to my second change of trisuit and so sat huddled in my Dryrobe until I had completely dried off before I attempted that clammy change again. The sun may have come out but the wind was ever present and I could feel how my body temperature was dropping each time I did a swim leg now. Yes there is nothing remotely glamorous about this photo below, and Ian looks like he is trying to sleep, but that was the reality of how we felt.
Reading my mood, Ian asked if I would like someone to cycle the next leg with me after the swim and my face said it all, yes please! So that someone was him, and he did a great job of distracting me from the now growing pain in my right ITB and knee. We adapted the route I had been taking around Richmond Park to reduce the amount of hills as every time I did a climb my knee was starting to complain (as was Ian, although he maintains it was to take my mind off my own pain ;) )
Back into the river and everyone commented on how strong my swimming still was. I had surprised myself there as it had been a very long time since I had swum over 4km in one go, and yet I came out of my seventh swim leg having covered 8.7km without any neck or shoulder issues. Just one more swim section to go!
Ah if only the same could have been said about the bike. Thankfully lovely Nerina had agreed to do another bike leg with me as she knew that by this time I would appreciate the company. She was so right, I tried not to dwell on the fact that I had another five hours to go as the pain in my right knee had started to really ramp up. Every incline and hard push down on the pedal was so painful. At one point I had to lie on the verge at the side of the road to try and massage it and stretch out my ITB.
I was thankful for my next swim two hours later - hoping that the coolness of the water might help the pain. Remarkably my eighth swim was my fastest one of them all with me covering more distance than before. Was that because I knew it was my last one? It certainly wasn't because I was desperate to get back on the bike! But it turns out that the cooling swim might have helped the pain...or was it the ibuprofen and the massage ball that Ian pressed into my knee before I set off on my final two hours on the bike? By that point I certainly looked slightly delirious in any case!
My final two hours on the bike were a hard lonely affair, the wind was up but at least my knee had calmed down a bit and I didn't have to resort to the desperate idea I had of cycling with one leg! As I came out of the park I realised I still had 25 minutes to go until the magic 8pm finish, and so I cycled up and down the surrounding roads determined not to cheat myself at any point. Oh but then the finish was finally in sight! I couldn't have been happier as I cycled back to our base camp to see my little band of supporters. Ian, Hila, Nerina and Luisa gave me a rousing welcome. I must admit I became a bit emotional as I realised I had actually achieved this! That final mark on my arm meant that I had completed 8 rounds of 30 min swims and 2 hour bike rides. I had cycled a total of 308km, swum 10k and been awake for over 36 hours!
Add to that I hadn't seen my phone for 26 hours and I was slightly overwhelmed by the messages of support that had been coming in from friends and family, and to see that my fundraising total had jumped up by about £1000 in the past day! I am delighted to share that I exceeded my total and ended up raising over £2,400 for Carers UK and Carers Scotland. By the way you can still sponsor me here.
What did I learn from this experience? Well many things....
The question now of course is....what next? ?
Denise Yeats is a coach, event producer, endurance athlete and avid adventurer.