So it's been a week of key moments. The sun finally came out, meaning that I could at least imagine I was in South America (even if it was still only 14degrees).
It was also heartening to see that I had gone over the 1,000km mark, meaning that my distance left to travel has gone from a number starting with a 9 to one starting with a 7. Hooray!
It was also time for my monthly wildcard challenge, but more on that to come...
The distances are looking like this:
Total of 182.4km
I was delighted to see the water temperature increase slightly to 8 or 9deg which means
I managed to finally get my distance up to over 1km across two swims this week.
Likewise, my niggling achilles seems to have finally (she says touching wood) started to settle down and I managed to include some hills into my runs for the first time in about
But the biggest achievement of this week must be ticking off my second wildcard challenge. Set by Coach Tom last week, it was to cover at least 50% of my cycling distance carrying the full kit I would need for a trip like this. From experience, that was around 30kilos, and so it was time to 'pannier up'. To simulate the weight I filled my panniers with bottles of water, books and other weighty items and off I went.
Well, this turned out to be more of a challenge than I expected, especially as the first part of the week brought with it strong gusty winds. I felt like I was hardly moving!
The funniest part though must have been when I was grinding out some laps cycling around Regents Park and as I stopped at the lights a fellow cyclist looked over my loaded up bike and enquired "Where are you off to then?" I thought for a minute and replied "Erm, Ecuador?" and cycled off. I assume he either called the police or the Priory....
In fact out of the 165.5km I cycled this week, I actually did 140km on my hybrid with full panniers. All I can say is, my thighs!!
So where would I be in South America right now? Well I've made great progress through Colombia and would now be approaching the city of Pasto in the south of the country. Affectionately known as the 'Surprise City' it is probably best known for it's beautiful buildings, and even more so for the 'Carnaval de Negros y Blancos'. This lively celebration takes place between the 2nd and 7th of January and are famous for the giant figures made by local artisans walking through the streets of the city.
But the highlight of my week back here in the 'real world' must have been recording my latest video conversation. In this episode I was speaking to Shäron Brown, a good friend of mine, and full-time carer to her 21 year old daughter Jennifer, who has a very rare genetic condition.
I spoke to her about resilience, tenacity, the challenges she faces on a daily basis, and the rewards that come with that. I would urge anyone who is currently struggling at the moment to watch this one for some real insights into how to keep mentally strong and resilient.
It's been another week where the weather in my part of the hemisphere couldn't be more different from where I would literally be in South America.
So the snow and Arctic winds left us on Sunday, but only to be replaced by days of endless rain, arrrgh. Equally unpleasant for cycling and running! Whilst the river temperature rose to a 'balmy' 6deg, getting changed in pouring rain after a swim is not much fun.
But, like a true Scot, I still managed to muscle it out and achieve a distance of 204.4km
The distances look like this...
190.6 km cycling (whoop, and despite the rain, only 28k of it indoors!)
I've now covered a total distance of 958.8km which brings me past the city of Neiva and a spectacular part of Colombia - the Tatacoa desert, also known as the tropical dry desert. This part of Colombia is a real delight in terms of the contrasts in landscape. From the 330 square kms of the arid Tatacoa desert to the changing vegetation and breathtaking views of the Parque Nacional Natural Nevado del Huila. At 5,364m, the Nevado del Huila volcano is the highest in Colombia, and after lying dormant for over 500 years, caused concern for the surrounding towns and villages after erupting back in 2007 and 2008.
Not quite as dramatic as these conditions, but back in London I was pleased to see the rain clear for at least one day for a glorious bike ride to Hampton Court Palace. I have often avoided going to this tourist attraction as it is always so busy. Not this week though, I can recommend a spin round the grounds during lockdown!
In a cultural nod to where I should be, I have also managed to get hold of some bocadillos, a classic guava, and in this case guava and raspberry energy snack classically used by Colombian cyclists over the years. Forget synthetic energy gels, these little cubes of fruity wonder are natural and even wrapped in plantain leaves.
I think I will be needing them for my next wildcard challenge that Coach Tom set me for next week which is....
'To do at least 50% of my rides this week on my bike loaded up with the kit I would need for an actual trip like this'
Eeek, so the fun begins as I look out my front and rear panniers to load up with bottles of water, books and all sorts of other 'weighty stuff' to simulate this load!
In an otherwise fairly uneventful week, the highlight has to be.....getting my Covid vaccine!!
I was at first slightly aggrieved at receiving my text from the NHS citing me as 'clinically vulnerable'. I only have mild asthma, but I certainly wasn't going to argue and so headed (by bike obviously!) to get my jab.
This did make me feel nostalgic about my 'real' South American trip back in 2017 where I had my own little health passport to log my numerous jabs (mostly a series of rabies ones to protect myself from angry Argentinian dogs!).
Well they say be careful what you wish for, and I do prefer cold to rain, but THIS cold!?
The icy conditions made everything I did this week a major challenge, but the distances are still good....
Just under 192km in total, my highest distance in a week to date!
401m swimming (definitely shorter dips this week!)
I was pleased to be able to increase my running mileage this week, especially as it seemed like most of it was spent in a sort of run/skid fashion on the icy pavements, or across a wintry Hampstead Heath.
I do love it there, the feeling of space and views across the city, it is one of my favourite places in London. I often head there when I am in need of some perspective on things.
Having now covered a total of 754.4km through Colombia, this would have me approaching the city of Cali, southwest of Bogotá. Known for being the world capital of salsa, every September, salseros flock from around the world to take part in the World Salsa Festival. Ah how I would love to be there right now, dancing, drinking lulada, or dipping in the refreshing waters of the Rio Pance in the south of the city.
These waters would definitely be more balmy than the 2.5deg that I experienced in the Thames this week! So the easing off of the rain might have brought the flow rate of the river down slightly, but with ice forming near the lock, a new challenge of not getting hypothermia faced me instead. But that said, I do get a sense of pleasure when walkers on the footpath stop and take photos and gasp in awe as they see me get into the river in my costume in the falling snow, whilst they are wrapped up in Arctic-like kit against the elements. Then afterwards there is the almost comedic race to get dressed in as many layers as possible. I know that it is 'properly cold' when I have dug out my old ski gloves from circa 1990 as the they are the only things that will keep my hands warm post swim now.
Meanwhile on my run over at Hampstead Heath, I could only look longingly at the mixed pond, where swimming is still closed in the current lockdown.
I believe this challenge is definitely helping with my mental health. I think it could be quite demoralising to train for a triathlon just now in a world where mass participation events are so uncertain. As an events organiser this uncertainty over large scale events taking place has the added knock on effect of making me anxious about my business too.
There have definitely been more bad days than good this week where the thought of getting on my bike in the biting 'beast from the east' wind, with a relative air temperature of -7deg has felt like a real effort. Then I think of the legendary ice man, Wim Hof who reminds us that being too comfortable and warm all the time is not good for us, it doesn't challenge our system.
And I remind myself that I do like a challenge, and so I hope for better days, in every sense.
Speaking of tenacity, I released the second in my series of video conversations this week. Here I talk to beekeeper Tracey Carter about what we can learn from honey bees about resilience, tenacity and their unique style of communications. Even if I say so myself,
I found it very interesting!
The stats this week are looking like this:
...and a paddleboard plan in place, pending river flow being more manageable!
On that subject, it has been another week of challenging swimming as the heavy rain has caused the river flow to be over 400 (and to think that 2 weeks ago I thought 250 was fast!). As this video above shows, it really was a case of "I'm on a road to nowhere". That was definitely the song going around my head as I was giving it my all and realising that I was not moving away from the jetty. My swimming buddy's dog was looking on very concerned from the side I have to say.
To a lot of people it seems like madness to go to all that effort to swim for about 10 minutes at a time, but I have come to realise that these activities offer me a rare opportunity to see a 'real' person and speak to someone (not on screen) as much as anything else.
After sharing my recent swimming frustrations, I have been advised that I should use the calculations based on stroke rate that someone in an endless pool would use to indicate how far I would actually have swum. So there you go, averaging about 450-500m for each swim stint in 5deg water.
So with a total of 563km completed, I would now have passed through Muzo in Colombia, a town widely known as the world capital of emeralds for the mines containing the world's highest quality gems, and now be approaching Bogota, the country's capital.
It is a city of around eight million people, with cycle paths covering more than 360km of the city’s surface. Colombia’s capital pretty much invented the concept of ciclovia (cycle way). Cars are banned from 120km of city roads every Sunday morning, from 7am to 2pm, when two million city residents take to the streets to cycle, jog and roller blade. This sounds like exactly the kind of place I would love to be actually cycling in!
In honour of that fact, the closest I could come to this city experience was to be cycling around my home city, London, though which sadly even in lockdown can't quite replicate the Ciclovia experience! But it was great to be able to try being a tourist in my own city, and with a Colombian cycling friend, Giovanna being there, then I feel I gave it the cultural Latin American nod. (Though it did feel like we were playing a bizarre game of chicken as the horseguards were bearing down on our photo moment here!)
I'm pleased that I have managed to rehab my previously very niggly achilles to increase my running ever so slightly this week. At least running in the pouring rain isn't quite as miserable in cycling in it. The depressing weather has definitely been making all of this more of a challenge, but I am still trying to do as little of it indoors/on my turbo as possible, I think it is important to be 'out there'. And of course I am Scottish, so can never use the weather as an excuse really!
Then I think about two words which mean a lot to me: Tenacity and Resilience, and it is very timely that this week I launched the first in my new series of video interviews.
This is where I speak to a series of guests about what techniques they use in their professions and everyday lives to channel resilience and tenacity amongst other things.
I am passionate about the benefits that challenge can bring, and fascinated about how many areas of our lives it affects. This first interview is with my singing teacher, Matt Thompson, and there is a fascinating one coming up next week with a beekeeper!
And what better way to finish this week than to watch Scotland beat England in their Six Nations rugby game on Saturday! I think wearing my Doddie Weir top for my bike/run that day must have definitely brought some good luck!
Denise Yeats is an events director, communications consultant, endurance athlete and avid adventurer.