This year, between January and December, under my own steam in the form of a 'pentathlon' (in this case, swimming, cycling, running, paddle boarding and kayaking)
I will (virtually) cover the length of South America at 9,006km. This challenge will also include an undisclosed challenge from my coach each month that will push my comfort zone to the extreme.
As someone who likes to set themselves a challenge, I found myself getting disheartened in 2020 by training for triathlon events which couldn't take place.
I know I am not alone in feeling that the constant changing environment that we are living in was impacting my mental health.
A large part of my business nnoodl is about encouraging people to get out of their comfort zone and try new things. There is evidence that the more we set ourselves even small challenges, the more resilient we become, and so are better equipped to deal with the big challenges that life throws at us. If ever there was a time to be resilient it is now!
I needed to set myself a goal, an adventure which I had some control over.
Reflecting back on an event I did in 2017 where I completed an 800mile bike ride between Argentina and Chile across the Andes, I wondered how I could 'up the ante'.
Could I travel a distance which is equivalent to the length of South America?
What about adding in some further sporting disciplines to not only challenge myself but also replicate some of the terrain I would encounter in real life?
And so I decided on my version of a pentathlon, the Latin American Pentathlon:
Who better to help me with my challenge than Tom Frearson, Head Coach and Founder of Be Fearsome? A former Royal Marines Commando, keen Triathlete and Mountaineer, Tom has been coaching me over the past two years in my triathlon pursuits. We decided that in addition to the 'pentathlon' elements, that he will set me specific goals and challenges along the way to try and replicate some of the terrain and conditions I would face in real life. I have no idea what these are.......oh dear!
I am going to caveat this from the outset for the purists out there. I know how to research and plot a 'real' route but am using a bit of artistic licence here. My main aim was to replicate the distance on this virtual challenge, and tap into elements of the conditions along the way, for example climbs and descents, off road sections, cold water etc. So with that said....
Starting at Barranquilla, the 'Golden Gate' of Colombia, my route will take me through this cycling mad country into Bogota. From there I will pass through Quito, the capital of Ecuador, and onto Lima in Peru, situated on the country's arid coast. Then it is onto not one but two of Bolivia's bustling cities, La Paz and Santa Cruz de la Sierra. We continue to stretch reality as I zig zag across the Andes southwards into Salta in Argentina and across to the small mining town of Copiapo in Chile. I know from experience what a logistical exercise it is to make even one Andes and border crossing in reality. But hey, this is my imaginary challenge so I can go to all the places I want! Continuing through Chile and the metropolis that is Santiago, then on via the Alpine-like town of Villa la Angostura Through Puerto Aysen and onto Chile Chico where the Patagonian waters will really inspire me. Continuing south and back in Argentina to the city of El Calafate on the southern border of Lago Argentino and then Puerto Natales in Chile at the gateway to the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. We are now truly in some of the most stunning parts of Patagonia, surrounded by glaciers, lakes and rivers. The last leg takes me past Puerto del Hambre until my final destination of Ushuaia, aptly nicknamed 'The End of the World'.
How it works
The main reason for choosing this amazing part of the world for my inspiration is for the contrasting terrain and conditions it offers. It is these elements that I would like to challenge myself with: cold water swims and challenging kayak and SUP sessions; endurance testing climbs on the bike and run sections. I am no stranger to training in challenging weather conditions so I hope this sets me up for the winter sessions!
9,000km as a distance to cover over the next 11 months may seem achievable to a cyclist alone, but I have set myself some parameters around this. A percentage of the pentathlon must be covered by each of the five disciplines. With current Covid restrictions in place I am faced with the added logistical challenge of getting the mileage in with some of these sports. Just how far can I swim each month in open water in winter? Along the way I will be on the lookout for areas of the UK which I can use to test myself on. Restrictions allowing, there are already plans afoot for a Scottish adventure...
I will track my progress with my Garmin, synched with 'My Virtual Challenge' and update this blog page each week. My hope is that I can also inspire people along the way who are likewise missing their challenge fix to show that there are ways in which we can adapt and not only survive, but thrive.
Bring it on!
Denise Yeats is an events director, communications consultant, endurance athlete and avid adventurer.