The week started off with my first puncture of my challenge. In fact it wasn't even on my bike, but on Ian's 'old jalopy' mountain bike as I was doing my now regular hill reps in the Chilterns. Thankfully it was on my seventh rep and just a 20 minute walk back to his flat, but it made me realise why the final couple of hills were quite such a challenge as the tyre was slowly deflating (what's that sort of squeaky noise I thought to myself?)
Slowing things down though became the theme of the week as I was inspired to pick up a book I bought a couple of years back called 'The Art of Noticing'. Ironically, I had been attracted to this book when I was at the RA for an event, but had never had the time to really read or implement it. The introduction starts with:
'Pay attention', Susan Sontag once advised a young audience, she was speaking of the creative process, but also of living 'It's all about paying attention. It's all about taking in as much of the obligations you'll soon be incurring narrowing your lives. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.'
There are a series of lovely little sensory challenges in this book which we could all learn from. I remember ahead of my REAL South American cycling challenge, Joe saying to me "Just remember not to be a tarmac starer". This is something road cyclists can be very guilty of, head down, eyes on their Garmin, intent on the stats and getting the miles in.
So this week I tried to make a point of noticing more. From swimming in the Serpentine and taking time to stop and look around, to cycling through Richmond Park and taking in the deer who seemed to be keen to take part in a game of rugby.
But mindful or not, the miles still had to be done, and my 7am HIIT class on a Wednesday doesn't stand still. In fact I felt a bit of a calf niggle on one of the shuttle runs during the session which made my heart sink. I was making such good progress with my running this past few months, but I decided it was best to ease off this discipline for the rest of the week so it has been very much about cycling and swimming, looking like this:
The water temperature still remains stubbornly between 9 and 10deg which doesn't allow me to record my first 'Jedi' challenge distance of sub 9deg. When I signed up for this challenge I do remember a group of 'Serpies' saying they would do the same, but I wondered where they were most mornings this week as I shivered and did star jumps as I got changed to stay warm after my 1000m swims whilst people congratulated each other for doing 400m - had this been a wind up!? Oh well, careful what you wish for Denise, the temperature is due to take a tumble next week!
At just over 8,330km completed, I would be continuing my journey through Patagonia, arriving at El Calafate. Situated near the edge of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field in the Argentine province of Santa Cruz, El Calafate is known as the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park, home to the massive Perito Moreno Glacier, whose ever-shifting icy landscape is popular for hiking and sightseeing. Named after the local Calafate berry, legend has it that eating one of the berries will guarantee your return to Patagonia.
El Calafate experiences a cold semi-arid climate with cool to warm, very dry summers and cool to cold, slightly wetter winters. In fact this would be their summer in November, with temperatures fluctuating between 16 and 22°C. Weirdly we have also experienced 16°C this week in London.
The city's extremes of cold and heat are moderated by the influence of Lago Argentino, the biggest freshwater lake in Argentina, with a surface area of 1,415 km2. Now that sounds like an open water swimming dream. Although that said, the lowest recorded temperature in El Calafate was −17.4 °C! There is some real Jedi Polar Bear swimming challenge right there!
This is an area of Latin America which didn't feature in my actual LA challenge so I am enjoying my virtual journey through this beautiful landscape that I hope to visit in real life.
And segueing seamlessly on the theme of virtual trips, it leads me on to another little adventure this week. Time to use up another of Ian's presents that had been stockpiled during Covid. AKA a present that involves me! This was a VR experience with a company called DNA VR. A very unassuming basement location belied the fun that was about to take place. We had the premium roaming experience and were offered a selection of experiences to choose from. Fight zombies....slay dragons....time travel? We opted for the Manor of Escape experience (why don't we learn from our previous 'escape room' pursuits??). This was SO much fun, with headsets on we could only see each other as bizarre avatars in a sort of crow type masks, with only our hands visible otherwise. We started off in a dungeon waist deep in bubbling brown water, skulls and other things bobbing around us. We soon realised that there was a monster lurking in the water that we had to feed with slugs to distract it whilst we tried to collect cogs to connect to open the gate. It was so realistic I was convinced that I was going to emerge covered in mud. We successfully got into the next room, a sort of laboratory where we had to collect and connect a series of electrode packs. A warning was given that the monster responded to noise so when I dropped a series of glass jars, smashing to the floor, suddenly the monster pounced and there was a large splatter of blood. This happened a few times as both Ian and I crashed into things, broke things and probably said 'SSHHHH' too loudly. Even though I knew what was coming, I screamed out loud every time! And guess what, we didn't get out alive, but apparently got further than anyone else had that day (or was the man just being nice?). A great evening out rounded off by some lovely food and drinks in a twinkly Granary Square. Is it just me who remembers how rubbish Kings Cross used to be? It certainly never used to be the destination it is now.
Denise Yeats is an events director, communications consultant, endurance athlete and avid adventurer.