by Beverly Frans
Last year as my 54th birthday approached with no prospect of celebrating normally due to the covid lockdown, I decided to undertake a serious (for me) physical challenge instead. I’d recently watched a video where a guy did a marathon over the course of 24 hours by starting each hour with a 1.8 km run, then carrying on with his day until the next hour. That seemed like an attainable challenge except for the part about running and the part about 24 hours. On my daily walks I mulled over different possibilities for doing something pretty big but also doable at home or nearby and preferably not in the dark. It was my birthday celebration, after all.
I settled on doing a half ironman distance rowing/cycling/walking day. A few days before as I started to have niggling thoughts that this might not be the most fun way to spend a birthday, I posted about it in my women’s cycling club’s facebook group figuring that telling a bunch of people what I was planning would be insurance against wimping out at the last minute. I hadn’t reckoned on receiving a couple of dozen messages of support, though in hindsight, that’s exactly what I should have expected, since it is a very supportive and encouraging bunch.
The day went off without a hitch. I rowed 8 km, Zwifted for 90 km, and walked 21.1 km up and down my country road, stopping only for snacks, second breakfast, lunch, pee breaks, more snacks and clothing changes. There are definite advantages to creating your own home-based event and being the only participant. My reward was a flood of post-exercise endorphins, a huge appetite for birthday cake, and a massive sense of satisfaction.
A couple of weeks ago I turned 55 and to celebrate I did a made-up row/cycle duathlon consisting of 10 km of indoor rowing followed by 150 km of Zwifting, topped off with 30 more km of indoor rowing. This was a considerably bigger challenge (I had never even spent more than about 90 minutes on the rower) but I had more time to prepare for it since I decided to do it back in January when I was setting goals for the year.
I don’t need to remind anyone that this year has been a lot. To add to the general misery, the menopause symptoms I’d convinced myself I’d somehow miraculously avoided hit me with a vengeance. All of a sudden this winter I felt every day of my age and my confidence took a hit. Fuelled by stubbornness and meno-rage, I persisted with my plan, even though it was seeming more and more like a really foolish idea.
I’m pleased to say I completed the whole thing in less time than I predicted (and completing was always the only goal), and because I was unable to find any record of anyone else ever doing the same thing, it occurred to me that I am probably the current world record holder for this event. (9 hours 48 minutes in case anyone is interested in challenging it.) And I can confirm that it was, indeed, a foolish idea. Except that it was also one of the best things I’ve done lately, so I’ll probably do it again.
Even though my Oura ring is still grumbling at me about recovery, I’m already thinking about a bigger and better challenge for next year. I don’t know how long I can keep raising the bar, but I know that completing a significant physical challenge is a splendid way to start a year. The satisfaction of finishing something large and silly like that is a pretty remarkable antidote to the angst of being another year older.
Bev has recently discovered the joy and pain of doing hard things for fun but mostly likes doing easy things. Cycling is currently her main obsession. She lives in Almonte, Ontario where the road and gravel riding is superb.