So I more than survived the KMD 4:18:4, I smashed it, completing the 3 stages in a total of 1:28:42.

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My KMD 4:18:4 medal. According to my kids it’s not a real medal because “everybody gets one” – a tough crowd to impress!

When humans enter very cold water they almost always give an involuntary gasp followed by a prolonged period of rapid breathing. This is the cold shock response and I can honestly say it made the 400 metres swimming the most memorable, the water was damn cold, which the announcer of the day was gleefully  broadcasting to all before we went in. Next year I shall try it with a wetsuit…

In spite of that I managed the 400 m swim in about 10 minutes, not far off what I did in the pool in my only pre-tri training session, so I was pretty happy with that. The upside was the lovely warm tingly feeling you get after a dip in cold water. This is probably the reason winter swimming is so popular in Denmark and it stayed with me for the rest of the race. I took it pretty easy on the bike and realised on the running stage that I had so much left in the tank I really should speed up a bit.

I guess because my only training this year was for a marathon where pacing yourself is crucial I have not quite worked out what my short distance pace is (or should be). Within a few minutes of finishing I was feeling perfectly fine and had no aches and pains whatsoever. It was a really fun event and I’m now wondering whether I should aim for a full distance tri next year, though I definitely never intended to start this when I ran the marathon in May…

The last time I did this race, two years ago, I only just made it in 1:45 and was quite knackered afterwards, so it was a great feeling that I could easily run this distance. I am certainly much much fitter than probably any time in the last 15 years or so. It is such a liberating feeling and is leading to quite a virtuous circle.

I read on a blog I stumbled upon recently:

“I’m seeing muscles reappear that have been hidden by fat for years. I’m feeling like I have more energy. My joints feel more solid. I feel like my ‘old’ athletic and outdoorsy self is emerging after hibernation”.

I can really relate to this, it’s as if training for and then doing the marathon unlocked a bit of my old me that had been buried under work, family, kids and the comfort eating that stress brings on. Doing the mini-tri and being able to feel the difference immediately afterwards has really underlined how far I have come. Now I want to do more training, more exercise, to feel that great feeling unlocked once more.

So much of this is down to Victoria’s great work with me but I was also reflecting as I was riding and running during the tri that I have many great friends to thank for my training reawakening too.

I would not have even considered a marathon if not for friend A’s reminiscing on how fun it was, the same incidentally was true of the KMD tri. It was the same A, along with another mutual friend K who persuaded me to do it in the first place. My rather shocking time and state after that first one convinced me I needed help and to seek out Victoria. I would certainly never have bought a road bike if another female friend H had not persuaded me to by a track cycling event when she found on a deal online. H is in fact a truly remarkable athlete, competing at a very high level in cycling in her home country, she fetched up in Copenhagen around the time I had my first child. We met and became friends while cycling around the city with our respective babies in matching cycle trailers each week, trying to escape the cabin fever that sometimes accompanies parental leave.

Then there is my sister. I am so proud of her achievements at a very high level in amateur cycling culminating in her recent invitation to participate in a race with many pros in it. One of my best Danish friends gave me heaps of advice while I was training, including lending me her water belt, a revelation the first time I tried it, and I have somehow found myself surrounded by great role models. It’s fairly well known that if your friends are obese or overweight then you are more likely to be too. We adjust our expectations compared to what we see around us. The same must also be true for exercise and fitness and having such amazing friends around me has really inspired a lot of this journey back to sport in me.

I was musing on all this as I have recently finished reading Anna Kessel‘s wonderful book, Eat, Sweat, Play. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found myself nodding along to many of her chapters, especially on the importance of exercise at all stages of a woman’s life and on the importance of role models.

In spite of this, I have rarely considered myself influenced by other “role models”, though this may be because I work in a male dominated sector and have up to recently largely participated in male-dominated sports (kayaking, climbing etc). Nonetheless, moving to Denmark was a revelation. I had rarely thought about the under-representation of women, or some of the naked harassment and prejudice on display in the UK before moving to a country where my working life was much more gender-balanced. Now, when I return to the UK, or for that matter other countries outside the Nordic region, it is often one of the first things I notice, the relative under-representation of women and the way in which their voices are marginalised. For sure, Denmark has a way to go in some ways too, but I no longer feel like I’m riding into a headwind the whole time I’m at work. I am proud to call myself a feminist as I can see much more clearly that the battle hasn’t been won, men and women are still being disadvantaged by out-dated attitudes to what is and is not a woman’s (and conversely, a man’s) place.

I highly recommend Anna Kessel’s book and this great video seems to suggest I’m not the only one who found it inspiring…

And this attitude has surely spilled over to so many other parts of my life. It is so common to see women running here, perhaps even more so than men. At my kids school, the teachers explained that they had put on yoga classes in the mornings for girls and ball sports for boys. I was actually slightly horrified at such naked gender-stereotyping, but then it turned out so many of the boys wanted to do yoga and so many of the girls wanted to play ball sports, they now alternate from one week to the next. I am keen to offer my daughters the chance to see that there really should be nothing holding them back. At five my eldest has already completed her first relay race, a 2km childrens race in our local park with two of her friends. I hope to take them to see their Auntie cycle racing this year and maybe next year they can come and play on the beach while I tackle the 4:18:4 again. But mainly I want them to learn the joy of feeling their bodies move.

They can already (even the 3 year old) ride a bicycle and do every day to school, one of the 2016-08-23 16.58.34huge advantages of living in Copenhagen and one of the reasons  I am so grateful for the chance to live here are the quiet roads and cycle lanes that make this possible. I have started to take them both climbing on the weekends, either at the indoor climbing wall or outdoor fitness places in the local park, depending on the weather.

The most important thing in all of this is that it remains fun. I do not want them to experience exercise as something you have to do even if you don’t like it. Neither am I keen on the body-shaming side of the “#fitspo” hashtag on social media. As Anna Kessel writes, sport should be about so much more, about moving around, having fun and a good time with your mates and most of all living life to the full. I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed the triathlon, it has reenergised my training which had somewhat subsided with nothing to train for. This is an important lesson. Clearly I need some external motivating factor to get me out of the house but once I’m out and moving, I just want to keep going.

My next race, an easy 5km run round the park, is next week and if you are just beginning on a sporting journey or thinking it’s definitely not for me then I highly recommend getting a copy of Anna Kessel’s book. Judging by this video I’m not the only one who found it inspiring. As the lady says, “what are we waiting for?”