Tameka shares her Virgin Active Triathlon experience


I SURVIVED AND I’M BACK! Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls I can confirm that I completed the 5k run and in the words of my Godfather (whom I’m sure you all know) ‘I feel good and I knew that I would!’. Training for the Triathlon was not only a great experience physically but also mentally and when we talk about health we really need to focus on both aspects. Here’s what happened on the day of the triathlon…

5.45 am: I woke up with butterflies in my stomach while chanting my mantra ‘You can do this!.’ I didn’t realise how nervous I would be and I hadn’t got out of bed yet!

6.50am: I checked my email – why? I don’t know, but what was interesting was that when I logged on to Yahoo to open my email the first thing I saw was a picture of Usain Bolt and a news article title ‘The secret of Usain Bolt’s speed’ (as a fellow Jamaican I took this to be a sign that things were going to be alright!)

7.00am: My car came to take me to the Excel Centre where the triathlon was being held.

7.45am: I arrived at the Excel Centre.

8.00am: I arrived at the meeting point at the Excel Centre (as the driver dropped me at the wrong entrance which meant that I would have to make calls and figure out how to get to the place where we would get registered etc. But this turned out to be not so much of a bad thing as I took this opportunity to warm up and practice my deep breathing).

8.05 am: I met my team mates. I could not have asked for a better team! Gary was the cyclist of the team who (as far as I’m concerned) is a veteran of triathlons as both himself and his wife have done triathlons many times before and have always been physically fit. Elaine was my Mermaid! the swimmer of the group. Before I met her I was told she was a great swimmer (strong) and she did perform. (I won’t lie, as I met my team mates I felt a bit inadequate, but then I heard a voice in my head say ‘You can do this’ and my muscles contracted all at once and said ‘Remember what you’ve put us through – this is it!’)

8.30am: My team mates and I along with Mel C, Nell McAndrews and the likes went up stairs to have breakfast. To be honest with you, I’m not a breakfast person and even though I have been having breakfast while training (you’ll be happy to know Ms BM without the W!) this morning was one morning I said ‘Forget breakfast – I just can’t stomach it’ Oh the nerves!

8.50am: I decided to get change, into my running gear. At this time my nerves are so on edge I started to talk really fast – faster than normal and we hadn’t even left the room yet, let alone be at the starting point. I also wanted to get changed as I didn’t want to miss Sir Richard Branson talk.

9.00am: I’m back in the room, having changed into my running gear. (I looked ok but you know when you wished you kept up the diet and lost a few lb’s before now – which I will write about in another blog so watch this space! The reason why I mentioned this is because running outfits are not forgiving at all, but I counteracted this by saying to myself ‘I mean business and I’m going to come out of this in good time – arrrrrggghhh!’)

9.20am: Still in the breakfast room, still can’t eat, still waiting for Sir Richard.

9.35am: Still in the breakfast room, still can’t eat, still waiting for Sir Richard.

10.05am: Still in the breakfast room, still can’t eat, still waiting for Sir Richard.

10.15am: Still in the breakfast room, still can’t eat, still waiting for Sir Richard.

10.18am: I spoke with two Virgin Active personal trainers James and Steven about food and breathing techniques. Very interesting! You can never know too much about a topic – you can always learn something new. I mentioned to Steven that I hadn’t eaten anything and he instantly looked concerned which made me instantly feel guilty and worried ‘What if i’ve trained all this time and I mess up my performance due to not eating on the day!? How stupid am I?’. It was at this time that I had a few mouthfuls of porridge – Cornmeal it wasn’t.

10.30am: Sir Richard Branson speaks. He is a very charming man. A laid back man but a man who definitely knows his stuff. I admire his drive and his diverse business empire. He is one of the people I wanted to meet and I can now tick him off my list (however I will still have him on my list as I would love the opportunity to meet him again and talk business! – putting it out there, – Law of Attraction!).

10.45am: Sir Richard, myself and other celebrities on his team pose for photographs (while were still looking happy and rested – the calm before the storm)

11.30am: We start to make our way to the starting point where Elaine aka Mermaid takes her place.

NOTE: From here on, I was totally oblivious to the time as my adrenaline kicked in and I could just about breathe.

The Excel Centre, if you don’t know, is a big place and the triathlon is taking place inside, outside and around it. As Elaine prepares herself to swim the deep cold looking waters of the Docklands I, with our other team mate Gary and his wife Louise are standing by wishing her good luck and making sure she has everything she needs. 12 noon hits and there off!

Everyone; swimmers, supporters, organisers, onlookers, other performers cheer as the swimmers run to be the first one in the river. As they all run and dive in, my mouth becomes extremely dry ‘Mate – this is it – it’s happening’. I lean on Louise – who is an angel sent from God as she is so calm and collective, she’s been here done it and got so many t-shirts. She tells me to stick with Gary and make our way to the cycling point where we will wait for Elaine to finish and hand over to Gary. On our way we see some free drinks Gary suggests that I take a couple – good suggestion! As we make our way to the spot Gary has set up previously, he tells me about his experiences and what to possibly expect. To be honest I was listening to him up to a point when my body started to tremble (a bit like when I was training with Ms BM without the W and my body went into shock).

We get to the cycling point and after Gary checks that everything is ok. I start to pace up and down practicing my deep breathing and just like a woman pregnant woman I stop suddenly feeling like my waters are about to break! (but in my case, I suddenly felt the need to go to the toilet).

But now I’m in a dilemma; do I go and seek out a toilet to relieve myself and miss the handover from my team mates who might need my assistance, or do I wait for Elaine to finish her swim not knowing how much longer she will need to finish and then after the handover I will still need to find a toilet but the risk of me wetting myself will be much greater? What do I do? I saw the paps, I notice the floor was grey in colour, I noted the high number of bicycles that I was surrounded by and the speedy get away in which the cyclist would cycle to get a good head start…I said to myself ‘Let me go now ya!’ the last thing I wanted was to have ‘my waters broken’ on the floor and it being the reason why cyclists would slip, fall and pile up on one another and the paps taking pictures of it and my wet foot prints as I try to run away from the scene. It’s dramatic I know but that’s how my mind works – I’m a creative person. (PH Editor Note: Creative is definitely one word for it Tameka)

So going back to the event. I return to the cycle point, Gary seems to be pumped up and ready to go at any minute. So I decide to take this opportunity and recreate the warm up moves that I learnt from Virgin Active Trainer Sars. Until this point everyone is standing around talking, filming, maybe they feel confident but for me, this is my first event and I want to give it a damn good go. So I begin stretching and soon after others start to stretch as well.

A lesson: If you need to do something or if you need help, do something about it – ask for help. The likelihood is you are not alone – it just takes one person to start!

As I’m stretching and teaching others I hear Gary shout ‘Come on Elaine!’ I immediately stop and cheer our mermaid on. As she gets closer to us Gary is so ready to go it’s as if he has become another person – a superhero. Everything happens so quickly as the remote tag comes off Elaine’s ankle and goes on to Gary’s and he is off – if he was a cartoon character he would be Speedy Gonzales!

I congratulate Elaine on her performance as she tells me all about her experience. I immediately start to hyperventilate and tell Elaine I’ll see her later as I don’t want to miss Gary on his return.

Now, like in an exam, presentation or solo performance it always comes down to you and what you have done in preparation. I won’t lie I was very nervous and my mind started to think of things that could go wrong. I started my stretching and deep breathing again.

It was in the moments that I was waiting to run that I looked back at what I had achieve in the run up to this event. I changed my eating habits and incorporated going to the gym as part of my life (which wasn’t easy). I thought of what Sars and Ms BM without the W taught me and their words of wisdom. I thought of how my body has changed during my training and what I could look like if I continued. I thought about my team mates and how they performed and I didn’t want to let the side down. I thought of how many people were doing the triathlon and the people who would benefit from the money raised. I thought I heard ‘Tameka, Gary is coming!’ and then I realised Elaine did say it as she broke my concentration by jumping up and down with excitement.

I jumped (as I was doing floor exercises – I was very serious and focus about the whole thing!). I started to scream, why? I don’t know. Now I had been preparing for this moment, and knew I must wear the tag on my ankle in order to complete the race but when the time came I forgot everything! I was absolutely useless! The film crew and paps swooped and closed in on me. I took on a stance that looked like I was a goalie for Tottenham Spurs or Arsenal Gunners (I live in between both areas) I kept on saying ‘ok, ok, ok, ok’ my arms were spread wide – again I don’t know why.

Thank goodness for Gary and his cool exterior he shouted ‘Give me your ankle!’ I did what I was told. Gary, in a Speedy Gonzales manner took the tag of his ankle and clipped it on to mine, he then shouted ‘GO! GO! GO! GO!’ to which I took off like the cartoon character Road Runner!

Now you may not know I use to be a sprinter in my slightly younger years so when I heard ‘GO!’ I sprinted off then I realised where I was and what I was up against – a 5K run!. I found myself saying out loud ‘No Tameka, slow down, slow down!’. So I did, gradually. The song The heat is on’ by Glenn Frey started to blast inside my head like I was wearing headphone. The heat was definitely on as my heart was pumping so fast I literally had to rein myself in like a run away horse!

So I remembered what James (the Virgin Active Triathlon trainer) taught me earlier. It didn’t work. I was so worked up that the only way I could continue was if I brought everything down; my breathing, my running speed, my heart rate. So that’s what I did and I slowly composed myself and started to rebuild my performance.

So the highlights; I got myself to point where I was running at a good speed, deep breath in controlled exhalation. I turned at bend and wondered ‘Exactly how far is this run?’ in terms of the route (I hadn’t seen it before) as I turn the next bend I saw a long road in front of me. I then said to myself ‘Sugar’ (or words to that effect). I took a deep breath in and controlled exhalation. I decided to up my game a little, my body is getting warmer now. There is a crowd beside a Great Oldman Street Hospital with a banner cheering me and others on ‘Come on you can do it!’ ‘You’re doing well’ I blow them a kiss and wave, I continue to run on.

I take a deep breath in and control exhalation. I’m getting hot now so I peel off my Virgin Active running top (which I think is actually a cyclist top as I saw a lot of people cycling in them) like a banana to reveal my sports bra top (which I would not have worn before this event). The big tick symbol reminds me to ‘Just do it!’. I repeat this a few times to myself out loud and pick up speed.

I take a deep breath in and control exhalation. I run pass the helpers who are there to give you water and energy drinks. ‘Not for me – just yet’ I say to myself. I approach a bend I dig deep for acceleration.

I take a deep breath in and control exhalation. On the other side of the bend is a hill a small one mind you, but a hill nonetheless. I go to accelerate and my body says ‘No’ my head says ‘What!’ my heart says ‘Easy girl’. I bring down the pace but solider on.

I take a deep breath in and control exhalation. I’m over the hill – in more ways than one.

My heart says ‘What the fish cake!’ my mind says ‘Keep running, keep running’ my thighs are revving like a car engine, my eyes say ‘You see how far you’ve got to go before you finish the first lap!?’ and then there is a nothing voice coming from within ‘Aaaarrrrggghhh!’ – a stitch on my right side. I find myself saying out loud I’m bringing it down!’. I drop my speed to a light jog then a brisk walk.

I take a deep breath in and control exhalation. When you get a stitch don’t stop moving. I remember Sars telling me to ‘breathe into the stich’ and that’s what I did while power walking to a better state of health. I was determine to finish the 5k run in good time and I was not going to give up. The people who were along the route cheering us on were great as there are times when you want to throw the towel in and just hearing their chants helps you go a long way. I cannot thank them enough!

I take a deep breath in and control exhalation. I won’t lie, I was desperate to see the water and energy guys. When I did I just grabbed the drink from them and gave them a near death gratitude ‘Thanks’ while still on the move. I flung the empty cup in the bin whether it got in or not I don’t know but what I did know was that people were passing me and I had to make up my time.

I take a deep breath in and control exhalation. Second lap was slightly easier as I knew the route. I knew how hard to push myself at certain points and I took on the hill the second time around with technique and skill (Usain would have been proud of me!). At a point I was feeling tired I heard ‘Come on Tameka! You can do! Pick it up girl!’, it was my friend Ralph. It was so nice to not only hear him but to see him. Support is a wonderful thing. As I was running towards him he held his hand out for a high five’ I held mind up also and as we came together we missed each others hand like ships in the dark (but it was worst as we were not in ships and it was broad daylight!) Shame – but funny.

I take a deep breath in and control exhalation. I continue to run and found myself running to the chant of ‘DO ME A FAVOUR! DO ME A FAVOUR!’ I acknowledged them with a kiss and later realised that it was my good friend Ricky Norwood (Fatboy in EastEnders) with my other good friends Darren, Sharona and family. Again I thank them for the support.

I finished my run in 28 minutes knocking 7 minutes of my best time. I was exhausted, sweating like mad, but thrilled that I completed it. I take a deep breath in and controlled exhalation.

This blog is a bit long and I’m sorry but I felt that I should explain it to you as you have read the build up to the event, and I wanted to tell you what it was like. I hope you found it interesting or at least entertaining.

I never thought I would do a 5K run but now that I have done it I’m doing it again! oh yeah! Not only does it give me the discipline to keep fit but it also helps to focus my mind and hopefully inspire others to get involved or at least get start to correct or keep up good healthy habits. The other side of it is, if you run for a charity or a cause the fact that what you are doing will benefit someone else will fill your heart with joy!

Hope you are well and have a fit week! x

PH Editor Note: So who fancies joining Tameka at the Virgin Active Triathlon 2012 next year September?

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