Wednesday, 10 October 2012

No sane woman would have even thought about doing it but I had no option. Heavy rain & strong winds this last week lowered the water temps by 11C from 26C to a chilly 15C, lowered energy levels, lowered body temperature & mood swings – it did not look like fun.
On the day of the triathlon the telephone woke me at 9.15am with a request to go wakeboarding by the VITAL team who had arrived late the night before. Still recovering from jet lag having arrived in Ranzo 48 hours before from Colorado, I looked out the window to see snow on top of the mountains, rain clouds and wind.

I did not want to do this triathlon but I had to.

 We picked up the team & boarded for nearly 3 hours until the rain came.  Then it was a rush to register the team & prepare 3 year old Harry for his 2.15pm start. The lucky little chap was to swim indoors

 My take off time at 5.55pm meant I was one of the last 50 to start. Worried at the thought of embarrassing myself, I was not prepared for what lay ahead. The lake was so cold that my legs immediately started to cramp & my head started to hurt from one of those brain freeze one gets from an ice cream headache!

 Every time I took a breath, I swallowed water. The lake was so choppy I was being thrown around like a rag doll. I completely lost my orientation & simply aimed for the yellow buoys. So much so that I ended up underneath one of those huge yellow buoys which was quite frightening.

So many times I wanted to give up. I felt like I had been thrown overboard the Titanic & had to swim to shore to survive. As I have said to many of my donors, it is you who inspire me to continue to the end when the going gets tough. 

 My thoughts were with Tom. There was absolutely no way he would survive this.  Out of the 580 men & women who paid to enter this event, 178 did not show up whilst 16 were pulled out of the lake.

I considered myself a strong confident swimmer (swim training as a teenager up to 60km a week) but this water frightened me. I was actually deluding myself thinking I could better my 11 minute time of 4 years ago! My time of nearly 17 minutes was in the top 30%.

 I was so cold & so out of breath I couldn’t put on my bike shoes. My transition time was a massive 6 minutes but I was fed up. Chin up chicken was all I could say to myself & the smiles returned for the bike ride against the wind.

Once again I was hoping for a faster time having now had 6 years experience up my sleeve but it was not to be. At one point I was tempted
to get off the bike & walk up the hill. I longed to cycle with the pack bombing down the mountain. Even my support team didn’t bother to drive up to cheer me on – it was a lonely cycle tho’ I did hit 45kph at one stage which was a highlight of my bike ride!
Being the very last person left I had the good fortune of an official accompanying me on his bike as I completed the last leg. There was no way I could walk this with this man encouraging me on as I was sure he wanted to join the pasta party so I slowly jogged & chatted & the time went very fast indeed. I was very pleased with my time of 36mins!

So what are the lessons learned in this experience? That I am absolutely insane? Must I really go through such traumatic experiences to raise funds for these children to have a better life?

If you have donated already, I thank you from the deepest depth of my heart & if you haven’t, please comfort me in knowing that my efforts have not gone to waste.

Terminator 2 : Judgment Day  - “Hasta la vista, baby”

Oh yes, the knee? It held up well, thank goodness.

Friday, 9 December 2011

VITAL FOR CHILDREN: Locarno triathlon 2011

VITAL FOR CHILDREN: Locarno triathlon 2011

Locarno triathlon 2011

What can I say? What a terrific effort by the 2011 VITAL triathlon team. What heroes they all turned out to be in the face of great challenges. An International team of Kiwis, Dutch, Italians, Americans, Aussies & of course the good old die hard Brits surviving the torrential monsoon rains.

Starting of course with my loyal husband Mithra, doing his first triathlon at the tender age of 64 after losing 11kg in weight

Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

He completed the mini tri with no problem & now thinking of doing the olympic distance next year – what a hero.

Luigi’s first triathlon attempt having just returned from a hurricane in the USA & combating jetlag – he too gave us a wonderful smile at the end of his race

And then there’s Amanda who had lost many kg, competing in her first triathlon in the UK finishing the race 20 minutes faster than she expected.

And good old Fede doing the mini as a warm up to the swim leg of the relay team early the next morning. He too only just returned from a hurricane & earthquake in the USA. What a star.

Then there was Jessica doing only her second triathlon in her life, tackling the Medium Distance in heavy rain with Patrik who finished as we took shelter from the rain in the car & missed cheering him cross the finish line!
The VITAL UK team consisted of first timers with Philip’s rhythm disrupted by the many swimmers around him but he surprised himself with an excellent swim time of 48 minutes for the 2.5km. Andy Playboy enjoyed riding in a pack of 20 bombing down the mountain, not understanding Italian when told not to draft & Carlos, our 5km runner who joined the team one month before the race preparing for a 10km run! He couldn’t believe his run of 82 minutes! Excellent work guys, see you next year doing the Olympic distance!

The VITAL EU team started with poor Fede talked into wearing a wetsuit for his 2.5km swim. His suit kept filling with water making him float off the course like the Michelin man. Then came Koen who thought his role was simply to drive the 17 hour journey from the UK to Locarno. He didn’t know he was to cycle the 80km Swiss mountains but bravely stepped up to bat only to be blinded by stinging rain & abandoned the race when the officials removed the markers thinking all the cyclists had finished. Allegra was relieved she didn’t have to run in the cold heavy rain especially after her ordeal with an earthquake & hurricane in the USA.

All in all, a wonderful weekend was enjoyed by all with much laughter, before & after the race with everyone successfully getting up on water skis/wakeboard.

We’ll all be back ! Thank you to all our wonderful VITAL supporters whose donations were the inspiration to keep one going when the going got tough!

Oh by the way, those of you who envied Mithra’s body in the mankini -  the body was loaned from Borat!!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Locarno triathlon 2011 by Jessica Bass

A few of you have asked me about my super triathlon experience of last week so I thought I would kill several birds with one stone and tell you all at once how it feels to travel over 100km in 6 hours by swimming, cycling and running.
6am start and the day begins well, bright skies, a cool breeze and crisp, clear air. The anticipatory silence at the start line is deafening, I can hear birds chirruping, hearts beating and wetsuits squeaking ! The starter raises the starting pistol and waits for an age .... bang ! And we're off. 
I sprint into the warm water, clear of the crowd and begin the swim. 100 metres in and I have no energy at all, my arms and legs feel like lead and I can't catch a breath. I stop and I can't breath I am in a panic and hold my hand up for a rescue boat to pull me out of the race, I am swallowing water and feel dizzy and disoriented. The rescue boat is right next to me when I come to my senses and remember why I am doing this .. it's for charity, for the children who have a rough start in life, who live on the street and have no clean water, little food and no clean clothes. Those children can't hold their hands up and say "hey I wanna get off, this ride is no fun". I think what would my Mother say if she knew I had given up after 100 metres ? I can hear her voice loud and clear in my head "pull yourself together for goodness sake" and a moment of clarity hits me like a bullet between the eyes, I wave the boat the away and splash one hand after the other until I get my rhythm back, my breathing is laboured but I know I can do it, I have to do it.
I catch up to the other swimmers within a few minutes and finally start to enjoy the experience.
I leave the water to a great cheer from the crowd, wave my arms and sprint to the bicycle transition area while flailing around in an attempt to remove my wetsuit while on the move, as if a quick transition is going to make any real difference to my finish time. 
On to the bicycle and out onto the winding mountain roads of Locarno. The scenery is truly breathtaking and I have to take a moment to really appreciate it. I am now well away from city streets and the scenes around me are like those found only in flashy car adverts, up and down the undulating course weaving our way around, and sometimes through, the mountains in a rather scarily dark and long tunnel. 
After 10km the heavens opened and the field of cyclists dwindled rapidly until I found myself followed only by the back marker motorcycle who was there to tell the marshals along the route when they could pack up. Needless to say I got huge cheers from every marshal station from that point onwards as my passing meant that they could get out of the rain !
The rain gets heavier and heavier until it feels like needles on my skin. My legs, arms and face are now completely numb and the back marker motorcyclist helpfully pulls alongside me to tell me "only 20km to go".  I could have lived quite happily without knowing that ! The rain on my face is joined by a few tears as I realise how crazy this idea was, I am riding 80km in the driving rain ... I am mad !
Finally, I rejoin the city streets and around the final roundabout and back to the transition area, again huge cheers from all spectators and participants alike as they realise I am the last competitor still in the race. 
The charity has a band of supporters cheering us on from the transition area and they ask how I am feeling "well, it's such a lovely day I think I'll go for a little jog !" I reply.
My running shoes are filled with little puddles, as I slip them on they squelch and squeak in defiance of my blind madness. Off I go for 4 laps of the 5km route.
Lap one, I pass several other runners, back in the race at last ! Lap two and many people have finished already, I spy the prize giving for the winners, wow they are fast. Lap three and my supports are shouting louder than ever ... they think this is my final lap. Now ... decision time, do I stop and let them think it is my final lap or carry on because I KNOW I have another lap to go ? Oh come on, of course I carried on, I couldn't live with myself if I cheated. I do feel sorry for them all though, waiting in the rain.
My legs feel like lead, but there is less than 3km to go, I can't give up now, I just can't. I reach the final drinks station and I spy some fruit, I grab two pieces of apple and an orange segment, wow ! It's like a new me, my legs are alive, just that tiny bit of sustenance and I can run again, off I go striding to the finish line to the sound of cheers from some very relieved supporters and I finish in 6 hours 10 minutes at which point my legs completely give way and I shed a little tear !
What an amazing feeling, to be so close to complete exhaustion but to beat my demons and finish the race, I just want to go again ! I can highly recommend doing an endurance triathlon as the buzz is just amazing and although we are competing, all the competitors know that just to be in it is a feat in itself and one which deserves a quiet respect.
Thank you to everyone who has already donated, I am pleased to let you know that between us we raised more than £9,000.00 for the charity and you can still donate here :
If you would like to know more about where the money goes please go to 100% of donations go directly to the kids, the charity takes no money for admin costs.
Thank you so much for your support, it is, as always much appreciated.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Warm welcome to Kolkata April 2011

A year is much too long a gap to wait between visiting Kolkata. Not only that, I was reminded by a couple of the teenagers that I had said I would return within 6 months – I felt so bad. 

These street children have nothing to look forward to in life so any small event in their lives, which would bring happiness, will surely not be forgotten. In their current situation they do not know what the future means to them, they do not dare to have dreams.

This April I was accompanied by two 

Associates of the VITAL-ITALY team, Allegra & Federica, Haley, our latest volunteer & Mithra (Trustee).

I suggested to my team to walk into the New Market school first to experience the warm welcome these children will shower upon us & I would film it. Little was I expecting the reaction in store for me.

As soon as they saw me they all jumped up

& screamed & hugged me. Even 17 year old Sabir had a big smile for me & shyly shook my hand. This is the big tough guy on the streets!  

There was a group of Irish teenagers visiting the children & one of them asked “Who is that? Saint Nicholas?” They were astonished like we were.

Along with the annual trip to the Water
Park which the children so eagerly looked forward to, we were able to visit 3 new projects to fund due to the many generous donations received in the last 6 months. 

Partnering with CRY once again, we agreed to fund a project helping children living at 4 different railway stations. Following the VITAL ethos of creating
change with a sustainable future,  this project not only rescues children living in the railway stations by reuniting them with their families, it also advocates for the promotion of alternative care – trying to look at institutionalization as the last resort where family or parental care was not in the best interest of the children.  
The program evolved around the
Convention on the Rights of the Children and the Juvenile Justice Act as the foundation pillars.
We then visited a project for children at risk living alone on the streets of Kolkata, or whose parents are not in a position to support their protection or children in crisis as a result of trauma, abuse, neglect & violence
(either physical or sexual).     The Crisis Intervention project offers immediate, short-term help to individuals who experience an event that result in emotional, mental, physical, and behavioural distress or problems.
This project is a short term solution, as
children move from crisis into long term supported. It addresses the needs of the victim without delay and addresses the fundamental rights and dignity in all human beings to receive timely support and care. 
Our last project we visited was The Keertika project. Its aim is to provide shelter, nutrition, medical care, necessary 
legal and psychological counselling and
legal assistance to girls in distressed and difficult circumstances.
    They are mostly victims of trafficking and other forms of violence including sexual harassment/assault, domestic violence, trafficking and forced engagement in the sex trade.
It was sad saying goodbye. The children were visibly distressed so I had to make it short & quick. I wished I could take them with me to the land of plenty but even to take one or two for a couple of weeks over the summer was a request that gave me a look of “are you out of your mind?”
I am definitely returning in November. No question about it.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Locarno triathlon 2010

This year the triathlon in Switzerland had 7 participants with 3 entering the Olympic distance in their first triathlon. The other 3 entered in the mini distance were also first timers, led by yours truly. A cheer squad of 5 completed the VITAL team. With a dozen of us wearing VITAL tshirts we are slowly raising awareness in this small event as no other charity is involved.

It was a beautiful day enjoyed by all.