Striving beyond my comfort zone

While we were on Necker Island for Virgin Galactic week Richard decided that it would be a great idea to wrest us from holiday mode and participate in a mini-Strive challenge.

Hurrican Matthew had wreaked further havoc in Haiti days earlier, and he saw this as an opportunity to raise a decent chunk of money which Virgin Unite could distribute  to organizations working in the region.

While it was a very much cut down version of the month long Strive Challenge event Richard and some of our fellow guests had participated in throughout September, the same principles applied. We had to make it from Necker Island to Moskito Island to the peak of Virgin Gorda using only human power.

Some hardier souls than I decided they would swim to Necker, but our team set off on a mix of paddleboards, kayaks and an odd looking contraption that was a cross between a SUP and a stair master.

It was early morning  when we started, and we completed the 3.5-4km trip to Necker in about an hour and a half without too many problems. My biggest issue was drifting off mentally enjoying the surrounds and the experience and then realizing that I needed to focus on what I was doing and catch back up to the team!
We arrived on Moskito pretty jubilant and decided after a quick water break we’d get straight back in the water to head for Virgin Gorda.

While this was a way shorter distance, only a little over a kilometre, it was against the current and into a headwind the whole way making it a much tougher paddle. Our original estimate of only about 20mins for that leg blew out to about 45, but as I was paddling I reconciled myself with the though that most of the work was being done by my shoulders, which wouldn’t see much action in the upcoming hike.

After a quick change and a rinse off of the salt, we decided to head straight into the hike before it got too warm.  I don’t know how warm it got later in the day, but it was mid-late morning by the time we headed off and it was absolutely baking!

The hike was about 4km along the road from the harbour to the start of the trail, then 800m up the trail to the summit – doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

When you factor in though that about 50m of that 4km is flat and the rest is at what felt to my legs like a 45 degree angle climb, in baking sunlight and high humidity it takes on a different perspective! The summit trail was actually the easiest bit by far.

I’m happy to admit I really struggled during the 4km climb and contemplated giving up on more than one occasion. I quickly discovered that my current workout regime of Pilates and spin classes hadn’t delivered much in the way of hiking fitness, and I found it really really tough, obviously more so than the rest of our group who happily chatted away – I needed every bit of oxygen I could suck in, there was no wasting it on talking!  Stuart certainly wasn’t experiencing any difficulties despite having completed the Chicago marathon just a few days earlier, which partly made me proud and partly frustrated me no end….

As I stumbled along,  feeling more than a little inadequate as I compared myself to the rest of the group I found myself looking for something that I could latch onto to get myself to the end. I’m a little ashamed to say it wasn’t any of the motivational signs that the Virgin Unite team had placed along the way reminding us of what the people in Haiti were going through – I knew we were making our donation regardless of whether I finished or not, so that wasn’t working for me.

What I landed on though was the realization that what we were doing and the struggle I was having was actually a fairly decent analogy with what had originally brought us to Necker for the week, the Virgin Galactic mission. The whole concept of commercializing space travel is one that requires pushing way beyond the comfort zone of what is thought to be possible or achievable, and realizing that if you work hard enough and apply focus and dedication what seems impossible can actually become possible.

Once I’d latched onto this thinking it really worked for me, and all thought of giving up went out the window. I made it, red faced, puffing like a steam train, but filled with a sense of accomplishment and achievement.

I almost skipped back down the trail to where the cars were waiting to take us back down to the harbour, only to run into the arrival of the ‘A team’ – those hardcore souls, Richard included, who’d swum from Necker to Moskito, paddleboarded to Virgin Gorda then cycled up that hideous incline that I could hardly walk up!

Few things have ever felt better than getting into the pool at Moskito, knowing that the challenge had been completed and we could now relax and refuel in the best way imaginable without even getting out of the water via one of Neckers specialities, the sushi canoe.

I’m not sure that the addition of Stuart’s newly created Moskito Mojitos were the ideal recovery program, but they certainly added to a fun afternoon celebrating a way more active day than any of us had anticipated being part of our week!

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