First appeared in Forever Sport magazine.
It is 9am when we set off our bikes, beginning with a steep climb out of the resort grounds. Our eyes are set on hotel fitness instructor and our race guide for today, Keon, a man hewn out of solid rock. His muscles blink in the sunshine as we cruise along the tarmac but apart from tiny optical ones I’m under no illusions; the word ‘technical’ has been used several times by the organisers to describe our mountain biking route and sure enough we soon turn off and head up a rocky track.
For the next hour we make our way along St Lucia’s northern tip near Pigeon Island as the muddy remnants of a this morning’s tropical rain gather beneath our tyres. The view is exquisite but I can’t look for long if I am to complete even half of it without crashing or dismounting.
If you’d asked me an hour ago I’d have said I was fairly fit and well prepared, but already the Body Holiday’s Quadrathlon is nothing like the sprint and Olympic distance triathlons I have spent my summer doing.
If you’d asked me an hour ago I’d have said I was fairly fit and well prepared, but already the Body Holiday’s Quadrathlon is nothing like the sprint and Olympic distance triathlons I have spent my summer doing. Yes there’s a 7-mile cycle ride and also a short 4km run but those are both partially off road and very undulating. Also, instead of swimming we’ll be kayaking for around 40 minutes, something I’ve never done for more than five and always with the sole aim of tan-enhancement. Then there’s an extra discipline chucked in too (hence ‘Quadrathlon’, the clue is in the Latin) as we’re required to complete a supposedly ‘relaxing’ abseil down a 100ft sheer drop. And, guess what? I am utterly terrified of heights.
Thankfully this isn’t really a race. It’s more of a morning’s adventure with a competitive streak. We all wear watches but are told to stop them at the end of the cycle ride until the speedier amongst us are reunited with the stragglers. We hit start again once on the run as we spread out to attack a flat out-and-back 2.5km at our own pace. But it’s not complete yet; we’ve still to conquer a steep trail. Only the lightest and faster runner amongst us makes it to the top without walking (Clue: it’s a female but not this female). Safety measures, explanations and getting all six of us harnessed in and ready for our abseil takes time – enough time, thank goodness for the nutrients from my locally-sourced banana to be absorbed by my sore leg muscles. I shake a little but I make it, coaxed by the resort’s patient instructor, Edwin. One by one he helps safely down into the thick forest below. A short, sharp scramble down a hazardous slope to the water’s edge and it’s time to jump in the water where our kayaks await.
It is now, with nothing but 2.5km of sea between us and a cold beer, that true colours come out. I thought kayaking was just about strong back muscles and looking cool. Turns out, it’s about riding the waves – five foot swells are commonplace around here – not just literally but also inside one’s head. Sure enough, it’s an amateur athlete with a steely mind (again, a female, just saying…) who surges forward to take the win. She leaves behind two men and the female runner, all in single kayaks, to eat her dust. Even cheeky DJ, Julian, and I, who work together in a double kayak, can’t beat this row-monster-lady.
It takes us all between 30-40 minutes to reach the shore and when we do there is one thing we’re united on: the joy of that first nectar after a few hours of adventure. Cold beers and fresh juices are ordered and almost immediately we forget both the scratches on our legs from scrabbling down the muddy scree, and the ache in our lower backs from all that prideful padding. After an afternoon spa treatment and some extreme relaxation, we take on our fifth and final challenge for day with the resort’s eight-course tasting menu (call it a re-feed, well over the 671kcals my watch told me I burnt in the Quadrathlon).
If I had another chance, I think, chewing on some pineapple cheesecake, I’d train ‘smart’ for this event. I’d do more back and core strengthening work to help with kayaking; mountain bike instead of road cycle (duh); do more hill training and try hypnotherapy for my vertigo. But first, it’s time for a coffee and that eighth course…
This four-legged guided adventure was launched by health-haven, The Body Holiday, takes place each Saturday in the far North of St Lucia where the Caribbean sea and Atlantic ocean meet. www.thebodyholiday.com
– By Lucy Fry