“If constellations had been named in the 20th century,
I suppose we would see bicycles.”
I got into the pool and floated. The water felt deliciously cool. I rolled over and decided to swim a few lengths. After two, this swimming medalist at school, exhaustedly decided to stop and go back to floating. After my accident, I could run to the bottom of the farm driveway and pant my way back. I had to stop once or twice on the way. Or maybe it was four or five times. And I cycled once with B. It was totally exhilarating being on a bicycle once more. We rode for about 5 kilometres, then sat on the grass, drank our bottles of water and rode home downhill the entire blissful way.
Tegan Phillips also swims, runs and cycles.
Her swimming, running and cycling are on a totally different scale to mine. Recently she swam 40 km, ran 422 kms and cycled 1800 kms around the South Island of New Zealand. Her triathlon certainly outdid my ‘triathlonic’ activities.
On the 1st of November 2016 Tegan began her triathlon. She finished 25 days later on her 24th birthday. To do such a feat is incredible. You need to be fit, obviously, but there is more to it than that. You have to have a need for adventure. Tegan has this need bursting out of her.
“I’m very uncoordinated and was never good at Girl Scouts or navigating. I wasn’t athletic. I certainly didn’t seem to fit into the mould of what I had always imagined adventurers to be. But, for as long as I can remember, I have been totally unable to resist venturing into the unknown. When one does that, one has fun with all of the challenges that occur. I found myself saying ‘yes’ to almost every opportunity that came my way, no matter how crazy they sounded. I travelled in India as a clueless fourteen year old. I taught in the Maldives. I worked in a Hare Krishna castle in Belgium. To my unutterable delight, adventure after adventure have been presented to me.
I believe that adventure is an attitude to life,” she mused, “A trip to the doctor can be an adventure if you’re prepared to marvel at the things you might encounter and stay curious and imaginative. When you imagine that you’re experiencing everything for the first time and delight in the unexpected, you feel that adventure is truly everywhere.”
From a physical perspective, Tegan never doubted that she could do it. She had set her mind to it and that was that. However she often found herself thinking: “What on earth am I doing? This is a lot tougher than I expected! I can’t make it up this hill. I can’t go on.” Then she would say to herself: “Just one more step.” And when that was completed: “Okay, now another.”
That was how her long exhausted days were often completed.
I know that having that thought and then accomplishing the task, leads to unparalleled satisfaction. After my fall, being able to walk unaided down a passage bought me a feeling of unsurpassed pride and fulfilment. I know how Tegan felt when she crossed the finishing line!
I presumed that Tegan was ace at cycling, running and swimming. She laughed.
“I am a hopeless swimmer. I am very used to being overtaken by small children in swimming pools.
Including swimming, and so making my adventure a proper triathlon, was a deliberate decision on my part. I wanted to do something that didn’t come naturally to me. I wanted my limits to be stretched, expanded upon. I knew that I would be called upon to swim in a freezing cold and at times fairly rough sea. I would be out of my comfort zone.
I wanted to show people that being bad at something or scared of something is all the more reason to give it a go. Surprise yourself! When you do, you’ll feel like you can do anything.”
She also hoped to inspire people to get outdoors and connect with their environment. I couldn’t agree more. Instead of seeing children in a park playing football, or on the see-saw, swings and climbing frame, I see them huddled on benches texting on their cell-phones. My childhood was spent on a bike, in a gang, building forts. Thank the Lord, cell phones had not then been invented!
The bicycle plays a huge role in this world of ours.
People ride to work. I remember riding to school. Shooting down Homestead Avenue, the wind in my hair (riding helmets weren’t worn then!) and beating roses into my cheeks. My chest would feel ready to explode with exertion-able joy! Lycra suited bottoms pumping away in their exercising delight. The old man riding to fetch his paper every morning. Tegan on her triathlon.
All of these people on bicycles!
Apart from her lust for adventure, this was another reason for Tegan’s journey. To raise money to fund bicycles for school children in Africa through World Bicycle Relief.
As World Bicycle Relief says: “In developing countries where distance is a barrier to opportunity and livelihood, bicycles connect students to schools, patients to healthcare, and entrepreneurs to markets.”
Their goal over the next ten years is to provide millions of quality bicycles to individuals in developing countries. They believe mobility is the key to breaking open the cycle of poverty. With mobility, people are able to move forward. By providing bicycles, opportunities, independence and joy are given birth!
During her triathlon, when the going got incredibly tough, Tegan reminded herself about the children who would get ‘her’ bicycles. They had to push themselves physically every single time they wanted to get to school. Up to eight hours of walking per day. Her triathlon was a choice. They didn’t have a choice.
Tegan raised enough money to purchase 85 bicycles as a result of her New Zealand adventure.
“We become stronger, more capable people when we push the boundaries of what we think we can achieve and, if we’re lucky, exceed them,” she said. ” By choosing this adventure, I was able to remind others that people can do things that they set their mind on. Also I was able to do it in a way that would help make a difference to people’s lives.”
What adventure is Tegan pursuing now? Is she is cantering around Morocco on a camel or sky diving from Mount Everest? No, although if someone offered her those opportunities, she would certainly be hard pressed to refuse! Tegan is not only an adventurer but an artist. During her triathlon, as a way of thanking people that made donations, Tegan drew them cartoons of anything they wished! And this is where her next adventure is directing her. She is going to lead a relatively ‘normal’ life and try and make a career as a cartoonist.
Danny Kaye said: “Life is a blank canvas, and you need to throw all the paint on it you can.”
I look forward to seeing what new ‘painting’ Tegan is about to create!