Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What defines you?

I just read an article on one of my favourite blogs, www.mtbtrailreview.com, where he speaks about the one constant in his life.

For me, that is mountain biking. For as far as I can remember, there has always been a mountain bike in my stable. As time went on, the sport of mountain biking has meant different things, but one thing is for certain…through all of the changes in my surroundings and tastes…it was always there - Rob Sutton. Read it here

It got me thinking.

The constant in my life has been sport.

Way back before the rinderpest, I attended a smallish private school which had the basics of sport but of course, success was usually measured by academic results.

I found school singularly boring bar a handful of teachers who truly inspired me and I have those lessons with me today.  The swimming and hockey coach was Mrs Borrowdale.  She made school bearable.

I survived because of sport playing first team hockey at an early age and eventually captaining the school in the sport.  I also remember the dramas of trying to contact me via dodgy phone line after the school gala to get me into the school interhigh team.

Sport was my lifeline.

Varsity was a degree in Physical Education punctuated by diving and playing underwater hockey.  I must have tried dozens of different sports in those years.  I still grimace at the bruises from my foray into karate.

Then I discovered the passion of my sporting life - canoeing (kayaking as the rest of the world knew it).  It began with the 3 day Dusi Canoe marathon and burgeoned into a career spanning many years.

From the long distance river paddling, I discovered sprinting.  I was hooked.  I watched a World Championship and vowed I would be there as a competitor.  It was a fledgling discipline but I persevered and was rewarded in so many ways.  I travelled the world with my canoe, met wonderful people and raced in beautiful cities.  My biggest disappointment was missing an Olympic berth by 1/100th of a second.  I cried for two days.

But it was all worth it.  After sprint canoeing, I ventured into the marathon distance and travelled some more.  And then I swopped a boat for a mountain bike.

I loved the feeling of freedom that came with riding a bike.  I loved feeling like a kid again.  It would never be the love of my sporting life, but it was a fitting replacement.  I ventured into adventure racing (which is a whole 'nother story) and the culmination of my riding career to date was the Freedom Challenge this year (Dash4Freedom).

I even run a business in the world of sport - two cycling stage races. This after being involved in our country's Olympic, Commonwealth Games and All Africa Games movements.

I can't imagine a life without sport, I just can't.


  1. Fi, This is a fantastic story, you shold write a book about this.

  2. Fiona, what you can paddle too?!

    ok, so what's next. after conquering the 2300km, it does all pale down slightly.i felt exactly the same and hardly touched the bike for 6/7weeks. it's ok, they all understand.

    i battle to 'race' a bike now. why redline it all the way up a hill madly chasing the wheel infront of you to keep your place in the standings?upon finally cresting the rise, instead of stopping to view all around you, you charge out of breath straight down. without even taking a photo!

    but there is still so much out there, so much to explore. since you've got the time to plan for it, can i suggest you seriously think about doing this for 2010?
    one of the toughest things is normally finding a chick with the mettle to duke it out for 60hours, i think you've got the right stuff!

    after my post fc blues, i did it this year as a pro pair. it's a brilliant race and countryside to do it in. plus they're going all out for the 10th edition.

    darron the race director lives adventure, check this out: