Failing but not a failure

Holidays are all about rejuvenation and prepping yourself mentally and physically for the next undoubtedly hectic term. The Easter holidays normally sees me in France relaxing with lovely family but this Easter was a totally different ball game, I was entering the toughest kayak marathon in the world. The Devizes to Westminster – 125 miles. It’s tough and I knew that going into it but the reality was something else!


I was nervous because my partner and I hadn’t had a great deal of practice in our double kayak. There is very little flat water on the Isle of Man, no flat rivers or canals so you have to practice on the sea and we hadn’t had enough.  I had trained hard on the rowing machine and had been out running. I was fit enough. Our race started at 1pm there is 16 miles of kayaking before you hit the first lock on the canal – there are 77 in total and you have to carry boat around them all and this,let me tell you, is bloody hard work especially with our boat which was a sea kayak and not a super light K2.  I was struck by how tough it was to paddle the canal, there is no feedback from the water, no tide, no flow just resistance it was really unnerving for a sea kayaker.  Once you hit the locks they are relentless, at times one every 200m. You have to haul yourself and your boat out of the water walk it round the lock, get back in and pick up the pace (4mph in case you are interested)

We had to make Newbury 36 miles into the race in 10 hours. An 1hour and a half out I knew we were pushing our luck but I was determined to get there and push my partner as hard as I could. Mentally tough – hell yes but I knew I could do this! We drove as hard as we could for the last 10 miles down the canal as the light faded.  Paddling the canal at night in the moonlight was awesome as were getting the drunken cheers from revellers in the pubs on the canalside in Newbury!  We didn’t make the cut. We missed it by 20 mins.  We were allowed to continue to the next time check 20 miles and 20 locks down the river but we knew we weren’t going to make it. Time to call it a day.  Devastated, gutted, sad but we had to make that decision.

As with all experiences, where does it leave me?  I learnt a lot. I discovered that I have way more drive and mental strength than I ever thought possible.  I hit the wall at about 11pm and still kept pushing and only let myself accept this when I knew we weren’t carrying on, then I had a bit of a girly cry! I have lots to tell my students about my endeavours.   All of these experiences make you a better teacher  especially if you share them with your students.  They see the real you and connecting with them is so very important. It’s also important to let them know you failed at something but that it hasn’t broken you. I failed but I am not a failure, what’s the quote? in 20 years time you will only regret the things that you didn’t do.  I have no regrets, I have come out of this experience, humbled yet stronger, tougher and ready to seek out the next challenge… I


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