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Personal Updates

Swim, Bike, Run — Armenia’s Second Annual Triathlon

Last weekend I participated in a triathlon up in the mountains at Lake Sevan, which was organised for the second year running by staff at the US Embassy. Events like this are few and far between in Armenia, as the idea of sport for general health and fitness has not yet gained widespread public acceptance. I’ve learnt to ignore the sniggering loons I encounter every time I go out for a ride or a run.

Marking the course at sunrise

I wanted to be part of the race primarily to have fun and meet some new people. Most of the other foreigners I knew here last year have now moved on. I also wanted to see how much of a difference the last months of bicycle travel had made to my overall fitness and ability to cycle at a competitive level, which was something I’d never tried before. I’d never even ridden a racing bike.

The experiment was going to be a daunting one — an early-morning 1.5km swim in the frigid high-altitude waters of Lake Sevan, up at 2,000m above sea level; a 40km bike ride which I didn’t really expect to cause too many problems, and finally the killer — a 10km run. I’ve never been a runner, and having hit the treadmill a couple of times in Dubai and felt the after-effects strongly, I fully expected to crumple up in a heap shortly after leaving the starting line on foot when the day came.

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Personal Updates

While You’re Waiting, You Might Enjoy…

Maybe you’ve been enjoying reading about my escapades in far-flung lands. And maybe you’re not particularly enthralled by the idea of reading up on my random musings, preparations and escapades as I remain relatively static for the next few months.

If so, look no further, as I have a few suggestions that may just keep you ticking over!

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Middle East & Africa 2009

The Final Steps

I climbed the stairs to a small flat in a back alley of central Tehran and rang the doorbell. Tenny opened the door, stared at me blankly for a second, then jumped out of her skin in shock. Minutes later we were laughing happily together. The journey was over. We would spend the next few days tentatively getting used to being with each other again after six long months apart.

In the two years since I left England I have had plenty of time to think about how life on the road has affected me. I don’t remember experiencing any single life-changing epiphany, but when I watch back old videos, or read things I wrote, or think about things I said or did a couple of years ago, the experience is often amusing, and sometimes embarrassing. It’s also interesting to note how similar these feeling are to those of others who have undertaken similar journeys.

Riding the Nubian dirt tracks

Categories
Middle East & Africa 2009

Political Conundrum Affects Man On Bike (Again)

Just as Tenny’s parents were readying the documents needed to issue a formal invitation for me to obtain a visa, the Iranian presidential elections took place, followed by a fortnight of diplomatic sniping which left Anglo-Iranian relations even more strained than before. I woke every morning to silence from the Iranian Foreign Ministry, and gradually my hopes of visiting Tenny’s family in Tehran began to dwindle. I cursed the idiotic squabbling of these children who are supposed to be our world’s leaders, and, like Andy a few months ago, began to look into alternative ways to get back to my girl.

Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai

One of the few rules of travel I was still left with was this: If I could travel light, in the sense of my environmental impact, I should. It was (and still is) a model not just for travel but for all aspects of life — living lightly in a time when doing so has never been more critical for the future. In concrete terms, this most obviously means low-carbon travel. You can’t do much better than cycling, and you can’t do much worse than flying. I wanted to avoid flying unless I had no other choice. And suddenly, infuriatingly, it looked like I didn’t.