Afzal Hussein

I was inspired after attending the 2016 AJ Bell triathlon as a supporter cheering on two of my friends who were participating in the olympic tri. Once the day had ended I decided I would take part in the super sprint tri in 2017. I delayed signing up as I thought it might be a good idea for me to start swimming first. I started swimming and could only swim 25 metres before I needed to pause, catch my breath and continue. Luckily, my friend gave me some top tips and advice on swimming, and with my consistent effort and dedication I managed to pick it up and improve.

This led me to decide I would sign up for the sprint triathlon in 2017 rather than the super sprint (having never participated in anything like a triathlon before this was a big step for me!). To be fair, I'm an avid football player and I wasn't too worried about the cycle. As time went on, and as my swimming improved I eventually decided to scrap the sprint level and sign up for the olympic level triathlon. I signed up on the Black Friday weekend along with a few colleagues and my friends who initially inspired me to sign up which was nice - there was also a huge discount to signing up on that Friday which is always a bonus!

Initially I set out to just challenge myself and see if I could complete the super sprint (400 metre swim + 10km cycle + 2.5km run) which eventually turned into the sprint (750 metre swim + 20km cycle + 5km run) and then into the olympic level (1.5km swim + 40km cycle + 10km run). I was telling myself I would be happy to just complete the distances and come out of the race in one piece. However, as time has gone by and my competitive nature getting the better of me I have begun to want to complete the triathlon in as fast a time as possible. Now I'm not saying I want to target the Brownlee brothers'times, but I would like to clock in a sub-3hr time. To many of you that might sound like a piece of cake; to others that might sound amazing. However, for me, it's a target that I am working towards and hungry to achieve.

Fast forward a few months and we're in the thick of Ramadan (May 26th to June 24th 2017 - with only 8 weeks or so to go until race day which is Saturday 22nd July 2017 for me). Ramadan, for those of you who might not be aware, is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar where Muslims fast for 1 whole month. That means no food and no water between dawn until sunset - basically, no food or water (yep, not even water!) from between around 2am till 9pm.

Fasting for around 20 hours every day can be quite tough, especially when one is working in the city with a job that requires around 10+ hours a day at work. As a result, I needed to devise an emergency plan. After all, I was anticipating Ramadan coming in the thick of my training the month before my first ever triathlon. And yes, some people did think I was mad/crazy.

Luckily, AJ Bell sent around an email with a good 8-week training plan and a 12-week training plan for completing an olympic level triathlon for intermediate triathletes. "I am by no means an intermediate level triathlete, but what the heck, I'll try!" - that was my thought process. I had 7 weeks until race day and so I started the 8-week programme on week 2. As I write this post, I am wrapping up week 3 (Sunday 18th June) and will begin week 4 of the programme tomorrow with a 1.7km swim (various drills). Tonight, before I break my fast at 9.24pm, I will be going for a brick session at 7pm. This will include a 1hr 20minute cycle followed by a 20 minute run. Note: I completed my first ever 10km run yesterday, go me! It took me 60 minutes and felt great. The 28 degree heat and fasting surprisingly had no impact on the run. I ran around Regent's Park, Swiss Cottage and St John's Wood. I drooled at the massive houses and luxury apartments around those areas. It was beautiful!

Now, I always knew, with most things in life, you need an end goal in most things in order to be able to push and dig deep when things get rough.

Something to look forward to when the going gets tough. As a result, I knew I wanted to do a fundraise for charity for my efforts in attempting to complete the triathlon. So I have created a Just Giving page to raise money for the following - Last week, in West London, there was the tragic event of the 24 floor tower block (Grenfell Tower) catching fire. So many people had lost there lives, loved ones and livelihoods. The whole of London and beyond came together to support and show their love for the victims and so I decided to kickstart a fundraiser for the victims. I initially decided on a target of

£1,000 which I then decided to donate myself. Shortly after, I decided to be ambitious and target a £5,000 fundraise. We can't imagine what the victims will be going through and the whole incident just goes to show how short life can be. We live in a world where none of us know when our time will come and so the least one can do is to live a life helping others, particularly those in most need. So far, I have been overwhelmed with the generosity of my friends, colleagues and strangers who have all contributed in taking us past the halfway mark to reaching £5,000. Whether we hit the target or not is not important anymore. What's important to me is that so long as we, as human beings can impact just one life in a positive way, we have served our purpose.

I write this post on a Sunday afternoon thinking of all the current triathletes and the triathletes-to-be over the weekend of July 22nd and 23rd next month. So many of them are raising awareness by fundraising for charities of their choices and so many are fighting their own challenges and overcoming fears by partaking. I think that in itself is beautiful.

Thank you to the organisers, the participants and most importantly those who come along to support. You all make these events what they are!

Best of luck and keep Tri-ing :)