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27 Jul, 2017

Making My Heart Sing

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“What makes your heart sing?” That is a line I read in a book, and it made me ask myself many questions. Have you ever wanted to do something completely out of your comfort zone? Ever had the urge to try something new? Have you ever been motivated by someone else doing something spectacular? And have you then done any of those things? Over the last few years I answered yes to all of those questions. – BY CARLA FARINA

We grow up in an environment where we are constantly told who we should be and what we should do. We are very often placed into boxes and the second we deviate from those boxes, we are seen as breaking the rules. I am a tennis player. I am a tennis coach. I am fast, agile, light on my feet, and good at ball sports. Growing up I was told to stick to ball sports, not to do endurance anything. “You are not built for long distance,” they said. Meanwhile, I was in the first teams and got colours for all my respective ball sports, and to this day I’m a high-performance tennis player and coach competing at a relatively high level. These sports always came naturally to me. The training was easy and I enjoyed it.

I was 25 years old when I decided I was going to do my first Half Ironman. It was something that I’d had in the back of my head for years, but it took me another year before I bit the bullet and entered. I was signed up for the Durban 70.3, and suddenly the reality hit: I had no idea whatsoever about Ironman or the training involved. It was something so completely different to anything I had done before.

Suddenly I found myself waking up at 4:30am to be in the pool by 5am, and doing hours of riding in the Cradle, and learning to run long distances. Although it was an incredible challenge, I was really enjoying the process – I was completely out of my comfort zone and found myself challenged in ways I never thought possible, but it was a challenge. And oh how I do love challenges.

Plans Derailed
All of a sudden I was a week away from my first ever Half Ironman, and then disaster – I was put on crutches for a dislocated knee! The doctors said I was not going to be able to race. They even told me, yet again, to stop endurance sport… but I would have none of it. I went down to Durban anyway to support my best friend, who was also doing the race, and at registration I politely asked whether I could maybe just do the swim. (I am, as I have been told, completely bonkers, after all). I was told a firm no, and at race briefing I was even given a special mention: “Please note, the girl on crutches may not do the swim!”

With hindsight, I am quite glad I didn’t do that swim, because it looked horrifying. Instead, I had a wonderful holiday in Durban with friends, and the second entries opened for the following year’s Durban 70.3, I sent in my entry. Training commenced and this time around I focused far more on strengthening my legs and being injury-free. I was going to do the 70.3 come hell or high water! I also picked up a speed trainer to ensure my tennis didn’t go out the window…

A few months down the line I entered the 94.7 Cycle Tour as a training race, and again, disaster: 30km into the race I fell off my bike and broke my scaphoid in my wrist! What did I do? Obviously, I got back on my bike, carried on and finished the race, then did a 1km swim event, and only after that I was put into plaster for 12 weeks… which did neither my training nor my bonkers, adventurous personality any good. I just carried on with what I could, including some running in the Eastern Cape and loads of spinning classes. Then in June 2016 I did it, I completed my first Half Iron. I was so proud of what I had overcome, and what it had taken to get there… but now it was done… and I needed a new, exciting challenge.

In the Deep End
Trail running. I wanted to do trail running. So what did I do? No, I didn’t enter a little starter 10km, I entered the Three Cranes Challenge in February this year, a three-day stage trail run with the daily distances of 28km, 41km and 22km! And why did I enter that? Because I needed accommodation for a wedding in that area on the middle day of the race! Crazy, I know, but that was the weekend I got bitten by the trail running bug.

The weekend was amazing. On the Saturday I did 63,000 steps as I completed 41km, then went to a wedding, had two hours of sleep, and ran the next day. Added to that, the final day was cold, wet and miserable, and my knee was in excruciating pain, but was I going to quit? No! Was I going to bail on the last day? Absolutely not. I just walked day three. I was slow, I was sore, I was grumpy, and I looked as though I had run the entire way on my face, but I finished. And I recovered.

The point is that had I listened to everyone telling me what I couldn’t do, I would never had experienced these things. I would never have learnt what it’s like to cross the finish line of an Ironman, I would never have known how much I love trail running, and I would never have known what I was really capable of. The point is that if you want something in this world, it’s up to you to go and get it. No-one can stop you, just as no-one can do it for you. You have to make it happen, and while you’re doing it, you may as well “go big or go home.”

Life Lesson Learnt
I am still looking forward to many more exciting adventures out there, and making friends along the way. I often sit back and think of what I would have missed out on had I not followed my heart and done all of these exciting things. Sure, it comes with ups and downs, and the road is never smooth, but you have to trust that the highs will outweigh the lows.

I’ve had my fair share of highs and lows over the past two years: I was on crutches three times, I had a broken arm, I had fallings out with friends, I had family troubles, I faced huge obstacles at work and I had financial instability, but on the other hand I had adventure, I learnt new skills, I learnt about myself, I learnt to appreciate those who love and support me unconditionally, and I learnt that you can do anything if you put your whole heart into it.

So what makes my heart sing? Tennis is my first love, but I am so much more than that. I love adventure, challenges, being active and pushing my boundaries, and I will continue to do these things, whether people think I can or not, because at the end of the day we have to find the things we love and we have to do them. So who knows what else lies out there for me. Maybe I’ll see you all at the Dusi…