SAFMH has partnered with Jarryd Irvine, the co-founder and director of Trimaster Corp., wellness consultant and multisport coach. Jarryd has a passion for endurance sport and mental health. He is currently fundraising for SAFMH and creating awareness about mental health through championing and participating in various endurance challenges throughout 2022.
In this blog, Jarryd shares his experiences of a ‘little’ endurance challenge he undertook on the 23rd of April 2022. This was the Trimaster Everesting Swim Challenge hosted at Prime View Adventure and Leisure in Olifantsfontein, Gauteng, South Africa.
Jarryd’s words below:
“It was a beautiful morning as we arrived to setup gazebos, cooler-boxes and do an event briefing. I’m so grateful my wife could get us there because we were both ill and driving at 5am seemed impossible for me (not that it was any easier for her). Without all her support, these things would be impossible.
My Everesting goal was 29km (this is 8848m – the elevation of Mt. Everest – converted into feet – approximately 29 000ft – and made into kilometers). I had been physically training for approximately 2 months but probably 6 months of mental training and my nutrition plan was laid out the night before. Some of my mental health training includes:
- Focusing on what I can control and tightening them up as much as possible.
- Here I focused on the specific details and fill in the blanks as much as I can. For example, knowing how many carbs and fluids I needed per hour, when I would rest and making sure that I had the right gear to keep me protected.
- Practicing adapting and flexibility to changing circumstances.
- I ask myself: “If the water cools down or wind picks up, what do I need to do to stay warm? If I get a cramp, how do I get rid of it to keep going? Can I adapt to the changing internal or external environment with the resources and knowledge I have?”
- Knowing myself well enough to know when I can push through and when I need to call it a day.
- I find it more difficult and disappointing to ‘quit’ but I’ve found it gives me great motivation for future endeavors so I don’t have to quit again.
The week leading-up to this event didn’t exactly go as planned. My wife had started getting sick on the Wednesday; I was housesitting so not in my usual space; and to top it all off I started getting a scratchy throat the day before the challenge.
So HOW does one endure all of these things and get up to take on an extreme challenge without a negative impact on your mental and physical health? SUPPORT is the key answer to this question.
Did I complete the 29km? No. I had to put my health first. I remember starting off and my hips were giving me issues (not what I had expected) due to the cold temperature of the water, I suspect being ill had something to do with this. However, I found the cool water had an anti-inflammatory effect on my upper respiratory system and chest so figured since I wasn’t drowning in mucus I could continue. Eventually at around 14.5km (half the attempt), my hips started seizing up and at 15km we decided to call it a day.
What did I experience during the event?
- I found encouragement of others drove me forward.
- My planning (like when to rest and what gear to have) was crucial.
- I found I became very self-focused. I tuned out what was being said around me and just focused on getting through one lap at a time.
- I was reminded about how important faith is when it comes to completing challenges. This applies both to getting to the starting line and doing our best to get as far as possible (a note that preparation and training are key elements of faith; if I don’t prepare properly through training I can’t expect to go as far as I hope).
Unfortunately in life we experience obstacles like getting sick and things not going according to plan. This provides an opportunity for fear, anxiety, and sadness to jump in. I think it’s so important that we know who we can lean on in these moments. Strong support is critical to good mental health. We also need to know what strategies we can use when these obstacles crop up. Every time we overcome we should use those as building blocks for future obstacles, to know we can overcome them in future even if they look different.
Finally, I want to say a few words of gratitude to some people. Without them, this would not have been possible: to Robyn & her team for facilitating this event and their awesome support during the day; to my incredibly supportive wife; to the brave participants that joined me in the icy waters to complete the quarter challenge (approximately 7250m); to my coach, Louise Strydom, for seconding me during the day, and to Garth and his team from Lifeguard Services ensuring everyone in the water was safe.
I also want to thank SAFMH for all they do in terms of advocacy and awareness, developing partnerships to ensure appropriate mental health care opportunities are available for all just like medical care would be. An important element of improving mental health is sharing your experiences and feelings with your support system. That’s why it’s so important that we work on creating and maintaining trusted relationships and support networks. I’d love to see:
- Improved access to mental health care support in communities.
- Increased opportunities for people with mental health conditions to share their experiences.
- More people improving their understanding of mental health to be able to support others in their immediate circles without judgment. Rather ask questions about the experiences and create a safe place for others to share.
This is all certainly easier said than done but it can be done. If you send a mail to email@example.com with an enquiry as to how you can better support people in your community, they will help guide you through the process.”
To follow Jarryd’s journey as he takes on other endurance challenges to create awareness about mental health in South Africa you can follow him on Instagram or via his blog. Jarryd established Trimaster Corp. as a non-profit entity to do these endurance challenges and research the impacts of endurance sports on mental health (and vice versa). Jarryd is currently calling on people who do any amount of physical activity to complete their athlete health survey. This will help us better understand athletes’ physical, emotional, and mental strength compared to the general population and determine the best next step to promote mental health in sports participation.