Saturday, 13 July 2013

(5) 13.7.13 - Taffanaut Lost

Taffanaut's log, Stardate 13.7.13.
More than 87000 people had entered the Lynx Space Academy competition in the UK and I had made it through to the last 250 that took part in the live televised event in Westfield shopping centre at Shepherd's Bush in London on 13th July 2013. For some reason which I never understood the number of contestants was now 250 instead of 200. I was in a group of 125 taking part on the Saturday. The remaining 125 would battle it out the day after. I hadn't told my mum that I had entered the competition as she would have been worried about me going to London, let alone going into space. My dad had died a few years earlier but I am sure that as a fellow geek if he was still alive then he would have been pretty excited by it all. The event was taking place almost two months earlier than I thought it would, which was both good and bad news. The bad news was that I had less time to get fit but the good news was that my alcohol embargo could be lifted before the summer was over. It had been dry and warm for weeks and the weather forecast was for temperatures to top 30°c. We were having a dry sunny summer for what seemed like the first time in seven or eight years and I was tired of being pointed at by manic dwarves being herded by their moon faced parents waddling past the gym window while I was trundling along on the treadmill. I believed that I was ready.

I arrived early and was one of the first people to register, enter the arena area and start checking out the challenges and the other contestants. The contestants were not the contestants I was looking for. Quite a few of the male contestants looked to be under twenty five years old, fit and not as geeky as I had imagined they would be. There had been a bit of controversy earlier on in the competition when Lynx had been accused of sexism by targeting the advertising of the competition towards a male audience. Lynx were selling male grooming products so I could understood their logic but I had a feeling that the women who had turned up today had a point to prove. One guy had turned up in a wheelchair and after the initial shock of seeing him I had to admire him for competing. All of these people meant business.

The first challenge was an inflatable assault course which covered about half the arena area. It consisted of three main sections with various obstacles that had to be crawled under, crawled through, jumped or climbed over. The third section was made of walls with holes that looked just about big enough to get through with your arms above your head rounded off by one last wall to climb with a slide to the finish line. As I was one of the first people to arrive I was in the first batch to take on the assault course. Fifteen people went before me and their times ranged from about 45 seconds to 75 seconds. One guy lost his joggers and another guy lost his way hence the 75 second time.

Soon it was my turn. I stood in front of the course with my mouth dry and sticky and waited to be counted down to start. Then I was off. It usually takes about 20 to 30 seconds of exercise before alarm bells sound and my body realises what the hell is going on. This happened about half way round the course and I felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest and run off in front of me. I was only half way round and there was no way maintain this pace. Trying to move 15 stone around an assault course is no easy task. I had to slow down or face the prospect of having a clutcher suspended in a superman pose through a hole in an inflatable wall. By the time I climbed the final wall I was running on fumes. I slid and stumbled down the other side and as I crossed the finish line I exclaimed that I was rather tired. My time was a disappointing 56 seconds.

While I was sitting down wheezing like an enthusiastic octopus making love to a set of bagpipes I heard the second hand news that the assault course was the eliminator round and that only the top 24 out of 125 would progress any further. I hadn't heard the announcement before I did the assault course and was slightly worried. In hindsight it might have been better to do the assault course later rather than early on. The arena area was surrounded by balconies with ideal views allowing later contestants to figure out how best to tackle the course. As the day wore on the times gradually got quicker and quicker and it was becoming pretty obvious that I wasn't going to be in the top 24. I wasn't even going to be in the top 50. If I had warmed up and given my utmost and the clock had actually stopped when I collapsed across the finish line then maybe I could have shaved 10 seconds of my time but that still wouldn't have been quick enough. I think the fastest woman was "SpaceKate" with a time of 42 seconds which still wasn't fast enough. The fastest time was just under 30 seconds. I have no idea how that is even humanly possible. The 24 who got through were all male aged between 18 and 25 years old. These 24 were finally narrowed down to just 2 by further challenges throughout the day.

Maybe I was just being a bad sportsman but looking round at the other ex contestants I could see disappointment in their faces. I tried to block out the feelings that I was having and hung around to see who won a place in the next stage. I played the part, tried to fit in and applauded the winners but inside I felt something just wasn't right. This wasn't how it had played out in my head. That Saturday was one of the hottest days of the year when people would have been out enjoying the freak warm weather but at some point during that day nearly every Taffanaut follower (approx. 1500 at the time) had checked to see how I was doing. People told me that I had done well to get so far but I couldn't agree with them because nothing short of success had been acceptable for me. I had not allowed any room in my head for thoughts of failure. Belief in success had been absolute which meant that failure was equally unpleasant. It felt like someone had died.

Over the next few days and nights an ocean of thoughts swarmed and buzzed in side my restless mind and something began to take form like some monster from the Id. Taking part in and not winning had been the final piece in the jigsaw that I had needed and now I had a reason to continue, a plan and everything I needed to make the plan succeed.

The plan meant that I had to carry on promoting the Taffanaut Facebook page while writing a blog of about 6 items plus one proposal item. The Facebook page was going to be used later on. I already knew that very few fat fingered Facebook users would click on a link and read the blog but that didn't matter as they were never the main intended target audience. The main target audience would be targeted when the 5th blog item was finished and the 6th and last blog item was almost ready.

This is the end of the 5th item.