A cancer survivor has become the first woman to complete a gruelling ‘Sea to Summit’ triathlon which saw her swim, cycle and run over 330 MILES in just five days.
Superfit Andrea Mason, 39, didn’t sleep and barely ate during the duration of the ‘insane’ challenge but was ecstatic when she crossed the finish line early Wednesday morning.
The race, set in the French Alps, involved swimming around the circumference of Lake Annecy, then cycling and running up Mt Blanc – Europe’s second highest peak (15,774 ft).
She set off at 6.15am on Friday and battled through severe pain, cramping and hallucinations but managed to complete the race in four days, 23 hours and 41 minutes.
Andrea was diagnosed with severe endometriosis and cervical cancer in 2017 and needed life-saving surgery.
Following a successful operation, she is now hoping to raise awareness of women’s reproductive health.
Endometriosis is a debilitating condition that causes painful or heavy periods.
It can lead to infertility, fatigue and bowel and bladder problems.
Andrea, from Blackpool, Lancs., said: “I feel happy, exhausted and relieved.
“I am so happy all went to plan as there were so many things that could have gone wrong. I wanted to do it in five days, and I did, but it was tough, really tough.
“I had some low moments, particularly when I couldn’t sleep in my limited rest periods, and when I couldn’t keep any food down as I was running.
“For sure I had some doubts along the way. I was venturing into the unknown with such a huge run, particularly as large parts of it were in the dark.
“It was bigger than I imagined, the impact on my body was huge, but every time I felt like stopping and considered giving up, I kept remembering why I was doing it.
“I thought about all the women out there in pain or who still hadn’t been diagnosed. That is why I put myself through this.”
Andrea had to swim 23 miles around the circumference of Lake Annecy, cycle 205 miles with 30,000 feet of vertical climbing around Mont Blanc and ran 105 miles with 4,000 feet of vertical climbing around the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc.
She powered through to finish the challenge just before 6am on Wednesday.
Andrea spent the last 12 months training for a world record which would have seen her swim the longest lakes and climb the highest mountains in the UK.
During her training, she swam, ran, and cycled nearly 400 miles a week.
She travelled to South Africa with her team to swim in open waters, and then trained in France, but was unable to return to the UK due to the pandemic.
She said: “It was incredibly frustrating that we were unable to take on the World Record due to the pandemic but I will always continue to try and raise awareness for this cause.
“I decided to set myself an even crazier challenge and I’m just happy I’ve done it.
“It’s important to me to inspire other women – that they know they can achieve anything.”
During the most gruelling stretch of Andrea’s training, she swam 40 miles, cycled for 500 miles and ran 30 miles in just five days.
But she said she persevered as she felt it was important to raise awareness about women’s reproductive health.
She said: “This cause is something that’s so personal to me, so close to my heart – it’s something I suffered through myself.
“I think it’s so important that women are aware of this, that we normalise female reproductive issues.
“I had endometriosis for a long time without knowing it. Most women will have it for an average of seven and a half years before they are diagnosed.”
Andrea, a prolific swimmer, completed her first three mile race ‘powered by Mars bars’ when she was just four and was a world junior swimming champion.
But at 23, she began to feel constant pain and was unable to train for long periods of time as she would feel exhausted.
Doctors and sports psychologists were unable to find an answer, and told her she must have had a ‘bad period’.
She said: “I was 23, fresh out of uni, and I had no idea what was happening to me.
“Doctors couldn’t explain why I couldn’t compete – I was so fit, trained hard, but I didn’t know what was wrong.
“I was told the pain I was feeling must have been a bad period.”
When she was finally diagnosed in 2017, she said all she felt was relief.
In the past year she set up her own charity, Lady Talk Matter, in a bid to normalise the conversation surrounding female reproductive matters.
She said: “I am fearful that the number of women missing their cervical smear tests will have risen during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Knowing that one in three women already do not attend their smear test and one in 10 women currently have endometriosis, more than ever before I want to raise awareness around these issues.
“With Covid-19 occupying the thoughts of the world, we want to make sure that women’s reproductive health is not forgotten.”
Last summer, in just five days, Andrea successfully swam the Channel, cycled from Calais to Chamonix Mont-Blanc in France, and climbed to the top of Mont Blanc in the first ‘Sea to Summit’ event.