Beads of condensation drool down the bottle of ice-cold Piton beer. They caress its curves and seem to purr: "Drink me..."
I need little encouragement. I am barely out of the kayak and up the sandy beach before this Caribbean ambrosia is thrust into my hand, the cool glass soothing my paddle-chafed palm. It is like winning a big, shiny trophy – but, better, one you can consume.
Backtrack a few hours and I wasn't drinking lager – it was strictly water and oats from the breakfast buffet. My five fellow travellers and I had a big day ahead.
I am at The BodyHoliday LeSport in St Lucia. Tucked away on a blissful bay in the north of the island, it's not your traditional fly-and-flop resort (though you can do that if you like).
The BodyHoliday's focus is on guests bettering their bodies. No one forces you to do aerobics at dawn or consume only mung beans. But the range of activities and sports on offer is bewildering – yoga, spin, fencing, circuits, scuba, Pilates, windsurfing, jive. This year another option has been added to its bulging athletic agenda: a Quadrathlon.
No Place For Couch Potatoes
Triathlon? Pffff! So 2012 (though there is a big one of those taking place on the island this weekend). The BodyHoliday's new multi-sport workout/fun-day (depending on your perspective) comprises four elements: a 10-kilometre cycle, a four-kilometre run, a 35-metre abseil and a 2.5-kilometre kayak.
Better still, it takes advantage of St Lucia's topographical assets. The mostly off-road mountain bike traverses rugged countryside; the run takes you to historic Pigeon Island, home to an 18th-century fort; the kayak rounds the headland where Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea meet. It's a self-powered nature tour, with an element of challenge chucked in.
But, I've been assured, it isn't a race. "If you try to race the Quad, you won't finish it," health and wellbeing leader Guto had warned us the day before.
Now, I'm no couch potato, but nor am I a Brother Brownlee. The idea of spending a week getting fit in the Caribbean, topped off with this new-fangled Quadrathlon, had sounded splendid. But now I am here I realise: I can run all right, but I'm scared of bikes, scared of heights and have the upper body strength of a sparrow.
The day dawns, sunny and – importantly – calm. According to Guto the kayak might take anywhere between 30 minutes and two hours, depending on the choppiness of the sea, so I am relieved to see a mill-pond.
However, less welcome are my aching muscles. The previous morning's Beach Bootcamp – run by Olympic rowers Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins, the week's athletes-in-residence – have not, apparently, been the best preparation.
After breakfast, my fellow Quad-ers and I assemble at the resort's entrance. We are united by nerves, but not specifics: I dread the bike ride, others most fear the run, or the rappel, or the paddle. Too late now. We are hooked up with GPS watches and heart-rate monitors that will record our speeds and calorie burn; we are given a few tips on gears.
And then we are off.
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Fueled On Tough-Girl Pride
Our first obstacle is an uphill grind out of the BodyHoliday's grounds. But before long we are veering offroad into cactus-sprouting countryside. Wild horses canter in the distance and the ocean murmurs below, kissing coves of deserted sand; there are no resorts, just wild green plunging to turquoise.
It is hard work hefting up the uneven tracks, but it is an innocuous patch of mud on the flat that causes me to tumble. The resulting cut on my finger produces a disproportionate amount of blood; I eye my stained top with dismay – and not a little tough-girl pride.
Our cycle ends beneath Pigeon Island, to some fanfare. It is party time at adjacent Rodney Bay; a regatta is getting started, and music is pumping from speakers. No time to join in though – after a slug of water, it is time to run.
At least I can run, or so I think. But thanks to the tropical air, every breath feels as if it is gasped through a hot snorkel. Still, the beginning is mercifully flat, an out-and-back along the man-made causeway that, since 1972, has linked Pigeon Island to the mainland. As we pass, a horse on the verge raises its head to watch and an egret hops on to its back, as if after a better view.
Things get more interesting in the latter stages, as the run winds up one of Pigeon's two peaks. The regatta's sound system provides an encouraging/annoying beat as we plod through lush parkland to the breezy summit.
Canons face out to sea, a reminder of this outpost's strategic importance during 18th-century battles between the British and the French. I am not in the mood for a history lesson, though, focusing instead on the last, steep, thigh-burning push for the top.
A reward awaits: cold drinks, bananas and Edwin – the only man you want to see after a tough upward slog, when your next challenge is to throw yourself back down. Edwin offers a calm, reassuring presence.
As we take in the wild sea views, he stands on the cliff edge and explains the thickness of the rope and the load-bearing capacity of each carabiner: the exact figures are lost to a jitter of nerves, but suffice to say those small metal curls could support several elephants-worth of kilonewtons.
We will be quite safe.
What Goes Up ...
We take it in turns to rappel down this jungly 35-metre-high gash in Pigeon Island, with Edwin at the top and Aaron, our anchorman, below. I watch as my Quad-mates start off cool, and then break into a flutter of expletives at a point just out of sight. There is only one way to find out what is there ...
I start my own descent in a state of managed fear. I try to focus on form: legs soft, sit into harness, feed rope through. And then I lose control and swing sidewards like a pendulum, crashing against the cliff.
After that, my technique goes to pot. It isn't scary, just rather ungraceful as Aaron lowers my dangling bottom down to firm ground.
Abseil done, it is straight off to the sea to swim out to our kayaks. I haul myself in – again, not elegant – and point my prow homeward. A bottle of cold beer is now practically visible in the distance; only 2.5 kilometres of wave-battling to get there.
It quickly becomes clear that kayaking (along with abseiling) is not my strong suit. It is still fairly calm, but I have no paddling technique, and even less power.
So, instead, I resolve to just enjoy the ride. I settle into a steady rhythm, admiring the guano-graffiti on Bird Rock and the shimmer of the sea. I consider fibbing about seeing a dolphin, as an excuse for being slow, but decide I am fine with coming last.
There are worse places to be. And when I finally haul myself ashore, I have a full welcoming committee – and that cold beer is thrust straight into my hand.
This article was written by Sarah Baxter from The Independent and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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