A minute with Tom Denniss who has just completed the fastest circumnavigation of the globe on foot.
1.What was your daily routine while en route?
Wake up, breakfast, get dressed, run, finish the day, do the blog and other documentation, shower, dinner and red wine.
2.How do you plan to deal with the inevitable come down of stopping after that being your life for over 20 months?
Not sure – I’ll do the best I can.
3.What made you do it? Why not just keep running marathons and ultras?
It’s a great way to see the world. I am not interested in marathon or ultra races. I’m simply not capable of running them fast enough to be competitive (sprinting is my forte – 400 metre races). The world run was always at a slow and sustainable pace.
4.How did you convince your wife to commit to it as well?
She was keener than me.
6.How many pair of trainers/runners did you go through? 17
7.Was there ever a moment while on course when you felt that you could not do it?
No, although it was difficult at times.
8.How much of your success was dependent on mindset and how much was physical?
9.What did you sleep in each night, tents/houses…?
10. Why did you pick Oxfam as your charity?
I had donated to Oxfam for years, plus they have a history of fund raising events involving running.
11.How was the final day?
Short, but very enjoyable.
12. 26,000 km – 622 marathons. How is your body, especially your feet now?
I feel stronger than ever, especially around the knees and other joints. My feet were the only part that ached a bit by the end of each day, but that’s normal for someone who spends eight hours at a time on their feet.
13. Did you succeed in it being the “Fastest Circumnavigation of the Earth on Foot”?
Yes, although I need to submit my documentation for ratification before it becomes official.
14. How your perspective on life changed as a result of this adventure?
I think I’m pretty much the same, except I now have a fantastic adventure under my belt.
David and Katharine are 13months into running the length of South America. 5000miles through rainforest and mountains to raise both money and awareness for the environment. I got in contact with Dave when he emerged from the rainforest for a brief spell to hear about their amazing story so far.
1.You ran to raise awareness and get people passionate about nature again, do you think it has been working?
Ha, that’s a tough one to start with! I think it depends on what level. Locally, when we stop at a school midway through our running day it is a fantastic opportunity to inspire – it’s easy! We are there with people, we are enthusing about the natural world around us, we have images and video and feathers we find by the road to identify and the feedback is immediate, people are psyched! From afar, who knows?!
People are used to sporting events been used to raise money for cancer or other human-related causes, not wildlife. The publics reaction can depend on class and country, but generally speaking most people are resistant to anything that they see as an attack on their current way of life – it’s the human condition. We are saying, “look out the window, the natural world is utterly amazing”, people are hearing, “these guys are greenies trying to make it more difficult for me to have a big car!”
Also, depending on the media, feedback isn’t immediate, in fact with some forms of media e.g. radio, you never receive it! So its hard to tell.
2.What do people need to do to help?
It’s easy, have an affair with nature! People of any physical condition can do it – go out, be in the real world, be amazed by the complex natural systems that support human life, ask questions, investigate, learn that we are part of nature, not above it! We are passionate that so long as people know more about the natural world’s secrets, there is a chance that we can reverse the damage we are currently inflicting on out planets life support systems.
3.What running experience did you have before this?
We are both keen recreational runners, no more than that, with the odd longer competition under our belt. Kath has ran the 45 mile ‘4 INNS’ race several times. I have enjoyed the Scottish Islands Peaks Race, and Northumberlands Castles and Islands, both sailing/running events, but mainly we run for the fun of being outside in all weather. Nothing better for de-stressing!
4.How are your feet withstanding this?
Really good, I haven’t had a single blister! We have a nice combination of shoes for running with the trailer and running free, plus we go barefoot about 10% of the miles now – its great for training your running style and hardening the feet a little.
5.What distance do you cover on average per day?
Our average running day is now 23miles. We used to find 20 was enough, given the 80kg trailer we run with, and given the fact an injury could end our dream, but now we can smell the finish we are looking to take a few more risks to squeeze a little more out!
6.How do you keep your mind focused and your spirits high after so long on the road?
It’s better not to consider the overall distance remaining – just deal with each shift as it comes, each half hour, each mile, each step if it’s a really tough climb! Each step makes a difference, and we have taken close to 10,000,000. It´s a nice metaphor for the steps people are taking to protect the planet too, 1 in 7bn is daunting, but there is no silver bullet, each small, seemingly insignificant step is making a difference!
7.Any stories of good deeds or amazing people you’ve met along the way?
Many! We are alone a lot, but never far from human kindness. One thing I would say is that the place in which we received the most charity by the roadside; food, drinks, shelter, banter, is Bolivia. What is interesting is that Bolivia is the poorest country in South America!
8.What advantage have the barefoot shoes given you?
They are great. The idea is always to run as naturally as possible at all times. On certain road conditions (or with the trailer!) you simply can not do it with bare feet. The gravel makes you wince or you have road debris, or the asphalt is so hot it sticks to your skin. We slip on the barefoot shoes and we are back on, running lightly with a quick cadence. We change our shoes a lot!
9.Have you came up with an effective way to treat blisters yet?
Yes! Our INOV-8 race socks have basically all but eliminated them. We are not paid-up athletes so are not obliged to say this, but they work. They are single skin socks and with our INOV-8 and VIVOBAREFOOT. I have not had a problem in over 5000miles of running in rain, wind, and snow. Barefoot running probably helps too as it hardens your feet.
10.How have you seen your fitness change?
I have no idea when these calves arrived, but they did! We have improved greatly fitness wise, but still there is never an easy 23-mile day running whilst pulling a heavy trailer, sandwiched between other longer running days!
11.How much food and water do you carry on you?
Good question, it varies wildly. We carry the minimum possible whilst making sure we never go hungry. In the more populated areas that could be 2 days worth, maybe 3kg. On the wild stretches (we have carried food for 21 days)probably 100kg! We eat local food and do not use bizarre packet foods which are expensive and unavailable, and seem to me to just taste of stock cubes.
Water, again depends on the territory. We drink a lot, usually 10L each per day, so that’s 20kg water per day on the trailer when we are in dry areas. Good to remember that dehydration is a major cause of running injuries so not to be messed with. In Chile and here in the rainforest we can carry very little as it always available. In Argentina water was the limiting factor, and at times we carried over 30 litres. We use a LifeSaverSystems water filter to pump and clean wild water where it feels like we need to, but this does take valuable running time (and calories!).
12.You have been running for over twelve months, when is the expected date of completion?
20th October 2013, not a day later!
14. What is the coolest animal you’ve seen on route?
I love Guanacos, it´s like a sexy version of a camel with long eyelashes! Best bird moment? An Amazona Parrot landed on Katharine´s shoulder a few days ago whilst we were running past the rainforest. Sounds silly, but we asked it what it was called and it said “Laura”. It’s true! Mind you, it said Laura to everything, whilst nibbling Katharine’s ear.
15. What are you using to navigate?
Garmin Forerunner 310XT GPS watch plus google satellite images. Each charge lasts us two days now, and we can charge it with the PowerMonkey solar panel easily in an hour. It’s very good, but I wouldn´t swim with it on as the seals are going, we are really using our equipment!
16.What are you finding the toughest to cope with?
Living by the roadside – it´s sort of a mix between local celebrity and being a tramp! We try to hide as best we can when we are not running but it can be really tough, not having somewhere to call home.
17.How are you getting on with each other after so long in each others pockets?
Can you imagine it?! We are friends as well as husband and wife, and running partners, but at times we flare up!Sometimes the whole of South America wouldn’t be big enough, and we yell in the wind! Naah, like all relationships we tend to focus our angst on the ones closest (especially given there is nobody else who speaks your language within 5000miles!), especially when hungry and tired, but we are normally too tired to remember what the thing was all about! What normally happens is some wildlife moment or other gets in the way of our mood, and we end up saying ¨wow, what the hell was that?!¨.
18. What’s the best piece of gear you have brought?
INOV-8 wrags! It is a little piece of fabric that we cannot live without! They protect us from the sun, wind, dust, rubs in a myriad of places best left undisclosed!!
Ideas for unique adventures to embark on are becoming increasingly difficult to unearth. However, we think we’ve come across such a one. A team of ten will attempt to Stand Up Paddleboard up the Sermilik Fjord in Greenland to reach the towering Helheim Glacier. A 100km journey that has never been attempted before. Sidetracked caught up with team member Phil Sayers to find out how they intend to pull off this feat.
Sidetracked: So how did you get involved in all of this?
Phil Sayers: Paul Hyman and Justin Miles originally came up with the concept of taking Paddleboarding to an extreme and remote location like the Arctic to prove how safe and accessible Stand Up Paddleboarding is. The idea for the project evolved over the following months and once they mentioned the project to me I knew that this was an adventure of a lifetime and immediately said that I would love to be a part of it. The expedition is an opportunity to visit one of the most stunning landscapes on the planet; the project also has the potential to help change lives through the charities we are supporting and introduce new people to this exciting new water sport that we are all so passionate about.
Have you been trying to replicate the conditions of Greenland in your training? E.g. going out on your board in speedos so you can get used to the cold?
The UK weather has come up trumps over the last few months for providing conditions similar to what we are expecting to find in Greenland. We anticipate the water temperature in August to be around freezing and the air temperature to be between 5-10 degrees, so the extended winter conditions have been ideal.
SUP is quite an exposed way of travelling, what gear will you be wearing in case you fall in to the water?
We are currently testing a variety of clothing and equipment to take on the expedition including; dry suits, base layers, wetsuits, wetsuit socks, dry boots and various gloves and mitts. The main factors that we need to consider are: keeping our feet warm as these will be in contact with the water for the majority of time; and selecting clothing that will prevent us becoming too hot while paddling, but at the same time ensuring we are protected in case we fall into the freezing water. The training and expedition will give us the opportunity to find out what water sports kit works well in cold conditions and if there is a need for developing new clothing and equipment to ensure people are able to paddle all year round. We will be working closely with manufacturers to help develop equipment specifically for the SUP market.
Read the full interview on Sidetracked’s website here.
Check out my interview with adventurer and TV presenter Simon Reeve on Sidetracked online.
Over the last ten years, author, adventurer and TV presenter Simon Reeve has travelled the world with a camera in tow to record his extraordinary experiences for shows such as Equator, Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn and Indian Ocean and now his latest adventure ‘Australia’, is showing in the UK on BBC 2. We spoke to Simon about his past, current and future adventures.
Sidetracked: Hi Simon, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us. Author, adventurer and presenter: which do you think best represents you?
Simon Reeve: An adventurer would be one of the descriptions I might use if I was feeling really poncey along with author. I like calling myself an author because I wrote a book and I’ll be trading off that for probably the rest of my life. Also now, probably my most important title is dad and that’s the hardest one to live up to.
So tell us a little more about your book, and how did you go from writing to presenting?
I really don’t know how that happened to be honest. It’s really bizarre. I wrote a book on al-qada that came out in 1998 which warned of a new era of terrorism and nobody took any notice whatsoever and then 9-11 happened and it became a best seller, I went on the telly to talk about it quite a lot and that lead to discussions with the BBC about making TV programs for them. I had my own hair and teeth and I had written this book that had given me some experience and legitimacy and so I set off on a journey for them around central Asia which was interesting. It was an area in which I was really interested in and I thought BBC viewers might like to learn a little bit more about it and so that was my first TV gig. That was around Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for a series brilliantly titled Meet the Stans and I’ve been going ever since. I can’t believe it. Here I am now ten years later. Don’t tell anyone.
Read the rest of the interview on the Sidetracked website here.
Loretta White along with three others completed an unsupported journey by bike from London, England to Cape Town, South Africa in 2012 to raise awareness of the reality of children who are surviving on the streets of Africa.
1.Did your sponsors provide all the kit?
We were lucky enough to be provided with some of our kit free of charge from our sponsors. Vaude were particularly generous and donated us panniers and tents. The rest of our kit we were able to gain corporate sponsorship to pay for, though we had to haggle hard to get good discounts and keep the cost as cheap as possible.
2.What proved to be the best piece of gear you brought?
My favourite piece of equipment was our tent, Vaude ferret 3, as no matter where we were we could zip ourselves into it at night and have our own little home!
3.How did you decide on your chosen route?
Our route through Africa was decided through a mixture of countries we wanted to visit, spending time near the coast, and where our charity partners had projects we could visit. We decided to take the long way through Europe as an extended training ride leading up to the Middle East and Africa where we could test our equipment and get used to the road without being too far from home.
4.What training did you do beforehand?
All of us were pretty fit already but I wasn’t a cyclist. Before the trip as a group we managed four weekend training rides though these all took us longer than we imagined and inevitably involved a big pub lunch which wasn’t great for an afternoon of riding!
5.How much money did you raise in the end?
In total the whole expedition raised £50,000 which all went to street child charities. These were Street Action, Retrak, Street Child Africa, Railway Children, and Action for Children in Conflict.
6.How long did the expedition take to plan?
Craig had the idea to cycle from London to Cape Town around 7 years before we started the trip though thought this was just a pipe dream. We properly started planning for the trip about two years before we started though most of this planning was getting sponsorship and setting up the charity Cycle Africa.
7.How was it returning to work after taking a year out of it to do this?
For me this has been the hardest thing of the whole expedition as you realise that there is an incredible world out there and that you can do incredible things with your life so that when you come home it is hard to fit back into the 9-5 box. I’m still working on this but don’t think I’ll ever be totally happy just having a normal life again and I’m sure there will be another adventure on the cards!
10.What made you commit to a journey of that scale – 10,000miles?
To be honest I didn’t really think of the miles I just thought of what an amazing achievement it would be to cycle to South Africa and of all those incredible countries we could visit on the way. I also thought about how the bicycle is such a classless way of travelling letting you get closer to local people without looking like a ‘rich tourist’ and travel through villages that you wouldn’t originally have visited.
11.Any plans for future expeditions?
No definite plans yet but watch this space…
12. What were you using to navigate your route, document the journey and upload content online?
We went old school and just used paper maps to plan the route and the advice of local people. We carried an iPad between us which we used to manage our website, upload photos and write blogs etc. Everything could be done off line and then uploaded when we got wifi access in the bigger cities.
13. What was the daily routine on the road?
We would wake up early with the sun around 6-7am. Get ready, pack up, have breakfast and be on the road by 8am. Cycle around 30kms and then stop for a snack, then another 30kms and stop for lunch, then another 20-30kms and find somewhere to pitch our tent, have dinner and chill out.
14.Any stand out moments that made all the pain worthwhile?
Lots but the most stand out moments for me weren’t the huge sights like seeing the pyramids it was the intimate local experiences like camping in the garden of the village chief or sleeping under the stars in the desert in Sudan. Reaching Cape Town was also an incredible high!
15.Did you ever feel like throwing in the towel and going home?
Absolutely!!! I felt like this properly about three times in total. Once at the beginning when I lay in my tent shattered from the cycling thinking I can’t even get through France let alone to Africa. Once when I had just said goodbye to my parents in Kenya and I had dysentery so was feeling pretty miserable. And the final one surprisingly in South Africa as we had made the final country though still had a long way to cycle and I was just feeling really tired.
16.How has life changed since? Has your perspective on how you see the world altered?
Due to lots of family stuff life has had its ups and downs since coming home though it has taught me to make the most of every single minute and to keep an open mind as people and places might just surprise you.
17. How long did it take you to recover after?
Physically it probably took a few months though mentally I still am recovering in that I am still longing the outdoors an the open road.
18.You were the only girl amongst four boys – did you ever feel like you were slowing them down or were you just as strong as them on and off the bike? (I ask this because it’s what I’m afraid of as a female wanting to do these things.)
At the beginning I gained fitness really quickly so didn’t feel like I was slowling people down, though from about Kenya I had a few episodes of illness and after that I felt that I’d reached the peak of my cycling fitness while the guys were still gaining strength. At this point the pressure of pushing myself constantly and feeling slow just wasn’t very enjoyable and so we split up into two groups. I stayed with Craig and we were able to relax again and take it at our pace.
19. What did you look for when choosing spots to wild camp?
At the beginning we looked for idyllic spots next to the Danube river where we could have a fire and wash though in Africa we just looked for places the were pretty close to the road but that we couldn’t be seen easily and could be well hidden. We often asked if we could camp in the compounds of local people’s houses and were only turned down once.
20. Do you know how much the trip ended up costing?
We paid for all our own spending money during the trip and costs on the trip so all in all it probably cost about £7,000 for the year away. I am sure you could do this cheaper but we had a few nice treats along the way and a holiday with my parents in Kenya.
21.Did you book all visas before you left?
We only had two visas before we left – Egypt and Jordan. The rest we got pretty easily either at the border or in the capital city of the country before. Sudan is supposed to be a tricky one to get but we had a letter from a university sponsor endorsing what we we doing and this seemed to work.
22.Is the stereotypical Africa we see in the media true?
It depends on what your stereotype is I suppose! The Africa we experienced though was one of incredible beauty and kindness.
1.Do you still hold the record for the youngest female jumper?
I still hold the record of being the youngest female BASE jumper, although now its fun to meet people who are younger than I am who are active jumpers.
2.Do you know what the age of the youngest male is?
I believe the youngest male did a BASE jump or two at the age of 14 but he wasn’t an active jumper and just jumped a few times. It is very rare to see young people in our sport who are actually active jumpers.
3.Do you think the reason that there are not more BASE jumpers is because of the high risk factor involved or because of the inaccessibility of the sport?
I believe there are many factors as to why there aren’t more jumpers in the sport. It is still fairly new and most people still view it as reckless even though it is becoming a little more mainstream. It takes a special kind of person to be willing to jump off objects and have trust in the gear, their ability and yet have the desire and drive to do it as well. I don’t believe inaccessibility is an issue as I believe if someone truly wants to participate then they will do what ever is necessary to become a jumper. This usually includes lots of skydiving as well as finding a mentor. I believe if it was more accessible the number of fatalities would increase as people wouldn’t have the preparation necessary to participate in the sport safely.
4.Do you compete in BASE competitions or is it just in-house competitions to jump from higher and newer routes?
I think every base jumper has a competitive streak. We all want to be known for something. Although there are a few competitions a year for BASE I don’t participate because they are in an area that doesn’t interest me as much as others.
5.Have you tried wingsuit flying?
I own a wingsuit and do really enjoy flying it, but it isn’t my true passion. I prefer what is called a tracking suit. The way it functions is through inflations similar to a wingsuit but instead of one piece, each limb is free and enclosed in the inflated suit, sort of like an inflatable snow suit. It is much harder to fly and manipulate than a wingsuit because of the freedom of the arms and legs. I feel the skill level required to fly it well is very attractive to me and very challenging as well!
6.Where is the most remote place/country you’ve ever jumped from?
I have jumped in some crazy remote places around the world, but most recently I was jumping in Tonsai, Thailand. Although there is a small village below the cliff with food and bars, there is no direct access to emergency care (In a BASE jumpers mind that is one of the factors when talking about remote locations) The nearest hospital would have been a 20 minute long tail boat ride, a decent carry across a beach and then a 45 minute taxi ride into Krabi. Luckily we do our best to not get hurt!
7.Who are the other big female names in the sport?
Unfortunately there aren’t many female jumpers who capture the attention of the none jumping world but there are a few. Suz Graham who is a professional skier and is very popular in the world of BASE and then of course Roberto Manchino who is still fairly new to the sport but she made her mark for sure. She brought in sponsors from skydiving as well as gained attention because she is an international model. She is continuing to progress in the sport and do amazing things. Its so nice to see that there are more women in the sport now than there were when I started! It shows that the sport is going in the right direction.
8.How often do you get to jump?
I try to jump as often as I can, weather permitting of course, at this point I get several jumps per month! During the spring-fall I am able to get much more jumps
9.Do you have a local spot?
There are a few local spots which all the jumpers usually meet up at to jump together but most of them aren’t necessarily legal. Because of that I can’t name them, but there is a cliff about 2hrs away that is spectacular and then Moab Ut which is a popular and legal jumping location is a short 6 hour drive away.
10.Advice for the kids who want to do what you’ve done?
Do as much research as you can, read about it, watch it and start skydiving as soon as you turn 18. I know I started with BASE but I had very rare circumstances which helped me to enter into the sport without skydiving. However learning to skydiving and perfecting your only means that when you do start BASE jumping you will already have a solid understanding about the equipment as well as better skills for landing! I depict a lot of my struggles and successes in my book “Won’t Take No For An Answer” which will be released and available on e-book through my website at the end of this month.
11.What do you pack for a jumping trip?
It really depends on the trip. Most of the time, in addition to my gear, I pack a helmet, knee/shin guards, medical supply kit that stays in the car or at camp for the most part, parachute packing supplies (steak to hold the gear to the ground, pull up cord to close it and a tarp to pack on). As well as collapsible water bottles, medical tape, sunscreen and gopros
12.Any pre-jump rituals?
I don’t have any specific pre-jump rituals, however most men in the sport do and it is a disgusting one. They call it the pre-jump dump haha!
13.Why do you think there is so few women in the sport?
In my experience there aren’t many women who follow an extreme sport path. It is very hard for most women to wrap their mind around what I do and why I do it. There is also a lot of criticism and judgement when women participate in the sport. Luckily that is going down as more are introduced but there is still a common belief that BASE is a man’s sport and women have to be very thick skinned to participate while still maintaining their personality.
14.Have you received criticism been a women and doing this?
In the beginning I received some incredibly harsh criticism especially regarding the way I was introduced to the sport. There was a public online forum that bashed me and my instructor in very harsh and descriptive ways. I had a firm belief that in the beginning people were offended that a 16 year old girl was participating in a sport that made them feel like a bad ass, and because I was an active jumper it showed the sport wasn’t as hard core as they wanted it to seem. I think that ego unfortunately gets in the way of a lot of BASE jumpers personalities and it is really sad.
15.Why did your first ever jump take place in the middle of the night?
My first jump and many of my jumps after have taken place at night because the objects that we jump aren’t necessarily legal and we could get trespassing charges. Therefore we jump at times where there is a decreased chance of being seen.
16.Do you know how many jumps you have made to date?
I have made around 250 BASE jumps as well as 3,500 skydives. I tried to be diligent about keeping track of my jumps in the beginning but it faded after a while. Those numbers are the last recorded numbers I have in my log books.
17.What are your plans for the rest of the year?
The remainder of this year is filled with trips across the country for BASE and for work. Because I work for myself I have the ability of combining most of my work trips with BASE trips. I plan on going to Moab several times as well as Vegas, Norcal and Socal, as well as attending burning man! Travel is when I feel most at home so I do as much of it as I can!
For Ultra Running, Richard Donovan phoned me up in 2009 and asked if I’d like to run in the Anglo Celtic plate 100k. I was chuffed. I had run for Ireland in mountain running before that.
2. What is your PB for a marathon?
2.59.58 (chip time) which I managed by the skin of my teeth in Rotterdam 2008. Hardest thing I’ve ever done!
3.What is your day job?
I run the biggest bike and triathlon shop with my partner Rob.
4. What does your weekly training regime consist of?
I swim 3 or 4 times a week, turbo train for a couple of hours about 4 mornings a week and run about 3 times a week. I see John Belton (No17 Personal Training) once a week for a session in the gym.
5. What is your tri bike?
It’s a Trek speed concept. It’s a custom design with “The Little Savage” printed on it.
6. What brand of wetsuit do you use for triathlons?
I’m at this very moment trying out a Huub.
7. What does your diet consist of?
John Belton (personal trainer) got me started on a pale type regime one year ago. It was a real revelation. Barry Murray then fine tuned it for my ultra running. So it involves lots of meat, eggs, vegetables etc. No more carb loading which has been great for my stomach!!
8.Highlight of your career?
Although I consider myself a runner first and foremost, most of the high points were about Ironman’s. My first ironman in UK in 2008 was a real awakening, I loved every minute. Although I wouldn’t have placed anywhere, I had a cracking run and just made sure to enjoy the day!
9. What races have you competed in so far this year?
Nothing serious this year yet since the Global Limits Stage Race in Cambodia last November.
10.What’s still to come on the race calendar?
London Marathon in a couple of weeks, Ironman UK in August and you never know, if I qualify for the world Ironman championships in Kona while I’m there I could be off to Hawaii in October. ;0
11. Who is your main competition on the Irish scene?
There are lots of great ultra women in Ireland, for the size of the population! Ruthann Sheahan has the most incredible 24 hour time, I’d be nowhere near that standard. When I started it was Helena Crossan was a real inspiration, she was running 100k’s in 8 hours and I thought she was fantastic.
12. What do you think is best race in Ireland? (triathlon/marathon etc)
Connemara Marathon and Ultra Marathon is incredible for the buzz and the scenery. Same with Causeway Coast Ultra, great places to run and enjoy the surroundings.
13. What is the best race you have competed in outside of Ireland?
The Global Limits Stage Race in Cambodia was a really incredible race. I had never experienced anything like it. Six days through towns, jungles, hills, rivers, sleeping in Buddhist temples, running in constant unrelenting heat. I had tears for the last few miles on the final day through Angkor Wat. I didn’t want it all to end.
14.Is there much difference between your training for a marathon and ultrarunning training?
Not for me. I don’t do big mileage, it doesn’t suit me. I rarely run for more than 4 hours for any event.
15. Any big injuries sustained over your career in the sport?
I’ve been lucky not to get too injured too much! For my 24 hour Irish championships last July I had a stress fracture and couldn’t run at all. I did everything but run in the months beforehand; I changed my diet, I turbo trained every day, I worked with John Belton lifting weights in the gym, I read books on psychology. It got me through the period of non running really well and I came out the other end much better for that injury.
16. What goes through your mind when you are racing long distances?
It depends on the distance. If I’m just cruising along taking it easy I usually begin to recount the story of the race in my head to Rob! So that when I finish I feel like I’ve already told him all about it!! For my 24 hour race (on a 400m track) I did things like rearranged my wardrobe in my head, what skirt goes with what top etc. Sounds crazy but you have to think of something!!
17.What do you carry on your back for endurance events?
I have a Salomon with bottle pouches on the front for very long stuff. I try carry as little as possible as I’m small and the weight slows me down.
18. What is it about running that has you constantly coming back for more?
I’m useless at explaining why I run! I just love it. I usually feel better 3 hours into a run than at the start. Maybe it’s just endorphins!
19.When/How did you realise your body could cover such distances?
My first Connemara Ultra. I realized 26 miles in that I felt absolutely great and with 13 miles to go I just got faster and faster. It was all uphill from there but I loved it.
20. How many races do you enter per year?
Usually a couple of ironman’s and a couple of ultras. Recovery is better now with the weightlifting I do and eating healthier so there’s no issue doing lots of events.
I was 13 and I used to swim for the local swimming club and there was a new skatepark being built just behind the pool. I had previously used roller boots on the old ramps near me but this time I saw some skateboarders riding the park. I thought it looked so cool and so I asked my dad if I could have a board to try to learn. Luckily I seemed to have quite a bit of balance but also I was encouraged by that fact that there were so many others that were new to the sport at the time! We all used to meet up early on Saturday mornings and skate all day until we were tired out, then used to do it all again on Sunday!
2.Where did you skate as a kid?
My local haunts were Crawley and Horsham Skateparks with a few multi-storey car parks thrown in during wet weather. There also used to be quite a crew of us that skated around the local town centre at a spot called the Fountain! We used to annoy pedestrians / shoppers.
3. You have been skating for 15 years, how many years to go?
As many as my body can take. I actually feel like I’m still learning new tricks every time I go out and skate and although sometimes I don’t have as much confidence as I used to, I think my skating has got stronger recently.
4.How much competition do you have in the UK to hold onto the ultimate title of UKs Number one female skateboarder?
There’s a good few girls that are coming up plus those that have been ripping for the last few years! It could be anyone’s really as skateboarding is so spontaneous.
5. Who are the big names you are up against on a world scale?
I’m not really anywhere near to any of those girls that compete in X-Games or Maloof Money Cup etc. The ones to watch out for there are Alexis Sablone – she kills it and in my opinion is the most exciting girl skater out there. Then there is also Lacey Baker, Leticia Bufoni and Vanessa Torres.
6.Do you have a signature trick?
I feel like I’m known for doing Fakie Flips. I find them pretty easy and always use them as a trick to test the ramp or whatever. If there’s a specific ramp such as a jump box, then I’ll always try a Sal Flip – I like the hangtime!
7.What female skateboarding competitions are on offer in Britain?
The UK Champs is annual and has been going since 2009. We’ve had something called the Ladies Skateboard Series happen in 2012 and 2011 but unfortunately it didn’t happen last year. I think it was a combination of organisers not having much time to spare (as they do it voluntarily) plus sponsors cutting back on ££ and product to donate as prizes. The other noticeable event and my personal fave is the Girl Skate Jam UK. This is now in it’s 11th year I think and runs at St Albans park, organised by Jenna Selby, Rogue Skateboards Founder.
8.Proudest achievement in the sport?
I think it has to be having sections in both ‘As If, And What?’ the first European girls Skateboard Film and also a part in the Lovenskate Film. It’s great to be able to have something on video that I can look back on in years to come!
9.Why do you coach others?
I really enjoy seeing the progression in others. I seem to have a some skill breaking things up and passing them on in bite sized chunks. I also like to work with those that want to learn!
10. What is the furthest distance you’ve travelled via board?
Haha, good question but no idea how far I’ve actually rode on the four wheels. In terms of how far I’ve travelled specifically for skateboarding, then It would be Australia, to compete in the World Cup in 2003.
11.What are the worst Injuries you’ve picked up over your career in the sport?
I’ve broken both wrists and also broken my arm in three places. I feel quite lucky that I’ve never broken anything in my lower body as I feel that would knock the confidence more and recovery time would probably be longer. My wrist did have to have pins in though and I had physio for months to get full range of movement back.
12. How many boards do you have and what are they?
I only ever have one set up at a time. I change boards every couple of months or so as they get delaminated or generally become quite worn. Trucks, wheels and bearings last a bit longer depending on the hours I’ve been putting in! I ride a 7.8 Lovenskate deck, 54mm Bones Wheels, Thunder Trucks, and Bones Bearings.
13. What are the advantages of been the only girl on the team?
I’m not sure it makes any difference! Its quite a cliché but we’re quite a family at Lovenskate and we do try and meet to skate every couple of months or so. We all keep in touch via phone or email regularly!
14.How often do you get out on your board?
I do try and get out every lunch time for at least 45 mins. I’m lucky that I work literally opposite a small concrete skatepark! Once the weather is better and the nights are longer, I try and stop off on my way home from work at a local park plus I’ll usually go on a little road trip on a Saturday to skate all day. Then on Sundays in the summer I’ll have coaching work lined up!
15.Wheres are the best places to skate in the UK?
In my opinion, the new skateparks near me, Guildford, Woodingdean, Petersfield are pretty damn perfect! It’s also good to travel up to Manchester (where I used to go to Uni) and skate the parks or street up there. There’s also a local street spot near Gatwick Airport that I like to go to for a chilled out session away from skateparks.
17. Do you ever self film yourself out on your board with something like a gopro?
Yep, I was lent a Drift Innovation Camera by DC which is very similar to a Go Pro. I use it quite a bit on my lunch break propped up by the wall or something. It’s good to be able to get the odd trick on film when I’m not with anyone else who can film.
18.Whats coming up for you this year?
I’ve got quite a few coaching related bits going on this summer. We managed to get some funding to run another female skateboard course in Brighton so I’m looking forward to that. I’m also going to head over to Malmo for Girls Get Set Go contest again. Malmo is great and they look after the skaters really well – I can’t wait to go back. Then there’s the Girl Skate Jam UK in June which I’ll be heading to. Loads going on this year.
19.Best website to buy a board on for someone living in the UK?
I would say to try going to a local skate store if you can. It’s always best to speak to people and have a look at board shapes and graphics. Most of those local shops will also do mail order so just have a look around. Boardridersguide.com is good plus Altar Skate store is online and has a good choice of products at good prices.
20. Have you tried Longboarding?
I’ve been on one but I’m fine on my skateboard – haha.
21.Does skateboarding really help with your snowboarding and surfing?
Yeah I think it definitely has. I love skateboarding so much more than the other two but it’s nice to get on a different board from time to time! Plus, I think skateboarding can hurt more as you fall on concrete so it’s given me more confidence when I’m on the snow or in the water.
1.If you couldn’t raise money for charities when doing these expeditions, would you continue to do them? Basically do you do it for the love of the adventure or is the whole point of it to raise money?
Adventure and supporting water charities are both deep passions of mine and I learned that there was a way to combine both passions. Some of my smaller-scale events have been purely for the love of adventure while I have also launched several campaigns purely to support charities without the adventure component.
2.You were the youngest person to row solo across the Atlantic. What made you come up with that idea and commit to it?
The idea found me when I least expected. I was on a bus in Australia and the person sitting next to me mentioned that his friend had rowed across the Atlantic Ocean. I was so intrigued by the raw and elemental nature of the challenge being so far removed from the known. I had no rowing or boating experience but after completing other endurance challenges is gave me the courage to pursue it.
3.How much experience did you have rowing before you did it?
After learning about ocean rowing I joined my college rowing team for about a year and then spent lots of time training on my boat on Lake Erie. I also spent some time in California training on the Pacific Ocean.
4. Things got tough during the 2,817 mile journey; the cable that allowed you to steer with your foot broke and your GPS tracker caught fire. How did you keep yourself going when things got tough?
I had to taking things one step at a time. If I thought too far in the future I would get overwhelmed but even the biggest challenges in life can be faced one day or one moment at a time.
5.How did your parents deal with it all when you told them you were going off exploring?
It was tough. They were as supportive as they could be but inevitably would prefer me to be safe at home. They understand that it’s in my nature to explore and have accepted that from time to time I venture off. It means a lot to me to have them part of the adventures. They’ve been there to cheer me on whether it be sending me off on my cycle across America or meeting me in South America to celebrate the Atlantic crossing.
6.How did you keep your energy levels up throughout the row?
The sleep deprivation was brutal. I would not be able to sleep more than a couple of hours because of the crashing waves against my boat. Music was one tool I used to pump up my energy as well as consuming a diet that matched the amount of energy I exerted.
7.At 19, you embarked on a cross-country cycle. Where is your fear?!
Whenever you do something that challenges you, there is always the risk that you won’t succeed. What has really helped me in finding the courage to embark on these journeys is not being afraid to fail. The only real failure is failing to try.
8.How long did it take you to plan the expedition?
My first cross-country expedition was with a charity called the American Lung Association. Most of the logistics were handled by the event organizers so it took me a few months to pull together the fundraising and training. 9.How many miles did you travel?
3,300 miles or about 85 miles per day.
10.Have you ever encountered any problems as a solo female traveller?
Sometimes there can be unwanted attention directed towards solo female travelers. However the majority of the time people are generally willing to help and are just curious about my travels.
11.You are the only person in history to swim the entire length of the Allegheny River in Pennsylvania. Where do you come up with your ideas for these challenges?
After embarking on a cycling and running adventure I knew I wanted to try a long-distance swim. The Allegheny River one of the closest major rivers from my home in Ohio. I heard about Martin Strel who swam many of the worlds longest rivers including the Amazon and wanted to see what river swimming was all about!
12.So you are a swimmer, rower and cyclist. What else can you do?! Origami and puzzles.
13.Professional adventurer Is this what you had in mind for a career growing up?
My dream job as a kid was to be a bicycle messenger so it’s close enough. 14.What is next for you?
My focus has shifted from adventure to charity work. I am in the process of founding a nonprofit organization called Schools for Water to motivate and inspire schools in the states to help schools all around the world gain access to safe drinking water. Last year we raised more than $100,000 for water projects and to celebrate we broke a world record for the most people carrying water jugs on their heads. I would love to continue to find fun and exciting ways to get people involved in the cause.
1.You are one of the first women in history to ski to the North and South Poles as part of all women teams. Is been ‘the first women’ to do something a main part in the decision making process when you are contemplating an expedition. Or are there other reasons?
It would be wrong to say that being the first isn’t important at all. As any sports person knows, to challenge yourself to do something that hasn’t been achieved before is a fantastic motivator but it’s also about the journey in these remote and treacherous but beautiful places. To be able to test yourself beyond limits you thought possible and beat the physical and emotional daily challenges you face on a long expedition is an experience that lives with you forever.
2.You were voted one of The Telegraph’s top 20 great British adventurers! How does it feel to be up there with the big boys?
It was a great honour and privilege to be recognised by The Telegraph in this way. Women are often overlooked when such lists are compiled and there are so many great adventurers out there that I was truly thrilled.
However, I think one of the biggest honours I have ever received was to be exhibited at the Greenwich Maritime museum alongside the true great heroes of the past – Amundsen, Shackleton and Scott. Although humbled I realise that I am but a poor shadow among these men. It was a moment of pleasure I will take to my grave.
3.You are planning to be the first woman in the world to walk to The North Geographical Pole solo. What is that drives you to keep pushing?
To be able to achieve this huge world record would be the absolute pinnacle of my Polar career. I believe we only have one life and should make the most the gifts we have been given. Mine happens to be that I have the ability to haul a large sledge through the most difficult environment in the world, while enduring unimaginable hardships. Not pretty but true. I also believe it is within us all to achieve great things in our lives. Small or large.
4.When going solo, how do you keep your mind in the right place?
Expedition life is so demanding that for the most part I have to concentrate on the task at hand, finding a path through difficult ice, crossing thin ice or open water, dealing with the cold and of course living with Polar Bears but when things do get difficult I call to mind my children, friends and colleagues and have conversations with them, sometimes out loud. At times I think about how a fellow expeditioner might tackle a certain problem and I have been known to simply chant my children’s names to keep me putting one foot in front of another when I really feel at the end of my capabilities.
5.Why did you pick polar expeditions to be your focus instead of something with a little less risk and that take place in places a little warmer?
It happened to be the opportunity that came my way, if you will, Polar travel picked me. I answered an advert in a newspaper asking for ordinary women to apply for selection to be part of the first all women’s team to walk to the North Pole. It was a relay expedition with two female guides and I was chosen to be part of the first leg of the expedition. It was on this expedition that I fell in love with the world of ice and found I had a natural affinity with my stark surroundings. At 33 years of age I finally found my place in the world.
6.How did you learn to become a team leader, and what does it take to accept responsibility of others well being?
Everyone is different and will learn to be a leader in different ways. Some people come to it naturally and others have to learn the skills either formally or through experience. There are many attributes to being a good leader but I believe that first you have to have the vision and belief of what it is you want to achieve and how you are going to make that vision a reality. If you don’t believe in your goals how can you expect anyone else to. You need drive, commitment and of course the ability and skills in your field of expertise. It’s also important to have humility. A good leader wants the whole team to achieve and not just themselves. Everyone has something worthwhile to give and it’s important therefore to recognise this, understand how each member ticks and what they can contribute to the whole. If each person performs at their best it will strengthen the team and make for a more successful outcome. You need to be able to take responsibility and make tough decisions when necessary and most importantly for me, you have to have integrity and of course a sense of humour always helps.
When you are taking responsibility for someone else’s well being you have to be utterly professional and have the experience and skills necessary to keep everyone safe. Their safety comes before anything else and it’s important that each team member understands this at the outset. I will not put lives in danger in order to reach a goal. After that, when leading expeditions it’s about their experience and not mine. It’s important that it becomes their expedition, their journey and ultimately their achievement. If I can help them to achieve their dream and am simply there to take the photo at the end, I have done my job well.
7.Has the time you spend out there away from reality changed the way you see the world, how you take in the news when you are back home?
Absolutely. When you are surviving every day and striving towards an impossible goal, whether in a team or alone, you are stripped to the person you are inside and material possessions and status are irrelevant. I have become more passionate the world we live in, the climate and the damage we people are causing for our own needs and desires. I also wonder about the relationship we have with each other and wonder why so many people are at war. The world seems such an angry place to live in right now.
8.Why do you think there is not more female polar guides?
In order to be a guide and take care of others in the polar regions, especially on sea ice you need to have experience of sea ice and the dangers continually being faced when traveling on a temperamental surface in extreme cold. Expeditions in the remote Polar regions are extremely expensive and so it’s difficult to gain that experience and knowledge.
The same could be said for the men but It’s also an extraordinary physical and tough world and there is still a certain amount of prejudice out there against women in what’s seen as a man’s world. Not from the Polar community itself, where I have always had support and friendship but from some of the outside world. Certain sponsors think men have more chance of success and I’ve even had conversations with people who disbelieve I have made the full journey from land, based purely on the fact that they don’t believe a woman, especially a mother of four children, could make the same journey as ‘their idols.’ It’s just another challenge to overcome but it does make it a very tough world for a woman to break into.
9.You have kids, are you going to let them do what you do when they are older?!
I want my children to have the courage to take their own paths in life and follow their own dreams whatever that may be, whether in the world of adventure or outside it.
Of the triplets Rachel has begun a career as a carer, Joseph wants to work in the world of events and Lucy is aiming to become an outdoor adventure instructor. Sarah who is nine wants to be a beautician who bakes cakes on the side. I’m proud of them all and their different choices.
10. Your resourcefulness and ability to adapt back to the old fashioned methods of exploration are seriously impressive; “Ann packed away the compass that did not work so close to the magnetic North Pole and used the sun, her watch and the wind to find the path north.”
Is this something you had learned and accounted for or just something you were born with?
Definitely something I learnt from a highly experienced Polar Explorer Geoff Somers, who is relatively unknown outside the Polar world but is one of the greats. While putting any expedition together I look at all the possibilities for success and failure and make sure I take the time to acquire the skills that I don’t have but will need in every eventuality. Once upon a time there was no requirement to swim to get to the North Pole but now with the disappearing ice it’s become a regular occurrence.
11.What makes you keep going when things get tough?
It’s a question I’m often asked and the truth is I don’t know the full answer. Certainly I don’t want to let people down, my team, family, friends or the sponsors that have put their money and faith in us, but I also don’t see giving in as an option. It’s a state of mind and sometimes I concentrate on just getting through the next day, hour, or even the next step but never quitting. It’s not that I’m not afraid of failure, which can often give us the experience to try again but I do have to know I’ve done everything possible on my end.
12. On your second expedition you and your team; “experienced some of the fiercest winds they had ever encountered. Antarctica is one of the windiest continents on earth, where the average wind speed is around 80 miles an hour. As the winds are katabatic, it constantly blew in their faces and it was important that every inch of skin was covered, as exposed flesh would freeze in minutes.”
Do things like that scare or excite you?
So long as I’m prepared it excites me. You’ve got to be on top of your game and make sure there are no mistakes.
Swimming in the sea on the English coast scares me because I’m not a strong swimmer and I feel out of control but the perils of the Polar regions definitely excite me.
13.Best piece of gear you own?
My multi tool, which I also carry around in my handbag at home.
14.Sorry to be crude but In temperatures that cold, how do you bare to go to the loo?
You just have to and you don’t want to pee in your clothes when you can’t change them for over 60 days. It’s the wiping with snow wedges that makes it particularly interesting.
15.What’s next for you?
I am currently looking for a sponsor to partner my aim to become the first woman to walk solo to the North Pole. One of the last great world firsts left on this wonderful planet of ours.