How are you preparing yourself? Types of fitness and details of how you are achieving this
I have been using my Peloton bike quite extensively, as the most challenging aspect to the overall expedition for me personally will be the cycling. We will be using mountain bikes (which I don’t tend to use too often!) in terrain where there are no tarmac roads. We will also be climbing over a 14,000 foot high mountain, so fitness levels must be relatively high. The biggest day of cycling is a full 70 km, on top of a 7 km hike!
Have you set yourself any fitness/health goals before the challenge?
I am trying to achieve 3×1 hour back to back Peloton climbs. I think if I can achieve this then I will have sufficient fitness to deal with the worst day, although I do suspect I will be very sore at the end of it!
I am also doing weight training and floor strength exercises to help me build my back and arms for the kayaking phase. There are a number of trips down the river that require us to have the stamina to achieve our daily distance target. The problem is with kayaking… it is not something that I do every day and so I’ll be using muscles that I seldom use and consequently, they will tire quickly.
As we get closer to the event, I’m trying to work out almost every day to give me a greater level of fitness that is equivalent to the kind of daily grind that we will endure whilst in Costa Rica.
How are you mentally preparing yourself for the challenge?
Mentally, I am feeling a degree of nervous excitement. The overall expedition really is quite daunting, however the opportunity to have achieved a cross country trek between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean really is a life goal. I suppose the biggest concern is being the one that didn’t make it, which being a competitive chap is my biggest fear!
How are you honestly feeling at this point?
Right now, I am feeling completely focused on the task at hand and pushing myself harder than I have done physically for years. Indeed, probably for 30 years! It’s really motivating, and moreover I want to have a fitness levels to ensure that I can enjoy the experience as much as possible.
What are you biggest fears in general and are any of these associated with this challenge?
Outside of the physical concerns, my biggest fear is that of the wildlife! The constant talk of bull sharks, bullet ants, hornets, poisonous tree frogs and more, does definitely get my attention! The fact is that in the UK we don’t encounter any of these things in the wild, and so being in a flimsy canvas tent in a jungle that is full of wildlife will probably affect my sleep until I get used to it!
Do you have a fear of any animals and will you potentially encounter any of these?
I once pulled a jumper over my head and discovered it had got a large spider hanging around inside of it… So, I have to say the thought of being trapped in a sleeping bag with a big creepy crawly is a bit of a personal phobia!
What will you be packing?
The equipment list is quite extensive due to the amount of physical disciplines that we will be undertaking. Cycling, hiking, kayaking and rafting all have different kit needs, all of which must be fit for purpose and transported between locations.
How much roughly will you need to spend on kit?
We have invested around £1000 each on the kit. On top of the normal equipment, I am keen to document this experience, so I am carrying various pieces of camera equipment and recording equipment to enable this. I have even got a small drone so we can try to get aerial footage along the way!
What will be the weight of your backpack/ How will you be transporting this?
We’ve been told it will weigh in at around 23 kg, although on any given day we will typically be using a backpack of less than 10 kg. That said, 10 kg will be quite a weight when you were dragging it up fairly steep inclines and through dense jungle terrain! We will carry our backpack as we travel between our various camps, however our main kitbag will be transported on the support vehicles, that will also transport our expedition doctor.
Is there anything personal to you that you will be bringing with you?
In terms of personal equipment, I would like to take with me, I think a small item that will remind me of why I am doing this and what is important to me. I’m not sure what this is yet, probably my iPhone!
What are you looking forward to most about this trip, asides from fundraising for a good cause?
I suppose there are many things that you could get from an expedition such as this. The sense of camaraderie having achieved such a tough goal is appealing. The thought of sitting on a mountainside taking in an epic jungle view. Never having set foot in the Pacific Ocean, paddling on the last night feels exciting. The thought of a very cold beer celebrating completing such a project. Learning new skills and meeting great new people.
Would you ever sign up to anything like this again?
At the moment, I definitely would sign up for something like this again. The focus that this expedition has given me in terms of personal fitness and excitement to visit such an exotic location is appealing. However, I will reserve judgement until afterwards, when I discover how savage it is on my body!
Have you ever done anything like this before/ What has been your biggest challenge in life so far if not?
When I was younger, I did a much shorter (something of an understatement) version of this event by trekking through Dartmoor in Devon where we had to complete a 25 mile trek in 24 hours. It did, however, teach me the need to become physically fitter and just how demanding these types of events can be. For sure I have a healthy respect for what lies ahead of us.
Have you been given any survival tips/stories/fun facts?
I have been made aware that there is such a thing as “a bastard tree“ – so called because whenever you stumble in the jungle, the nearest tree that you grab to stop you from falling over is normally covered in large thorns. The consequence is that you scream at the top of your voice “ouch you bastard”! Hence the “bastard” tree.
I have been told to take 3×1 litre water bottles… 2 to contain your drinking water and one to use in case you need a wee in the middle of the night when in your tent. Apparently wearing a head torch in a completely wild jungle at night whilst trying to find the toilet is not a particularly good idea. I am given to understand it is like the jungle has come to life in your light beam! The most important point here is to clearly label which bottles are which.
The white water rafting does send a few shivers up my spine. This area is known for rapids which means it is unlikely that we will end up in the same raft that we started them! We were told that this is the one activity that we really must pay attention to and be very cautious about. Whilst there are no particular survival tips, simply surviving it sounds like a challenge!
We were also told that if there is anything in the jungle but he is bright and colourful, definitely do not pick it up and lick it.
How do you plan to stay in touch with the outside world?
Each night in camp we should have some rudimentary Internet access which will give us the ability to communicate our daily experiences. Additionally, I have a GPS tracking device which does permit basic text messages to be sent. Therefore, we will be sending daily updates along the way and we will be able to be tracked live as we cross the country.
Which of the activities (cycling, trekking etc) are you fearing the most and why?
Cycling. The other activities I have a natural ability for however, mountain biking through tough terrain is not something I have been physically preparing for, for a long period of time. My biggest fear is that of both fitness and the risk of falling off the bike, as I am not used to using cleats!
How do you feel about sleeping in the jungle – Are you an avid camper?
I have to say as I get older, I do enjoy sleeping in big comfortable beds! The thought of camping out in a hot humid jungle that is full of wildlife does give me a few concerns. Although, to be fair I have invested in a very comfortable portable mattress and pillow, along with a jungle sleeping bag with built-in mosquito net, so I shouldn’t be too bad!
What food and drink will you be consuming during the trip?
I am told that the food for breakfast and evening dinner will be healthy local produce, which I’m actually looking forward to. During the physically demanding phases we will be carrying drinks and food supplements that will give us large boosts of calories to give us the energy to complete the daily tasks.
How do you imagine you will feel after this is over?
I think to be honest, I will be feeling very sore, very tired but also elated (should I complete the expedition) as the challenge really is something bigger than I have ever done before.
How do Kids Village and Away Resorts hope to work together again in the future?
I really believe that the concept of kids village is something that is completely unavailable within the UK right now, but feel strongly that there should be more establishments like this. To that end I would like to offer up my expertise in any way I can to help support the cause, but also perhaps have time with the kids village team to see if we can offer a similar proposition on our existing Parks to help more families have enjoyable holidays at the darkest moments.