Land’s End to John O’Groats Challenger1

Please note that this Challenge has been completed

You can catch-up on all the archived blog updates recorded at the time of the Challenger 1 event by following the blog #challenger1

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September 2013 – And so the long drive begins

1000 miles ahead us! Jon O’Groats here we come…..are we there yet dad?!

Challenger1 - John and Keith

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The monumental Challenger1, two week challenge that Keith and I have set ourselves commences on September 26th 2013.

Our Challenge, Our Motivation & Our Training For The Epic Event

Before I start telling you about the personal challenge which Keith and I are training for, I think it’s important to explain why we are doing it.

We want to create an amazing place of adventure and sport where people, regardless of their physical disabilities, can take part in activities that are both exhilarating and fun. So this is not a disability centre but a centre where disability does not prevent people from taking part.

At the heart of the charity however will be the opportunity for people to undertake personal challenges for two reasons:

  1. To challenge themselves to achieve something outside of their comfort zone that makes them feel proud.
  2. That when undertaking the personal challenge they can raise money through sponsorship to contribute to the building and running of the Centre of Challenge and Inspiration

This philosophy means that people taking part are achieving on a personal level and helping other people do the same.

Challenges differ from person to person and we want to be part of yours. Please help us by setting a personal challenge of any description and get sponsored if possible to achieve it, and then share it with us on Facebook, Twitter and our website. It will be your personal achievements that will ultimately help build and support the “Centre of Challenge” and make the difference to the people who need it the most. Sponsorship and pledge forms can be found on the website.

Keith and I have personally committed to a series of challenges which we would like to share with you. The first is to raise enough money to help the Challenge charity establish the required planning permission and following that the funds to ultimately build the centre. We are doing this by putting our bodies on the line and attempting several extraordinary physical challenges that will test us both mentally and physically.
Not only are the challenges themselves very testing but the training, preparation and planning also.

Keith and I were both Soldiers who served with the mighty 29 Commando Regt Ra based in Plymouth. It was at this time whist working alongside some of the bravest, hardest and most determined people we earned the coveted Green Beret. The Green Beret is a special symbol that signifies a special spirit. A spirit which shows courage, determination, unselfishness and cheerfulness in the face of adversity. It’s throughout this period of our lives we learned the most about ourselves. Exactly how amazing the human spirit is and what you can achieve with the right preparation. It’s these characteristics that if adopted can make a huge difference to your own life and those around you. Many people have asked “why are you doing this?” Our answer is simple “because we can, because we can make the difference, because we can inspire others!”

Keith has other reasons for taking part and you can read about this in Keith’s Story within ‘our inspiration’ section of the website.

In September 2012 we started planning the fundraising and awareness campaign for the Centre of Challenge. The decision was made to undertake a monumental physical test in fitting with the plans to create a very unique centre. A centre designed to inspire and encourage children and adults from all walks of life able or disabled.

A place which would promote physical challenges and emotional strength in our opinion needed a special type of event. An event never before undertaken that would set the bench mark for things to come. It was at this time as if by fate we were asked to participate in an event called “Strong Arm” which was being organised by a small group of men from Tyne and Weir Fire Service. They explained there amazing ideas and invited us to join them which we readily accepted. Their event is in support of the Make a Wish Foundation and The Fire Fighters Charity. You can pledge your support at the following address.

It was decided that we would join the lads from Newcastle on the first two days of the event before we parted company and started phase two of our own. Phase two it was suggested should see a cycle from the famous Jon O’ Groats to Lands End. A cycle which would cover over 950 Miles from the far Northern Tip of Scotland all the way down the west coast of England to its most south westerly point. It seemed fitting to finish the event in Cornwall as this is the proposed location for the Centre of Challenge.

We decided to call the event Challenger 1 and the dates were set for the event between 30.09.2013 – 14.10.2013 finishing with a fundraiser at the Morgan’s Wellbeing Centre (The proposed site for the centre) in Truro.

Challenger 1 is a gruelling endurance event over 1000 miles. An event that will include, kayaking, golf, cycling, running and climbing. It is estimated to take 14 days to complete and is certain to test us to the core.

We have been training very hard since September. In an average week we are cycling 150 to 200 miles, kayaking three times a week and running the equivalent of a marathon. The greatest risk is over training and injuries so a carful approach is necessary and rest when required. We are now only 8 weeks from the event and feeling really excited. I know we have done all I can to prepare and really looking forward to getting started.
Please join us on Facebook, Twitter and follow our training and the event in real time. Please also tell us about events you are doing in support of the Challenge Charity so we can follow or even join you.

Below is detailed look at our event although it’s not possible to join us on the first two days of Challenger 1 (Insurance reasons) anyone is welcome to join us on any of the cycle legs which we will post on the website very soon.

Day 1 Kayak Loch Ness and 60 Mile Cycle
The loch will be a huge physical test due to its huge size, strong winds and large waves. We expect to be in the Kayak for over 12 hours so cramp and circulation combined with sore shoulders and arms will make this a real Trial. As we exit the kayaks we shall don our cycling shorts and commence with a 60 miles cycle around loch ness to finish day 1.

Loch Ness is a large, deep; freshwater loch in the Scottish Highlands extending for approximately 37 km (23 mi) southwest of Inverness, its surface is 15.8 m (52 ft.) above sea level. Loch Ness is best known for alleged sightings of the Loch Ness Monster, also known affectionately as “Nessie”.
Loch Ness is the second largest Scottish Loch by surface area at 56.4 km2 (21.8 sq. mi) after Loch Lomond, but due to its great depth, it is the largest by volume. Its deepest point is 230 m (755 ft.), deeper than the height of London’s BT Tower at 189 m (620 ft.) and deeper than any other loch except Loch Morar. It contains more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined and is the largest body of water on the Great Glen Fault which runs from Inverness in the north to Fort Williams in the south.

Day 2 Up Ben Nevis and a 20 mile Run
On day two we are on hour feet for 10 hours of grueling climbing, scrambling and running as we attempt to run up and down the famous Ben Nevis Mountain. Once we make it down that is just the start as we then have 20 miles of hard hitting country to navigate. This day we expect to be the most challenging. Our knees will be the biggest problem here and great care will be taken on the decent to avoid damage or falls which would scupper the rest of the event.

Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the British Isles standing at 1,344 metres (4,409 ft.) above sea level, it is located at the western end of the Grampian Mountains in Liochabare area of the Scottish Highlands, close to the town of Fort Williams

Jon O Groats to Lands end
According to an on-line route planner of 2011, the quickest route by road was 838 miles (1,349 km) however we will be taking a longer and safer route avoiding motorways. Our expected mileage is 960 miles and will take approx. 9 days to complete. We hope to average 100 miles per day. Our greatest fear is the obvious saddle soreness and fatigue/injury. This will be a case of head down and pedal. The cycle will take us through some of the most beautiful place in the country.

The Route
John O ‘Groats, Wick, Latheron, Domock, Firth Bridge, Cromantry Bridge, Kessock, Inverness, Dalcha Loch, Kenmore, Crief, Stirling, Falkirk, Whitburn, Carstairs, Beatrock, Carlisle, Preston, St Helens, Taporley, Shrewsbury, Hereford, Monmouth, Severn Bridge, Avon Bridge, Bridgewater, Tiverton, Oakhampton, Lands End.

I’m sure you will all agree the challenge is huge, the odds of getting injured and fatigued are very high yet the cause for us is worth the risk. This is our first of many challenges. Perhaps the next one will be yours and maybe one we do together. We are keen to hear of your ideas and dreams as you have heard about ours. So don’t delay, challenge yourself today and help a really great cause make a difference to those who need it the most.


Our Training

Let us tell you however how rewarding and fun this has been for us! Although its hard work it’s also great fun and the sound of laughter is heard more than the sound of tears. Keith’s highly amusing kayaking/aqua mishaps have been the highlight of the training for me. I’m sure he won’t mind me telling you whilst trying our new Kayaks generously donated by The Out Door Hub in Truro we managed the following antics in a few short hours We flatly refused to enter the water and our kayaks until there was no one around which meant we had to wait half an hour until a kayaking lesson had finished on the slip way. After putting our spray decks on the wrong way around it was off for a paddle. That paddle went very well apart from the fact that we were going around in circles. This it was revealed later was due to the fact that the rudder system could not be controlled with Keith’s one remaining toe. The rest were lost in a car accident several years ago as described in his story, a real testament to Keith’s courage. I found this so funny I nearly fell in myself!

A little bit further down the river we stopped to stretch due to the confined conditions of the sea kayak. We pulled onto a beach only to sink to our knees in estuary sludge. This sludge made re-entering the kayaks somewhat impossible and made great entertainment to the nearby spectators in Fowey.

On the return journey to the slip way things went much better! We managed to go in a straight line until a collision with a parked yacht. (Due to toe issues again) It then dawned upon on us as we neared our final destination that the water was now only 18 inches deep. It was at this time whilst distracted by the retreating tide that Keith was in his words “mowed down” by two young very aggressive girls in a double Canoe. Bracing himself against the rogue canoe he attempted to remove himself from his. A fatal move as the tide parted his Kayak from the girls canoe leaving Keith in a somewhat horizontal plank type position. Gravity soon did the rest of the job and Keith and £6000 worth of hearing aids disappeared into the drink! By the time the laughter had subsided the tide had all but emptied the estuary and Keith and I had no choice but to pick up and carry the kayaks 500m through the silt.

This was a very one way conversation as by now Keith was as deaf as a post, which was probably a good thing as he didn’t hear me tell him we forgot to put a parking ticket on the car! Yes you guessed it a ticket was waiting!

All in all what a day, what a laugh. Better than all that I was forging an amazing friendship with a really great guy with a brilliant sense of humour and the spirit to soldier on through the pain that these activities cause him.

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