Andrea Mason (Endurance athlete)

Andrea Mason is a passionate sports person with an extreme sense of adventure. Her philosophy is everyone can “create your own epic”.
In September 2019, she completed what most believed was an impossible challenge; swimming 34km across the English Channel, Cycling 900km across France and then climbing Mt Blanc – all in just 4 days and 20 hours. Exactly one year later, she successfully completed the Mt Blanc Triple Crown. Swimming 38Km around the perimeter of Lac Annecy, cycling the gruelling Tour Du Mont Blanc and running 170km around one of the most challenging trails runs in the world, the Ultra-Trail Du Mont Blanc – all in just 4 days, 23 hours and 40 mins. On this week’s podcast, we talk about her journey to these adventures and the struggles she has had to overcome. As well as her passion for her new charity.

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Transcript of our Conversation

Andrea Mason

[00:00:00] AndreaMason: I was never getting any closer to that lighthouse. I thought that was the light that was at Cap gray. So I’m looking constantly at this light and when I should have been following the boat that was heading. Two category. So I, in my head, I was just never, ever getting any closer and thinking I was in a head current and all the while I was really, really close

I suppose the best place to start is how did you get into the sort of Epic adventures? What sort of really triggered it for you? I think so I’ve always been super sporty from, from a young age. I’ve always swam. I’ve always ran. [00:01:00] When I was four years old, I was thrown into a swimming pool and swam 5,000 meters on my fourth birthday.

So I think I would be, I would be lying to people if I said it isn’t something that. I’ve always had a passion for and, and done in terms of endurance type activities because swimming 5,000 meters on when you’re four is probably very similar to the types of things I do now as, as a grown adult. But I did take quite a, quite a break from I sport between school and university and after that and really, I only got back into big insurance type events after I had been sick.

I had, I suffered a lot from endometriosis and I was diagnosed [00:02:00] in 2017 with cervical cancer. And I wanted to do something. While I was recovering, I wanted to be able to have a goal and a target and it needed to be something crazy. It needed to be something that really. Challenge that I was challenging myself.

It couldn’t be something that I had done previously like triathlons or an iron man. It, and that’s meant with no disrespect because an iron man is, is crazy. But I needed to have something to really focus on. And I think for us, it was I wanted to have something that nobody had ever done before.

And my husband and I, we were just chatting about what could I do? What, what haven’t I done? What have I [00:03:00] always wanted to do? I’ve always wanted to swim the channel, but people have done that before I’ve live in Chamonix part of the year. I want to climb Mont Blanc, but people have done that. And then Carl basically said, well, why don’t you just do them both in cycle in between.

And I think for me, that’s yeah, that’s really where this sea to summit journey started from. Yeah, I have to confess your C2 summit. I, I think I really wanted to do it a couple of years ago and I sort of had other things sort of pending, but it just, it looks like such an Epic trip, you know, to swim the channel.

I mean, sure. I imagine for you, it was incredible. And. Also incredibly challenging at the same time. Did you find, because you sort of build yourself up and you obviously, like you said, the cycling in [00:04:00] between was a sort of afterthought. Did you think was the cycling just as hard as the swimming and the, the climb.

It was in fact it was for me, probably the, the hardest part. I went into it thinking as crazy as it sounds, I went into it thinking the cycle was going to be my recovery. That I I’ll swim, I’ll swim across the channel. And then I’ll have 900 K to recover on my bike because it’s it wasn’t about speed.

Yes. I had a limit that I wanted to do it in, but it wasn’t about speed on the bike, but in actual fact it turned out to be. Hell on earth, the bike, because a lot of it was a lot of, it was in the dark. In the middle of the night. I was cycling down a lot of canals on my own. I’m imagining all sorts of things coming out of the trees and grabbing me yeah, it wasn’t, I didn’t love the ride.

[00:05:00] Do you think that was may because you might’ve sort of underestimated it, you sort of, because you’ve built, you’ve always want to do the swim. You’d always want to do the climb. And the cycling was sort of an afterthought. And so your mindset was very much in those two bits, those two components. And then suddenly the cycling was very much like, Oh yeah.

I’ll just say cool. It’s fine. We’ll see how it gays. I always find when you, you underestimate something, then that’s when it, yeah, I, it’s probably very true. I think in my head I had. I hadn’t underestimated it because I had done a run of it before. So I did recky the whole bite route so that I knew exactly where I was going to go.

I knew, you know, how, what my average speed would be, and I try to keep it very real. But I hadn’t just got out of the swim and I was doing it in the Reckie during the day. [00:06:00] Because my, I hadn’t ever planned to start the swim at night. And because of the way the weather turned out, I had to start the swim leg across the channel.

I think it was six o’clock. So it meant my whole swim was in the dark. So then my plan. Turned on its head a little bit, because once I get out of the swim, I had to rest and then I was effectively getting back on the bike in the dark. And I hadn’t, I hadn’t factored that, doing everything through the night, really into the plan.

So maybe, yeah, I underestimated that bit. I, it was interesting. You said, did you think that your diagnosis in cancer was a sort of trigger? I always find, Oh, well you always hear stories. I, one that comes to mind is Lance Armstrong, but I know people sort of close to me who were sort of diagnosed and they [00:07:00] sort of hit a switch in their mind that subtly, they have to.

They suddenly want to live. They sort of feel like they’ve been doing just ticking things over in their heads, and then suddenly they have this diagnosis and sort of propels what they’re sort of being putting off for so long to the forefront of what they want to do. Was that similar to what you had in some ways?

Yes, but I think for me it’s more about my. My coping strategy. At any point in my life where there’s been something where I’m faced with head-on with a challenge or I’m, you know, I’m, I’m faced with something that you know, pushes me. That makes me think I then always counteract that with. Doing something more, if that makes sense.

So I, yeah, I, I had this [00:08:00] diagnosis and I knew that I wouldn’t let that define me and that I needed to prove to myself more than anyone. I don’t really ever feel like I have to prove anything to do anybody else, but I have this something instilled within me that. I have to face things head on and I have to beat whatever it is.

And I’ve always had that. I think that’s something that I’ve just been born with. Yeah. I know. I sort of agree. And so. With that sort of swimming the channel, doing the route for anyone listening, maybe going to sort of, bit of detail about the sort of route and the places you saw. Yeah. So the swim obviously started in Dover.

So the swim across the channel is from Dover to Cali. It’s [00:09:00] 34 kilometers as the Crow flies, but in actual distance, I swam, I think about 41 kilometers, but you always say it’s 34, it’s 34 because you have different tides and different currents that are. Either slowing you down and pushing you off course, or in some cases you have a current behind you, that is, that is pushing you forward.

Initially my plan was normally you start just staff one hour after high tide in the morning. So you would normally start around eight, nine o’clock and my swim, I had factored to swim between 12 and 15 hours. Which was you know, a good estimate for me. But unfortunately the weather when I started or the weather window, cause you get given a one week weather [00:10:00] window to swim the channel.

And I was my weather window. Wasn’t looking amazing. And I also had to take into account the weather window for climate Montblanc. Because there was too logistical, whether nightmares one for getting across the channel and one for the client, because you also need good conditions for the summit in Montblanc.

And I had to make a decision to start in a weather window at six o’clock at night. So I. Very quickly had to change my mindset to just be swimming in the dark, which was very different because it’s not something that I had necessarily prepared myself for. I hadn’t, I’d done one or two nights swims, but not with currents and not with the waves and not as, certainly not for as long as I was going to be in the water for.

[00:11:00] So. I started, the start was amazing. The weather was great. It was nice and flat. It was, it was, yeah, it was really ideal conditions. And then it started to get dark quite quickly. And within the third hour, I was really beginning to have all those thoughts in my head of what am I doing? Could I, could I not have just picked something slightly?

Easier than this. This is crazy. And I was, I think because it, it got dark. And normally you have, when you’re swimming in open water, particularly when you’re swimming the channel, you always have a point of reference. And a lot of people say swimming, the channel is in two parts, you swim half, and you can always see the cliffs of Dover behind you.

And. The other half, you can always see Cali in front of you, but [00:12:00] because it was dark, all I could see was this little green light on the boat. That was going up and down, up and down. It wasn’t a fixed point of reference. So I got very, very seasick and I was throwing up for maybe four or five hours. Couldn’t keep anything down and I was just having to keep swimming and just, and it, yeah, it wasn’t, it wasn’t pleasant.

I was just keeping one arm in front of the other and, and keep going until I got to the end. I did, I did quite well though. I’d promise myself that I wasn’t going to throw my toys out of the prom during the swim. I was going to keep it together during the swim. And I got to, I didn’t know, but I’d got to within an hour, I was only an hour or so away from the finish.

And I started to get a little bit frustrated because I thought I was in a head current and I kept asking my support guys. [00:13:00] I know I’m in a head current, when’s it going to stop? Just tell me when, when it’s going, when I’m going to get out of this. And they kept saying, you’re not, you’re not just focused, watch, focus on the boat, follow the boat.

And I kept swimming. I was, and then through then I, yeah, I had a bit of, a bit of a hissy fit and I was only five minutes from the end. So I, I threw my toys out of the pram. Well, and truly, and I was five minutes later. I was standing up on category. Good. Did you know, did you, I imagine when you had your sort of fit, did you know that you were so close or?

I didn’t know. That was the frustrating part because I was, for some reason I was fixated on a light that turned out to be a lighthouse. That I wasn’t supposed to be following. And the, my perspective was I was never getting any closer to that lighthouse. I [00:14:00] thought that was the light that was at cap gree.

So I’m looking constantly at this light and when I should have been following the boat that was heading. Two category. So I, in my head, I was just never, ever getting any closer and thinking I was in a head current and all the while I was really, really close, but the support guys, I wouldn’t tell me that I was that close.

And they wouldn’t for a good reason because there’s been a lot of people that swim the channel. And there’s just, before you get to cap gree, The tide changes. And if you get caught in that tide change, it can add another three or four hours onto your swim. And that can happen within a five, 10 minute period.

So all they were concentrating on was telling me to keep my head down, push, put, you know, just keep swimming because [00:15:00] I was within. Five minutes of heading that tie change, and then it could have been another three, four hour swim for me. So I was so close, but it could have been so far if I hadn’t have just, if I’d have kept, kept putting my head up and moaning constantly, then it would have been a different story.

So you finished that at sort of five, six in the morning? Yeah, it was. Five. It was just after five because the swim in the end took me 10 hours, 57. Which yeah. Was faster than, than I thought I was going to swim, which was good. So I, I finished and I, you basically, you have to swim to land and then you have to swim back to the boat.

Because you’re not allowed to just get out on land because you have to go back to Cali and go through passport control. You’re not, you’re not allowed to just hop out [00:16:00] and get on your bike. So yeah, that’s sort of how I was imagining that, but yeah, of course I imagined it when I first planned it in my head, I was just swimming, swimming to the land.

I’d hop out. Somebody would be there ready with my bike. I’d get on my bike. It’s a black, a proper race, like quickly get up. So I got to the end and then you touch basically you touch the rocks, get out on land, and then you had to, I had to swim back the boat. Can’t come that close. So the boat was probably.

Maybe 500, 600 meters away from land. So then I had to swim back to the boat and and true story. I, the whole way I swam the whole way there, didn’t get stung by a single jellyfish. And in that 500 to 600 meters back to the boat, I got stung three times. So I didn’t get stung once until, until I’d [00:17:00] actually finished the swim and going back to the boat.

I honestly think once you sort of got on to land to then suddenly to have to turn around and. Swim 600 meters that must have felt like the longest 600 meters. It does it. It’s crazy. Just how your mind perceives things when you’ve, when you finish something and you think it’s finished and then you’ve got to get back to the boat.

Wow. And so you went through, did you rest after that or was that, were you straight on the bike cycling? No. So I. Once I got back onto the boat, it’s actually from where cap Grier’s to the port to Cali port, it takes about an hour on the boat. So I was able to just have just refuel a little bit on the boat.

And, and an actual fact, I, I fell asleep on the boat and that’s probably about the only sleep I had. Throughout the [00:18:00] rest of the challenge of any yeah. Of any decent sleep anyway. So I, I slept the whole way to the port. And then once we’d gone through passport control and got out, then I did have I think we’re six hours rest because when you do a marathon or a long distance swim, There’s a, there’s quite a big risk that you can get fluid on your lungs because you’re swallowing so much water, particularly in turbulent waters, like the English channel.

So the, you know, the medical guidance is always to check that you haven’t got any rattling on your chest and it takes a while for that to set in. And if you do have that, you can cause yourself to drown internally. So it’s never, ever recommended that you do such a big [00:19:00] swim and then do something straight afterwards.

I think normally they mean by doing something straight afterwards, going for a little walk to the shop. Not getting on your bike and cycling 900 K. But so I did, we, we we had our camper van, so that’s how we, we manage the rests and the pit stops and things. So I got in the camper van had some food rested and then six hours later, I was up and on the bike.

So, was it just you and your husband sort of supporting each other or was there a big team around it? So I had, I did have a team I don’t ever do any of this alone too much. Obviously I do the swim and the bike and the, the actual physical elements. But I do, I do have a really good support team [00:20:00] around me.

This one in particular, I had. A slightly bigger team, but it was more media. So it was, it was media and the film crew. So there were, there were quite a lot of people following which made it Mitch made it fun because there was always somebody there, there was always I was always looking out for a camera on the road.

It, it gave me something to focus on a little bit, but primarily it’s it’s myself and car. We’re we yeah. Manage the logistics between us. He he’s in the van making sure that all my food’s prepared when I get to the stop. And then, yeah, it’s, it’s mostly just myself and car. Yeah, I suppose having all these people around sort of taking pictures, filming was sort of encouragement because you’re sort of there and you don’t want to have the [00:21:00] picture of you just sort of slacking off just as you get round the corner, just putting like a really sad face.

Just sort of there smiling. I di I don’t well call cat and say into me because there were some times where we would get somewhere and it was just. It would just be me and him. And I would have a bit of a meltdown and there’d be tears streaming. I don’t want to go down this canal again. I can’t see the aliens are getting me.

And he, there was a couple of times where he would say to me, Why don’t you do this on camera? They’re not seeing the not good. You do know, they’re not going to be able to produce a film without any of these moments in it. Everyone who washes the film, you going to be like, wow. I mean on rail, it look so easy.

Yeah. I di I don’t tantrums caught on camera. There were, luckily they, in the end, I couldn’t, I [00:22:00] couldn’t hide it anymore. So there were definitely some tantrums caught on camera. Sick going down France, you went from Kelly. Did you go down sort of to Dijon then? What’s the other Dole sort of down that way and then crossover and Brett breasts breasts.

Yes, the, yeah. Sort of less on Lake Geneva? No I didn’t. Yes, no, I did. Sorry. Yeah, my came, I came up over the juror. Down in to Geneva and then up through to Chamonix. Yep. Through Albertville, no. I went, I stayed on the back roads. You went just before Annecy. You went up that mountain past. No. So no, you’re right through Albertville.

Yeah. Yeah. [00:23:00] So throughout, but they’ll then Banville clues, so launch and then up, up and over. Yeah. Be a beautiful scenery around there. It’s amazing. The whole, the whole bike leg was really stunning. Well, it was stunning when I did the recky and I did it in daylight this time, but the actual challenge, I wasn’t quite sure where I was at any moment in time.

I don’t think apart from the last leg, the last leg home was amazing because that is where it’s. It’s beautiful. And. That leg happened to be in the daylight, which was good. And so once you got to Chamonix, was it again sort of straight off the bike into your crampons and straight up or no. So I, once I got to Chamonix, I had another rest.

I had eight hours planned. [00:24:00] So the schedule was because I was targeting to do it within five days. I had a very, very precise schedule of where I was having the rest stops, how long those rest periods were going to be. So on the bike, for example, I’d broken it, broken it down into six stages and each stage was approximately seven hours.

Riding and then four to five hours recovery. And in that four to five hours, that’s where I would need to eat and sleep and have a change. And then, then get back on the bike. And the same was when I got to, to Chamonix. So I had a eight hour recovery where, because I knew for me the, the mountain piece, although we live in Chamonix, I’m not a mountain era.

That was going to be the most challenging part for me. I [00:25:00] was petrified. It wasn’t the, the swim and the bike as hard as they were. I didn’t have fear. I didn’t have fear about those. I knew I knew I could do it, but the, the mountaineering piece I’d really only ever put crampons on my feet. Once or twice beforehand as practice runs, I’d, I’d been out and I’d been doing a lot of high mountain things.

And I’d obviously done all my glacier training and things like that, but it’s not something that I I’d been out and done a lot of. So I knew that I needed to be slightly recovered. To start because I was starting from the Valley floor as well. So typically when people climb Mont Blanc, they’ll do it over two days.

They take the train partway up and then they start at the train and [00:26:00] then they’ll hike up to the Ghouta huts and then they’ll stay, they’ll have a rest or stay overnight in the Ghouta heart. To a climatize and then they’ll, they’ll go for the summit, but I did it from the Valley floor. So I didn’t take the train.

I hiked up to where people normally get off the train and then just continued the whole way we, we did it in, we did it in one go. So I knew to be able to do that, that I needed to have that, that rest period factored in, in Chamonix before it took off. Yep. And what was, would you say the, what were some of the highs from that sort of trip?

Did you find sort of moments of joy? Oh, there were, and there were lots completely the opposite. Yeah, I think that the best parts for me were randomly. [00:27:00] Getting hot chips brought to me in the middle of the night on the bike. When I was in a phase where I was really not in a good place, I was, I just come off one of the canals and I was hungry and cold.

And A colleague of mine who had amazing it was supporting on, on route, just in terms of watching and driving along. He appeared out of nowhere in the middle of France at one o’clock in the morning with a portion of hot chips. That, that was definitely one of the biggest highlights on, on the bike.

Also. I think along that theme, it’s just the, the amazing support that I had from people during you know, my parents, they were there and they were there, they were following along in the car, getting lost all the time. And so some of that was, was quite [00:28:00] funny. And just getting messages of encouragement from people along the way.

And. Then on the climb in particular, for me, there’s a, there’s a, a part that I was dreading and that was going across the grand core where there’s just a very short section where there’s a lot of, it’s quite renowned. If you look it up, when you’re you summit in Montblanc, but where it can be quite dangerous because there’s a lot of rock fall.

And I had never, I’d never been across there. So getting across there was. An absolute relief. Once I got across there, I knew I’d be able to make it to the summit. So that was that was a huge, huge highlight. Well, so yeah, I imagine going down those canals at sort of late at night and then a good plate of hot chips is it’s just those little things.

Sometimes when you’re doing these trips, there [00:29:00] makes such a huge difference. And for anyone listening, they sound so mundane and so basic, but when you’re in that sort of. Mindsets. It is just those little things that sort of acts of generosity and kindness, which just go so far. It is absolutely. And I think also on the penultimate leg of the bike, I also had, I knew it was going to be one of the hardest stages because it was the biggest mountain climb stage of, of the bike.

And. Again, because of the way the time is worked out, it was in the middle of the night. And I ha I wasn’t expecting anybody to come out and support me on that leg. And I had two good friends from Chamonix who drove down and actually rode that leg with me as well, which I wasn’t expecting. And it just [00:30:00] made, made the world of difference.

And I, because you’ve, I mean, it’s just sounds like it was sort of one hardship after the other what’s in the back of your mind, sort of just kept you going sort of when times were really tough, you know, that sort of time when. You’re swimming and throwing up for five hours. Was there any sort of moment where, you know, I imagine you’ve worked so hard for this, so in your mind, it’s not, but what sort of motivates you to sort of just keep going what’s in the back of your mind that sort of pushes you through and that is that voice encouraging you on?

Yeah, so I think, I think for me, particularly for the sea to summit challenges is. Yeah, I, I have this platform that I’m using to promote awareness of endometriosis and encourage young [00:31:00] women and girls to have their cervical smear tests and having been through both of them, both conditions myself. That is always in the back of my mind of, you know, I’ve started this.

So there’s no way I’m not going to finish. It’s just, yeah, there’s just, no, I don’t even know. Give myself that there’s no option. It’s I, I will finish this, whether I’m throwing up, whether I’m you know, exhausted whether you know, my body just can’t go any further. I’ve learned from doing this, that it always can go further.

So I never give myself that, that option. And I’m always thinking about why I’m doing it. You know, one always for myself, because I love doing these things and I love pushing my own limits, but also to encourage other people to get out there and do similar [00:32:00] things and promoting awareness of endometriosis and cervical cancer.

Amazing. And what was the feeling like when you were standing on top of mom, bla. It was, it was awesome. It was, it was really, really just get there and know that, that I finished and that I was at the top was absolutely amazing, but, and there was a big, but I still had to get down. So for me, I actually get, although, cause my whole challenge was sea to summit.

So it finishes at the top. It always finishes at the top or at the end and in the, the one that I did this year. But in that one, particularly I, I had to get back down the mountain and that petrified me to be honest, because I was so I knew how tired I would be. And [00:33:00] it’s, it’s tech, it’s not super technical, but it’s dangerous.

You know, if you’re, I I’ve been by that point, I’d been on the go for nearly five hours with very, very limited sleep. I really struggled to sleep throughout the whole challenge, even though I’d factored rest periods into it. I just couldn’t switch my mind off my body off. And I, I really, really struggled to get the sleep that I needed.

So I knew that I was going to have to really concentrate. I didn’t want to get to the top and then. Fail coming back down because I couldn’t cause I couldn’t get back down because I was tired or whatever it might be, but I. I had looked at other options and looked again and helicoptered off the top, but couldn’t do that because of the time of the year and a helicopter can’t land from the French side, you’d have to go down onto the Italian side.

I [00:34:00] heard ’em looked at getting flown off the top with a paraglider. But we couldn’t, we couldn’t find anybody that would be, that would hike up because obviously they have to go up to be able to fly off. And then they, you just can’t with the conditions. You can’t really predict whether it’s going to be good enough to fly.

But when I got to the top, there were two, there were two paragliders stood at the top and in my head, I was like, Oh, Carl’s done it. He hasn’t told me, and he’s got somebody to fly me off at the top. I just, as I was approaching the summit, so I’d convinced myself that they were there to fly me off the top so that I didn’t have to walk down just as I got to the top, they flew off.

I was devastated. So I, I think in summary, that was, it’s a whole mixed bag of emotions when I got to the summit, because I knew I’d finished. I was excited. I [00:35:00] you know, absolutely overwhelm the, that I’d managed to do it, but I still had a long way back to get back down to be able to actually celebrate with the people that were around and wanted to.

To experience a celebration with me. I think that that’s a, what a lot of people always forget is when you get to the top, I think we had Judy stir on episode five, who climbed Everest. And a lot of the time he sort of said that people die walking down Everest rather than climbing to the top. You know, you’re sort of hardship of getting to the top, having the feta, you sort of switch off.

And that’s when it becomes quite dangerous. Yeah. And mom blight is a substantial mountain to climb. Yeah, I feel very sorry to go to the top to see those paragliders suddenly shoot off. Oh, it was [00:36:00] devastation. It went from, it went from a moment of euphoria to thinking. Yes, he’s done it. He’s mad. He hasn’t told me he’s kept it a secret and I’m getting flown off the top and I’m going to be home in five minutes and no, it didn’t turn out like that.

I bummed shuffled quite a way of it down. On the way down, my legs were just so tired. It was crazy. And so did this sort of spur on the next challenge you did this year? Was that, is that the idea now to sort of D challenge after challenge raising money for cervical cancer? Yeah. So the first one, when it started, it was just going to be one, but it always ends up that way.

There’s never just one of anything. Once you start down this crazy path. Yeah. I think always people sort of go when you’re doing it or when you’ve done it. Or even sometimes before you’ve even [00:37:00] started, they just sort of say, Oh, well, what’s next, what’s off their game. I’ve just been planning this for the.

The last six months I’m just going to do this. And then of course, once you’ve done it, it’s, it’s almost like a drug you’ve sort of had that hits. On episode five, we are speaking with Jamie Ramsey and he says, it’s like this sort of hit you’ve had it. And then it’s like, Oh, I can do that now. How can I better that?

Yeah. Yeah. You definitely start down a very dangerous path. It is like being, it’s like being an addict. You’re an addict to this insurance feeling this, this euphoria of, of completing something and pushing past what you perceive your limits to be then, and then. Knowing that you’ve done that and then wanting to push further and wanting to do more.

I think it’s [00:38:00] yeah, there’s definitely an addiction there for sure. And I finished. Yeah. So I finished the first one and I didn’t, I guess in the back of my mind, I, I knew there would be. Something else. There was no way I would be able to just sit and, you know, sit back and relax and think, Oh, it’s done.

It’s at that. That’s it. I’ve, I’ve created, I’ve created my platform. I’m, you know, I’ve done what I wanted to do. Those, there was always going to be something else. So, and it didn’t take very long. It was probably about a month after that. I was already busy planning the next one. But so this, this year they, the plans did have they changed quite significantly from what they were supposed to be, because let’s see 20, 20 being the year that it is it.

I don’t think anyone’s [00:39:00] plans have worked out the way that they hoped or wanted them to. Yeah. So my, my initial challenge this year, I was supposed to be doing what was called the three lakes. So I was planning to swim the three longest lakes in Wales, England, and Scotland run the three peaks. So the traditional three peaks challenge and cycle, all the bits in between.

But because of COVID, we were in lockdown in France and I wasn’t able to get across to the UK and in time to be able to do the challenge that, that I’d set out for myself. And we, so we had set off to the UK and then the UK brought in the quarantine restrictions and we were halfway through France on the way to the boat to come across.

And [00:40:00] the, we had to get there before four o’clock in the morning so that we wouldn’t be put into. Quarantine or so we didn’t have to self isolate for the 14 days. And unfortunately it just, we couldn’t, I couldn’t take the risk because I hadn’t record the course properly at that point. So I needed those 10 days to be able to go out and record the course.

The temperature in lock or was dropping by the day it was already, it was already sat at my limit. It was around 13.5 degrees. And if it sounds, it sounds crazy. And a lot of people said to me, well, why didn’t you just push it out two, three, four weeks, the temperature in lock, or can drop significantly in two to three weeks.

And. It just a 41 K swim 11 to 12 degrees. Just it, I would have been crazy. Try and try and to [00:41:00] do that at the end of having, having done everything else. I’m all about challenging and pushing myself, but I have safety limits and that would have home beyond my safety limits. You wear a wetsuit though, when you do.

Yes. I mean, even still I jumped into 12 degrees a few weeks back and yeah, it’s, it’s pretty fresh. Hey, Tony wakes you up. Let’s let’s see. Yeah, I, yeah, no, I, I made the decision quite. Early on when I started these things that I, I was going to wear a wet suit and I swim in the open water swimming community.

It took a while for people to really embrace the whole I’m wearing a wetsuit thing, but it, because I have so much, you know, there’s a lot more to it than just swimming. And I need to make sure that. I’m not [00:42:00] hypothermic that I’m able to get on the bike and there’s, and also I can’t afford to put on as much body fat as some of some of the other open water swimmers do when they’re setting out on, on a big open water adventure.

Yeah. Yeah. So I. Had to change very quickly the plans for this year. But fortunately, because I started down this addiction route I already had next year’s planned already. Well, not plan, but I had it in my head of what I wanted to do in 2021, which is effectively what I ended up doing this year, the Mont Blanc triple crown, which I.

I swam around the perimeter of Lake Annecy, which to my knowledge, nobody has ever swam around the perimeter. A lot of people have swam one [00:43:00] end to the other and a few people have done the return. So they’ve swam from one. Now they’ve done a double Lake Annecy swim, but nobody’s swam the 38 kilometers around the perimeter.

So I started with, with that swim and then I rode the tour de Montblanc. So it’s quite a, a famous bike ride around Montblanc. It’s. Quite short in terms of distance compared to what I, what I’d done previously. So the bike itself has only 330 kilometers, but it has 12,000 meters of climbing. It’s you.

You basically spend your whole time climbing, climbing, climbing, and hurting and suffering. Yeah. So then I had, I wrote that and then I [00:44:00] ran the ultra trail Dumont blog, which is. Well regarded as possibly the, or one of the hardest trail runs in the world. It’s 170 kilometers with approximately about 12,000 meters of climbing again.

So it’s pretty, pretty significant. So in terms of preparing for these expeditions, how was what’s a sort of training program you sort of go through, do you. Because to do something like your triathlon along the canal canal, sorry, along the channel. And then cycle 900. I mean, were you training nine months, six months, two years.

A year beforehand to get in shape to get in. Yeah. So I think it, for me, I have a, I have a really strong [00:45:00] base level of fitness. I’ve I’ve always, I’ve always had that. I’ve always been doing, I’m always training regardless of what I’m training for. I’m always doing something I’m always out and training, but specifically when I’m doing a challenge, I would normally set myself a program six months out.

So I’d have a dedicated program. So I know exactly how much I’m going to swim in each week. I know what that cycle will look like for the months. And likewise with the bike and the climb. I know how many Ks I need to get in on the bike to make sure that I’m, I’m prepared for the challenge. I think. Yeah.

Again, it’s about, for me, although I have. Timeframe. Everything seems to have come to this five days. It seems to be a theme that I’ve come up with now. But although I have that timeframe, [00:46:00] it’s not about going fast. It’s. Very strategically planned. So it’s strategically planned around having, you know, my energy systems in, in the right place so that I can keep moving forward that I’m not totally drained, that I don’t have to have more rest than I’d planned for.

So there’s, there’s a lot more, a lot of the preparation and training for me is more around Energy efficiency, making sure that my body is using the fuel that I give it along the way. And making sure that the logistics are planned to the second it’s I spend a lot more time planning my logistics and my nutrition intake than I do.

Planning my training, the training for me is the easy [00:47:00] part. That’s the bit that I know I can do. I’m I’m fit. I can, as long as I’m fueled, as long as I’ve got a really, really nailed plan and goals from getting from a to B and know what I’m going to do, then that’s extremely important for me to have in place.

You, you had quite an interesting story on your website about. Past the parties before your events and then finding out you you ha ha celiac celiac. Yeah. So as a. As a young girl growing up in the swimming world, I, I competed, competed at a reasonably high standard and I would always, before a competition, would, you know, you’re told to pass the load carb load, eat, pastor, eat pizza, eat anything that you can get your hands on that is, that is high in [00:48:00] carbs, but.

Unbeknown to me. And my family, I, I do have celiac disease. And so I was always carbo-loading and never understanding why. Once I got to a competition that I was sick. I was always, always sick. Always depleted of energy, found it very difficult to you know, reach the standard that I was showing in training.

So I was able to train really, really well. And I was constantly on, on target to, to break records and, and do really well. And then I’d hit the water. Come competition. And I mean, there were two, the times that I would pass out in the middle of the pool and the lifeguards would have to jump in and get me because effectively my whole immune system just wasn’t responding and it wasn’t responding because I was [00:49:00] fueling it with the wrong cops.

They’re the wrong thing. Things that I shouldn’t have been putting into my body. And it was just having this, this effect on me. And it wasn’t, it wasn’t for quite a long time afterwards that we, we realized that that’s what, what the effect that it was having on me. Yeah, I think it takes a while to sort of work these things out.

Not quite on the same level as what you had, but yeah. You know, growing up, you’re always so used to all these products that everyone has, everyone takes and then you have them, but you always feel slightly off and it’s probably only later in life, you work it out and you’re like, dang. I think that suits me very well.

Yeah. No, absolutely. And that’s, that’s exactly what was happening and it’s very hard, you know, when, when you’re work, even as an adult, if you’re, you’re being told that this is the right thing for you to take that this [00:50:00] is what you, this is what you need to do, but it just doesn’t agree with you. I think everyone is everyone is extremely individual and, and unique and in what you need to be able to, to fuel you to do things.

I mean that that’s an incredible story. But there’s a part of the show where we ask the same five questions to each guest each week. And so on your sort of. Trips and expeditions, what’s the one thing, wire swimming, cycling, or hiking. Do you crave? Which bizarre thing do you sort of Cray, which other people might be like?

Hmm, that’s weird chicken nuggets, unfortunately. And I don’t know where it comes from. I don’t have it in any other part of my life. I don’t, I never eat chicken nuggets ever. But when I’m in, when I’m doing these things, whether it’s [00:51:00] the sea to summit challenges, whether it’s an iron man, whatever it might be, I get this overwhelming craving for chicken nuggets.

And I just, I don’t know where it’s came from, but it’s there now. And I can’t, I can never get it out of my head. Did you have a favorite adventure book? Oh probably born to run. It is, yeah, it’s still, it’s not specifically adventure per se, but it’s it’s one of the most motivating and inspiring books that I I’ve read more than once.

Oh, wow. Yeah, I still need to finish it. I, as I was saying on one of my episodes, I was reading it before I did. One of my runs got halfway through, did my run. And then after that, [00:52:00] I sort of washed my hands of running for a few months and haven’t got, haven’t quite got back to finish finishing the book, unfortunately.

Oh, okay. No, I I do. I think I was probably the same when I first read it. I was, yeah, that can’t really happen. That can’t be real that but then there’s just, so this there’s a lot of inspiration that, that I draw from, from that book. Yeah. I, did you have an inspirational figure growing up? I, I did.

I think there’s. There’s a few, but I don’t really tend to, I I’m inspired by a lot of different things. I’m inspired by and always have been by anybody and any [00:53:00] person that pushes themselves. Out of their comfort zone or pushes their own limits and that doesn’t have to be for me and I, this is something that’s really important to me, is it, it doesn’t have to be somebody that is out there doing things like I’m doing or other people are doing, or it’s, it’s very much, you know, I use an example, my sister, my sister.

Something amazing and inspirational would be if she went out and tried to do the couch to 5k run, for example, that would inspire me significantly because she, you know, she’s, she’s pushing herself. It’s not something that, that she’s been able to do before. So I draw a lot of inspiration and always have as a child from people.

Like that around me in my own circle. But I think in terms of public figures, as I was growing up, probably Kelly [00:54:00] Holmes because I was always running and just, you know, seeing in particular, you know, a female figure who had gone through so much challenge and adversity in her life and. Eventually pushing herself to get her Olympic gold medals and just remembering, sitting, watching it on the TV and how ecstatic it was and how amazing it brought the country together, I think was, was awesome.

And. Yeah. Other people, people like David Attenborough just the, you know, the, to give you that sense of freedom and adventure and travel. And yeah, there’s a, I have a lot of different inspirations that I draw from. So I don’t think there’s any one specific person that I can say. They were on my wall.

They were the person that I was always striving to be [00:55:00] like. Yeah. I think, I think a lot of people will have different elements and pick characteristics from different ones. So you’re not alone on that one. And do you have a favorite quote or motivational quote? Oh, there’s lots of them too. I think probably for me, the one that I would.

Use most often, or that I like is every journey begins with a single step. So you’re yeah. It’s, you know, there’s no, you have to start somewhere. You have to start to be able to achieve anything and it doesn’t need to be a big step. It doesn’t need to be a giant leap. It’s just moving forward in the right direction.

Yeah. And I suppose people listening, always keen to go on these sort of big adventures and [00:56:00] expeditions like you, what’s the one thing you would recommend for them to get started? Always have a plan. Nah, never start anything without. Having a plan. You, you can have the idea. But if you really, if you really want to succeed and you want to be able to do it, then for me, it it’s, it’s all about planning.

You don’t don’t don’t see somebody. Cause I see so many people that try to be like all of these influencers on Instagram or adventure people and they think, Oh, you know this person’s done it. They quit their job. They’ve gone off, they’ve traveled around the world. They’ve been able to do this, that and the other.

But you can’t just do that. It’s you, you have to have, you have to have some level of, of planning around being able to do that. [00:57:00] And I think in this day and age, it’s so easy to, to think that it’s easy because it looks easy, but there’s so much that that goes into it. So I think for me, it’s always think out of the box.

So don’t. Don’t restrain yourself to thinking, Oh, I can only do this, or I can’t do this. Or you always think that you can do anything, but make sure you have a plan to be able to do that. Anything. Yeah. Otherwise, yeah. You don’t want to be knocked back. Yeah. I think we spoke about a story with I think that our Humphreys credited saying that He, he was speak, a guy was speaking and sort of followed him and had this idea.

He had a family and everything and sort of saw what Al Humphreys was doing and wanted to do that anyway. So he quit his job, [00:58:00] went off to go and cycle the Himalayas. And then after two weeks quit and said, actually, It’s not for me really. It’s not for me. My lay, the comforts of home. I miss my family and actually I suddenly realized that’s what I enjoy.

And I’m quite happy to go on these small adventures, but you know, these big grant yearlong month long adventures are really not for me. No. And I think it’s, it’s not always. As glamorous or as easy as it may seem in, in the social media world as well. Yeah. I a hundred percent agree with that.

So make sure if you’re going to do something, have a plan. Okay. And so what are you doing now and how can people follow you? So [00:59:00] I, right now I’m focusing a lot on my charity. So I set up a charity earlier this year called lady talk matters. Which focuses solely on removing the taboos surrounding female reproductive health.

So it, we, we do a lot of work around endometriosis, cervical cancer, period poverty, a lot of, a lot of other conditions as well. So I’m really focusing at the minute on delivering value through, through that charity. And as a way of fundraising specifically, to be able to deliver the things that, that I do, I use my C2 summit extreme platform to fundraise.

So I’ve got a lot of plans in the pipeline for next year for C2 summit. [01:00:00] Challenges the main one being the three lakes challenge that I wasn’t able to do this year. So that is my that’s my big sea to summit challenge next year. And I’ll be running a virtual challenge alongside my challenge so people can, can join and participate and push themselves.

And all proceeds will, will go to lady taught matters. Amazing and your Instagram handle or website see to some extreme. Okay, amazing. Thank you. And I have to say you have an incredible story and just really inspirational for anyone listening and I can’t. Thank you enough for coming on the show today.

Thank you very much. It was great to talk to you.

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