If you haven’t seen Sean Conway on the news this week you’ve probably had your head in a hole.
On Monday afternoon at six minutes past midday he pulled himself out of the water in John O’Groats, Scotland, to become the first man to swim the length of Britain. Not an experienced swimmer, Sean had been in the sea for 135 days (over four months) battling jellyfish, exhaustion, weight loss, cold water and rough weather.
A few days before he set off from Lands End in Cornwall Sean and I caught up and made a video about our friendly swimming rivalry (see below). In actual fact, there’s no rivalry at all, apart from the fact he’s way better at growing beards than me. Sean has been a good friend for a while and that, coupled with the utmost respect and understanding for what he’d been going through these past few months, I wanted to go and see him before the journey was up.
So, armed with a window of less than two days to go between engagements in Buxton in the Peak District and Bristol, I decided to see if I could make it to Northern Scotland to deliver a much needed hug to my buddy and his valiant support crew, which included Em Bell, who starred on my own swimming support team on the Missouri last year.
So, without further ado, here’s little film I made about finding Sean.
My favourite interaction of the week.
Man hands Sean a newspaper to sign, which he does. ‘Have you had much coverage like this?’ asks the man.
'A bit,' replies Sean, 'although BBC Scotland decided not to do a story on us because a panda had a baby.'
'Ah,' hummed the man, 'that's a miscarriage of justice.'
So, a massive thanks to Glen the taxi driver from Thurso (who also observed when we drove past Doonreay Nuclear Power Station that after swims past he’ll be able to read the newspaper at night without lights). Ros from the Royal Hotel in Thurso for your help! Casey at St Andrews University for allowing me to come and speak to you and pay for half the travel costs!
Ocean rowers are ten to a pound these days (which isn’t to diminish the achievement of a crossing) but now and then a trans-ocean project comes along that is worth really taking notice of.
On Monday night I was privileged to attend a fundraiser for the Coxless Crew, to speak alongside paraympian Danny Crates, Walking for the Wounded athlete Martin Hewitt and ocean ambassador Emily Penn.
The stars of the evening though, were Laura Penhaul, Nat Miles, Ella Hewton and Emma Mitchell. The girls talked us through the immensity of their proposed challenge, to row 8500 miles across the Pacific from California to Australia.
En route they’ll stop in Hawaii and Samoa to both re-provision and magnify media for their efforts and fundraising work for Breast Cancer Care and Walking for the Wounded.
They’ll be rowing two-on, two-off constantly for the best part of 160 days on board their currently nameless 29 foot ocean rowing boat (I think they should call it YES, myself). Danny had the idea to tape out the footprint of the boat in the middle of the room, which really brought to life the living quarters the girls will experience. 29 feet for four people in the middle of an ocean isn’t that much!
It’s important to note that none of the girls have extensive rowing experience and yet they’re still gunning for three world records, including the fastest crossing of the Pacific by rowing boat.
They’re slowly chipping into arguably the toughest bit of the entire project; getting to the start line. Fundraising (both to cover the trip’s costs and raise for the charities), logistics and psychological evaluations are now par for the course.
'Mate, do you want to break a world record for the longest ever game of 5 aside football?'
This is the type of question I both dread and relish. The type of question that comes along at disturbingly frequent intervals these days. I’d played football with Tarran in 2007 when I moved to London but we hadn’t seen each other for years.
And then he comes back into my life with this kind of offer. What kind of friend would do that?!
I didn’t think for long. My already weary mind cast back to late 2010 when my friend Seb and I stayed awake for 72 hours on the trot, wandering the streets of Melbourne and going on radio shows and speed dating, all the while trying desperately to stop dribble falling out of our mouths. It’s not the activity that gets you, it’s the lack of sleep. It’s quite horrible, actually.
But it’s worth it, saying yes to a mad caper like this. It’s healthy to be tested to your limits, even if it feels like the most unhealthy thing you could do during the act.
A few days after Tarran posed the question we were there playing beneath an underpass at the Westway Sports centre in West London. The pace had slowed considerably and players were falling like flies. Our bodies were betraying us. With over £5500 raised for Inspiring Futures Uganda, a new world record left in our wake after 43 hours of playing and that now familiar awakening of human kindness proven by all the sponsors, referees and witnesses who gave their time to supporting us, the final whistle blew at 46 hours and 23 minutes.
Had we not already been on our knees, we would have fallen to them.
The final score was 870 to 517. I now have the dubious honour of captaining one of the teams in the longest ever game of 5 aside. The losing team, no less. I scored 85 goals. Lost 3kg in weight. Needed 5 good nights of sleep to recover (that’s a prediction, I’ve only had four and need at least one more.)
A huge thanks to all the volunteers who came out at all times of day and night to ensure the Guinness World Record stipulations were met. And thank you to the Westway Sports Centre, Natural Hero, Natural Balance Foods/ Trek Bars, Trailhead Beef Jerky and Octopus Clinic for all of your support.
If there are any spare pennies floating around waiting to be donated, here’s the link. Thanks ever so much. That’s world record number 7 in the bag!
Between 7pm on Thursday 1st August and 7pm on Sunday 4th August sixteen youthful(ish) players will take the field at London’s Westway Sports Centre and play for 72 hours, both to raise funds for Inspiring Futures Uganda and to break the world record for the longest football match, ever!
We’re looking for witnesses to be present throughout our 72 hour game to ensure the attempt becomes an official world record attempt. Here are the time slots that we need to fill, some are wholly unsociable but we really need people at these times. PLEASE help if you can! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re a say yes more kind of person!
Friday 7pm – 11pm
Friday 11pm – 3am
Saturday 7pm – 11pm
Saturday 7am – 11am x1
A group of friends from Memphis, Tennessee, plus a Canadian and a Brit, take on a first accent of the 105 mile Wolf River in aid of Operation Broken Silence’s work to support victims of sex trafficking in Memphis.
Here’s a two part video diary about the journey, which took the team through snake-ridden swamps, the Ghost River Forest and over about seven hundred trees and beaver dams…
Every Tuesday Orla O’Muiri takes a close look at the UK’s Adventure Community and picks out an inspirational expeditioner for a chat about their work.
Sean Conway is going to speed around the world via bike and people have got to start getting more excited about this. Because he is not the only one doing it, there are quite a few. Therefore this is a race like you have never seen before. All are amateurs, no one gets a coloured jersey at the end and they race for charity not for fame. The time to beat is 96days. It is not the Tour de France, it is the Tour of the World.
This is an interview with one of the racers, Sean Conway.
Read it and then decide who you want to bet on:
1.What expeditions/adventures have you been on to date?
Not a lot really. Well not as much as I would have liked to have done. I have done Kilimanjaro (dressed as a penguin), competed in ultra endurance canoeing marathons and spent a fair bit of time in the Himalayas soaking up the mountains. Adventure is not all about rowing oceans and climbing mountains. Adventure, in its purest form, is simply a way of thinking. I think adventurously.
2.What made you decide and commit to doing this?
I wanted to do some BIG in 2012. Something that I would never be able to do again. My bucket list has always been. Swimming the Channel, Climbing Everest and Cycling the World. Cycling the world is probably the most exhausting so I figured get that one out the way first.
3.What is your day job and how did are you getting time off for this endeavour?
I have been a professional photographer my entire life and as much as I still love photography, I became bored of the type of work I was getting. This was because I said yes to too many jobs 10 years ago that weren’t my passion and before I knew it 98% of my work wasn’t what I set out to do. It was a hard decision to say NO to my clients who, for the most part, are practically my friends now but I don’t regret it. I wish I had had courage enough to do it years ago.
4.What can people do to help?
There are loads of ways you can get involved from helping me with route tips, places to see, places to avoid and choosing songs for my iPod. Most of all I am looking for people to help me Solarise Africa by paying for a school to be solarised which is as little as £1000, or simply providing a family with a Solar Lamp for £6 so that they no longer need to use kerosene. Please help me banish the kerosene lamp.
5. Why did you pick Solar Aid as your charity?
I am from Zimbabwe and have seen firsthand what life is like for 98% of rural Africa. Solar is such a simple and effective way to tackle global warming, increase education and save lives.
6. When are you set to embark on this challenge and where is your starting point?
I leave Greenwich park, on the meridian, on February the 18th 2012. Please come down and show your support. Bring a banner too.
7.What are your plans for the nights – hostels/camping/hotels?
I have no plan really. It all depends how well I am feeling. I will be taking a tent, sleeping bag and mattress and will camp whenever I need too. What I won’t do is cut my days short in order to stay in a hotel. Graveyards are a great place to camp as people tend to stay clear of them at night.
8.Who does your support team consist of?
Support? What support? This is a solo and unsupported attempt. It will just be me, my bike and loads of maps. I can’t wait.
9.Why pick cycling as opposed to hiking, swimming…etc?
I love swimming and hope to swim the channel one day. Cycling is a great way to see the world due to the huge distances you can cover in a short period of time. The feeling of freewheeling down a long road after a long day is second to none. Although I love hiking, it doesn’t challenge me enough. TO do challenging hiking probably means running and that’s one thing I can’t do. I have never done a marathon.
10.Is this going to be your one and only challenge or are there more to come?
Oh, there are LOADS more to come. I have one in the pipeline for when I return. I can’t give it away but it is another cycling world record attempt… only this time a lot shorter.
11.What does your training schedule consist of?
I currently spend about 40hours a week on the bike and then another 10 or so in the gym. I am trying to vary my training with some short sprints, hill work and some long rides. Nothing can compare to the race but I can only hope to replicate some of the fatigue I am going to have to endure.
12. Besides raising money for charity, why are you doing this?
The charity side of it is a huge part but also testing myself, testing what’s humanly possible and achieving something that for many many years seemed only a distant dream that you read about in the paper once in a while.
13.What bike are you using?
I am using a full steel frame bike with 2 small bags on the back. I want to be a lightweight as possible yet not sacrifice comfort too much as being uncomfortable is just as bad, if not worse, than having a heavy bike.
14. How much sleep will you be getting and how are you going to eat?
Sleep strategy is the hardest thing to work out. It’s such a fine balance between keeping the miles rolling vs recovery so that you cover more miles the next day. I don’t really know the answer to that and I guess only time will tell. Food is difficult too. Some countries will be easy but other like the Atacama Desert in Chile will be more difficult and I will have to carry what I can. I literally need to eat anything and everything I can find.
15.How can you plan flights and boats ahead of schedule if you don’t know exact arrival times at countries?
I have had to guess arrival times at airports but there may be times when I miss a flight so will just have to beg the airline to help me out. I haven’t booked boats yet as I figured I will just be able to jump on with my bike when I arrive. The plan is to get back to London before the Olympics so I can’t afford any delays.
16.What routes have you cycled in preparation?
I have cycled a bit in Ireland which was great but mostly I have stayed near London as this is where I need to be for fundraising. I am getting a little bored of cycling London to Cambridge and back but that also part of my mental stamina.
17. Have you met any of the others that will be competing for the title?
I have seen them on Twitter and Facebook. There are a few really hard core guys. It’s great. It really pushes everyone’s game up.
18.How much do you estimate the whole trip costs and how much of your own money goes into that?
This attempt is really expensive with flights, visas, food, equipment, more food, gym etc. I had nothing when I started, not even a bike so have had to fork out quite a bit. I have put about £10,000 of my own money already. The rest has come from my sponsors. uSwitch.com who have been incredibly supportive in my attempt and can’t thank them enough really.
19.What is the toughest part of the preparation?
I would say route selection. It’s so hard to know whether the route you have chosen goes over a huge mountain or not. Everything else is the same for everyone. It’s the route that can make or break a record and that’s the thing keeping me up at night right now.
20.Do you know any of the languages of the countries you will be crossing through?
I can speak 2 other languages (Zulu and Afrikaans) and neither of them are helpful. I hope to learn Spanish along the way via audio books. That should be fun and keep me occupied.
21.Is being beaten an option?
No! It has never even crossed my mind. This race is as much mental as physical and I hopefully have both.