It has been debatable – how much preparation should I do spending weeks on small warm up trips. Testing all the kit, completing a shake down of techniques and skills. The trouble is you can over train, stress your body and get knackered. Worse, get fed up with the small tent and lack of food before you even start.
There are some benefits to preparation. Most of my kayaking was back in the day. I need to overcome skill fade. And at 57, I know my fitness is not what it was. To compensate I started road cycling. A special thanks to the VC Walcot. There is nothing like being dropped by riders in their mid seventies to make you try harder.
It’s tempting to wing this attempt. But that has not gone well for me in the past. This video shows me attempting the 30 ft Chatel gap jump in the Alps.
I had never even gotten close to clearing a gap this wide as my technique was rubbish. So I just thought I’d just go really fast and hope for the best. It didn’t work. Still I did make amends for my stupidity by helping a helicopter paramedic for the rest of the afternoon. They were short crewed. I helped recover 2 badly injured mountain bikers from the forest. Both had spinal injuries. If I can hang in and turn other bad days into good one, I might make it to John O’Groats.
There was one part of my preparation that was an absolute necessity. Kayak rolling practice. As you get a better paddler, you go over less. Then the trap is you assume your roll is still bombproof. After a harrowing solo trip around Worms head, with minimal kit, I thought I would test my roll. Oh dear. Here I was wondering if I should learn to use a sextant, trying to memorise ship navigation light patterns and I can’t do the basics anymore. Thankfully the Bath Canoe Club has let me come along to some of their pool sessions to sharpen up my skills.
I plan to start at Exmouth on May the 4th (it’s also International Firefighters day) make my way south getting fit and building confidence and testing kit. It will be training on the job. This suits me. The trick I have found on long trips is to get into the zone. Get into a routine. This one will be ‘eat sleep paddle repeat’.