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adventurous

Training for my biggest challenge yet

Training for my biggest challenge yet

My training for the Patagonia Expedition Race has well and truly begun. See featured photo of me having a mare as I climb up a stream. I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. I am terrified. This is the only challenge that I've taken on where I haven't been 100% sure that I am going to make it. That's exactly what draws me to it.

The race is for athletes; seasoned adventure racers. I am not a racer nor an athlete. I purely enjoy putting myself into situations where I have to live in the present and adapt to environments. I thrive on surprising myself with what I can achieve.

In the last few months, I've had to put a whole new team together due to my previous team pulling out on me. I was left stranded and had an ongoing battle in my brain for weeks on end, on whether I should continue the race, as I struggled to find a new team.

I don't know why I didn't pack it in when my original team left me. They didn't think they had it in them to take part in the race so why on earth do I think I do? Naivety? Stupidity? Delusion?

I had half an hour of panic after finding out I was alone and had to build a team again. I snapped myself out of it and something stronger than me took over. I was on the phone, emails, social media, every kind of contacting format I could come up with to find new team members, I was on it.

Within a few hours I had my first team member, Tom. Tom and I had met once, over a year ago. We had been introduced to one another because we both enjoyed adventures. Tom said yes immediately.

The next team member came at a chance meeting. After arriving in Bastia, Corsica I met Marty. (Before beginning the GR20.) I needed to hitch a ride 2 hours south to the start point of the trek so scouted for outdoor looking people at the airport.

I saw a man who held himself in a military way. I darted for him. He wasn't there for a beach holiday, I could tell he was there to trek. He turned out to be a group leader and happily gave me a lift. During the 2 hour journey, I very easily got him on board the team! Marty is an ex marine and perfectly skilled for the team.

Our last team member, Tim, came at another chance meeting. Neil Laughton invited me to attend the The British Chapter of the Explorer's Club. I mingled with like minded people and when Shane Winser (Head of expeditions at the Royal Geographical Society) introduced me to Tim, I almost immediately popped the expedition question. (Granted I'd had a glass of wine to provide such confidence.) With my surprise, Tim said yes. Tim's background is global adventure photography and he's in the marine reserves. Done. I had a new team!

Tim and I met at the Explorer's Club in London
Tim and I met at the Explorer's Club in London

Ever since we formed our new team, we've been hitting the training weekends hard. With only 4 months to go, the race is the centre of our world. It has to be.

As a team we've been yomping and climbing in Wales. Last weekend we were soaked to the core by torrential rain and wind as we navigated our way through Dartmoor (realising we need new, better waterproofs!) We climbed and abseiled alongside some marines in training and spent our nights (when we weren't night navigating) snuggled together in a floor-less tent.

The team balances one another perfectly and there's a real sense of family. I can't wait to continue getting to know everyone.

My individual training has been created by Professor Greg Whyte and it gets me training twice a day.  I am given my nutrition plan tomorrow and as I write that, I question why I haven't got a cheese plate and cold, fatty meats in for my last day of food freedom...?

I am concerned I will be the less physically able out of my strong team but with the external help I am confident I can get there. I'm pretty certain that there will come to a point in the race where we will all be the same and our strength of character and mental power will be what pulls us through.

GR20: Not to be underestimated

GR20: Not to be underestimated

About a month ago I decided I needed to go for another trek as part of my training for Patagonia. With it being summer, I thought I'd treat myself to somewhere out of the UK and head for Europe. My adventures usually start with one initial idea followed by a Google search.

'Europe hard trek summer' is what I typed into the search engine.

Immedietely I was bombarded with links with the word GR20 in it. Research later developed and I was pleased to read that this GR20 was a trek in Corsica. Not just a trek though, this was named Europe's hardest trek of all.

Perfect.

I did my usual act of going around my outdoor friends (I don't have many) asking if they'd join me. One said he'd be happy to... This later (with only a few days to go) didn't work out and I was left to take on the GR20 alone.

On reflection,  I definitely underestimated the trek. I should stop saying the word 'trek' too. This wasn't a trek, you'd be lucky to see 20 metres of flat, 'walkable' terrain. This was a climb. A climb without ropes.

Concentration is everything on the GR20. I'd often find myself cursing in the early hours of the day as I sleepily began the 3 hour climb across boulders and rock faces. "Pay attention Lucy" I'd say. No one was there to help me if I fell, it was up to me to get through this safely.

Distance isn't a factor on this route. To put it into perspective, on some stages I'd only be walking 5 miles as the crow flies and it would take 7 hours. This proved frustrating. Slowly I'd climb up a 15 metre boulder that stood in the way, then carefully lower myself and my giant rucksack down to the ground.

For the entirety of the trip, I slept in a tiny hooped bivy bag which meant I didn't get the sleep I needed. I was cold at night, waking up in shivers despite the 35 degree Celsius midday heat. All of this added to the infamous name 'hardest trek in Europe.

The route was gruelling but after a while, my balance improved, my leg muscles grew stronger and my confidence to climb without ropes and with chunky boots and a rucksack, grew enormously. There were times I questioned why I was even making myself do this in my spare time, but like anything worth doing, it felt incredible to finish and was a phenomenal way to spend the last few weeks of summer.

Sadly, over half a dozen people have died on this route since June and many are still missing. This is a result of a storm where people were trapped in a landslide and also struck by lightening.

This was a big reminder to take care when on the GR20 and treat it with respect, it won't be kind to anyone.

My next challenge

My next challenge

My next challenge is a 'biggun' (big one). Thinking about it now makes me gulp and feel like I should run around the block and do some press ups in order to prepare.

I am the captain of a four person team taking part in the Patagonia Expedition Race 2016. This race is serious. 'The Last Wild Race' 'The Toughest Race on Earth'. It will seperate the men from the boys. (In my case the women.)

Patagonia is not to be taken lightly. The race is over about ten days covering between 700 - 1000 km. Sleep is optional. A team is disqualified if they do not make the check points in time. The checkpoints are given only 24 hours in advance and from there it's up to your team to figure out how to get there in the fastest way possible.

The race consists of hiking, climbing, mountain biking and sea kayaking. My biggest fear is not cycling fast enough as my other team members are all accomplished cyclists - and they have the muscle on their legs to prove it! It's going to take a lot of hours on the bike to get up to speed. See what I did there?

Sleep deprivation will be hard, especially trying to map read... All part of the fun!

On this blog I'll make updates on my team's training progress. We are looking for sponsors for this race too.. Hint hint.

More on the race will follow.

Jungle Jaguar Jeopardy

Jungle Jaguar Jeopardy

I'm about to explain the scariest moment of my life to this date. The moment lasted a whole night and brings shivers to me even now.

Last year I went to the Amazon jungle. I chose to go to the most pristine part of the interior (interior= jungle) in Guyana, to get the full Amazon experience.

I was to first complete a survival course then I'd leave with two Amerindian tribe members for a hunting trip that would take me deeper into the bush.

I was nervous about the nighttime in the jungle. I'd heard horror stories about the nonstop noises that would be so loud you couldn't sleep. It wasn't like that though.

Let me first outline the nighttime sound:

 The noises at night are specific. There's an ongoing insect hum but after that, layers of other sounds make up the total jungle orchestra.

Howler monkeys that sound like screaming madmen go on for hours, huge branches of trees crash down making even the tribe men anxious, thunder cracks, frogs ribbert, fish splash, birds sing and tapirs plod.

All of these you begin to get used to.

I'd lay in my hammock and try to shut off my ears to these sounds.

One sound I hadn't anticipated before I'd left was that of a jaguar. I didn't even know what a jaguar looked like before I'd left.

Thinking back, I was naive.

A jaguar is not a puma (as I'd originally thought) the majority have leopard print but a small percentage are all black. They are the third largest cat after tiger and lion.

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They are unique because of their sound and their killing strategy. They use their sabourtooth teeth to attack from behind. They then rip off their prays scalp or insert straight into the brain. This is unlike the usual cat killing method of going for the throat.

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Their sound is similar to a leopard. A groaning noise (note the image used on here looks more like a leopard I think. (Not sure though):

Scared yet? That sound makes me sweat.

After finding all this out the day before heading out into the bush, I googled the sound to know exactly what they sounded like.

Jaguars are rarely seen and like so many creatures, they are more scared of us than we are of them. I knew that nothing in the jungle was out to get me so I repeated this in my head whenever I got nervous.

The first night came. The darkness was pitch black. I'd drank a small amount of rum with some of the tribe and survival team in the hope that it would help me sleep.

I cautiously made it back to my hammock and on the way passed a snake. I ignored it, just as it did to me.

I got into my hammock confidently. I zipped up the mosquito net, pulled the blanket over me and switched off my head torch.

I heard others stumble back. They'd drank more than me and would for sure sleep well tonight. They slept about fifteen metres away.

Silence.

I began to drop off. Proud of myself being calm in the jungle.

Then I heard it for the first time.

The same sound I had heard the night before on YouTube. The sound of a jaguar.

"No, it can't be" I thought to myself. I was convinced it was my mind playing tricks on me. Then I heard it again. This time, closer.

"It will be a frog" I kept saying this to myself, but felt myself getting hotter and short of breath.

Again. Louder. It was coming closer.

"No way, no fucking way is there a jaguar a few meters from me on my very first night in the jungle. Not. A. Chance."

Again. This time, at a different angle. Was it... Circling me?

I felt sweat on my face as I tried as best as I could to logically think through what was happening.

The sound was not a frog, monkey nor a bird. This was a cat. A big scary saber tooth cat.

My bow and arrow and machete were outside of my hammock. The only weapon I had to defend myself was a small Swiss army penknife in my trouser pocket.

I slowly reached for it, trying my best not to move in the hammock as it would be like teasing a cat with a string.

I opened it up and placed it pointing behind my head. If the cat pounced from behind as I had been told, then maybe, just maybe I'll stab it in the mouth. Ha, unlikely but worth a go.

The sound went on every so often. Making me shake. I couldn't scream. No sound would come out of my mouth. My throat was dry but my cheeks wet from tears. I was terrified of what was about to happen and felt cowardly as I waited to be pounced on.

I held my torch in one hand. I couldn't see anything because of the thick mosquito net. I didn't want to see anything. If I had seen eyes pointing at me, I don't know what I would have done.

I remained still as the creature outside moved around my hammock making occasional growls.

I started to say goodbye to my mum and dad and accept that I had had a good life and that it was about time something bad would happen. It was my turn now. My luck had run out. I just hoped it would be quick.

I shivered for hours. The tears stopped as I accepted my death. My hands still above my head holding the knife tightly.

Then, a kerfuffle. Just meters away. Movement and animal noises. A growl and a loud yelp followed by creatures running into the bush. I waited.

No more cat sounds. It was gone. It had caught something near to me (probably what it had been stalking the whole time). It had ran off. I was safe.

The sun came up just an hour or two after. The leafy floor was disturbed. I had got away... Or just been in the way of a kill.

Either way, I felt so lucky to be alive. I was also absolutely petrified as I still had a months worth of sleeps in the jungle to go.

I later described this to one of the tribe and they agreed that there had been a large cat there.

Never have I appreciated bedroom walls as protection so much in my life.

The rest of my time in the jungle, I slept with my machete inside my hammock, and made sure I was as close as possible to the tribe.

Video of the Amazon can be seen HERE

About Lucy

About Lucy

So you've found yourself on my 'blog'. I never thought I'd set up a blog but after having written a few entries now, I am rather enjoying the release aspect of it. Take a look top right at the menu and widgets for the blog entires.

I am 22 going on 23 come July this year (2015). I grew up in the beautiful countryside of Suffolk as an only child. I found myself climbing and exploring the countryside as the best way to spend time. This has been amplified into what I essentially do now.. I am, I guess, an adventurer in training..

I don't like that word adventurer, it's rather 'showy offy' and a self given title for many. I don't think I am qualified to call myself it just yet but I use it with lack of a better word. Over the last few years I've found myself consistently going on more and more extreme and adventurous expeditions and referred to as the adventurer by friends and family who I guess are just being supportive or using it as an excuse for my dangerous and odd habits.

I trained at university to go into film and television production, which I do in the weekday. I want to incorporate my love of adventure into film as there's so much to show and inspire once both feet are out of that door and a 'can do' attitude is put in place.

Past expeditions, to name a few, have taken me to the Arctic (several times), the Haute route, Bolivian high peaks, the Hardangervidda, Finnsmarkvidda, the Amazon rainforest, Nepal, NZ, OZ, Vietnam and many hundreds of miles trekked across Spain - alone. 

My next big trip will take me to an exclusive (and extremely hard) expedition race in Patagonia.

These trips have provided me with stories and lessons learnt that I intend to use this blog to share. I will use it as a way of reminding myself of where my roots really are.

Some of my adventure films can be found on my Vimeo page HERE