Bonkers Brash Day One: Taking the plunge…
I’m not sure who first coined the phrase, ‘The first step is always the hardest’ but I promise you that it is complete nonsense. Ask any marathon runner, long distance swimmer or person setting out to circumnavigate Great Britain powered by nothing more than his own arms and legs and they will tell you the truth.
So, surrounded by the small group of family and friends that had made the long trip to Bournemouth to see me set off I began pedalling. Eighteen months of scheming, dreaming and meticulous planning had passed and there was nothing hard about that first 6km cycle ride down to the Sandbanks Ferry. In fact, it was the perfect opener to gather together the rush of emotions and childlike excitement of finally being underway. Alongside me, my good friend Dave, the first of many who would accompany me on my epic adventure was keeping pace and under strict instructions not to set off too fast.
Going back to the idea of ‘first steps’ for a moment, I suppose there is an element of truth in the concept. You see, my experience in business, and in physical challenges, has taught me that most people don’t even get started. And that is the observation that I believe gave birth to the phrase. Perhaps it is the fear of starting and failing or the size of the endeavour ahead which stops people fulfilling their plans and dreams, but it seems to be a common disease. Whatever the cause it is still only a first step…
It’s not me it’s the others…
It was as we arrived at Sandbanks and the site of my first kayak crossing came into view, showing off its huge, tidal, choppy waves saying, “are you sure?” that Dave echoed the sentiment. He was only accompanying me in the cycling part of those first few days and his expression said much more than his words. But I had been looking forward to this and what others saw as a rough crossing was cancelled out by the anticipation bubbling under my skin.
I caught Penny’s eye too as the kayak hit the waves and gave her a look to reassure her of my confidence, although I don’t think she was buying it. The rush of that first splash of salty water was amazing! At last, I felt like the plan had started to breathe and I was actually creating some of those moments that I had dreamed about for so long. It was me and the elements, my desire to push myself against the forces of nature (in this case a wicked tide), and the thrill of the challenge. What should have been a 4km kayak turned out to be about 6km against a headwind and it was great to be underway and start fighting my way across to Knoll Beach.
All geared up for the first swim.
After breakfast, it was back on the bike to Tyneham and then what should have been my first run, a gentle, sun-blessed 9km trek around to the beautiful Lulworth Cove. But things don’t always go to plan and we found our route barred by a training exercise being carried out on the Armed Forces firing range. So my first big cycle of over 100km quickly turned into a 120km route with Dave pedalling alongside me still questioning my sanity, but I was still happy especially with the prospect of an open water swim across Exmouth estuary.
Beach to beach, as the crow flies (or as the fish swims), it was a distance of around 400 yards across to Dawlish Warren Spit. But with an 8-knot tidal current and the unknown element of tackling the first swim, it was nearer 1.5km and some way around the Spit that I finally reached the shore.
As I descended into the water, a guy looking on curiously had turned to Richard Hillier (another friend and fellow adventurer) and said, “Does your mate know what he’s doing?” His point was that people simply don’t swim the estuary!
Richard replied, “He seems to think he does” and they both continued to watch in silence as I battled the tide and tried to avoid the shipping. In my mind, I was never in any danger but I understand how it must have looked to onlookers.
In business, you are often faced with situations where you have planned, you are confident, you are focused, you are determined and you can see the target clearer than anyone else. That is when other people will question if you know what you are doing. Your choice is to take offence, let their opinion perturb your ambition, or to simply take the plunge and prove to the world that you can!
Having reached the shore, totally exhilarated by the experience, day one finished with another short run to Shaldon Sands – ready to eat, rest and get ready for tomorrow.
Bournemouth to Shaldon Sands
Total = 165km; Cycle = 148km; Run = 11km; Kayak = 6km; Swim = 1.5km