Francis shares his experience training for 3NC Ontario 2018 ...
“If lucky, we are blessed with 80 summers. There are not very many opportunities, then, to experience the wonders of the boreal forest …”
Ray Mears /Lars Falt – Out On The Land
"80 summers"? What will you do with yours?
If you are considering coming on the next Challenge, do not hesitate, do it - It will change your life:
This Challenge which Steve has done so much to organise has been incredible, I have been fit before but after a raft of injuries caused by running I had let my fitness slide. In the last 8 months I have lost 20 pounds in weight, learned a load of new skills, learned to see nature in a new way and, most importantly, am beginning to understand teamwork.
I have never been a sports person so maybe this is familiar to other people but being part of a team was not something I was familiar with. I am naturally somewhat competitive, not in an aggressive way, but in an anxious, must succeed kind of way. There have been several experiences in the run up to Temagami that have taught me a lot about people, and teamwork, and trust. None of us are superheroes, you will have moments when you feel good and are able to help others and moments where you are off and will need help. This is just how it is and must be accepted. During the periods where I have needed help I have found that people have been non-judgemental and supportive. I can think of a couple of good examples from our training so far to illustrate this:
1. Fundamental Bushcraft (Woodlore): Charles and I spent a week on this amazing course and it changed the way I look at nature, which I used to walk past, now I spend ages identifying trees and thinking about what shapes the landscape. Learning from Ray Mears and his team just how much effort it takes to look after yourself outdoors is a real eye opener. I wouldn’t say this was a physically challenging course, but it is an eye opener, it’s the little things that will get you, keeping clean, finding water, being efficient. The course progressively builds up, moving you from camp to bivouac, making you work with a small group to purify water, set up shelter, cook and look after yourself outdoors. Sounds easy but when you are tired and dehydrated and you can’t remember how to tie a knot and you can’t light your fire it is very frustrating, particularly if you are a little hard on yourself. Step in Charles, helping me to get the fire going, tie that knot on my tarp and giving me a drink – all done totally without judgement, may not sound like much but very important … relying on each other in good and challenging times, realising that people who you don’t yet really know can be there for you and learning to accept help have been, for me, hugely important.
2. Canoe training – Ray Goodwin, our fantastic canoe coach, will take you from nothing to feeling confident in a canoe in a couple of weekends. Learning how to canoe has for me probably been the best part of this course, silently gliding down a river in Finland is a magical experience; that said, dragging a canoe through a shallow river when you can’t see your feet, or canoeing an extra 2k when you have taken a wrong turn in 30 degree heat is another thing altogether …
Anyway, having great fun with the guys practising rescues on a beautiful sunny day in Wales, taking it in turns to 'swim' downriver and then the team throw you a line and pull you out. I am confident doing this, I am probably physically the strongest person on the course, this will be easy … I throw Charles the rope, it’s a good throw, he catches it, I promptly get pulled off my feet, almost knock Steve into the river, just have the presence of mind to let go of the rope, meaning Charles will be off down the rapids … Steve manages to get hold of me, Matt jumps up from nowhere, grabs the rope, somehow manages to keep his footing and Charles is hauled out. Laughs, jokes, lessons learned, no judgement, no guilt or fear. I had a bad moment, Matt was there with a good one, maybe I’ll have a good one later, it doesn’t matter, we are a team, you can’t do this alone …
The training over the last 8 months has given me a focus, 44 years old, 5 feet 9, 13 stone 2lbs at the start, I’m reasonably fit, body mass index too high but fairly normal … run a couple of times a week, eat too many takeaways. Then I get a text from Steve (the only person I knew from the team prior to signing up) “mate do you fancy coming on a 300km canoe trek in the middle of nowhere”... “hell yes, where do I sign?” Nothing like a bit of focus to get you going – row, run swim, circuit training, weights, row some more, push … hard - 2 canoe training courses, 2 canoe trips, a week of bushcraft training, 2 fitness gates, a weekend of practice in the Boreal forest (which I had no idea existed) in Finland, a first aid course... Oh look, I’ve lost 20 pounds, bmi normal, feeling good … spend a ton of money on equipment I will use for years to come. This Challenge has changed my life, met some great people, learned about myself, learned a load of new skills, got fit, have a new interest, will be hosting training for others next year … I’ve even met people just from talking about the Challenge and signed up a couple of people who will hopefully come next year, it certainly gives you something to talk about, it is interesting, it’s living life.
Oh, and did I say, we haven’t even started yet, one week today, we will start our canoe phase, very excited, not frightened, we have done the prep, we are a team and we will help each other, bring it on!
The trip is for me the pinnacle, but the journey there has been amazing. Want to come? You can, you definitely can… you have to commit to the training, you have to want to do it, the fitness gates will challenge you, you will have to learn new skills. The main ingredient though is commitment, want to do it and you will be with us. See you in Lapland 2019!