• Glyn Brackenbury

The Long One...

The title above isn't actually any reference at all to the trip, but more to the fact that the lack of me sharing where I've got to has meant there's quite a backlog of stuff to talk about so this is likely to be the most lengthy post, so if you have somewhere to be...

Deciding to do the trip this year has been a really tough decision. Despite the fact it's been bumbling along in the background for the last 18 months, it's only been in the last 6 weeks that I've been public about my intention to go as it was the first time I had the confidence in the unlocking of the country allowing it! Although I have always maintained that these kinds of trips are actually quite simple, the backdrop of the pandemic has meant that the plan has had to be changed so many times that I'm not sure what the original plan was anymore. With this in mind the first certainty I can share is that I've

pushed back the start date to mid May to wait to get more clarity on the unlocking of the country. I'll explain why a little further down.

Things that have gone well so far.

Timing. I have the time to do it this year. I've just left my job of 27 years with a view of taking a year out, so in terms of having the opportunity It's unlikely to get much better. I'm very conscious of how fortunate I am to be able to take the time to do it as this trip is very self indulgent. Essentially it's a 46 year olds version of a gap year. I will be keeping my eye out for the full moon beach parties that I've heard about on gap years. I imagine they'll be some where on the Isle of Wight or the Isla de Blanca as it'll become known if I find one.

I'm pretty much coiled spring ready. Preparation has gone really well. I started training with intent in October last year, knowing that the winter would help me decide if I was going to be fit enough both physically and mentally. I'm incredibly lucky to live close enough to be able to walk my boat to the Atlantic during lockdown so I've been able to stay local and maintain both technical and endurance sessions without compromising any covid rules.

I've actually trained. It's very easy to call going out paddling training, but what normally happens is I'd just go out and practice what I can already do which didn't allow for any adaption, meaning that no matter how many times I'd go out I'd neither get fitter nor technically better. Junk miles, as my talented triathlete wife would call them. I've managed to structure all my training without any junk and feel really ready to go. GoPro has very cleverly condensed some of my training into 1.56 minutes, if only I could've done the same...

Technical input. Right back in September 2020 when I knew it was likely to be this year I might make an attempt the first thing I did was to receive some technical coaching on my forward stroke. This is one of the most beneficial things I could've done. Despite being a BC Level 5 Coach and should therefore know how to paddle forwards, there were many issues in terms of my technical accuracy and efficiency which needed fixing and getting some specialist coaching set up my winter training with new things to focus on keeping my interest on the ergo when it's all too easy to drift into what feels easy. As it transpired my forward stroke was awful so the coaching was the best thing I could've bought for the trip.

It's not all gone to plan. This has been a good thing. I've had things go wrong in training and made stupid oversights that would've snowballed into something much more significant on the trip, so despite having done similar trips before having plans constantly tested has been really good this year. I even had a swim in an overfall, on my own, in the dark, at 0500 AM, in Winter, wearing shorts... About 20 failed roll attempts and 25 minutes of 'Wild Swimming' later I arrived at a beach with a list of lessons learned as long as the boat. Unplanned cross training was the happy consequence.

Sponsorship. I don't have any. Now whilst this might not seem like a thing that has gone well, I've been very lucky over the years to get support from numerous brands, but the one thing that pandemic has made incredibly clear is that what retail needs most right now is customers not ambassadors. So I made the conscious decision at the outset to make sure that I bought everything I needed from as many different independent kayak and outdoor retailers as possible. So far I've had nothing but great service from all of them and I'll make sure to name check them all at some point in this process. This has also meant I've bought what I wanted for the trip which means if it's not right, I've only myself to blame...

Metrics. Since I did LEJOG I've been involved in a few other sports, but most notably the slightly disturbing World of Ironman Triathlon, which for those of you that don't know is a 2.4 mile swim followed by a 112 mile bike followed by a 26.2 mile marathon, essentially pure endurance. One of the many things I've learned from these athletes is the use of metrics to evaluate not just what you're doing now, but what you're likely to be able to do in 6 hours if you carry on. In a boating context I know what my heart rate should be to sustain 12 hours straight, I know what my max functional power is and how far below that I can sit to maintain it for a given time, I know what point I go into calorie deficit and how long I can stay there before emptying the tanks of all energy, I know how far the boat travels per stroke and what correlation that has with my speed. Whilst all this might sound a bit geeky it actually means you can see what you're doing and know how long you can do it for, so it gives you the extra reassurance when you're venturing out on a 40NM crossing knowing that the numbers say you're all good. This was some of the data from a Lundy trip this week.

Support. This was always planned to be a supported trip and I have the luxury of being joined by my amazing wife in our campervan for some sections of it, which means I can paddle light for some of the days and also have ability to have a hot shower and a proper bed at the end of the day which is worth paddling a little further for.

All in all there are many things that are going well!

Things not going so well!

Covid-19. I, like many others never thought this would be a thing in 2021. After we reopened in July last year it seemed like we may return to a slightly new quirky normal but we would have the freedoms that we all enjoyed pre-covid. We all know what happened next.... After eating out to help out we all had the morning after hangover and we are where we are. This is causing me some issues. My route is simple in that it's going clockwise round Britain and therefore there aren't too many choices about where to go but there are some cross border hops to make and each one comes with its own set of rules, none of which are expedition friendly.

There are so many things on a trip like this you can't control, the most notable being the weather and the tides, but those things you can control you absolutely should and route choice, for me, is one of the most important. At the current time I can't start where I want to start. I can't take the route I want to take. I can't take the next best alternative and I don't want to take the route I have left. The rules may change as the summer progresses but arriving after 50 days of paddling to find you can't progress isn't something I'm overly keen on doing and would rather postpone the trip to next year if this looks a likely outcome. Scotland are reopening with a tier system meaning I may not be able to pass through an area without taking unnecessary risks by staying out at sea for protracted periods. Last year Jordan Wylie attempted to become the first person to SUP round Britain but was stopped by covid rules in Scotland 149 days and 2300 km into the trip which I can only imagine was pretty devastating.

Putting covid behind us needs us all to do our bit, and if that means I have to postpone then its a small price to pay considering the damage its caused to so many people and businesses. Me not going paddling this year is no big deal, mainland Britain's not going anywhere.

As I said at the start I waited as long as possible until I was confident I could move freely and make choices based on what was safe for me rather than having to consider covid rules, and 6 weeks ago I had that confidence, that's now waning.

Over the next few weeks I'll keep an eye on what's developing and see whether or not I think I can have an uninterrupted shot at getting round. If not, I'll pull one of the many plan B trips that have been bubbling away that I haven't done yet. There's no shortage of great multi day paddling that doesn't require border hopping!

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