Brothers David and Richard Barnes, from Reading, and Paul Mace, from High Wycombe, are the first triathletes to complete the UK’s toughest endurance challenge. The trio have battled against weather, injury, punctures and the clock to climb over 11,000 feet, swim 40 miles and cycle 320 miles for the charity Excellent Development (www.ExcellentDevelopment.com).
The task was to climb the three highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales, swim the largest lakes in each and cycle in-between.
Richard, David and Paul started to discuss the event after a few drinks at their local pub and were soon writing plans on the back of a beer mat. Little did they realise that some months later they would actually have attempted the challenge.
This is the first endurance event of its kind to be completed in the UK; no attempt had previously been made to swim Windermere, Loch Lomond and Lake Bala, climb Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon and travel by bike between each climb and swim.
The team started their feat at 5.00am on Sunday 24th August by climbing and descending Ben Nevis in 4½ hours. By 7pm that evening the boys had cycled the 80 miles to Loch Lomond and started their swim before nightfall, managing a couple of miles. Monday 25th August was a long, hard day of swimming across a cold and choppy Loch Lomond. Despite the conditions the boys managed to swim for 8 hours and even took time out to talk to Radio 5 Live (see image) who were keen to discuss their heroic efforts for the charity, Excellent Development. Tuesday 26th was another slog across the loch against miserable weather conditions. Emily Ambrose from Excellent Development and part of their support team says that “I've never seen such an obvious display of mind over matter. The boys could barely stand up when they climbed out (~ 8.30pm that evening), and were clearly in agony all over, yet somehow they had managed to put this out of mind while they were swimming. It was truly impressive.”
To save time the team were sleeping where they dropped but did manage on this night to find a campsite and reimburse their spent calories with a burger. After a reasonable night’s sleep spirits were high, despite more rain, as they mounted their bikes and made the 170 mile cycle to Cumbria and the foot of Scafell Pike (see image).
Now on day 5 of the challenge, August 28th, the team reached the top of Scafell Pike, (3,201 ft) in 2 hours. But by this stage the weather had worsened, Richard describes how, “It was raining and really misty, the visibility was so bad we could not map-read and the GPS did not show altitude which made navigation difficult. Consequently we spent a good two hours lost at the top. This was so frustrating, as not only was it raining, windy and cold, but we were losing valuable time, and expending extra energy we could not afford to waste!”
They eventually found their way down the Pike to Langdale at 2pm, some 6 1/2 hours after their start. With no time to lose the team jumped on their bikes and cycled 25 miles to Lake Windermere in where they changed into wet-suits and started their second swim of the challenge. The 12 mile Lake Windermere swim was completed on day 6, August 29th.
Some technical difficulties prevented the boys from starting the second leg of the Windermere swim until 11am on the 29th August which meant that by the time they had completed the lake at 6.30pm that evening the team were a good day behind. A decision was made to drive, rather than cycle, to Wales to complete the final climb and swim.
They arrived at Snowdon at 11pm that night (29.08.08) and incredibly climbed the peak in the dark. David Barnes describes how, “We made the summit in good time, about 2 ½ hours. Though there was a bit of chatter on the way up, the descent was silent, everyone was just exhausted!”.
What’s more Richard, David and Paul then slept in the Snowdon car park (see image)for just 2 hours so that they could get a 6.30am start to cycle to Lake Bala.
On their seventh and final day, the weather changed for the better, the 45 mile cycle went smoothly and the team were hitting the water by 11.00am and within 2 ½ hours had swum the 4 final miles across Lake Bala (see image).
Richard Barnes who was the mastermind behind the triathlon had said before the trip, “Of course there are going to be challenging aspects, but I think we will have some great times along the way.” Having completed the 7 day event he now says, “The best bit was finishing, no question. For seven, wet, days we have been on a relentless race to finish. Every peak climbed or distance cycled or swum just meant the start of a new challenge. Taking off our wetsuits for the last time was a wonderful feeling!”
Emily Ambrose of Excellent Development, who was with the team all the way through says that, “It was fascinating to see how far these guys pushed themselves - Loch Lomond especially. The weather conditions could not have been much worse but they just got on with it with a grim determination that I felt privileged to witness.”
This extreme endurance event, has been named The Excellent Triathlon as it is attempting to raise £30,000 for the UK’s charity of the year, Excellent Development. www.excellentdevelopment.com.
Funds raised from the event will help Excellent Development, UK charity of the year, with their work enabling communities in Africa to transform their environment sustainably and improve water supplies, food production, health and incomes. One of the ways they achieve this is through building small-scale sand dams. £30,000 can provide funding for up to 6 sand dams. With a single dam supplying year round clean water for over 1000 people, the amount raised could affect the lives of over 7000 people in the immediate vicinity. Currently, some communities walk between 2 and 10 km a day for water twice a day, carrying up to 20kg on their heads or backs.
For further details on the Excellent Triathlon or Excellent Development please contact:
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8123 4193
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