Challenge Number 4 – Gore-Tex Experience Tour, Fan Dance Challenge

Below is my blog entry for Outdoormagic.com in the run up to challenge number 4! Thank you once again to everyone that voted! I owe everyone of you a beer!

http://www.outdoorsmagic.com/thoughts-from-the-outdoors/tough-enough-for-the-sas/10013.html

The GORE-TEX® Experience Tour Fan Dance Challenge is one of a series of projects designed by Gore to give outdoors folks the chance to take part in money-can’t-buy experiences.  Stephen Smith is one of 10 winners who will be heading to South Wales in the first week of September to attempt the infamous Fan Dance.

– Pre-Challenge Weekend

Yesterday was the first real test for my new Berghaus Velum GORE-TEX® jacket while walking the streets of grey and wet Copenhagen. I couldn’t help but imagine how different the scenery will be in a weeks’ time down in south Wales though and just how quickly the last 6 weeks have passed since we all received our training plans in preparation for the challenge ahead.

In less than a week now, I and 9 other likeminded individuals from across Europe will set off and meet in South Wales; Our challenge – to attempt “The Fan Dance”.  A fitness and navigation skill test as used by British Special Forces involving a 23.5km (14.6miles) trail run through the Brecon Beacons, reaching a summit elevation of 886m (2906ft) at the peak of Pen y Fan, the highest mountain in South Wales. Our aim is to complete this – as a team – in less than 4 hours; the same time limit as given to recruits for SAS selection.

 Pen y Fan

Pen y Fan, South Wales

Like everything in life I suppose, these things have a way of creeping up on us quickly… We’re all guilty of it, putting off training runs or a session in the gym when before you know it, a week has past… I just hope what I have done in the run up to the challenge has been enough.

For me, the GORE-TEX® Experience Tour ticked all the right boxes! The Fan Dance is a genuinely tough, exciting and rewarding challenge that none of us are guaranteed to complete within the allotted time. This is the challenge after all.

I remember reading once that “if you already know you can complete a challenge, it’s too easy” and this, I think, sums up the challenge nicely. It’s also challenge number 4 for me in 2012.  I set myself the task of completing a series of challenges to raise money and awareness for Children with Cancer UK (smithschallenge2012.wordpress.com). Ranging from kayaking the River Wye in an inflatable, a toughmudder, a marathon and this – naming but a few! The challenges need to be tough, I want to be tested and know I can only succeed by giving everything.

I am training hard, both outdoors; from trail running up in the Arctic, Greenland to the Peak District and work in the gym too. I have never been in better shape or felt better! These challenges will all test me, some to the limit and the Fan Dance will be, I’m certain, no exception!

 Training in Greenland

Training in Greenland!

The GORE-TEX® Experience Tour weekend is not only about the Fan Dance Ccallenge day. Winning a place on the tour also means we will get to spend time running up to challenge day with British Military Mountain leaders, learning skills on navigation and survival techniques. Plenty of team activities, river crossing exercises (speedos packed!!) and I am confident we will all have a good laugh along the way too.

We’ve all been issued with amazing kit as well and have been lucky enough to receive this prior to everyone meeting in Wales this weekend.  Honestly? It has surpassed all my expectations and I doubt I would go back to anything other than Gore-Tex now. The Active Shell fabric was especially impressive and although it wasn’t raining during exercise, it was still extremely muggy and warm but the shell kept from condensing up on the inside, a problem I was commonly experiencing with my normal running/cycling shell! A great bit of kit and extremely light too!

 Velum Gore Tex Jacket

GORE-TEX® Active Shell, Berghaus Velum Jacket

So with less than a week to go, I’m getting pretty excited but at the same time a little nervous for the weekend ahead too! As I sit here in a handling agent waiting room in Malmo, Sweden wondering where in Scandinavia I might be tomorrow, I suspect this weekend will come up very quick indeed! I just hope I can find enough carbs to load up on along the way and hopefully fit in a sneaky training run in preparation for the weekend albeit across, what is a very flat country! Until next week…

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