Meet the woman who invented her own triathlon
On June 11-13 2016, adventurer Laura Kennington will push herself to the limit, taking on a triathlon of her own devising around the Channel Islands. The novice triathlete plans to swim, kayak and cycle around Sark, Guernsey and Jersey. In doing so she will have to battle some of the biggest tidal ranges in the world. The Red Bulletin caught up with her to find out just what she’s letting herself in for.
Below, Laura reveals these essential tips:
- How a novice should train for a triathlon
- What to eat to fuel your body
- How islanders can get involved
THE RED BULLETIN: Laura, what exactly are you up to?
LAURA KENNINGTON: I am going to swim around Sark, kayak around Guernsey and then cycle around Jersey. I’m hoping the swim will take about five and a half hours, the kayak will take between seven to nine hours. For the bike ride on June 13 I’m inviting anyone in Jersey, or nearby, to get involved and come along so I’m not bothered about what time I take. It’s a 45 mile cycle but just come along for a bit – you don’t have to do all of it!
How are you feeling about the challenge?
I’m nervous-excited, although I’m not sure in which ratio!
What do you think will be your biggest challenge on the Channel Island trip?
The tides! The Channel Islands have the world’s third biggest tidal range. Around Sark there are loads of little eddies so I have to be quite careful and mindful of those.
The swim is the one discipline that I’m most nervous about. I’ve got experience in the other two so I’m a bit more reliant on stubbornness and muscle memory for those. The swim is just this big unknown – which is exciting but also mildly terrifying.
What keeps you motivated in challenges like this?
There are two main things that govern my adventures – one is the physical element of them. I’m really curious about pushing my own physical limits. Anytime that you’re uncomfortable it means that you’re growing as a person and that’s great.
The second thing is that human-powered travel gives you a unique way of seeing places at the perfect speed. You’re not going too fast so you can really soak up the scenery and it’s just a special way of seeing somewhere. I’m also motivated by encouraging people to get outside and try to see things from a different perspective. The Channel Islands are so close to London – you don’t need to go off on this epic, six-month exhibition to have a big adventure.
Have you got a background in adventure?
I trained as a personal trainer and am fascinated by human performance. My first big adventure was to do a solo kayak down the Volga River in Russia. The trip went viral in the Russian media. There was huge public interest in what I was doing – to the point where it became an invasion of privacy and I had to abandon the trip after six weeks as I didn’t feel safe. You can read more about this on my blog.
How have you been training?
I’ve been training seriously for this since the beginning of the year. I’ve been doing a lot of open water swimming at London Royal Docks and that’s been a key focus. I haven’t actually done any kayaking at all but I’m not too worried because swimming is good for shoulders.
Between bike riding and swimming I’ve just been doing some strength work in the gym to make sure that my shoulders are nice and strong and that my rotator cuffs don’t get injured. Core strength is really important as well – I’m a massive fan of kettlebells. They’re really fun when you find out what you can do with them – they’re a really good dynamic movement. I’ve been focusing on injury prevention a lot.
Have you adopted a special diet?
I’m making sure that I’m eating enough protein to aid muscle building, but other than that not really. I’m not trying to drop weight for the swim. If anything I’m trying to make sure that my calories are up so that I’ve got a bit extra for the swim. Inevitably, I’ll probably get a bit seasick and might struggle to keep down calories during the day so if I have a bit extra in reserve that’s a good thing. For once it’s quite a nice excuse to eat!
Playing devil’s advocate here – what’s wrong with doing a normal triathlon?
I’ve never actually done a normal triathlon! I’ve gone straight to this one. I wanted something that was mine. Organised events are fantastic and if someone is nervous about doing something that’s a great place to start. However, I get a kick out of planning my own adventures. Sitting down and looking at the map is half the fun for me.
How did the idea come about?
I was looking at two different challenges. I wanted to do a swimming challenge this year because I haven’t really done any swimming. I wanted a steep learning curve. Separately, I was also looking at islands that I could circumnavigate in my kayak because I thought that could be a cool journey. When I was looking at the maps I noticed how close the Channel Islands are together and it was this lightbulb moment of ‘ah there are three of them close together, that sounds like a triathlon’.
Any advice for anyone who is feeling inspired?
Having local support has been invaluable. VisitGuernsey has helped me out with accommodation, logistics, local contacts, it has been brilliant. They’ve got the local knowledge of the islands that I’ve only been to once.
I’ve also had help planning the swim section. I’m OK with tides but it’s good to know where your knowledge gaps lie. I’ve recruited the help of a local outdoor adventure company on Sark and they’ve sat down and planned the route thoroughly. Because there are such unique tides it’s not quite as simple as looking at a chart – especially if you’re a novice. Don’t be afraid to say what you do and do not know and reach out for help so that you’re safe.