I think adventure is an important part of keeping you fresh, keeping you enjoying life, making sure you take nothing for granted, making the most of what you have been given in life. For me, adventures give me purpose.
If I’m totally honest I’m not sure why I wanted to complete the Double Frog but a big part of it revolves around the beautiful environment through which you journey, the sense of achievement of going further than you think you can, something a bit different to the mainstream, hopefully inspiring others as I have been inspired and most of all to be happy. Achieving the double frog has made me very happy and I feel that was a legacy I inherited from my uncle when he introduced me to journeys through the mountain environment. I hope that maybe my endeavours on the double Frog will inspire you to go and have some adventures.
Andy Dickson - 3/10/2020
Frog Whitton Round – 3rd person to complete 19th July 2020 - 18 hours
Frog Graham Round – 101st person to complete 29th September 2020 – 26 hours
Double Frog – 1st person to complete
What did I notice and learn from my Double Frog experience?
One thing I began to realise with the double frog challenge was that whilst the attempts at the actual rounds were relatively short-lived events, this, in reality, was a long-term project. Many aspects including route finding, logistics and timings were problems to solve over the two years. I hadn’t appreciated that and the more I did the more I learned to manage my thinking and decision making. There were many times I felt I was applying “Mind over matter” I know they often say in a competitive sport that athletes win in the mind, not in the physical part. I have to admit some of that came through for me on the two challenges. Overcoming fear, frustration and confidence issues by “Having a word with myself” reducing the issues to real facts and consequences not letting drama escalate. The night swims were good examples of this. Night swimming sounds scary but in reality, when you think about it nearly always you can see at least the middle distance and to a large extent apart from the direction the rest is more proprioceptive. Night swimming, I actually found quite magical, especially under moonlight. Even the drama of the Derwent swim in the middle of the storm I was able to rationalise that I was in control and if I stuck to the basics, I would be fine.
Some people ask me what I thought about for 26 hours on the Frog Graham being on my own for that long. It sounds boring but like Paula Radcliffe described on BBC when asked what advice she would give Mo Farrah in the London Marathon: “One foot in front of the other Mo”. I found that whenever I stopped focusing on the next step that’s when I tripped or made a navigation error. I soon learned that to get around successfully I needed to be fully present with every step. My knees are so knackered that I have no room for error, especially on descents. One wrong step and that could have finished the round. I talked to myself quite a lot, I think this worked well, I don’t think I was going mad.
All that said, for two years I had the image of me running into Keswick completing the Frog Graham so that was always there as the long-term goal.
I would say for about ten years now I have been acutely aware of my ageing process. In my late 40’s my football had to stop, multiple injuries and lack of flexibility led me to triathlon and then onto ultra-events. Long cycle events and triathlons like Ironman, North Coast 500 and The National Three Peaks cycle challenge and Triathlon X got me to be comfortable with long days. I think I successfully applied this to swimming. I was confident I could keep going over distance, just make sure the pace is realistic.
On the Frog Whitton, I swam 10km. Before that my longest ever swim was the 3.4km of Ironman. It was no bother. A decision I made at 50 was to pick and choose much more what physical activity I did each week, focusing more on quality than quantity. And on building rest into my planning. There is no danger of me ever overtraining!
I have been especially protective of my knees in the last year or so. After the advice of a friend Stuart, I learned to run in a different way. It wasn’t easy but I soon got used to it. Triathlon helped me work out a good nutrition regime, I was careful not to over-indulge in anything but also didn’t eat and drink things if I wanted them. I was still having a beer or two throughout the whole time and have always drunk way too much coffee. I got used to what I could eat on long events. “Little and often” was always the way, also learning that something salty was needed to avoid cramping. Compression socks; I would never go out without them. They stop me cramping and have massively reduced my once regular calf injuries.
I’m a regular taker of Cider vinegar and Turmeric. My physio Graham will tell you it’s all witchcraft but for me, it works even if it’s just psychological.
I have always found mountains and lakes my favourite environment to give me energy. There is definitely something spiritual about them. The moonlight swims, the amazing views, the immersive nature of the swim aspect. It’s all much more than just physical. My uncle was my best man at my wedding nearly thirty years ago and he died in April this year. He introduced me to the mountains and the Lake District. Dedicating the mission to him gave me a strong sense of purpose. He was there on those rounds, we had many conversations mainly me asking his advice. It spurred me on, I knew he would love to have been involved or certainly would want to hear about the stories. I was surprised how present I felt him to be. The time was also special for thinking about my family, my wife and three children and my parents. It gave me time to think about them and appreciate how lucky I have been in my life. They have been very supportive. It was very special to have my wife and son support me on the Whitton. It is a great way to find out what is important to you and what isn’t.
The Lake District is a very beautiful place. Ironically, apart from the lakes themselves most of the landscape is far from natural, rather a product of deforestation, grazing and farming. That said it is an environment we have come to love and cherish and thankfully we are now working hard to protect. I have always been inspired and motivated by my natural surroundings. I have been to some of the most amazing places in the world and the Lakes is definitely right up there. We must do all we can to protect our natural environments, we have already caused irreparable damage in too many places and climate change is now giving us a whole set of immediate challenges that we must act on. I am impressed with the number of people who make sure that attention is paid to issues of erosion, biosecurity, wildlife and balancing that with respect for the economy of the area a delicate balance of tourism and not destroying the beauty that attracts those same tourists. In my training as a local living in the Lakes, I experienced the area in the eeriest quiet I have known. One day I rode from Kendal through Windermere, Ambleside, Coniston and back again and hardly saw a single person. That was a truly unique experience possibly never to be repeated.
This was so powerful for me on the Frog Whitton. The collection of friends and family that supported me on the swim and bike was absolutely the best part of that journey. That sense of support, friendship, collaboration and just the sheer joy of sharing experiences especially in special places is a wonderful thing. By design, it was in sharp contrast on the Frog Graham. There was a part of me that would have loved to have repeated the team approach and who knows maybe I will.
I also encountered some wonderful communities within the whole process. Where I live and my interests already immerse me with many like-minded individuals. Those that love the lakes, those that love adventure, those that love the mountains. There are many groups with inevitable overlaps. For me, many overlap most wonderfully at Kendal Mountain Festival which is a celebration of most of what those people love and live for.
I also encountered some brilliant individuals with incredible dedication and commitment to very specific parts of the jigsaw that makes up the complex beauty of all this. Without those people, much of our rich experience would not exist or be possible. People who run clubs, social media groups, the people who (nearly always 100% voluntarily) manage the various sites, clubs and groupings that make the whole thing possible. For me, Martyn managing the Frog Graham infrastructure and Ben the Frog Whitton have been incredibly helpful, supportive and motivational and I thank them for that.
It’s also surprising some of the tribes you encounter. I’ve always taken a holistic view of life but I learned that some folk I have encountered are very focused on specific niches and this can be surprising when you come from a generalist point of view. As ever tolerance of difference and appreciation of diversity like all things in life is crucial here.
Liberating human potential
I guess my final point is we all have something within us still waiting to be released, discovered, maximised or nurtured. I dare say we can all go further than we think we can if we want to. For me, a catalyst was age and the reality that people your age start to disappear from your life. Life isn’t a rehearsal. And as I was beginning to find: “If you don’t use it you lose it!”. It’s all a state of mind if I had a pound for everyone who says “at your age, you should know better” I would be doing OK. And I like it when they say that because that tells me I’m still making the effort beyond what is expected of me, that I’m making the most of what I’ve got…. and some, I hope.
If you are reading this then, in reality, most of you will have been fairly lucky in life, with privileges that many can only dream about. 2020 has taught us brutally that as well as what a pandemic can do to our lifestyle and freedom, that we can also get a lot better at making the world a much fairer and equal place to live.
Want to have a go?
If you are interested in attempting either Frogs or possibly both these websites carry all the details:
If you are attempting either, please pay attention to biosecurity issues and respect the environment you are journeying through and the people you are sharing it with: https://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/caringfor/policies/alien-2