May 10, 2017

Jamie Ramsay: Why despair is key to success

GORE RUNNING WEAR® Athlete Jamie Ramsay is no stranger to adventure, but his recent 3.700km expedition from São Paulo to La Paz pushed him to the edge. He tells us how he turned those moments into a positive.

My name is Jamie Ramsay and I am a British Endurance Adventurer, which essentially means I try and push my mind and body past what I perceive to be my limitations, while travelling through adventurous environments.

My background is running and in 2014/2015 I solo ran from Canada to Argentina, averaging about 46km per running day, while overcoming obstacles such as the Atacama and the Andes. My most recent adventure saw a change in discipline; from running to cycling. The reason for the change was a desire to discover what it was that motivated me to put myself through these physically and mentally demanding challenges. I wanted a route that was going to be challenging, but also take me places I had never been.

I take a laissez faire approach to planning and logistics; not through laziness but through my desire to keep the adventure pure and full of surprises.

The route

My love for South America quickly identified São Paulo to La Paz as the obvious choice. The final route was as follows: I cycled from my flat to Victoria Station, took the Gatwick Express and then flew to São Paolo via Madrid. I landed at 6am and by 8.30am I was on the road. I cycled west to Ponta Porã on the Paraguayan border, then headed through Concepción and north to Bolivia. My first town in Bolivia was Villamontes, and from there I headed across the Andes to Tarija, Tupiza and Uyuni. From Uyuni I headed across the Salar de Uyuni to Llica (completely against the advice of everyone I asked) and then headed back east to Oruro, then north to La Paz.

To cap it all off, I ventured down the world famous ‘Death Road’. The total distance turned out to be 3700km and was completed in 28 cycling days, averaging 130km a day and ascending 15,200m. To put that into perspective, the Tour De France 2016 covered 3500km in 21 cycling days and that was all on asphalt, with support teams and no panniers – I grant you they cycled a little quicker.

Packing and planning

When packing for an adventure such as this you need to take into account a number of factors, especially when it comes to clothing. On this trip I would be spending half my time at low altitude with high temperatures, and the rest at about 3500m with intermittent rain and some near freezing moments.

I am a big believer in lots of layers and am not too bothered about personal hygiene if it adds to efficiency

With limited space, it was imperative I packed intelligently, and using GORE® products made that achievable.
Remarkably, I depended on four items of clothing. Firstly, on the bottom half I wore the Alp-X 2in1 Shorts. For touring, these are perfect as they have all the support and padding of a normal pair of bibbed lycra shorts, but with the added bonus of a built-in pair of overshorts. I lived in these shorts for 28 days with limited cleaning – I could not have done the trip without them.

On the top, I had three items of clothing. While in Brazil and Paraguay where it was hot and sometimes humid, I wore the Alp-X Pro Jersey. With a full zip up the front, three pockets on the back and ventilation on the back, it provided the perfect cover for the long days on the straight. My only issue was the netting on the back was in a place I couldn’t apply sunscreen so I now have a beautifully tanned stripe down my back!

Once I ascended into the mountains and the temperatures dropped a little and the wind picked up, I swapped my top for the Alp-X WINDSTOPPER® Soft Shell Zip-off Jersey. This provided protection from the wind and also gave a little flexibility with the easily detachable sleeves. And there’s my trusty ONE Gore-Tex Jacket. This is quite possibly my favourite jacket. It is lightweight, 100% waterproof, packs down into its pocket and looks awesome. I used this on the few occasions it rained and as an additional layer when it got chilly.

“Was it worth it?”

Every adventure takes its toll on you physically, mentally and financially and when you have finished, it’s worthwhile trying to assess ‘was it worth it?’ Success is a strange creature and comes in my guises. Overall, the expedition was a success as I managed to cycle from São Paulo to La Paz, covered 200 more kilometres than I set out to and finished a day early. But for me the real success comes from how the expedition made me feel, and on this occasion, there were a lot of highs and lows.

While one may presume the lows to be negative, that is far from the case. Moments when you are sitting on the side of the road, fighting back tears and cursing the environment are for me the indication that you have set your targets high enough.

If an adventure is all plain sailing then you have not been challenging your self-perceived limitations enough

The moments of elation, such as cycling across the waterlogged Salar de Uyuni, are lessened by the absence of adversity. So, was this adventure a success? Absolutely, I took myself to the edge of despair, enjoyed moments of extreme elation and achieved more that I set out to do. To me that is success.

Adventures and charity

When you return from expedition, journey or adventure, most people tell you to enjoy a well-earned rest. Well, that isn’t the mindset of an adventurer. We are a strange breed and the moment adventure ends our brains are working on the next endeavour. If you’ve been successful, it essentially means you could have pushed yourself further. If you didn’t achieve everything you wanted to achieve, then there is a challenge remaining.

In my case, I’ve spent the whole of the last adventure thinking to the next. What will it be? Something big, long and challenging, probably in Africa, Asia or Australasia, and might involve running, cycling, swimming or kayaking. I want to test myself. I want to know what I am truly capable of, and the only way to do that is to get back out there and challenge what I think I can achieve.

As with all my adventures, I like there to be a charitable element. My chosen charity is CALM, a UK based organisation that looks to raise awareness about and prevent male suicide. Male suicide is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45, and on average 12 men take their lives each day. We need to change the stigma around suicide and mental health, and hopefully my adventures help in some way.

Jamies Fantastic Four

  • Jamie Ramsay

    If anyone wants to see a video of cycling across the Salar de Uyuni during the wet season then check out this short video

    • Thanks for sharing Jamie – your video adds an entire different level to the pics and want us all go #IntoTheElements!

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