My name is Tom Dunn and I am not a triathlete.
In the past few years I've completed three big trips. A kayak trip the length of the Murray River, a stand-up-paddle board journey the length of the Murray-Darling Basin, and earlier this year a trek unsupported to Everest Base Camp. These trips have seen others begin to label me as an “Adventurer”. I’m still not entirely sure what that means, but if I’m honest, it's sounds kinda cool and I’ve adopted the title. I even liked it enough to put it on my website. "Tom Dunn - Adventurer"... but I’m not a triathlete.
On that website there’s also two other headings I’ve adopted. One of those is "Advocate". Through my three trips I’ve raised over $97,000 for three incredible organisations. I’ve turned my trips into words and in turn those words turned Facebook likes into donations for some great causes. I’m proud that I’ve raised some money, but I’m prouder that my trips have brought some attention to incredible people who spend their lives working hard for the incredible programs and organisations that are making this world better. "Tom Dunn - Advocate"? Sure, but I’m not a triathlete.
The final heading on my site says "Tom Dunn - Author". I’m pretty sheepish about this one. Putting that word on my website was supposed to be the motivating factor to tick a big goal of mine off and get a book published. I’ve got just under 50,000 words written of what I think is a pretty okay story. A story about how I went from having suicidal thoughts at 19 years old to becoming the first person ever to have stand up paddle boarded the length of the Darling River, and most importantly being happy with myself. With a few more hours writing and editing I might have something worth publishing. I am almost an "Author", but I can say with certainty that I'm not a triathlete.
Tom Dunn - Adventurer, Advocate, Author, but not a triathlete.
I’m not a triathlete and the reason I point that out is because in under one month I’ll board a plane, fly to Cape York and begin my newest trip “Australia’s Longest Triathlon”
I start with a 3,595km cycle leg longer than the average Tour De France. The last time I rode consistently was to school and back, maybe 10km. The last month has been an overwhelming introduction to disc brakes, dynamo hubs, spokes, 22 inch wheels, steel frames and heap of other words I still barely understand. After cycling to Sydney I then move into a 875km run, or 22 marathons back to back. In my panicked attempt to get fit for this trip I’ve managed to overload my training and tweak my knee to the point where a week ago walking any downhill gradient left me in severe pain. Not ideal I guess. After the run I’ll complete a 135km swim across the Gippsland lakes, (4 times the length of crossing the British Channel). The longest I’ve ever swam is an hour session at the Horsham YMCA, a pool where the water doesn’t get to my chin at the deep end. To complete my trip and to ensure I travel from the northenmost point of the Australian mainland to the southern most point, I’ll complete a full Ironman; 4km swim, 180km ride and 42km run. I'll complete this despite the fact I’ve never competed in an actual triathlon race before, not even an itty bitty one. I’m not a triathlete, but in one month I’m going to attempt the longest triathlon on this continent.. ever. Oh, and I’m doing it entirely self supported (carrying my own gear and travelling alone).
This trip and my lack of experience probably sounds like insanity…. Okay, it definitely sound like insanity. I know that it sounds like this because I've already been told countless times. The criticism and doubt started to come in the moment I announced the trip."You don't know enough", "You aren't fit enough", "You're not prepared enough", "You're not a triathlete". Frustratingly these people are right too. The size of this trip has me terrified, but I'm still going to try.
With the title of 'Adventurer' has come an expectation of expertise. There are countless others out there who do 'Adventuring' at an elite level (eg. Sean Conway just cycled across Europe in record time) but unfortunately I'm not one of them. It's not a choice, it's simply due to the fact that I don't have necessary experience in one specific field to be an 'expert'. In fact, as I look back on my trips, the only topic I could seemingly fake expertise in is the topic of 'giving it a go'.
The first time I got into a kayak was 6 months before I started kayaking the Murray, the first time I stood on a SUP board was under 3 months before I set a world SUP world first and the very first overnight hike I ever did was Day 1 of my trek in the Himalayas. This trip is a bike ride, a run, and a swim. I've done all three of those things (separately) since I was a kid. In a way, despite being drastically underpreppared you could say that this trip is actually the one I'm most prepared for.
I wasn't an Adventurer until I started trying to be one and I won't become a triathlete until I try to be one either. In a world where information is so easily accessible via Google and Facebook groups/pages it can be too easy to be overwhelmed by every potential problem we could face. A punctured tyre, a rolled ankle, lack of funds, chafe from my wetsuit, lack of nutrition. The list of 'what could go wrong' is endless, but it won't stop me from making my way to the start line. Every challenge can be overcome and as I prepare my kit and my mind to undertake this trip that's the message I want share.
My trip won't have me breaking any records for speed or kilometers covered in a single day. I won't carry a kit made up of the best equipment nor will I finish the journey mistake free. It's not going to be easy and at times I will probably think about giving up. Yet despite this if I can push through the pain, overcome the challenges and arrive at Wilsons Promontory after completing a trip that's "insanity" then I hope it will inspire someone else to attempt their goal too.
I believe that "Anyone can do anything, if given the opportunity". I can ride a bike, I can run, and I can swim. It's a long way but Australia's Longest Triathlon gives me the opportunity to prove that belief to be true..
My name is Tom Dunn and I am not a triathlete.. not yet.