Gemma Sisson has never considered herself an ‘athlete’. She’s ‘The Kitchen Mixer’, sole proprietor of a made-to-order cake company, dedicated to making life ‘that little bit sweeter’. As the sole owner/employee of this highly successful small business, she works hard, and a LOT!
Like most of us, Gemma did sport at school and the odd run here and there. But that was pretty much it. She doesn’t belong to a gym and she doesn’t exercise. Her life over the past few years has been focused on building and growing her business, which – while fun and rewarding – has completely consumed her life.
About a year ago Gemma had an epiphany. She realised that while she was doing what she loved, she wasn’t really stretching herself, and she felt like she was in a bit of a personal development rut. She wanted and needed to do something for herself, that was for herself alone, nothing to do with business or anyone else.
Just by chance, she came across IGO Adventures and on the spur of the moment decided to do something extraordinary –to join their Montana, USA adventure trip, the W114° Montana Challenge. This is no ordinary trip, it’s an epic 4-day swim & run/bike/kayak/run set against a backdrop of stunning, natural beauty in the remote wilderness of northern Montana.
Over 4 days in September, Gemma would:
- Swim 2.5K and then run 12.5K to base camp 1,
- Mountain bike 60k with 1500m of steep climbing to base camp 2,
- Kayak 30K down the Flathead River to base camp 3, and
- Run a monumental marathon – 42K with the first 22K all uphill – to the finish.
Starting from scratch
Gemma does nothing by halves and she’d certainly thrown herself in at the deep end! When she contacted me, she hadn’t swum or run for years, and had only ever kayaked on summer holidays! We put together a comprehensive training plan of one-to-one sessions, group squad sessions and solo sessions on her own (and she had a separate kayak instructor). The first goals were in building a solid endurance base with strength and conditioning on top. We were starting from a zero-base but Gemma was committed, focused, determined and followed the training plan to the letter. As the weeks and months passed, there was lot of sweat and many, many tears, but as the goals were met and surpassed, we saw consistent improvements and gains.
8 months of training, and four days of physical, mental and emotional endurance were completed in a finishing time of 19 hours and 3 minutes. An extraordinary accomplishment just to finish! But for Gemma it was about more than simply completing the four days; it was about stretching herself and getting completely out of her comfort zone, testing her inner strength, drive and determination, and ultimately having a personal, life-changing experience that challenged her to the limit.
And most of all, what Gemma took away from the experience was 2 important things we can all learn from: taking on an extreme challenge can help you discover more about yourself than you might be able to in your day-to-day life; and doing something so completely unexpected and amazing can resonate across the rest of your life and on into the future in ways you can’t even imagine.
Congratulations Gemma! You’re an inspiration!