Never stop exploring...

Imagine entering a race which will take you deep into wild untouched land, last up to 10 days and you don't know the route until the day before.  Welcome to the Patagonian Expedition Race.

On 13th February, 21 teams of four from 12 nations will set off to conquer up to 800km of Chilean wilderness completely unsupported.  The mixed teams will trek, mountain bike and sea kayak their way between 17 contol points relying only on the maps provided by the organisers, all GPS or other maps are forbidden.

You're probably reading this wondering why I chose to blog about something so far away from Comrie Croft.  Well excitingly one of the British Teams, The Green Sentinels, have chosen to get their mountain bikes from Comrie Croft Bikes - how cool is that?

As you can imagine the terraine they are crossing on their bikes is not going to be nicely defined and looked after trails like you'd find at Comrie Croft.  The bikes are going to have to take some punishment and stand up to the harsh conditions that's why they chose the Merida Big Nine, lightweight, strong and fast!

All ex-military, The Green Sentinels are an International Adventure Team who entered the race to raise money and awareness of injured service personnel.  The team consists of team captain Ben Spurway a learning and development consultant, James Gardner an aeronautical engineering student, Natalie Gardner a physiotherapist and Commando trainer Ben Hill.

Team picture

When speaking to Natalie I asked her why they wanted to enter in such a physically and mentally demanding race.  She told me about her good friend Steven, who founded the team.  He'd been on a tough tour of Afghanistan (one Natalie should have been on but she got injured in training), lots of men he'd served with were suffering from PTSD and were finding life really difficult.  Choosing to leave the Army after that tour Steven had thrown himself into becoming an outdoor instructor finding focusing on new goals exremely helpful.  He wanted to set up a charity to help similar people using outdoor pursuits and adventure racing.  She and a few others he'd asked jumped at the chance, so The Green Sentinels were born.  To launch the charity they knew they wanted to go big, what bigger adventure can you go on than to race across Patagonia?

Every biker, climber and walker I've ever met has a favourite bit of kit and The Green Sentinels are no different.  Ben Spurway seems to take the old Napoleon saying of "An Army marches on it's stomach" to heart as his number one bit of kit is his rations!  His reasoning is that nothing can raise your moral as much as a warm tasty meal - I'm with you on that one Ben!

Natalie however favours being warm and says her favourite is her Snugpak Adventure Racing Smock.  She told me it's like a giant hug, so when she's cold, wet, and tired putting her smock on is like heaven.  I guess you can't make a hot water bottle in the middle of the wilderness.

At the end of our chat I asked the team for some words of inspiration to encourage people like you and me to go out and have an adventure no matter how big or small.  Ben Spurway shared his favourite quote which I found incredibly thought provoking, "ships are safe in the harbour, but that's not what ships are for."

On a day off work it's so easy to sit at home snuggled up watching the TV, but that's not what life is for.  Like Natalie says it doesn't take a lot of effort to get up and go outside, it's not until you put yourself under pressure do you find out most about you.  Yes the first time you do something like ride a bike trail, it's scary, you fall off a few times, you get incredibly muddy but you arrive at the bottom out of breath, full of adrenaline, proud of yourself for conquering a few fears, dying to tell your friends about it and wanting to have another go.  Life shouldn't be based on the things you have but by the experiences you have.  Natalie told me her mantra and I think it might become mine too as I can totally relate to it..."everything is either a great idea, or a great story!"

Everyone here at Comrie Croft and Comrie Croft Bikes wish Natalie, Ben S, Ben H and James a safe journey ahead, I'm sure it's going to be the trip of a lifetime and we know you can win it.  Part of me wishes I could go with them, the more sensible part of me is happy to watch their progress online!  Good luck guys, I can't wait to hear all your amazing stories when you return.

Find out more about the race and teams involved by visiting the Patagonian Expedition Race website and follow The Green Sentinels on their Facebook and Twitter pages.

Team badge

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