How James Ketchell Keeps Pushing His Boundaries to Finish the Ultimate Triathlon

James Ketchell is a rower, climber, and a cyclist rolled into one but it doesn’t end there. For Captain Ketch, he believes that pushing the boundaries is something that makes him happy.

Let’s find out more about him, his book, and his very inspirational transformation from motorcycle accident to completing the ultimate global triathlon.

Can you start out by telling us a bit about yourself?

My name is James Ketchell, I’m 35 years old and I live in Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK.

Since an early age, I’ve always had an interest in adventure, the outdoors and keeping fit. When I’m not away, my hobbies include racing my bicycle and riding motorcycles. Also, I love spending time with my friends and family.

My accident was the best thing that happened to me. It did not change me but it made me realise that I needed to work harder to maximize every day. I was extremely lucky to have made a recovery and it quickly taught me to appreciate every day and things that you would naturally think nothing of.

How do you plan your adventures?

Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve had a dream to row a boat across the Atlantic Ocean. I never really had the guts to take that leap, and actually commit to it. It was the motorcycle accident that gave me the push I needed. I wanted something to aim for and work towards. That really helped my recovery.

The Ultimate Global Triathlon was never the plan from the beginning. It was something that was named by the press. When I returned from cycling around the world, they found out that no other person has, collectively, rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, climbed Mt Everest and cycled around the world. It was at that point the Ultimate Triathlon was born.

How do you manage to keep pushing your boundaries?

Over time I’ve realised that it’s very important to try and do the things that make you happy. Pushing myself makes me happy and working towards a goal keeps me focused.

Failures and setbacks are very difficult and everyone has different ways of dealing with them. Personally, failure is a part of life and if you’re not failing at some point, you’re probably not pushing yourself hard enough.

I have had a few major setbacks over the years, including being rescued twice: Once in the Indian Ocean and the other in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I, personally, try not to dwell on failure, if you’re failing at something, at least you’re putting yourself out there and trying in the first place. I also try to learn something from setbacks and as long as I don’t make that mistake again, a setback does not really bother me.

What was your friends and relatives’ initial reaction when you started adventuring?

When I told my parents I was going to row across the Atlantic Ocean, they told me I needed to grow up! Eventually, they ended up becoming my biggest supporters!

You have done many different types of adventures. What’s your favorite type of adventures?

I think for me, rowing across the Atlantic felt like a real adventure. It was just me on my own for almost four months. I don’t actually have a favorite type of adventure. An adventure is really shaped by the people you meet and the places you go, the mode of transport is not that important to me, although I really like cycling.

What has been your favorite gear through your many adventures?

  • For crossing the Atlantic Ocean? My sat phone (an Iridium 9555) was my favorite bit of kit in the Atlantic, as it enabled me to communicate with my friends and family.
  • For climbing Mount Everest? My Getac laptop was probably my favorite bit of kit for Everest, as I spent a lot of time in tents, so to be able to watch films and write blogs was a great way to pass time.
  • For cycling around the world? My iphone was the most useful bit of kit, I used it for communications, and navigation. I, literally, cycled around the world using google maps.

What inspired you to write your book?

My book “The Ultimate Triathlon” was something that just felt right to do after I returned from my world cycle. I had so many stories and experiences that I wanted to share. I also felt like I owed it to the sponsors and people that have supported me.

The hardest part of writing a book is staying motivated and dealing with the times the writing is just not flowing. Writing the book was very up and down. One minute I felt very creative and the words just came to me very easily. Other times, I struggled to string a few sentences together.

The best part was receiving my first copy, I held it in my hand and just stared at it. It was a great feeling.

How do you finance your adventures?

My projects are funded by sponsors, probably the hardest part of doing what I do. I tend to have sponsors for each project, but I do have a few people that have been very kind and have supported me more than once.

I would say that for a large project, it’s probably 75% sponsorship, admin and actually only around 25% adventuring. There is a lot of hard work that goes in behind the scenes that people don’t see to any big adventure.

What kind of advice would you give new adventurers or people who dream about going on an adventure?

This really goes for anyone trying to pursue anything. Taking the first step is probably the hardest part in my opinion. Believe it or not, once you actually commit to your goal, it actually gets easier. The worst thing you can do is dream about something and not ever work towards it. I have found out that dreams really do come true if you’re prepared to work for it. Everyone has the capability to be whoever they want and do whatever they want to do.

I personally don’t think there is a right or wrong for adventure really. Everyone has their own goals and reasons for doing things.

What will the future bring?

I am learning to fly gyrocopters at the moment, so watch this space. That’s all I can say on that at the moment.

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