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Riding the Frog: Interview With Ben Dowman

Here is an interview with very good friend and Lake District based athlete Ben Dowman. Ben who is a very competent rock climber and outdoorsman. He become very dedicated to his road biking and open water swimming in recent years. This led to Ben making a rather remarkable and unique journey within the Lake District National Park. Its journey that has seen Ben speak at the well known Kendal Mountain Film Festival and even feature in the New York times.

Here we showcase Bens wonderfully crafted film ‘Riding The Frog’ and while Ben is in lockdown as we all are presented a chance to ask a few questions and feature that on the blog along with the film.

1:What first drew into adventure sports?

On a family holiday to Switzerland my Dad walked up a mountain while the rest of us took the cable car. We all walked down and, back the valley I wished I’d walked up too. The next mountain I walked up AND down which started my loved of mountains and ultimately led to rock climbing and other adventure sports

2: How you managing to keep busy and fit during these unusual times?

I’m keeping myself busy with some writing and keeping fit through cycling which I’m very grateful we’re allowed to do.

3: What are your most memorable moments in the world of adventure sports?

Hard question! There are so many…… Climbing the Forbes Arete in the Chamonix valley is memorable because I was utterly scared. I remember being on the summit of the Aiguille de Chardonnet, being able to see my tent in the Argentiere campsite below and just wishing I was there. Climbing Mont Blanc a few years ago was memorable for different reasons, I felt super fit and strong, we had good weather and the whole thing was incredibly enjoyable.

4: When was it that you started to get into road cycling and open water swimming?

I’ve always ridden a bike but it was only about 7 years ago I began road cycling and training in any kind of deliberate way. Living in the Lake District we have a plethora of fantastic open water swimming options and I have always enjoyed the freedom of swimming across a lake. I find pool swimming tedious and the constant changing direction breaks up the rhythm for me whereas in a lake the repetitive nature of swimming feels very trance like and relaxing. Of all the things I do, open water swimming is probably the most relaxing and I value that aspect of it.

Ben with bike and wetsuit in the Lake District

5: So what is the Frog Whitton Challenge?

The Frog Whitton is the UKs ultimate swim-cycle challenge. It follows a route through the Lake District covering a total distance of 102 miles. 96 miles are on the bike and 6 miles of swimming (in 4 different lakes). The spirit of the challenge is to complete the route (cycling and swimming) in the shortest time. Support is needed from a vehicle to move the bike from the swim entry point to the exit. More information here

6: What inspired you to take on this challenge and how did you come up with the Frog Whitton to begin with?

In 2018 I attended the Kendal Mountain Festival and watched a fantastic film of the Frog Graham, a swim-run challenge based on the Bob Graham run. As a non-runner I found myself wishing something similar existed for cyclists and wondered if I could create something. The route of Fred Whitton annual cycle sportive is iconic and I was inspired to see if I could make it work with some swim sections. A winter looking at maps followed by exploring lake entry and exit points in the Spring led to a final route that worked.

Ben in the French Alps, Chamonix

7. How did you keep motivated to finish when it’s a solo challenge?

I generally don’t have a problem being motivated and can be quite competitive. My goal on the Frog Whitton was to do the fastest time I could.

8. Have you found technology has influenced how you train?

Yes, quite significantly. I monitor heart rate and train with power on my bike. Activity tracking is important to me and I like to log my swims and rides on Strava. I enjoy using tech and the data fascinates me as well as being useful for monitoring progress and training.

9: Any tips for those thinking of taking on the Frog Whitton journey?

Train and get to know the route. I did a lot of swim training and cycle training and a lot of training for the transitions between the two. Getting to know the route is helpful because it reduces time wasted trying to find the right place to start a swim or exit the lake and it’s important that any the support person is familiar with this too.

10: Have you got any adventurous ambitions outside of cycling you would like to do?

Climbing the Matterhorn, Aconcagua and Mt Kenya are on the list. Closer to home I’d like to swim the length of Coniston.

To find out more on the route then head to The Frog Whitton website

Dan with Ben at Red Tarn in the English Lake District, 2019

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