It's not everyday that you get the chance to meet a 24-year-old who has given as much as Tom Dunn. The 'boy from Horsham' who is now a Surf Instructor, has raised over $100,00 for various charity organisations through his endurance adventures over the years and this year we could not be more proud to be his chosen charity for this years epic challenge, 'Mental.'
An endurance effort like nothing we (or the world!) has ever seen, Tom will be striving to make and break the World Record Attempt for the 'Longest Triathlon' through a 9,000 kilometre (yes 9,000!) event spanning from the Westernmost to the Easternmost point in Australia which (Steep Point, WA to Byron Bay, NSW) will be kicking off in mid-April.
We got to catch up with the main man himself and find out all about the mission behind Tom going 'Mental'!
Tell us a bit about yourself . . .
My name is Tom Dunn and I was born and grew up in Horsham Victoria. I’m 24 years old and work as a Surf Instructor on Victoria’s Surf Coast.
When you're not teaching people how to surf, you're a pretty incredible lad with the amount of initiatives you've done for different charities! Can you tell us a bit about what you've done so far?
So far I’ve completed a 2,200km kayak down the Murray River, a 3,800km SUP paddle the length of the Murray Darling Basin, an unsupported and unguided hike to Everest Base Camp, and a 4,980km Quadrathlon the length of mainland Australia. The idea for the first journey came from wanting to go for a kayak trip with some mates and really just snowballed.. a lot. It turned into myself kayaking length of Australia’s longest river and I used that trip as a fundraiser for a Deaf and Blind School that went on to raise $15,000.
From the experience I found a passion for challenging myself and doing something that would benefit others. Since then I’ve developed that passion into my longer term project of ‘Advocacy through Adventure’ which the following trips have been a part of.
We are absolutely honoured that you have chosen the LIVIN charity for your next epic charity event. Tell us about how you came up with the idea behind your amazing 'Mental' initiative . . . .
My last journey (Quadrathlon) was initially supposed to be a solo and unsupported triathlon. Unfortunately as I arrived in the Gippsland Lakes region the water I had planned to swim in wasn’t quite safe to swim unsupported with the physical and mental condition I was in (after 4,500+kms). Instead I got in a kayak and the triathlon turned into a quadrathlon.
After travelling so far and being so close to completing the initial triathlon concept at the end of the journey I was left with the desire to reattempt my ‘triathlon’ concept. Having already travelled north to south I started to look at travelling from west to east. When I found out the journey would potentially set a world record I knew I had found my trip.
How did you hear about LIVIN and What made you chose LIVIN as the charity to support?
I first heard about LIVIN after having the framework for ‘Mental’ in place. I was working up on the Gold Coast and researching potential benefactors for a fund and awareness raising campaign. With the experience of my north to south journey showing me just how much our mindset can impact our lives and this fresh in my memory I wanted to support a mental health based organization. Whilst researching, a mate suggested the Gold Coast local group “LIVIN”.
I did some more research and then spoke to the LIVIN team. What made me choose to support LIVIN was the personal impact they are able to make with the LIVINWell programs. The ‘ItAin’tWeakToSpeak’ message it simple, but hits a key point. After speaking to the team, I realized I wanted to help share that message and to create a fundraiser that would help the LIVINWell Programs share the message too.
What is involved behind the scenes of your training and personally coordinating this initiative?
Training for this trip involves a few 3 key angles: Physical condition, gear prep, and mental condition. Naturally with such a long distance physical effort I need to have my body in the best possible condition going into the trip so I’ll be ticking off some runs, swims and cycles in the lead up. As I’ll be travelling self supported I’ll also spend quite a bit of time making sure my gear is as efficient and as lightweight as it can be. Mental condition is a huge part of this trip. My mentality is the driving force to get my body up and back moving each day when I’m feeling tired and sore.
In the lead up to the trip I’ll be research my route as much as possible so that once I’m fatigued I can focus on completing the kms and not have to stress about anything other than getting each day done. I’ll also train my mind by doing things I enjoy in the lead up and not ‘starting the trip’ until I have to. I’ve got plenty of time to think about the kilometers I have to do once I start, so I hope to spend time with friends and family, and reach the start line feeling fresh and excited.
What parts or regions of your journey are you most nervous about and most looking forward to?
The entire swim leg is easily what I’m most nervous about. It was where things went wrong last time, it’ll be freezing cold, and as I still haven’t really completed a ‘swim trip’ there’s no experience to fall back on.
I’m also nervous about crossing the Nullabor by bike (there’s some big trucks out there) and to see if my body will hold up for the run leg.
The part I'm most looking forward to is the people. The people have always been a hugely positive part of my trips. I’m looking forward to the support and stories that will come from the people I meet on this trip. The first km out of Echuca will be pretty amazing too. I feel like if I can get through the cycle and swim, the first km of the run leg will really feel like I’m on the home stretch.
You have registered the initiative for Guinness World Record attempt. What are some of the requirements you are having to stick to and incorporate in your journey?
The main requirement is the trip needs to be a true triathlon (correct amounts of cycle/swim/run). My own trip, and each leg, is 170 times the length of an Olympic standard triathlon. Another aspect I need to follow is upload tracking points along the way, to prove I was there, and that I’ve completed the km. The benefit of this is people will be able to follow the trip in real time, and hopefully track me down as I pass through their area.
What has been some of the mental and physical challenges you have had to anticipate and even perhaps overcome in the planning stages?
I’ve been training with Beckworth Racing and trying to get myself in good condition to start the attempt. I’ll never be as fit as what I will be during the trip itself but every bit of training now will hopefully ease the transition into the trip.
Mentally, there’s so many logistical problems to consider with this trip (road closures, no bike lane, matching km in each leg, water temperature, food/water, loneliness, fatigue etc.). To get through all these I take a similar approach as the physical side of the trip. Every bit of preparation I do now (by going for that training session or studying my maps) will make it a bit easier for me to overcome those problems when I’m fatigued. I can’t take on those challenges until the trip starts, so for now it’s just about identifying what could go wrong, and having a plan in place. It sounds silly to say, but once I’m on the trip things get easier.
All I have to do is focus on doing whatever it takes to get one centimeter, one meter, one kilometre closer and the trip takes care of itself.
This is not your first big challenge. What are some things that you learned from you past challenges that you will be taking with you on your 'Mental' initiative?
A big lesson I’ve learnt is actually to manage my mental health going into, and during the trip. With the trip being such a large and long experience, not getting too caught up in it until it begins is a key to being successful. During the trip I’ll need to overcome countless challenges and the easiest way to do that is to attack them with a positive mindset. Making sure I’m feeling happy and confident as I approach those challenges will be the difference between problems being a setback or a success.
What are some of your personal strategies you can share that helps you with your own mental health?
I’m very aware that I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without the support of my family and friends. I’m lucky to have an incredible support network that I can talk through my goals and plans to. I think the idea of surrounding myself with good people who want the best for me, and people I want the best for too, has allowed me to get through tough times, and to celebrate good times.
Often when I explain to people what I do, it’s the stories about spending long periods of time all alone whilst completing the k's that make the trips seem extremely difficult. While the trips can get boring and lonely, they also provide a good break from the busy modern world. I think that having an opportunity to have a break from the busy world, get inside my own head, and think about what I enjoy, what I want to do, and who I want to be is important.
My trips, although a little extreme, allow me that opportunity and time to reflect.
What advice would you give someone who may be struggling with their mental health?
Find something that you enjoy, something you’re proud of, and do it as much as you can. I think there’s no better feeling than self-pride and it helps us show whats important to ourselves.
Make time for the things you enjoy and cut out negative influences or distractions.
And of course, remember that it AIN’T WEAK TO SPEAK!