Des Moines adventurer Charlie Wittmack is nearing the end of the swimming portion of his “World Triathlon.” The lawyer and motivational speaker unveiled his plan to swim, bike, run and climb nearly 12,000 miles through 12 countries in March. On Monday, Wittmack plans to cross the English Channel. In 2008, he swam 15 of the channel’s 21 miles before being pulled from the icy water. Wittmack says he’s much better prepared for the English Channel this time.
“In 2008, I had a handful of six hour swims under my belt and I started to taper off three weeks in advance of the English Channel swim,” Wittmack said. “This year, in the month of July, I’ve swam over 200 miles.” Wittmack has battled stormy weather, waters filled with jellyfish and eels and severe bouts of illness since launching his expedition July 1. He’s swum down the River Thames and into the North Sea.
“A week ago, my fever was up to 104. I spent about a day vomiting trying to get all the fluids out of body, involuntarily. It takes a while to bounce back from that,” Wittmack said. Once he conquers the English Channel, the 33-year-old Wittmack plans to travel nearly 11,000 miles by bicycle from France to Kathmandu, Nepal. The final leg of the triathlon will cover 450 miles and involve a run to the lowest point of Nepal, followed by a climb to the summit of Mount Everest.
Wittmack became the first Iowan to reach the peak of Mount Everest in 2003. Wittmack says he’s already “mentally exhausted” and expects to be fighting sickness over the entire trip. “It’s a huge challenge, but it’s a dream I came up with when I was a little kid and I’ve spent my whole life working on it, so it’s going to take more than a little adversity to turn me back,” Wittmack said. Another challenge Wittmack faces involves money. His wife and two-year-old son are with him on the trip. The Wittmacks sold their house and vehicles to finance “The World Tri” and they continue to look for sponsors.
“We’re still in the position where we don’t have the funds to complete the expedition,” Wittmack said Thursday night. “Every time we turn around, we’re trying to cut the budget. Tonight, for dinner, I had five peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So, we’re trying to make due with the limited resources we have and keep this thing going.” Part of the World Triathlon involves a medical mission to Nepal and a free, yearlong curriculum to schools. Learn more about the World Triathlon on-line at www.theworldtri.com.
Photo courtesy of Andy Stoll