Welcome to Pushing the Limits, the show that helps you reach your full potential. With your host Lisa Tamati, brought to you by lisatamati.com.
Lisa Tamati: Welcome back everybody. Lisa Tamati here, your host. Fabulous to have you with me again for another crazy episode of Pushing the Limits. Before we get underway with today's guests who I know you're going to find very, very exciting and interesting, just a reminder, to check out our epigenetics program, our flagship program that we do. One of our main programs besides our online run training system, where we look at your genes and how to optimise your life, your nutrition, your food, your exercise, all aspects of your life, including your social, your career, what parts of your mind you use the most, your dominant hormones, all this information is now able to be accessed and we can identify the lifestyle changes and the interventions that we can make to optimise your life. So if you want to hit know a little bit more about that program, head on over to lisatamati.com, hit the work with us button and you'll see our Peak Epigenetics program, go and check that out.
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Right. Today's guest is oh he's a bit of a legend. Dean Stott is his name. He's a ex-Special Forces soldier, he was in the special boat service, British Army's where he came from originally. And he spent 16 years going into the most dangerous places on the planet and doing his job as a frogman. That's his nickname on his website. Even, as The Frogman. He is the author of a book called Relentless. Go figure, we've both got books called Relentless. I think we knew that we were going to get along. He's a motivational speaker. He's also a world record holder. Most recently he cycled the entire Pan-American highway. What are we talking- what is it, 14,000 miles or something ridiculous. And he did it in under 100 days. He's an absolute legend. And he had to get it done in time to get to Harry and Megan's winning. So he was desperate to get it done under 100 days. It's a really interesting story. This is a guy who's lived life on the edge in every which way you can possibly imagine. So I'm really looking forward to sharing his insights and his story with you now. Right, over to the show with Dean Stott.
Well, hi everyone and welcome back to Pushing the Limits. Your host Lisa Tamati here, sitting in New Zealand and ready for a fantastic interview today. I have a bit of a hard ask with me. I think it's a bit hard to describe this man, what he's done. I have Dean Stott with me. Dean, welcome to the show. It's fantastic to hear you. Yeah, you're sitting in Orange County?
Dean Stott: I say, yeah moved to move to Orange County in California six months ago, actually in the middle of the pandemic. Just took advantage of the world pause, and just changed scenery.
Lisa: Just change the scenery. Right, Dean we're gonna have a really interesting conversation because when I discovered you actually through another friend's podcast, My Home Vitality, shout out to Sean and everyone over there. And I realised that we had the same title of our books, was your one right?
Lisa: My one's been smaller. I thought, you, ‘This guy's probably right up my alley’. So you are known as the frogman, you've been in this Special Forces, Special Boat Services. You have also become an expeditionary athlete and adventurer and, in many years. But I want to go back a little bit, and it's starting to, were you always this determined and crazy and head through the wall type of person? And tell us a little bit about your background for starters.
Dean: Yeah, so I don't know whether I was on reflection, you look back and think maybe I was slightly, you know, you touched when I was in the military, my father was in the military. And I grew up surrounded by that, in that environment, but was never forced upon me to continue any sort of tradition and things like that. My father was the army football manager and coach. So he was very sports-oriented, what we would call a tracksuit soldier. He very much that, you know, his career was based on his sport and abilities. So there was that competitive drive anyway, that I had from my father. My parents split up when I was a young age. And when I was about eight years old, I moved away with my mother for a couple of years. My father then got custody of me and my sisters, we went back to live with my dad, so I only had the single parent, and we just went everywhere with him. And it was all with the military and all these sporting events. I wasn't, you know, the children of today, with technology, you know, when we were younger, as you will know, we know you weren't allowed in the house unless it was absolutely raining.
So we had some natural physical robustness. And by, I joined the military, I approached my father and told him my intentions of joining the military, when I was 17. And he, he told me, I'd last two minutes. I don't know whether that was reverse psychology for me to push harder and prove him wrong. And, but I was about 65 kilos, and five-foot-seven, so I wasn't, you know, the figure, the man that I am today. And, but when I did join the military, I then went through training and things. And I didn't have aspirations of being Special Forces or commandos or anything like that. And I didn't, I wasn't really aware about the structure of the military anyway, because it was just sport. That's all I've seen where my dad, I hadn't seen the bigger picture. So then when I pass basic training. It’s only 10 weeks long, you know, you then get a little bit of confidence in your abilities. And then you started in a short period of time, by the age of 20, or 21 actually, I was a para-commando diver and a PTA, done every arduous force within the military. But I'd grown so quick over those two or three years, and I will be about 85 kilos, now. I'm five-foot-eleven. So I was getting confident in my own abilities. And I was also growing into the individual that I was today. And I mean, once you pass a certain threshold, or pass a course, you then sort of look at, ‘Well, what's next?’ You know, I wasn't the best on the courses, but I just gave it my 100%. And then you sort of, your career then starts channelling in one direction, you then those before you or your peers, the mentors are all going Special Forces. And then it's like, the next question is, ‘Why not? Let's have a crack.’
Lisa: Yeah, that it takes a special type of person to be able to, like, I grew up in a family with lots of stories, like my dad was only in the military for a short time, but he was a firefighter. And so, you know, my husband's a firefighter, my dad's a firefighter, my brother's a firefighter, we’re a firefighter family. And when I was a girl, when I was a little girl, we couldn't, I couldn't grow up to be a firefighter. It wasn't, it wasn't you know, unfortunately. Thank God, you can now. And, you know, if my dad had had his way, I would have been a firefighter, I would have been an SAS soldier, I would have been like, because he was a hard ass And he wanted all of that for me. And, you know, unfortunately, society sort of stopped some of the things. So I ended up doing it in other ways that I could do it. But wasn't there a lot of pressure? Did you feel like you had to live, you know, your dad saying that to you? Was it sad and just a thing? Or did that really bite with you that, ‘Hey, I'm going to prove you wrong,’ you know what I'm going for?
Dean: Yeah, I think for me, it was. And we'll talk about other stories in my career, and it seems to be a common theme. I know, I fought. There's no point in arguing my father, you know, and or anyone, if someone disagrees, ‘I don't think you're gonna do it’. The best way to prove them wrong is actually basically doing it. Yeah. And then you don't even need to say anything. You just need to just leave that pause. And so I think for him, I don't know. I think it was a throwaway comment, you know, the fact I still talk about it now. And you know, a lot of people say to me, would you say that to your son? So of course, you know, I mean, I and, but for me it was that drive. Now, my father we talked about, you know, he really, he was sport oriented, actually when I joined Military I got sent to Germany to play football as well, because they knew I was Dave Stott’s son.
Dean: And see, after a year of being there, I said, ‘No, I don't want to follow the same footsteps as my father, I want to carve my own path.’ And that's when I then went, commando, para and things. So I was going a different path from my father, he wasn't a para commando and things like that. So for me, it was like, this was new territory to me. I wasn't really put under pressure from him. I know a lot of guys who I served with, you know, from a young age, from young boys, all they ever wanted to be was a Royal Marine, or a para, they wanted to be SAS and things. I didn't, I wasn't, there was something that I didn't–
Lisa: You weren’t conditioned.
Dean: Look, I wasn't even aware of it. That was why. So when I approached these courses, I didn't put myself under that self-induced pressure with some of these guys– guys and girls do. And I think that helped in a way. I sort of approached it in a, you know, it is what. It is not being naive, it's not what was involved walk in the park. But, you know, I was aware how difficult it was. But it wasn't the be-all or end-all. You know, some guys who did it, don't achieve the grades or, or the standards, and then they're broken. That’s all their life. And I think it's actually too much pressure on themselves. So sort of going into these situations, you just need to be a bit open-minded.
Lisa: And what was the training like to go into the Special Forces and to know what you do? What is it like to go through– because we see the stuff on the telly, and you know, everybody knows about how hard ass all that type of training is. And what do you need? What did you get out of it? What was the experience like for you to do those extreme sort of courses?
Dean: Well for me, it’s very much a grown-up course. You know, the way that then, you've got this stuff on TV, where you have the perception it's hard-ass and everyone's swearing and shouting here. And it is night and day from that, you know. I understand with TV, there's a fine line between authenticity and entertainment. Actually, if you film selections, it’s actually quite boring. You know, these guys just get told where they got to go. And they just do it. So, and that's what I liked about the course is that the fact that you're– you all grow– you’re all treated as grown-ups. There was no shouting, and they just told you what to do. They didn't need to shout, the selection was that hard in itself, that they didn't need to put that additional pressure on you. So I did what I can. And in fact, they gave you some sort of independence. To think on your own. I was fortunate to be an instructor on the commando course and also the senior dive instructor. So I've seen it from an instructor's perspective. And on those sort of courses, you do give the students some motivation and inspiration as well.
But on this one, you don't get anything. Yes, you get the reverse when you go to the jungle, and they tell you about how you're not doing well. And you know, just give up now and save six months of your life and things out. But again, I got that reverse psychology as a young boy telling me I couldn't do it. So yeah. And for me, I didn't go– you're– I was from, I came from the army. So I, the normal traditional route was especially SAS. I went SBS. I was one of the first army guys to do that. And that was because I'd spent eight years with three commando brigades, Brigade Iraqi force and I was a senior dive instructor. So water, I was more comfortable in water. So the special boat service was that natural transition for me. So they say when you go on selection, be the gray man, you know, just don't don't stand out and bring attention to yourself and things. I’ll be the gray man for about two minutes. Because they will react, they’ll scream my name out. And that's why I was going this way and not the traditional, right?
Lisa: Because you came from the wrong place.
Dean: Yeah, although I didn't put myself under my own self-induced pressure. I had that sort of hovering above my head. But again, once you– if you're confident in your abilities, and there's a fine line between confidence and arrogance at that age. I was a 28 year old sergeant. And I spent seven years in Brigade Iraqi. I've seen those who've gone before me and I knew that I was just as good as then. And you sort of know that they're going to play these mind games and when they come, as long as you identify when they come in and just deflect it.
Lisa: Yeah. Has it really helped you in everything that you've done since like, what are some of the key learnings that you take away from doing such arduous, tough, scary stuff?
Dean: Um, I think, you know, you can't control the uncontrollables you know, as long as you have a plan. One thing I saw, really take from the military is that meticulous planning and detail that goes into it. And the fact that we rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse. You know, we do that over and over and over again. You know, I've been guest speaking alongside some, like, some of the England rugby players. They talk about the World Cup, now that how they repeat an exercise, until they get 1% better. You know, we'll rehearse, rehearse all these different scenarios. And, but ours is a bit of a different situation. You know, if we get it wrong or pause or hesitate, you know, we don't lose five points in a row, we lose lives. Guys, people will get killed.
So yeah, so there's that which what I really took from the military is that unrelenting pursuit of excellence, trying to be the best you can be. But also, as well as the planning, and that we talked about that, we'll probably talk about it later when we talk about the bike ride, is the fact that not– nothing always goes to plan. Plan is the best plan in the world, you know, and things never go to plan. And don't worry about that. And that's what I liked about the Special Forces is there were a lot of, ‘Well, if you don't go as planned, you just react to the situation that's in front of you.’ And a good friend of mine told me a quote, ‘You can't be experienced without experiences’. And that's what I got from the military. The military, a lot of these big corporates around will, would love to try and replicate the scenarios or, or conditions that these people have been in, but you just can't. And that's the great thing about the military. They put you in some high octane environments, in difficult positions, difficult environments, and having to make difficult decisions. But you learn from that, you know, my decision, when was the wrong decision? You know, when you have to make? Yeah, you just reflect back on what worked and what didn't work.
Lisa: Wow. So you were in the military for, I think it was 16 years, was it, or something?
Dean: Yes, yes. Yeah.
Lisa: And so it was a big chunk of your life. And then and then what happened? Tell us about the accident.
Dean: Yeah. So I joined, I joined a special forces in the height of the war on terror. So I was the pinnacle of my career, everything was going really well. I was doing what these children nowaday plays Call of Duty. That was my lifestyle, day in day out. And we're just about to get pre-deployment training to go back out to Afghanistan again, and we're out training in Oman. And I was doing what's called a HAHO jumps, it’s a high altitude, high opening jump. So unlike freefall, where you're free aligned, you're actually still connected to the aircraft. You exit the aircraft at 15,000 feet. And you do that, because that's the limits of oxygen. Any higher and you need oxygen. You open the aircraft and the parachute will open– pull open straight away. And when you travel up to 50 kilometers, or 30 minutes in the air to the target area. So I've done– no– we've done hundreds of these jumps before, I think it's about the third or fourth jump in a day.
And I just exit the aircraft as I normally did, no different from any time before. But this time, when I look, there was something wrong and my leg was actually caught in the line above my head. So I was trying to clear my leg in time before the parachute opened and potentially rip my leg off. But I couldn't clear it in time. The parachute opened, pulled my leg up over my head and the right. Thankfully made my foot released. And otherwise wouldn't be here having this conversation. But straight away I knew there was a problem. The pain was so severe that I was vomiting and because of how thin the air was, I was drifting in and out of consciousness. But no one else in the team knew there was a situation so I wasn't going to come over to net and tell them that I had a sore leg. So I managed to stay with the team, assess where the other parachutes were coming in against the wind.
And my first challenge was to land it because if I didn't land it correctly, you know, on one leg, you know potentially, you could damage your good leg. So, but I did. It was a great, great landing, landed one-legged. And fortunately, the damage sustained on the exit show in my career. As I tore my ACL, my MCL, my lateral meniscus, my hamstring, my calf and my quadriceps, so all these supporting muscles–
Lisa: Just got ripped.
Dean: Yeah, just got ripped. But you know, in the ideal world you would go straight back to UK and you start physio, you just start working on it. But it was the same time as the Icelandic volcano which grounded all aircraft. I was there for about nearly five weeks just thrown in a hotel with painkillers.
Lisa: Are you kidding. So that was it.
Dean: Yeah, yeah, I sort of missed that, and then got back to UK. I remember I made it back to UK, got sent home for six weeks and leaves. We’re now talking about 11, 12 week period from the injury. Then they lost my MRI scans. It was just a spiral of failure in the medical system there. And so yeah, so I left. But all I've ever known, it’s 16 years. Military, even as a young child growing up. So I didn't have, I didn't look beyond the military. For me, I was a lifer. That was me.
Lisa: Wow. So how did that, apart from the gun to the physical injury, but how did that affect you mentally? Like you suddenly– you're at the top of your game, you've been training for this forever, you're doing your job. And then all of a sudden, you're out of the game. And you’re completely sidelined. What happened to you mentally from that side?
Dean: My wife will tell you a different–
Lisa: You didn’t get divorce. So that's good.
Dean: But the one of the things I scored an identity crisis. Well, it is whether you believe in the military, whether you're a professional sports person, or whether you're just someone who works in an organisation or a team, but I've been– I've gone from working in a tight-knit unit, having a role and having a purpose, knowing what I was doing for the next two years, to like, ‘Where do I now fit in society? What was my role and purpose?’ But I got to where I got to, because of my physical robustness. That had now been taken away from me as well. I couldn't even run 100 meters without my leg being in pain. So I had that going on in the background. Also, to add to the pressure, my wife was eight months pregnant. So also wondering whether there is going to be any work there. How am I going to support my family? And thankfully, for me, my wife is very entrepreneurial. You know, you hear horror stories of men and women when they leave the military, about that transition can be quite turbulent. Mine was quite smooth. You know, the military, like your mother and father, you know, they clothe you, they feed you, they pay you on time. You don't even know what, who provides the water or what to eat. You’ve just got a job to do.
But when we leave, we're not aware of who we need to speak to in the council's or the state. There. So my wife was a bank manager for three sons and their banks in Aberdeen. So the stuff that I would normally be worried about, she was, ‘Yeah, I've got all that.’ And she sent my first security company on a Blackberry watching TV, you know, done the right paperwork. So when, so whatever I was going through a hard time having to talk personally, you know, thankfully, wasn't that bad, because my wife had sort of–
Lisa: Yeah, she's awesome.
Dean: But yeah, I just had, you know, talking to the security industry, the pressure of trying to, if there's any work. And I was very fortunate. Within 48 hours I was asked if I can go out to Libya, which I know you're familiar with, to help set up the different project restart the British Embassy during the Arab Spring. And so that's what I did. So wow, look at me, I had work straight away. And I was out in Benghazi, helping sell that project.
Lisa: Can you tell us a little bit about that story? Because that sounds like a bit of a movie.
Dean: You know– familiar I did– when I left, I wanted to find a niche within the security industry. I didn't want to go to Afghanistan and Iraq and do the hostile action, because I've sort of done that, you know, I've done that bit. And you know, I was very lucky to survive. So why would you take another risk? And I looked at the security industry, and actually, a lot of my friends from the special boat service. They were, they had their maritimes companies who are dealing with the Pirates of the east coast of Africa. So I didn't want to be competing with them either. My wife's from Aberdeen, so I moved back to Scotland with her. It’s the only gas capital of Europe. So where is all this trouble? So I was looking into more in the corporate clothes protection sort of industry, that's where my head was focused.
But when I got to Libya, I soon identified that Libyans didn't want another Libyan, another Afghan or Iraq once Gaddafi had fallen, they wanted to take control. But also these larger security companies, the big five, now sort of like dominate the industry. They were charging crisis management in evacuation plans, when actually we just scraped the surface, there was nothing in place. So I flew home, my wife gave birth to our daughter, Molly. And I said, ‘Look, I have a plan. Do you mind if I take our savings out of the bank?’ And that's what I did. And I went back into Libya, there was a huge proliferation of weapons at this point. It's actually ammunition was difficult to get hold of, weapons are not a problem.
So I bought 30 weapons off the black market, and I buried them between Tunis and Egypt and buried them with communications equipment money, and just designed my own evacuation plan, spent a month in the desert. These in design. And I mean, I sold them to a couple of the oil and gas companies on a retainer and just just sat on them. Then the security industry. You know, for me, I didn't want to work for an organisation and be on rotation and things like that. I took a gamble and it was very ad hoc. So each time I got a phone call was a different job. So you know, for example, we did London Olympics. And then next thing you're taking the UAE royal family superyacht from Barcelona to Maldives, and you're training the Kurdish Special Forces in Erbil.
Lisa: Wow! Fascinating!
Dean: It's very diverse. When you tell people in the security industry, I mean, they think you're a doorman from the local nightclub.
Lisa: Surely not.
Dean: I'd like to help people as well. And I'm for me, but what it what it was good for me was– is I was seeing– some of these countries that I've been to anyway with the military, but seeing all the cultures and seeing how things, not from a military perspective, because it was almost a little bit blinkered, there, you know.
Lisa: Yes. Like you say, your head, your role.
Dean: You know, it’s understanding more the politics, the demographics and things like that. So I just come back from the London Olympics. I was in Benghazi. And in the evening, the American ambassador got killed. And they made it into a film called 13 Hours.
Lisa: Yes, that's what I thought, it sounds very familiar, I'm sure.
Dean: I know, I always say, ‘Right place, right time’ or ‘Wrong place, wrong time’. And I was there in Benghazi. And I was asked by a German oil company if I could get some of their German engineers from Benghazi to Tripoli. So I had safe houses in the desert. And that's what I did over the three days. I took them back out. And then two years later, I was in Brazil, covering the World Cup.
Lisa: You’re just like… You just got them out through a hole and you do that like going to the supermarket.
Dean: There's no real, no threat to them, no direct threat to them. the only issue I had with that one, you know, we could have– I had drivers from Benghazi, who took us out initially. The problem in Libya, you have 167 tribes. And this is where there's real issues. Because, I mean, you have, you know, those in the East in Benghazi, don't like those in the West in Tripoli. You know, the politics are in Tripoli, the oils are in the East. And so it's understanding that as well. And that's why, so we did it over three days, and the reason we did that is, I was actually, I had the drivers from Benghazi in the safe house. And now that will, ‘You know, Mr. Dean, we can go on because Tripoli is only, you know, it's not far, 300 kilometers’. But they didn't realise I had drivers coming in from Tripoli.
Lisa: And you didn’t want them to–.
Dean: And I didn't want the drivers to compromise us when we go in. So I woke up that morning that we were setting off and the drivers that arrived from Tripoli, the drivers and Benghazi in there. They all had their guns out.
Lisa: Oh, my God.
Dean: I say I mean, I mean, they’re worried they weren't gonna get paid. I said, ‘No, you're paid. I just can't take you to Tripoli.’ And so it's just understanding that sort, rather than just driving as fast as you could to Tripoli and potentially running into issues along the way. And so yes, that was a success. And two years later, I was in Brazil covering the World Cup. And we now had the Tripoli war, which is a civil war between the militias and the government. And I think that's just ended now. And I got a phone call from the Canadian Embassy saying that they'd been stuck in Tripoli. And so they had 18 military within an area close protection team with them, but they weren't allowed to leave the city. So they'd never seen the coastal road out and didn't really have eyes on. So in the days leading up to that, the British Embassy got shot at every checkpoint between Tripoli and the Tunis border. So I went out with my fixer, and just spoke to the tribal elders in those regions at war and everywhere else. And it was actually just showing them courtesy and respect. Just let us know who we are, when we will come in, we were no threat. And again, it's that understanding the politics and the demographics, which was a success to that. And yeah, we got 18 military in four different maps safely back to back to Tunis.
Dean: But you know, I've never like they said in Hollywood, I never needed to dig up any of the weapons. They're still there. It’s more of an intelligence-led security thing. But I came home from that trip and my normal procedure would be to wash my kit, repack my bag and everything else, and then get ready for the next phone call. Yeah, one of my shirts was covered in blood. But I've been doing first aid and RTA. And I said to my wife, ‘Can we get the blood out of the shirt?’ And she said ‘Yes, but I’m more concerned why there's blood in there’. Totally what I just got yourself is like a throwaway comment. Yeah, you see, this was the second time in my life, I realised the pin dropped. There was something more mentally, I was just five years now from the military and I was trying to match the adrenaline rush that I had been, without coming to terms with the fact that I'd left and I didn't have that support network. If something had gone wrong, my friends were gonna come in and parachute for me. And so something had to change. And my daughter was young, and my wife now is, you know, she had a very successful property development business. And she said, ‘Look, this was actually all about communication’. She thought I wanted to go away. And I thought she needed me to go away.
Lisa: Yeah, yeah. Because you've been used to that sort of setup for so long.
Dean: Yeah. And I've just been disconnected from society. I just thought that was the norm. You know, I was going to Somalia on my own. Yeah. Just doing–
Lisa: Were you not like, like most people listen to this, I mean, it's such a foreign world for the average person who's never been exposed to any of this. And I've never been anything military. I've been in some tricky situations, and self-caused, gone into shit places which I wasn't really for or shouldn't have been in. But for most people, this is a terrifying thought to even go to some of these places, let alone to do the job that you do. Did you never have a fear of like, do you not have the normal fear responses that most people have?
Dean: I think I do. I think the problem that we have in today's society is TV, is media. You know, it's very, you know, dramatised about these places. These places they go. I use Somalia as an example. I'll go there on my own and have a walk from the airport to the hotel, I won't– because that's where the business is. That's where I think things are happening. And then I've been, you know, yes, there's bad places and things go on. But it's no different from any city, you know. Yes, there's a bit of a terrorist threat and things. But I've been sent on a mission, south of Mogadishu, and in some of the most beautiful waters. I see parts of the country that people don't see. Now, I'm not naive to think there is no threat at all. You know, the success of a lot of my projects is having the right fixers and local influence. The world's very quick to tarnish certain societies with one brush because of what they've seen on TV. For me, they’re the most hospitable people. You know, the Canadian Embassy, the KCA Deutag and a few others, they wouldn't have been successful if it wasn't for the locals.
Lisa: The local people. Yeah.
Dean: And I think that's where somebody's security companies or individuals who think they can just come in with weapons and guys like me, very arrogant, they think they're going to do, to get away with it. And, and it's just showing respect, and humility. And that's my approach to it. So I am obviously conscious there is there is a friend, you know, I have friends who–
Lisa: And you can handle yourself there as well.
Dean: –things that, but yeah, I think that as long as–
Lisa: Yeah, I know what you'd be like when you go to some of these places, you have these preconceived ideas. And some of the places I've been to, like Niger. I went to Niger and you know, Niger, I don’t even know how to say it properly, Niger. Never got that right. That was one place where I landed there. And we were doing a 333k race through there. And I didn’t like go, ‘Holy shit, this place is pretty damn scary’. And you know, you're running across the desert on your own, and there was a lot of military, sort of oil problems. Chinese doing exploration in the desert against the wishes of the tribal people. So there was lots of military convoys coming through with all the arms and things. And you're a little girl running across the frickin’ desert on your own. It's pretty, pretty hairy moments here where you think you can just disappear, you know. But generally speaking, most of the places that you go to where you think are gonna be terrifying, aren't that terrifying. And the people are pretty amazing, too. And you've got to be aware of yourself and, you know.
Dean: Yeah. Having the responsibility, you know, those sort of places as well if they're running an event like that, and, you know, these countries want, you know, it's all about tourism and try and promote and put the country in a good light, you know, they'll do this. Yeah.
Lisa: This one was a bit out there, though. Like this was a French Foreign Legion guy who was running it. He didn't give a shit about anything except making money, right? We went into it naively. These particular ones thinking it was gonna be like the marathon on Saturdays or something. You know what I mean? And it wasn't. It was like 17 runners, nothing was organised. It was like, we ran out of water, we ran out of food, we, you know, I ended up getting food poisoning on top of it all. So that was a really– that's when I realised that most of the races are really super well run, but then there are the cowboys out there. And, you know, we were in their very hands really, you know, and we were lucky to get out the other side on that one. But so how do you like, for your wife? What's it like having your husband off doing God knows what, and having to keep the, you know, the business going, and the life going, and that fear of you being away?
Dean: Yeah. And I'm very fortunate. I've got a, my wife is part of the business anyway, the scoop is anyway, so she would always be doing intelligence bits anyway. So having her being part of that helps. Yeah. Well, rather, you just go in, and she's not knowing what's going on. Yeah. I mean, a part of that. And when we talk about the bike ride, you know, she was the campaign director that so–
Lisa: Sounds amazing.
Dean: –but gets involved in everything. Because then it's very easy to explain why you're doing something or why you're going away because, yeah, the full picture. But no, very, very fortunate to have an understanding– and she, you know, Alana's got a book coming out soon as she talks about why she fell in love with me, because I showed a world that she hadn't seen before. I mean, I was very, we had very similar mindsets, and like, achieve whatever goals you want. So for her to then say, ‘I couldn't do something,’ or you know, would go against, you know, what she believes in, and why we got into it. So obviously, now I'm a bit older and we've got kids and obviously I need to be a bit you know, she needs a little bit more. Yeah.
Lisa: She sounds like an amazing lady. I'll have to get her on.
Dean: Yeah, yeah, she is. She's got a cracking story herself.
Lisa: Yeah, she sounds like it. So I want to transition now into going into life after this chapter of your life, if you like, in becoming this professional adventurer. Because in what you're doing now, what you've got coming up, and the whole world record that you have. Tell us about that.
Dean: Yeah, so we actually stem from coming back from that Canadian Embassy job. You know, something had to change. In chapter 16 in the book, it’s called ‘Dead or Divorce’, so that's the stage we're talking about. Obviously, it's been five years since my leaving the military. I’ve sort of neglected my own sort of physical and mental well-being. I’ve been so fixated on work and bringing in money, and I take like a TRX with me around, just throw it in the suitcase. And I haven’t done any sort of cardiovascular stuff. My injured leg like now was two kilos lighter than my good leg, which is an awful wastage.
So I just that’s when for Alana said, “Come do property development.’ And that's what I did. I hung up my security boots and just bought a pushbike of farmers, and just cycled to and from the office. There's only about eight miles there and eight miles back. You know, nothing big but straightaway being physically active again, you know, I felt like there was a big, big weight off my shoulders, and that's what I did. I cycled to and from the office. But you can imagine my story, you know, sat in these architects and planners meet. So it’s about a month for my 40th birthday. So I was getting a midlife crisis around. What have I done with my life? I'm going to have a legacy and things. So I said, well, ‘I've always fancied doing a world record.’ And Alana said, ‘Well, what in?’ And I said, ‘Well, cycling is good, because it's not impacted– well, you need to consider my knee injury.’ And something that wasn't the knee injury wasn't going to compromise it.
So I said, ‘Well, what about cycling?’ And you know, being in Scotland, I was thinking maybe Aberdeen to Glasgow or something. And my wife then found the world's longest road, which runs in southern Argentina to northern Alaska. So for the listeners, it's probably equivalent to say it's the equivalent of cycling from London to Sydney. Yeah, 30,000 miles.
Lisa: And then another.
Dean: Yeah. Because of the curvature of the earth. So having only cycled 20 miles, this is what I did: I applied for the world record in it. We had looked at Cairo to Cape Town. But I– majority of my security work was in Africa. So I'd be in those days anyway. So for me, I wanted to, as part of the challenge, I wanted to see places that I am– someplace that I hadn't been to before and also because of where you started, and when you're finishing, you're going through all different temperatures and climates and things like that. And so Guinness came back. And the world record when I apply for it was 125 days. Six weeks later when it came back, and said you were successful with the application. And we've been beaten by eight days, the new world record was 117 days.
So that was my target. And my wife and I do a lot charity work. We have been doing since I met her really and, you know, do a lot of stuff with the military. You know, it's part of a special boat service, ambassador for Scotland. Legion, which is the oldest military charity in the UK. But I’m gonna name drop now massively. So Prince Harry and I are good friends, and we've known each other.
Lisa: Is he though?
Dean: Yeah. And as you’ve seen. And I've been friends about 14 years, met each other on a community training course. And, you know, he’d come to some of my events; I've been to some of his events. You know, I– in Mozambique, Tanzania had an intelligence fusion sale, which would identify smuggling routes for the ivory, you know, which I could then relay back to him. So he's doing a lot of stuff in the background. So I rang him up, and I said, ‘Look, I’m gonna cycle, the world's longest road, you know, what campaigns should we do it for?’ And this is back in 2016. So him and his brother and Kate, were just about to launch a mental health campaign called Heads Together in 2017. And he said, would I do it for that campaign? And I said, ‘Yes, of course’. So I now have the challenge of the campaign. And in the end, I set a target of a million pounds.
Lisa: Wow, that’s a big-ass target!
Dean: For me it had to be the enormity of the challenge to reflect how much you're trying to raise. You know, you couldn't– you know, you can't go– can’t say I'm going to raise a million pounds and run the London Marathon because it just doesn't add up. The size of the challenge and the size of the ask here, you know, was balanced. And also to add to that I'd never cycled before as well, which is even more of a–
Dean: Yes, yeah. So I did a train for a year, you can imagine what it is like trying to get sponsorship at the beginning.
Lisa: What the hell!
Dean: I will perform, break a record, and we'll record and raise a million pounds in mental health and a lot of them thought had mental health problems themselves.
Lisa: But you had a track record of what you've done? I mean, I would have taken you seriously, as far as the–
Dean: A lot of people say to me, ‘How do you get sponsorship?’ You know, I got– and it was just, it was the right messaging at the right time. You know, the Heads Together campaign is launched in the UK, and it's very much the topic of conversation. So a lot of these big corporates wanted to get behind.
Lisa: Wonderful. Yep, yeah.
Dean: So it was the right message at the right time. And, yeah, I got a great sponsor. And, you know, that was only about two months before setting off. You know, I funded it, funded 50,000 of my own money up until that. I had to believe in it.
Lisa: And put something on the line?
Dean: Yep. Yeah. So. So that's what I did. Yeah, I mean, I set off on the first of February 2018, the– when I was doing all the early stages when I was doing the planning, and I'd never cycled with I just took a military set of orders, put it on there and just crossed out ammunition. And then as I started learning about saving, I then introduced that into the plan. But there's things that, you know, there are things that are out of my control, like natural disasters, coups, third party influence. So the world record was 117 days, but I was aiming for 110. And it wasn’t– I was going to beat it by a week.
Lisa: You’re in that buffer.
Dean: Yeah that buffer. The buffer, the fudge they call it. Encounter that is eating into the fudge and not your challenge. So that's why, where I set off aiming for 110 days. You know, I was very fortunate to, being in the military and worked in the desert, the Arctic, and the jungle, and things that I've never done on the bike. I had to then simulate those situations. So the Atacama Desert in Chile is the driest non popular desert in the world. It's 47 degrees. What I decided to do so, I went out to Dubai and did two weeks heat training in Dubai. The altitude in Ecuador, of cycling. You know, the biggest climbs in Tour de France ranges in 21, 23 kilometers, minus 67 kilometers and sea level to four and a half thousand meters. So I had to train altitude. So I know that on the day of the event, you know, you do 8 to 10 hours on the bike.
Lisa: Altitude. Yeah.
Dean: So, yeah, I did that. And there's a famous bike ride in the UK called Land's End to John O'Groats.
Lisa: Yes, I know that one.
Dean: Yeah, so I did that twice. I never mean to sound arrogant, but for me, it was a training ride and actually it’s training ride because the challenge was 15 Land's End to John O'Groats back to back. So if I couldn't do one, how was I going to do 15?
Lisa: Yes. It's funny how your perception changes, the bigger your current goal that you're going for, the other stuff becomes small, but what I've learned too is that it goes the other way as well. When you stop doing the big stuff, your horizon comes back in pretty quickly. And then you know, it can be gone the other way.
Dean: You can never replicate what you're going to do with some of the ultra marathons, you won’t go run the exact distance.
Lisa: No, no, you're running near it.
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Dean: Yeah, what I got from doing those Land's End to John O'Groats, you know, I did about nine days, is the fact that the first four or five days are always whether you're at your peak, or wherever you're below peak is always going to be hard and then by the end of the first week, your body then knows what you're asking of it.
Lisa: I found that like too, when I did– because I ran through New Zealand, and I did you know, 2250ks in 42 days, which I was aiming for 33 days, but I had again, I didn't add in the fudge, did I? And I got slower and slower and more injuries and so on. So it took me a bit longer than I was planning. But at the two-week point was when I was at that absolute, like I don't know how to take the next step point, you know. And somehow I had to drop the kilometers a little bit, but then I was able to– my body actually got better from that point on. And I would never have believed if I hadn't lived through it. I thought I was like, absolutely, I don't know the how I'm going to take the next step to then actually the end of the 42 days being like, ‘I could carry on now’. You know, it was quite a phenomenal thing to go through. And I've heard other expeditions that athletes go through the same sort of thing that it bottoms out at the worst point. I've got a couple of mates who ran across the Sahara, and I mean, right, right across the Sahara, 7,000 kilometers. And they said the same thing that they you know, two weeks, and they were thought, you know, ‘We're about to die here. We're not gonna make it.’ And then it's sort of you know, and you have the ups and downs. But if you can push through that mentally, that point you seem to come through it.
Dean: Yeah, you do. I think, you know, for me, I set off from sort of going back slightly when I was doing my research, I, you know, was reading books and magazines learning about cycling. You know, it evolved so much since I was a young boy in a BMX, and I wasn't getting the information I really wanted. So I spoke to the previous record holders, and they're very open, which was great, really, they're very receptive. but they– you know, one of the things we do in the military, especially in the special forces is, it's like a hot debrief. So when, as soon as you've done a job or operation, you come. Before you get, sort yourself out, you know, we'll sit down, and we'll ask three questions: ‘What worked? What didn't work? And if you're going to do it again, what would you do differently?’ So I just asked that question to the previous record holders, and all their issues were in South and Central America: bureaucracy, the borders, languages, first to the base. So they all started in North America, and it was the second half of the challenge which had the issues, right. So I turned on its head, start in the south and get those issues out the way early. So one thing I was quite proud of– just because everyone did it that way didn't mean it was the right way.
Dean: But yeah, but I set off from Southern Argentina in the first week, you know, relentless winds, it was like 40 mile an hour, approximate speed. I've never known anything like it. But once that had– I had targets each day, you know what I had to hit each day and I was hitting those targets. I think by the end of the first week, I was 39 miles behind target, but my target is still a week ahead of the world record, right? Yeah, yeah. The weather sort of changed for the better and now the winds have abated. I got through Peru, I got tailwind all the way through Peru. That's 2500 kilometers of tailwind. We did you know, I crashed the bike in Chile, I got food poisoning in Peru, you know, coming out with issues and, you know, got to Ecuador, got the big climb-ins. But before they're gone on the challenge, I've never done more than 150 miles on the road, on the road. I've done 10 hours on a turbo trainer, but never done more than 150 miles. By the week four when I was in Peru, anything less than 150 miles wasn't enough for me. I was physically and mentally stronger as I went. I started at 90 kilos. I was too big.
Lisa: Yeah, but I but you needed it.
Dean: Yeah, but I knew from my time in the military that special forces selection six months long, you don't start day 1 100%. You carry that timber and weight, and then that will shed and you'll get fit. And that's what I did. And you know, when I finished I weighed 78 kilos. Almost 12 kilos. And you know you have to– it’s almost like a polar expedition, you're losing weight from the start. So you just need to try and try and keep it on. But I got to Cartagena on day 48 on March 21. That took 10 days off the previous world record for South America. But that wasn't the world record. And a lot of people called me said, ‘Oh,’ they said, ‘The pressure’s off.’ I said, ‘That's not world record. Call it Brucie bonus. That was a Brucie bonus or a marker to aim for rather than looking at the full challenge. As you know, you don't look at the– Right down into–
Lisa: You get overwhelmed pretty quick.
Dean: What do you do on the flight? So I did. I broke it into countries into days, and then broke the days into four stages. Food and hydration were paramount. So just have a big breakfast. And then just cycle as fast as I could for two hours. You know, I didn't then– just get off the bike for 30 minutes and have food and water and then I'm back on the bike. I was disciplined in my time into 30 minutes, 30 minutes and then chat to someone or the llama you know, he was like, ‘Back on the bike’.
Dean: That creepage thing gets bigger. And then it was just, look at the next two hours. Look at the next stage. I didn't look at the afternoon, didn’t look at the next day. And before you've done it, you've done a day, you've done a week, you've done a world record. And so that's how I did it. So I was just doing four training rides a day, I wasn't doing a world record.
Lisa: I love it. And you just chunked it down into bite sized pieces that you could make–
Dean: That you can manage. And then I– you see people when they do that– a lot of people do their challenges in the lab. Well, you know, 10 miles behind today, you know what, I'll catch you out tomorrow, but you don't know what's gonna happen tomorrow. You could have another bad day and then be 20 to 30 miles behind. So for me, to be in the right headspace, mentally, I made sure I hit my targets or I was ahead of targets. After that first week, I was 39 miles behind target. From then on, I was way ahead. So I was in a good headspace at the end of the day, knowing that I was where I should be. Because as you probably accounted with your New Zealand, when you know that you've set a target and you're not– may not get there. You can start messing–
Lisa: I did, yeah. Yeah, it does. Yep.
Dean: So for me, I always say to people, ‘Just stay on the bike or do those– run an extra two or three, just hit the target you set for the day because you, mentally you're going to be in the better.’
Lisa: You can get that nice dopamine hit, that neurotransmitter dopamine, it gives you that little reward and that motivates you to do the next round and keeps you going.
Dean: You know, next morning you know you're not right, I've got to do 30 miles before, your way should be all ahead.
Lisa: Overwhelming you away when you're certain to go backwards. It's yeah, I found that brilliant.
Dean: And then I used to trick myself in the fact that, or give myself a treat, so I had like four stages for South– North America we'll talk in a minute, that’s a different way of psyching, and but for South America because of the security issues, you know, I had a support team and a documentary team and we were very much risk averse, more risk averse than myself. We stay on but I had to consider their welfare. And so we were saying– I'd say go from first light to last light. So that was my depth. That was my cycling period. And the– sorry yeah, I broke it into four stages. So in the morning was fine because I just had a breakfast. So the first two hours, I'd be able to gauge how long I would be on the bike for the day. Because unlike when other people go for bike rides at home, they'll go for a ride and they'll do a loop and they'll come home. So at some point they'll have a headwind or a tailwind or a side wind. But on this ride, if I had a headwind, it was all day. So that would really gauge up to the rest of the day. So that was the first stage. The second stage I had lunch to look forward to. And the third stage– sorry, the fourth stage. I had the end of day to look forward to. The third stage I had nothing to look forward to. So I would make sure– so my look forward was a can of Coke or an ice cream. Yeah, just something simple. And something to look forward to after the two hours.
Lisa: Yeah, let's get reward thing. You just need it little, ‘Yeah, I’m going for something.’
Dean: ‘They’ll arrive in, oh, just another two hours after that.’
Lisa: I'd find that sometimes my reward, and this is getting like pretty sad like, yeah, ‘I'm gonna be allowed to go to the toilet,’ you know, like, ‘I'm gonna have a wee’. Like shit! That’s pretty, pretty shit when you actually, when that's your reward.
Dean: It's probably looking with a bit more–
Lisa: What the hell. And so, you know, because I watched the little short. Can people watch the documentary? Is it out yet? is it available?
Dean: No. So we've got the footage, we've got all the footage together. We– the sort of plan is maybe because we're talking about the next challenge shortly here, rolling onto that and doing a double. And they do it through a series of them. Where we were sitting on that, which is good. But yeah, I took, you know, a broader South America record, which is great. From the cycling perspective, you know, it was a great decision going south-north. From a logistics perspective, it wasn't. We're having to change vehicles in every country in South America to slow me up. So we bought an RV and a 4x4, which was going to get shipped from Fort Lauderdale to Panama. And that would then take us all the way to Alaska, because I had to fly from Colombia to Panama, there’s a Darién gap, which you can't cross. This is the only bit you have to fly. And I was in Ecuador, two weeks before my wife Alana rang me, told me, the vehicles hadn't been loaded on the container in Florida. So my wife, my PA, and a couple my friends, I think it forced them, they flew out and they drove the vehicles 4000 miles in eight days from Florida through Mexico all the way from Central America to Panama.
Lisa: This location.
Dean: So when I broke the record in the morning, flew across, they came in an hour late and handed over the keys. So that then really helped us for the second part of the challenge. And I got to North America on day 70. And I was 14 days ahead of that. Perfect, you know? Okay, you know, i can take the foot off the gas, or I can have a day's rest here or there. Then my wife kept ringing me and you know, she's very good in keeping all those distractions away from me. So my initial thought was the children, or something wrong with the kids. And then she told me we've been kindly invited to Harry and Megan's wedding. Changed the dynamics completely of the challenge. So you get home, I had to be finished by day 102, which is 15 days ahead of the challenge. So going into the challenge, going into the phone call, I was 14 days ahead. 10 minutes later, I'm now a day behind.
Lisa: Oh my God.
Dean: It doesn’t matter what you've done, it's been taken from you. So yeah, mixed, mixed emotion cycling off from that phone call.
Lisa: Yeah, like excited for the wedding. Shit! I’ve got to go faster.
Dean: And then when I got to Lubbock in Texas next day, we have 60 mile an hour winds and tornadoes, so I was stuck for another 24 hours. So I was now two days behind and there was an app on your phone called Windy TV. I don't know if you've come across it. It gives you the strength and direction of the winds every hour for the next two weeks. But 95% accurate real time I stepped away from the challenge when looking at Windy TV, but unlike South America when I sit outside first light, last light, in North America we had the luxury of security. Cycle at night. So I took advantage of that and I just played. To get out at Lubbock, I just cycled 340 miles in 36 hours to miss the next weather window coming in and just play chess with Mother Nature through North America. I had 17 days planned, and I cycled in 11 and a half days in Canada. We also use it to my advantage: I picked up a tailwind in Cheyenne in Wyoming and did 260 miles in 11 hours and 10,000 feet of climbing because I had a 50 mile an hour tailwind.
Lisa: And some luck and some–
Dean: Yeah exactly. Though it’s not about having a plan but having to change the plan to the situation on the ground and then I got a week outside and I was that, right? This will record smashed. I'll be back in time for this wedding unless I get eaten by a grizzly; we’re in Canada and Alaska. And then I was made aware about this professional cyclist who's got three other endurance world records. He's about 26 years old, sponsored by old Red Bull, all the brands, and he come out on social media that day and said that he was going to do the Pan-American Highway in August and be the first man to do 100 days. Dynamic’s completely for me so I just cycled. You know, every time I thought I hit my objective, my objective then kept moving. So I am, I cycle with– for 22 hours in the last 30 hours in minus 18 to come in maybe nine days, 12 hours and 56 minutes. So it wasn't the original plan. It was so fast. Yeah. And I couldn't tell anyone I've been invited to the wedding. You can see friends comment that, ‘He's picked this right up, you know, he's now– he's going,’ and people said, ‘He's rushing back for his mate’s wedding.’ I couldn't tell them. Yeah, so I just had to do it. But my family were in line and the kids had flown into Prudhoe Bay, which is an oil field on the top of the Arctic Ocean. They'd come in with all these oil workers. They’d never seen kids there, so I knew they were there at the end. So that was that final bit of motivation.
Lisa: Oh yeah. And when you're in that last spurt before the thing, it's like, let’s just get this shit done. Get over the damn line.