Ross Edgley training with a tree
© Ross Edgley

This man is doing a triathlon... carrying a tree

Ross Edgley is about to embark on a 'Tree-athlon', where he'll haul a 45kg log around a tri course.
Written by Ellie Ross
5 min readPublished on
Think a triathlon is tough enough? Then imagine doing one while carrying a 45kg TREE. That’s precisely the challenge that Ross Edgley has set out to do.
The fitness guru – who has already accomplished staggering achievements such as completing a marathon while pulling a mini and doing 24 hours of sport – has dubbed his challenge a ‘Tree-athlon’. caught up with Ross before he headed to the Caribbean island of Nevis, where his extraordinary challenge will take place on November 12.
So, Ross, what exactly is a Tree-athlon?
Like my World's Strongest Marathon and World's Longest Rope Climb, this is another strange, sports-based hobby designed to test the limits of the human body. I will attempt an Olympic Distance Triathlon [a 1.5km swim, 40km bike ride and 10km run] carrying a 100lb (45kg) log for eco-friendly charities.
You're doing a triathlon while carrying a tree... Can we ask why?!
I was with a friend (Ironman champion Jane Hansom) when I found out about the island of Nevis. It’s only 93 km² and has a population of 11,108. But despite its small stature, it has environmental plans of global importance – it is hoped that by 2020 it will become the world’s first carbon-neutral island. I remember thinking this was huge and more people needed to know about it. So we threw around ideas over lunch and the Tree-athlon was born.
The tree Ross carries will weigh 100lb

The tree Ross carries will weigh 100lb

© Ross Edgley

Which part do you think will be the hardest – and how do you plan on overcoming the problems?
The two hardest elements of this event will be the tree’s weight and its awkward shape. When it comes to weight, it's not just about having the strength to carry it, but the cardiovascular fitness to do this for hours. Adding the 45kg log to my 95kg frame means that I will be attempting to drag 140kg around the course – which includes two notoriously steep hill climbs.
It's hard to know just how hard it will make it, but scientific research suggests that carrying extra weight will make breathing harder. Each kg of extra weight increases oxygen uptake with 33.5 ml/min, heart rate with 1.1 beats/min and pulmonary ventilation with 0.6 l/min. Also, holding a static position – like cycling with a tree – engages the abdominal muscles, as though you’re doing a "crunch".
Ross will cycle while carrying the heavy log

Ross will cycle while carrying the heavy log

© Ross Edgley

How long do you think it will take you to complete the Tree-athlon?
It’s hard to say because the weight of the tree makes this a completely different sport to a regular triathlon. You can be a great triathlete, but not necessarily a great tree-athlete. My goal is to finish in under five hours, mainly because that's the hottest part of the day in Nevis. If it takes any longer then the sun and dehydration will be another problem to contend with.
How did you train for this challenge?
I had to deconstruct a triathlon and then add weight. While every triathlete's training is different – and research suggests there is no universally agreed consensus on the best way to train for endurance sports – the average athlete spends about 20% of the total race time swimming, 50% cycling and 30% running. Most coaches would recommend that your training matches these splits. Over time you increase the intensity of this routine during your pre-triathlon period, making sure that you have enough recovery time.
Ross will head to Nevis for the fitness challenge

Ross will head to Nevis for the fitness challenge

© Ross Edgley

How will you eat to fuel this challenge?
I wanted to turn the Tree-athlon into a nutritional experiment by fueling the entire event on a vegan diet. Some believe it's sporting suicide served with a side helping of salad. Others believe it will demonstrate the power of plant-based foods.
Whether or not a vegetarian or vegan diet is beneficial for athletic performance has not yet been proven – but I’m testing out its potential benefits. My daily calorie intake of between 6,000 and 10,000 calories has been made up of lots of vegan snacks that are high in carbohydrates and fats, like chia seeds fused with granola and nut butters with specially made vegan protein to aid recovery.
Is there any specialist equipment you are using for the Tree-athlon?
Absolutely. In the same way that I am removing everything unnecessary from my body, I will do the same with my equipment. I have a custom-built bike frame from Focus Bikes that’s measured to my body – it’s light enough to get up the steepest inclines, but durable enough to carry my weight and the tree. My Aqua Sphere and Craft Sportswear tri-suit is light and breathable to cope with the extreme Caribbean temperatures. And I will be running in Vivobarefoot Primus Trail shoes since I’ve been experimenting a lot with minimalist footwear which I find far better when carrying weight.
Once the Tree-athlon is done and dusted, what's next for you?
I was going to relax and take it easy for the rest of the year, but I get bored easily and have been contacted about some truly deserving causes. So it looks likely I will be lacing up my trainers, grabbing a protein shake and fitting a few more stunts in before the year is finished. Then 2017 is shaping up to make 2016 look like a warm up!
Ross Edgley is an athlete adventurer, chief sports scientist at THE PROTEIN WORKS™ and considered one of the world’s most travelled fitness experts.
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