After 28 days riding a bicycle alone through the desert, Charlie Wittmack found himself in the midst of a massive urban market in the far western city of Kashgar, China. The teeming bazaar was arresting in every sense of the word. “I had just ridden across Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, and the Tian Shan mountains in complete solitude, and the smells, the noise, the chaos was overwhelming,” he recalls. “I was absolutely exhausted, but I knew the most difficult part of the road was yet to come.”
Charlie was in the middle of an adventure he’d spent 20 years working toward - the world triathlon. Having already swum the English Channel, his bike ride from France to Mount Everest’s basecamp was running him into the ground.
“I’d tried the English Channel once before, and nearly died. I climbed Mount Everest, run a bunch of marathons. I’ve always been looking to challenge myself, to push my body beyond what I perceived my limitations to be.”
In the middle of Kashgar, however, he found himself depleted. “The market is filled with the greatest apothecaries - ancient wise men whose knowledge is extensive, who have been studying in the lineage of Chinese medicine their entire lives. I spent that day sitting with the apothecary, watching him mix these secret herbal remedies together.”
Armed with a quiver of energizing supplements, a few night’s sleep, and a relentless drive to push himself to the limit, Wittmack rode his bike up to 18,500 feet, high in the Nepalese mountains.
“It was an incredible feeling, reaching something that you spent 20 years pursuing.”
Wittmack has been pushing himself since he was a teen. He always strove to bring his performance to the next level in every aspect of life. A father, a lawyer,and a business owner, he finds that being fully present is what allows him to achieve his goals. “When you take on huge challenges, it forces you to be your very best in every moment. And when you’re pushing the limits of physical activity, the risks demand it - if you make a mistake, it could be fatal.”
When he’s not summiting peaks, Charlie has developed a routine that keeps him focused and motivated. “I always set my priorities for the day - each morning - before I do anything. Before I check my phone, or talk to my spouse, or get up. You have to have your intention clarified. If you’re always in the business of reacting, you will not find yourself happy or fulfilled.”
Controlling reactions and taking on challenges, of course, is often difficult. “There have been plenty of obstacles to overcome, from financial needs, to logistical requirements, to balancing being a father and a husband.”
“Comparing ourselves to others, and evaluating our success based on others’ success, only creates stress. I like to think of Steve Jobs - he created the iPod, there was no competition, but he kept working to make the product better and better and better. I try to live my life that way. I quit focusing on the outcome and focus instead on the performance.”
“My expeditions are personal journeys, they’re always unfinished, and I’m always learning,” Charlie is first to admit. “But, each day I go a bit harder, and each day I do a bit better than before, and that’s where the motivation comes from.”