Josh Forester has long adhered to the words of author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar.
“Set a goal so big that you can’t achieve it until you grow into the person who can.”
It’s a sentiment the Atlanta-based outdoor adventurist fully took to heart when he decided to embark on his latest endeavor — be the first to shoreline circumnavigate Lake Lanier in one sitting. Forester’s approximately 400-mile trek — dubbed the “Lanier Lap” — will begin on June 6 and is expected to take around five consecutive days of kayak paddling, exploring the entirety of the Lake Lanier shoreline.
Already an experienced outdoorsman whose recent accomplishments include scaling North America’s highest peak of Denali, Forester considers the Lanier Lap one of the toughest challenges he’s faced yet.
“When I think about the Lanier Lap and I think about finishing it, I think of it as a lifetime achievement,” he said.
The idea came to Forester while he was spending time with his adventure race team on Lake Lanier. Adventure racing is a sport that involves navigating over unmarked wilderness courses, and often includes long sections of paddling.
As Forester and his team paddled a 50 mile loop around the lake, a more ambitious goal was already forming in his mind.
“I wondered what it would be like to truly circumnavigate it and do it on the shoreline; how many miles would it be?” Forester said. “So I kind of measured it out, and then I was like ‘I wonder if anybody’s ever done this before?’”
Forester discovered that Chestatee teacher and cancer survivor Dana Richardson had accomplished the feat already, but her run was done over the course of a year.
Forester’s plan is a bit more extreme.
“I want to do it straight through, so it will be a first ever thing,” he said. “That was kind of the major appeal for me.”
Once the idea was fixed in his head, Forester began training.
For a task as daunting as the Lanier Lap, he knew he had to be fully conditioned, both physically and mentally. A 400-mile paddle is not an experience that is easily simulated, but Forester leaned on his distance running background to find the best training regimen.
“Honestly, there’s not a lot you can do to prepare for it other than say regular paddle training,” he said. “Regular paddle training for me is like going pretty hard for two to three hours. And then I’ll have a weekly or so paddle where I’ll do it four to six hours, maybe seven if I’m really feeling good. Those sorts of things will kind of build you up physically so you don’t break when you start to do it.”
On the mental side, Forester’s test run around Lake Allatoona in April — a 55-hour trek that he refers to as the “’Toona Run” — gave him some confidence that the Lanier Lap was possible. While the ’Toona Run was less than half the length of the Lanier Lap, it was nice for Forester to know just how far he was able to push his body while rowing continuously.
In addition to that, the shorter run gave him a better idea of the challenges he would face, and prompted him to make a few adjustments for the real thing, notably switching to a full-size kayak as opposed to his previous plan of using a surf ski.
“I feel slightly more confident about it [after the ’Toona Run],” Forester said. “Yes, I was able to do it and so that was useful to have that confidence boost.”
With months of preparation behind him, Forester feels prepared for the journey ahead. He will embark Thursday from Tidwell Park in Cumming — a sentimental spot for him, as it is only five minutes away from his previous home.
And while simply finishing the run is Forester’s first goal, he is equally focused on making sure the time he sets is a record that is never broken.
“When you kind of put out there that you’re doing this thing, which I have, and you say it’s like an open challenge to anybody else to come out and try to take it on, you’re putting a target on your back,” Forester said. “In a sense, I do invite that, and I do want that for people to come out and try to repeat it. But at the same time, I don’t want it to be easily overtaken. I want people to be very intimidated by the notion of trying to overcome it.”
You can follow along with Forester’s journey through his blog at www.joshuaforester.com.