Monday, 30 January 2012

Should have bought shares in North Face....

I've been amazed how much planning and preparation I've put into this race - I may have only officially signed up in October last year but I knew I was going to do it months before that, and just had to get a few things straight before I could sign that little disclaimer that says, and I quote:

"I fully realise the dangers of participating in a running, mountain biking and cross country skiing race held in Yukon, Canada during winter conditions, and fully assume the risk associated with such participation, including but not limited to the following dangers: dehydration, hypothermia, frostbite.... falling through thin ice....." I'll stop there as you are no doubt, by now, starting to get the picture.

One of the things that I've had to get my head around is the sheer amount of kit that you need for this race. It's not as if it's the sort of stuff you have lying around the house either - Arctic sleeping bag rated to -57C anyone? Thought not. In some ways this has been more problematic for me than actually getting out and training - after all, how hard is it to put on your trainers and go out for little jog around London, or run up and down Camber Sands pulling a kiddies sledge full of sand (surprisingly enjoyable, even if you do get a few strange looks from the kite surfers and dog walkers). Just identifying what I needed and then working out what was the best bit of kit within budget has become a bit of an obsession.

Some things were straight-forward (like the sleeping bag - warmest I could get hold of from an expedition hire company) but others I've agonised over for weeks on end before making a decision. Like what to to wear on my feet. Boots would be too heavy, normal running shoes not waterproof or warm enough. I've settled on a pair of waterproof Saloman trail shoes that were recommended by a previous competitor along with a pair of merino base layer socks and seal skinz waterproof socks.

Favourite bit off kit so far is a toss up between my PHD polar mitts which are so incredibly warm but still squash down into a tiny bag for storage and my Montane Extreme smock which I only bought a couple of weeks ago, but frankly, should have bought when I decided to do this thing.

Obviously the proof of how well I've chosen my kit will be how well it performs at the weekend, but, in the meantime, it doesn't feel like such a worry.

Fly out to Canada on Wednesday afternoon so final kit check and obligatory panic because I can't find my passport tomorrow night and then the trip is on........

Monday, 23 January 2012

Yukon Arctic Ultra 2012 (1)

Stories like this are supposed to start with a drunken bet, and I'd love to say this one did aswell. Or they start because you get inspiration from some far flung destination like standing on a terrace in Morocco and deciding I'd go for a little run in the Sahara later in the year. Not sure where this one came from though - it might have been the rather foolish book Judith bought me with a list of mental races around the world, or it could have been the Geographical article in February 2011. Either way, in less than two weeks I'm running the 100 mile category of the Yukon Arctic Ultra, widely regarded as the world's coldest and toughest ultra-marathon.

The facts don't look too re-assuring: 100miles. Arctic. Pulling a pulk. Sleeping outside. Average temperatures between -20 and -40 celcius (they stopped the race last time it got down to -60C, phew). But for some reason, those things just make it all the more appealing.

I'm under no illusions how hard this race is going to be. It's not a run around the Isle of Wight, or the London Marathon - this is going to be bloody hard work, bloody well enjoyable and frankly, I've trained bloody hard for it.

Judith and I debate how long I trained for the Sahara - I reckon it was 12 weeks but she maintains it was only 10. Either way, not as long as I should have done and I'm keen not to make the same mistake twice. This time I've put in the hours and miles to make sure I'm as fit as I can be when the race starts on 4 Feb.