John Lewis Venture Club organised a week of Cross Country Ski-ing in Susjoen near Lillehammer, Norway. Perfect timing for my training (but perhaps not for my boss and the IT project I was working on !). Although my Cross Country Ski-ing had come a long way since the start of the training in Austria , I still felt I had plenty of room for improvement. Ski-ing across the virgin snow and unpredictable terrain in the Arctic will be more of a trudge and not the elegant nordic gliding style along tracks but some extra lessons and practice in Norway would certainly not go amisss ! Seeing the winter landscape in Norway made me realise why Amundsen had an initial advantage over Scott in the race to the South Pole ! The conditions were perfect. Deep, fresh and plentiful snow. My technique improved throughout the week and even managed an (unplanned) 10 hour stint with Steve another JL partner. Our ambitious 43km (27 mile) route took us off piste incorporating plenty of steep slopes with only a short lunch stop. Night was falling and we still hadn't arrived back . I called the instructors but as I started to dial to inform them of our late arrival back to Susjoen, the phone promptly died due to the cold ! Visibility deteriorated and the kilometers to Susjoen seemed to be increasing. Our efforts to pronounce the place we were staying to a bemused local were pitiful and resorted to showing him our map. Finally we found our way and arrived back exhausted and unkempt just in time for the the close of dinner to the relieved looks of the instructors ! Great endurance practice though !
Since finding out in Austria that Thom and I were the only ones who didn't belong to a team , it did make sense to team up with Thom but would we be compatible ? Would I even have a choice ? Also the Polar Challenge company do not encourage teams of 2 racing across the ice together mostly due to safety reasons. Polar Challenge agreed to try to find a suitable 3rd team member if Thom and I agreed to forming a team which we did. Gary was our man. He also was an IT bod (like Thom and I ) with the added advantage of having succesfully competed last year. We'd met him in Austria and seemed like a good sort . But what would our team dynamic be like ? Would he be motivated to complete a second time ? Would he be fit enough ? All concerns were put to rest after a get together . Gary offered lots of advice from his experience the previous year so was definitely going to be an asset to the team. All we needed now ws a team name.
Team at Last
During the Polar Challenge, I'll need to cope mentally with extreme pain and fatigue, excessive stress, sleep deprivation, the psychological effects of prolonged cold and hunger, visual hallucinations (seeing gargoyles in the ice, imaginary polar bears ! ) , visual monotony (hours of whiteouts where the ground cannot be distinguished from the sky) , team conflicts and yet still keep my wits about me. Past competitors always talk about the challenge being more of a mental one than a physical one. I have been known to have some anxious moments so I was keen to mitigate against any of the above situations. A very kind offer was made to me by Andy Barton , an experienced sports psychologist , who works with elite sports people across a wide range of sports and often guests on television for the BBC and Sky Sports to provide comment on the stress of sporting situations. I felt very priveleged when Andy offered his services for free as I was participating in the Polar Challenge for charity. Andy has worked with me providing techniques to reduce stress, anxiety, pain, team conflict, despondency and fear of polar bears !! These techniques I can apply to every day life and as a result feel much stronger in mind and much more well equipped to deal with whatever is thrown at me out in the Arctic. Click on icon on right to find out more.
Weight Gain Progress
Having such a physically active week in Norway , I actually lost weight and all that good work of increasing my body fat vanished . I was back down to 21% body fat mid February . I made up for it by the end of the month and was back up to 23% . Weight wise I was 9 stone 8 so a loss of 2lbs. Not great.
Sledge Pulling in Susjoen
Gabrielle Finn - Polar Challenge 2007