Finding my trainee explorers feet

My first attempt at skiing in February was tough. The two planks (skis) attached to my feet were limiting my ability to move on the icy-snowy lands of Svalbard. This time around it was better but my team mates commented on my lifeless, grey face when the word ‘ski’s’ were mentioned. It’s fair to say I returned to Svalbard with a fear and mild hatred for skiing.

My first full day on the ice was hard, it was a Tuesday and I became awash with self doubt for the expedition. My brain was chattering; “I’ll never make it”, “Am I good enough for this?”,” How am I going to survive in -40?”, “What happens if Jim says I can’t be part of the team?”, “Will I ever be able to ski good enough to travel 200 miles over the frozen arctic sea?”.

I was having a downer…. it was like a tonne of bricks.

My mind has chattered to me in the past; on my 2nd marathon, I had run 25 miles and my mind was telling me “you can walk now, you are tired”. With 1.2 miles to go this was not really an option! I guess to have this ‘chatter’ on the first full day of training was a shock to me. I wanted to be better, I wanted to be strong, but the cold and the task ahead was daunting and making me doubt myself.

On the Wednesday I woke up, feeling fine, feeling like I could do anything. My chatter has been put to rest. Wednesday was great – I laughed, I recollected skills that I learnt in basic training and I skid… without the chatter, but with a pure and deep concentration. I thought to myself I am not going to leave the expedition because of skiing!

Arising on the Thursday for our 6:30am ski, I felt confident. I didn’t want to be bambi anymore; I wanted control over my planks. I started to play with my planks – they were not going to get the better of me. I started to jump in them; I saw a hill and had an urge to go down it. Cat, Andy and I used the herringbone technique to get the top of the hill and gingerly said ‘lets do this’. We skied down the hill. We all fell over at the bottom but, my god, it was fun. We carried on skiing until we met another hill and off we went. All I had to do was bend my knees, keep my ski poles down and not worry. This technique was good…. as I had fallen over so many times; I knew it wasn’t going to hurt. We went down the next hill, one at a time, wondering whether we would actually make it without falling over. WE DID IT … AND IT FELT GREAT!

The day after my skiing epiphany, I skied to the hill again with a desire to go down it. I went down that hill without falling over. I was so proud that I got down that damn hill … and pleased that one of my worst fears for walking to the Arctic Pole has (kind of) been dealt with.

Training is mentally and physically tough and brings all emotions out in you. Last week I cried, I laughed, I felt elated, I was filled with adrenalin and I felt challenged. I feel as though I am finding my polar explorers feet and if they are attached to a set of planks, then it’s not so bad. To be honest, I should have a fear for the polar bears, not my skis!

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