Getting going again (with this blog and my fitness!)

It was never going to be easy

Upset, disappointed, frustrated. These are words which sum up my feelings when the expedition got postponed last year. We didn’t quite hit the mark in terms of sponsorship and therefore couldn’t get all the kit and equipment we needed to cross the Arctic Ocean.

I was ready, I had been training, dragging tyres to work, kettle bells at the weekend was routine. I felt strong. I knew my knots, knew my teammates and my medical training was at the fore of my mind.

Being postponed in December was like a kick in the stomach; I had a broken heart and a frustrated mind. I wanted to get onto the ice. It took me about 3 weeks to come to terms with it … perhaps silly, perhaps not. I had spent the whole year eating, breathing, living Ice warrior. To wait for another year was going to be hard.

8 months later I find myself about to start training again … The tyres, the kettle bells, the 1/2 marathons after 8 hours at work. It’s time! I have to say it’s taken me a bit of soul searching this year to see if THIS is what I want  and I’ve decided that YES it is and I need to start training again. The expedition is going in the right direction, we have a full team after a further recruitment campaign this year, Discovery have filmed a pilot TV programme on the expedition and sponsors are coming forward.

It’s not like I have been dormant since December, I cycle most days and just returned from a 400 mile cycle in Spain and France, I’ve ran (a bit) and I’ve been Nordic walking. It’s just that training six times a week seems so huge to me right now, plus, I know that my social life will disappear. No more vino tinto … well, maybe a little 🙂

I’m meeting with my trainer tomorrow – I am sure Steph will be mad at my lack of power, my poor glutes, my puffing when running up a hill but I had these issues before and I got through them. I had muscles in December; I was running half marathons after work in 1 hour 30 mins…..

I hope that when I get moving properly, muscle memory will kick in and my 6 times a week training won’t be soooooooo tiring as last time, but who knows.

Now … where did I put those tyres ….

Where’s Peter?


Jim called us for a team meeting one morning: “Where’s Peter” he said. “This is a search and rescue exercise, you’ve 3 minutes to get yourselves organised”. And off we went. Hurrying to get torches, kit, clothing, medical kit we left the safety of the guesthouse. Andy took charge as Team Leader to get us organised and start the search. We were quickly split into 4’s and started searching around the guesthouse, sweeping the area and shouting for Peter.

It soon became apparent that we had our own ideas on the best way to find Peter. Jim called us all back in after 6 or so minutes as we were so spread out you’d easily lose one of us if you didn’t keep track. It was decided that a search line would form on one side of the valley. Running into position we formed a line, spreading out as far as our head torches would beam and moved forwards, like an un-oiled army.

We walked at different paces which made it difficult once more. “We need to keep at the same pace” I shouted. At this moment Paul to my right spotted a reflective Peter lying in the snow about 100 meters ahead. “How on earth can you see him?” I thought to myself. Paul sprinted off, me following in his footsteps, draped in my down gear and polar boots which made running in the snow pretty tough. I shouted for the rest of the team.

Peter was there lying on the ground. Paul leapt into action as Medic; Peter told us his name, he knew when he had eaten and what had happened. Peter has fallen over! Someone put the bothy over us as we went through the DRABCDE of medical training. We decided that poor Peter had hypothermia, and he was fading in the cold. After what seemed like 40 or so minutes Jim shouted, “the helicopter will arrive in 5 minutes”.

At that point we had to move Peter to safety and to the helicopter landing site maybe 300 meters away. Using the only kit that we had, we picked up Peter and moved him onto a pulk, strapped him in and off we went. Someone was at his feet, two were pulling the pulk, and 2 either side of Peter to keep in him position. That 300 or so meters felt like miles as we struggled over a ridge and through the snow to safety. “End of exercise” shouted Jim and we all went back into the guesthouse for a debrief.

Scenario training is probably the best way to learn in the Arctic – learn by doing and by making mistakes. I know that if the team had the same situation again, in real life, we would be more effective from start to finish.

Svalbard this time was different – it was 24 hour darkness, the team was a mix of new and older team members. Team dynamics were different – it was interesting having new members to share knowledge and new enthusiasm in the group. We camped out more, we put our years’ worth of training to the test with improved storm proofing of the tent, knots, navigation, skiing and getting organised prior to heading out into the icy wilderness. One night I slept in a snow trench …. The scenario was ‘the tent has blown away’. That night I can’t really say I slept, but I did survive!

One thing that I need to work on is my route planning – realistically on the expedition we will put the GPS coordinates (85°15‘N 176°09’E) into the GPS and head for it (navigating around the ice floes and ridges). In Svalbard we did a route card, looking at points along the Longyearbyen valley and planned 3 days of travel and camping. This slow and laborious process frustrated me – the GPS was new and our team let couldn’t get to grips with it. After ½ day we just about managed it, but it tested my patience … some might say, I didn’t have any patience, for at one point I had to step away from the planning table! Testing the mind is great, but it’s also good to push yourself to that point when you have to ‘take 5’ and step back in.

I felt strong on the ice and in training; my physical training has made me fitter, but as we have a year to go, it’s important to step back, reflect on what I have learnt, what I struggled with and to look at where I am going. The next year with Ice Warrior is going to be challenging but I am very much looking forward to it, and to more scenario training.

Svalbard is calling

This weekend I will head out to the icy, snowy lands of Svalbard, Norway. It’s a wonderful training venue that sits just 600 miles from the Geographic North Pole. The whole island is home to 2000 people and around 3000 polar bears. It will be dark every day, all day. The polar night is in full force which will make expedition training somewhat difficult.

In Svalbard I will be reuniting myself with Mike and Howard, my skis; sit outside in my thermals until hypothermia sets in so I can remind myself what it feels like; I will be putting up and taking down the tent in the dark, possibly in a snow storm and attempting to keep a clear head and remember exactly how many tent pegs are going into the ground. I will be partaking in a search and rescue exercise, walking into the Greenland Sea once more and learning about how to recognise different ice – how to travel across it and the use of different equipment on the floe-edge. First Aid and Arctic medicine will be back on the training menu, as well as route finding, navigation and the orchestration of Arctic evacuation. It’s going to be a busy 8 days, but one that I am very much looking forward to.

The weather is dipping between -5’c and -20’c at the moment, but with an arctic wind, that will drop further.

I am looking forward to seeing the old miner of Longyearbyen who sits in the centre of the town, waiting patiently for the sun to shine upon him once more.

My kit is ready, my mind is ready, I am excited, I just need to find my head torch.

For an exciting view of the town see here.

 

A mixed month

It’s been a mixed month in the world of Ice Warrior, and it’s not even over yet.

The start of the month was spent in Somerset, dragging tyres over tufted grass, up over hills and through muddy lanes. It took 2 hours to drag Rocky and Sylvester (my tyres) 4 miles. It was challenging to say the least. In London I can generally drag Rocky and Sylvester 3 miles an hour, but the hills and the grass was a struggle. Every bump and rock was slowing me down; pulling the tyres over grass was like wading through treacle. Every part of my body was working – and it was working hard. The 4 mile loop that I usually run, felt slow, harrowing and made me get the hunger like never before. My parents dog ‘Tom Tom’ the spaniel came with me too – he didn’t like my slow pace. He had a look on his face of ‘will you hurry up please, I’ve rabbits to catch’.

I was pleased when the session was finished and pleased that I had pushed myself through the walk. Training needs to be tough, so that when it’s tough on the ice, I am mentally prepared.

The next day in Somerset I went clay pigeon shooting to attempt to make myself familiar with a rifle. I hate guns and the last time I had one in my hand at a shooting range, I cried. I am scared of them; I hate the noise of them. They have caused so many unnecessary deaths and injuries … I guess it’s not the guns fault, it’s the user!

My dad’s friend is a dab hand with a rifle (for shooting clays and the occasional mammal) so I went with him to practice. I held the rifle like a scared child whilst I was being informed what not to do, what I should do and what to expect when it goes off. The first clay released from the trap, I shot the rifle and closed my eyes. This caused some amusement. After several practice shots and attempts to follow the clay into the air, I managed to shoot a few and keep my eyes open. I didn’t like it, but I felt more comfortable with the rifle in my hands. Clays were placed on the ground which I also shot. An hour and a half later, I wasn’t a quivering wreck; I didn’t feel like my heart was about to pop out of my chest and although still not entirely at ease with the rifle, I did feel better and more competent. I still need more practice, but it’s progression from my day in Svalbard crying whenever anyone let a bullet fly out the gun.

I’ve been really pleased with my fitness training over the past month (and few months for that matter); Steph at BootcampSE16 is working with me to strengthen my hips and glutes; to compliment my tyre dragging. I am also doing lots of upper body work 2-3 times a week, training chest, back and arms which has been great fun. I also ran a half marathon after work last week. It’s all go and I have muscles 🙂

This week took a different direction: the decision was made to postpone the expedition until 2016. This will allow us to use 2015 to complete some crucial preparation and to maximise the communication benefit for sponsors i.e. build a proper campaign around what we are doing. This will also allow us to work with Ocean Outdoor to add a high impact digital outdoor campaign to the opportunity…. which will hopefully get us more coverage and interest in what we are doing. The main benefit of having an extra year is to work on the science. Bjorn is doing a great job at linking our efforts across the world; we have China, Russia, USA, France, UK and Canada involved at the moment. I think another year will make this expedition bigger and better, although at the moment, I just want to get out on the ice!

I’ve no idea what the rest of the month will hold, but as I’ve 21 days to go, it could lead me anywhere…

Til soon 🙂

TYREing

This weekend I was consumed by training …. And tyres.

Friday night I did my tyre drills at Stave Hill. Pulling Beast 1 and Beast 2 along was tough work; sprinting with two tyres attached, pulling me backwards was nearly causing me to grunt. I am ok at the short distance using explosive energy, but sprinting with two tyres attached over a long distance was hurting … a lot! Sprints were followed by drags, tricep dips, back raises, press ups and ice skaters. After 1 hour and 20 minutes I dragged the tyres home.

Saturday morning I pulled my trusty tyres 1.7 miles in 40 minutes with Steph of Bootcamp SE16. “Lisa, you are doing a 25 minutes mile” sent shivers through me. Usually, when running I’m doing between 7 and 8 minute miles. I did realise that I need to start pulling the tyres to work … I just need to find a suitable storage location, as I’m pretty sure facilities would ban me from the building if I pulled two tyres across their nice clean floor every day.

Saturday afternoon, I did kettle bells …

Sunday, I went to Oxford with the team for a visit to The Athletes Centre. They put us through our paces to see what we need to work on. Hip flexor, core strength and glutes are my priority. I managed to push 110kg through the use of a prowler, which I was pleased with. I also made an attempt to flip a tyre. It was no ordinary tyre, it was over 200kg. All the guys managed it … the females of the team did not, but we enjoyed trying!

Pinky and Perky

On Saturday I went to see Steph of Bootcamp SE16 with Pinky and Perky. Steph traded Pinky and Perky for Beast 1 and Beast 2. After the trade we commenced tyre training. Pulling and yanking the tyres was a quick realisation of the hard work I have ahead of me. In the Arctic I will be pulling my own body weight across the frozen arctic sea. It’s going to be damn tough.

Saying that I can’t wait for more tyre action. I shall drag, pull, lift and jump over those tyres until I am as fit as a fiddle.

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Thank you Nordic Walking UK

I’d like to say a big THANKS to Gill at Nordic Walking UK for her support with the last pole expedition. Nordic Walking UK and the very tasty Finn Crisps have donated me my very own carbon walking poles, hat, training top, book, tuition and a box of Finn crisps to gear me up for my Arctic trek. Walking with poles is great but walking with poles Nordic style is better!

The position of the poles emulates the same position of my ski poles and as such will help build upper arm strength ready to drag / pull my own body weight across the ice with my qajaq.

This weekend I will be Nordic walking to the Thames Barrier with my partner in crime, Arctic Andy. I’ll let you know how I get on and feel afterwards.

Check out the Nordic Walking UK site http://nordicwalking.co.uk