Archive for the ‘English’ Category

It has been a difficult few weeks for me in terms of aches and pains. The first problem occurred about a month or so ago – I was going for a 15km run at a gentle pace and felt a pain in my calf muscle. I kept running, thinking it was cramp and that I could run it off. Big mistake as it turned into out to be a partial tear of the muscle, which ruled me out of a 6km race I had entered into. I’m no doctor, but the pain felt pretty much like it was in the location in the image – after the tear, it felt like there was a bit of a lump and redness there, I guess because of slight internal bleeding from the injury. The problem was exacerbated when, after the pain had died down a bit, I tried going for a run again and pushed myself a bit to far too soon… It can be very frustrating not being able to exercise properly.

Fortunately the muscle recovered in time for the last half marathon in Rio, but it is still a good reminder about how we need to be careful with our bodies and pushing ourselves too much too soon. After the half marathon almost two weeks ago now, my leg muscles were naturally tired, though just tired rather than any aggravated injury… the problem this time, however, being in my left foot which has been painful to walk on since the race, with the pain on the outside. It felt like a pain in the bone rather than any muscles. It seems completely better now, which is nice, so will need to see how it goes – not sure how/why it happened: the running shoes I wore were the same as the previous race (and gave no problems) and in which I have been training, and this is the first time such an injury has occurred.

Back to the gym this last week, but definitely no impact sports like running while the foot is like this. From tonight  we will be in the water for a week on the tropical beaches of Fortaleza, kite surfing so that should also be good as well as definitely not much impact in that! Swimming in the sea should be good as well for general fitness (so nope, not really a holiday though the location will be great!).

Sir Ranulph Fiennes, often called the world’s greatest living explorer… what an inspiration! I can’t believe that it has taken me so long to finally finish reading the book (I kept on getting distracted, but that wasn’t fault of the book, because when you are reading it, it is not easy to put down… just reading on São Paulo buses isn’t so easy!), though I will probably re-read it just to jot down more notes about everything…! Thanks to my sister Lesley for giving it to me as a present!

His autobiography, details his adventures from early ages, in the army, the Poles… seven marathons in seven continents in seven days; learning how to climb mountains (at over 60 years old and after having had a heart attack) in order to face his vertigo; his first attempt at Everest and his climb up the north face of the Eiger… cutting off his own frost-bitten fingers… In a word… wow!

The autobiography is honest: He gives fantastic insight into the life of adventuring around the world, what has driven him, and what it takes, not just to succeed but also to admit defeat when you are so close to your goal. He shows himself to be critical of himself and others in appraisals and very much self-deprecating. I might not necessarily agree with some of his opinions about some of the legendary polar explorers in history, but still the stories that he tells throughout the book are pretty gripping and told in a good no-nonsense style.

I think this book is essential reading for any potential explorer and anybody who wants to get inspired by ideas or journeys that are seemingly impossible. Indeed, as Sir Ranulph shows in the book, “impossible” is pretty much defined by our own minds and imagination.

The Niteroi bridge

The Niteroi Bridge and the route we were to take – Photo: Lourenço Alcimar

Back from another half marathon in Rio de Janeiro, my second such race, but this time going from Niteroi, over a 13km bridge, to Flamengo beach. A steady up-hill over the main hump of the bridge for the first few kilometers, and then just about downhill or flat from then on… more or less (there were occasional slight upward slopes that helped make things harder, especially towards the end when you think that the hard parts are over with)!

View over the bay

Looking over the bay from Niteroi to Rio de Janeiro Photo: Lourenço Alcimar

Altogether it was pretty different from the previous course which was straight along the beach for 17km before having a devilish uphill for a kilometer or so before going down to the finish. This time we had splendid views over the bay and it was neither too hot nor too cold, and altogether quite enjoyable as well as pretty unique. With this uniqueness comes the popularity – around 8,000 athletes joined the race, about twice as many as the previous one I was in.

My time last time was 1h54m59s and this race, with a bit more training (which was admittedly interrupted for a little while by my pulling a calf muscle and then re-pulling it when I tried to run too fast too soon), I managed to reduce this time to 1h50m31s. So I was pleased.  I am suffering a bit as I write now – my right knee hurts (just below the knee to be precise), and the outer side of my left foot is not great, so am hobbling a bit and it wasn’t nice getting up this morning!

Also, at the same time as being pleased for beating my previous time, I was slightly disappointed: my pace for every kilometer up to 19km was between 4m41s per kilometer and 5m26s/km and I was pretty much dead-on completing it in 1h46m… In the last two and a bit kilometres, however, my body faltered and my pace reduced quite a bit to around 6mins/km. From then it was all psychological and pushing myself to get to the end.

But still, I suppose this can be my next goal for the Porto Alegre half marathon which happens at the end of June. It looks to be a hillier course for that race, however, so it might be tougher, but hopefully it should go alright.

Medal ceremony with Lourenço! Photo: Lourenço Alcimar

Medal ceremony with Lourenço! Photo: Lourenço Alcimar

Cutting expenses

Posted: May 17, 2013 by Ben Weber in English
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Neither Natalia nor myself are particularly wealthy, so financing everything we are doing is not easy. For Brazil, we do reasonably well – definitely firmly there in the middle (maybe upper middle, but a long way off the elite classes here as they just earn ridiculous amounts!). In São Paulo, if we didn’t have the project to finance, we would be able to do just about everything we would like to do for a normal life; cinema, restaurants, night-outs, internet, TV etc etc etc. I obviously can’t complain and am not complaining at all, so please don’t take it like that…!

For the project, however, we are talking about considerable investments – soon we will be starting work with a PR company to boost the presence of the project in the media (yes, we need attention!). PR isn’t cheap, either, no matter where you are in the world. We need to buy equipment that isn’t cheap (take a look at Ozone Frenzy kites and then remember that we will need five each for the overall journey, with different sizes used in different strengths of wind…) even one 6m storm kite is expensive at just under 900 pounds (r$ 3000)… cross country skiis (with wooden cores and metal edges) and bindings; boots; special harnesses for kites and sled-pulling; cold-weather clothing and equipment; the actual sleds themselves… a lot of stuff… and then finance the training projects, none of which are cheap.

So we have to cut down on our little luxuries in order to make things balance or at least manageable.

We are using a free application called Yupee to help us work out where we can reduce our expenses and just inputting in our normal monthly expenditure and it is incredible how much we spend at the supermarket…..! We live right next to a 24hour Pão de Açucar – one of the more expensive supermarkets in São Paulo… so we want to decrease spending on this by about half. Lunch time at the office during the week… I work on Avenida Berrini, and most of the places to eat there are all expensive, so more lunches at the office. Reducing costs like these will definitely help, plus just controlling ourselves when we have the urge to succumb to our somewhat materialistic natures and urges that have been pushed away over the last months though every now and then resurface… self-control is a must and not giving in to temptation is essential!

Dare you to walk over to that ridge...

It has been a good year and a half since we officially started working to this project; a good couple of years or more since we came up with the ideas. A lot of things have happened and a lot of things will still be done. It goes without saying that without  sponsorship, the more ambitious parts of the projects, the Poles, will simply not be possible – the whole logistics of these parts would be prohibitively expensive. But, in cutting down our daily expenses on little luxuries; spending less money going to restaurants, more time training and building the project, we have been able to do a lot more than we ever could have imagined that we would do prior to committing ourselves to this, and we still will be able to do a lot more.

Riding through the snowWorse case scenario and it doesn’t work out (yes it’s a worry!), we still will have opened up a completely new world of adventure and sports that we wouldn’t have done otherwise. If we hadn’t committed ourselves to this… goodness knows what we would be doing, but am pretty sure that we would not have gone mountaineering in Bolivia, and am pretty certain we would not have ridden from Land’s End to John O’Groats in winter. We probably wouldn’t be going to the gym and be in anywhere as near as good health as we are today, and I doubt that we would be entering into the various races we are going into now. We probably would be just working away, content but not happy with everything, in a standard city life somewhere, wondering what wasn’t quite right.

But fortunately we did come up with this whole mad-cap crazy project, and the world that has been opened to us is incredible. So much to do! Kite surfing (training for the polar training) in June… (hopefully) a two-week adventure race in Chile in February 2014, to be swiftly followed by our polar training at Baffin Island for a few weeks in February-March 2014… followed by either another mountaineering expedition or a traverse of the Greenland ice-cap (something that no Brazilian woman has ever done, as far as I have seen, so Natalia will be the first!)… exciting stuff! And then off… in August 2014.

The question is, do we wait a year longer if we can’t get sponsorship, or just go anyway on a round-the-world bike ride…? that is a good question and one that I do not yet know how to answer.

Arroz integral com cogumelos, hamburguer de salmão e gergelim e salada de folhas com ovo de codorna

Arroz integral com cogumelos, hamburguer de salmão e gergelim e salada de folhas com ovo de codorna

Well, aside from the physical training, we have still been seeing our nutritionist, Isabella Alencar, regularly to discuss our food and progress with everything. We need to do some regular blood tests, just to see the levels of the various vitamins, cholesteral and everything – everything was good last time, though just to make sure that everything has stayed good and even, hopefully, improved.

Peito de Frango assado com Cenouras, Brocolis Refogado e Cuzcuz Marroquino Com Limão

Peito de Frango assado com Cenouras, Brocolis Refogado e Cuzcuz Marroquino Com Limão

Poor Natalia has, however, had to go on a diet for the next few weeks – she is into her third week of ten – to lose about 5kg. She is in good form, but Isabella and our personal trainer, Alercinho, think that it will help in all round performance. In the morning she has to drink a protein shake plus a slice of toast with something like cottage cheese. For lunch and dinner, it doesn’t mean that she has to avoid any particular foods – she just has to be limited. For these meals she can have two soup-spoons worth of carbs like rice, cuscus or pasta; two small pieces of chicken or beef or other protein; three soup spoons of vegetables, and salad. It is good because we have been eating pretty nice and varied meals after the gym in the evening.

As for me, I have to go back to a lactose-free diet for at least a month – basically there are suspicions that I have an intolerance to milk products, so no cheese, yoghurt, milk, milk chocolate or anything like that for me… shame because that pretty much covers all of my favorite foods! Have done this once before and it wasn’t too hard once I got into it… it’s just the thought of missing all these things which isn’t great! But I gotta do what I gotta do..!

Since the end of our last training project, riding from Land’s End to John O’Groats in the British winter, we have settled back into Brazil, something that has been much harder than it does sound (I know, that sounds silly… settling back in Brazil… how hard can it be to settle back into such a wonderful country..?!). It has been over three months since we got back, but it is still a bit difficult.

Sao Paulo Metro rush hour

The daily rush on the São Paulo metro system… and this is a good day.

Well the first thing is that we are back in the daily grind of the work place, earning our salaries to try to pay for all the training projects that we are still yet to do and all the equipment that we need; going through the São Paulo traffic can make life hell for the commuter – going to work by bus in the morning can take 40 minutes (at night, 30 minutes)… if you are lucky. This morning, like many other mornings, it took two hours. The alternative is metro, where in the rush hour, the stations and trains seem to be operating massively over capacity, and it isn’t fun.

Coming through the snow - beautiful but tricky conditions

Coming through the snow – beautiful but tricky conditions

The second thing is that, though it might sound crazy, riding that challenging route in the UK, even in the middle of winter, was simply a massive amount of fun as well as nice and challenging: every day, we had our goals – we needed to get to our next place in accordance with our schedule; trying to get there before dark; every day different challenges… The first day, absolutely miserable weather, cold, windy and raining cats and dogs… arriving at our host’s house completely soaked, like drowned rats; the next day, nicer, cooler, fresher… until we got over Dartmoor, when the weather closed in before we went down to Exeter… every day was different…  snowy days, icy days, fresh days, wet days and the gale force winds on our last day. Every family with whom we stayed was fantastic, welcoming, interesting and incredibly helpful. The HD with the photos and the videos of the journey may have been lost, but it is hard to imagine any of these memories fading.  I guess the adrenalin of doing all of that really was much higher than it is with us now back in São Paulo… back in this concrete jungle.

So back to São Paulo where we have had to think and prepare for our next training projects, and keep developing our fitness and skills to make sure that we are in as good a shape possible for the kite training; the polar training and a number of other projects that we want to complete before embarking on the actual expedition. For me, the mini-projects like the half marathons help to keep me sane as they give additional goals to keep going in the short-term, but the daily training at the gym and with our personal trainer, Alercinho, with the functional training, is absolutely essential.

Time is flying – it is unbelievable that we are in May already… almost half way through the year… almost a year before we should leave. There aren’t enough days in the week to be able to do everything we want and need to do, though at the same time, being here rather than on the road, just keeping to regular training schedules… is hard. I mentioned in my previous post that I missed the mountains. I miss the UK as well. I miss being out and on the road, and really can’t wait till we get out of São Paulo for the next project.

Around the world… the hard way…

Rob Lilwall - Cycling Home from Siberia

Finished off reading another book the other day, this time by Rob Lilwall, Cycling Home from Siberia, and it was a pretty enjoyable read about a great journey.

Rob was a Geography teacher in England and decided to leave his job to go with his friend Al Humphries (who was on a round-the-world cycle journey) from the far east of Russia back to the UK, via Japan… though it ended up, for Rob at least, going over 30,000 miles through Korea, China, Papua New Guinea, Australia, China (again) and Tibet, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan…. to name but a few of the places! So quite an epic journey, and one that would take Rob a good three years to complete.

Rob's RouteAlong his journey he would face bitter and freezing temperatures and winds, jungles; highly dangerous and life threatening situations in some of the most hostile countries in the world; malaria… though at the same time, he shows how he met so many remarkable and fantastic people who would help him on his journey and show massive generosity to him so as to be of help. He even met his future wife along the route! While showing this, Rob also explores more into the spiritual side of things, particularly with his Christian beliefs, and it his interesting seeing his take on the various different religions that dominate the different countries he goes through. The way he respected and was open to learning about other beliefs – Islam, Buddhism, Orthodox Christianity, among others along the way, was also extremely interesting, especially as some of these subjects can be so sensitive these days.

The way that Rob just left everything behind to do this journey certainly attracted my attention – not even with any sponsorship; just life savings, and it’s quite inspirational in many senses. For anyone who is afraid of travelling around on a budget, the book is an eye-opener… he managed the three years on a total budget of about $18,500 (though his friend Al went around the world on about $11,000). He would camp and stay with people he met along the route and people he met through charities and organizations. Even in the most hostile of places, he was able to get support.

So yup, I would recommend this, even if you are not planning on going on a long distance bike ride like this – and who knows, by reading it, it might awaken ideas in you that might see you take off and get to know the world in ways you had never dreamed!

Aside from the book, check out Rob’s blog, – since completing his journey he has also been on a few other adventures including walking home 5,000km from Mongolia to Hong Kong. He has also a television series for Nat Geo Adventure and you can find on YouTube 0 definitely worth checking out!

Well, as I mentioned one or two times, we suffered a bit of a disaster with the hard drive and a CF disk containing all the raw video and photos from the LEJOG ride. Well, the disaster is now  official in that the data recovery company have come back to us and said that both are too damaged to retrieve anything from. So 300GB of data is now officially lost.

Painful and quite traumatic to be honest.

Oh well. I guess moving on, there have been lessons learned. Also, at least we managed to post a few pictures from the ride on to the site. And I guess we will always have the memories of it to go with us. Jeez! This is feeling like a funeral and to be honest I do feel like crying! Trying to look on the bright side – if this happening now means it doesn’t happen during the expedition itself, then I suppose there is some sort of silver lining.

One of my favorite pictures that survived (at least the smaller jpg as opposed to the RAW image)

Exhausted medal ceremony

Made it!!!

Sunday was the Rio Half Marathon – 21km of running along the beautiful beaches of Rio, from Recreio and through the Barra da Tijuca region to São Conrado. I was slightly nervous as my training has been less than ideal for a running event like this. As I mentioned in the last post, I had run a 15km at the end of the year with the 15km São Silvestre in São Paulo, but relatively little running since then. The only thing I had going for me was a good level of general fitness from the Casa de Pedra gym and climbing training, and the LEJOG cycle ride, though not training specific for running.

Getting ready to run!

Getting ready to run!

My time for the São Silvestre was 1h25mins – about 10.5km per hour. If I managed to keep the same speed, I would manage to complete the Rio event in two hours, so that was my goal. I figured that as the Rio race was almost completely flat – with just one “hill” after 17km – I could do it slightly quicker if things went well; the São Silvestre went up and down plenty of hills in São Paulo, so more challenging in that respect.

First thing was first, it was good to be in Rio again and away from São Paulo, though this was my first time in Barra da Tijuca – I stayed in a hostel in the central area, near Novo Leblon, called Adepta hostel – a fantastic price of r$88 (about US$ 40) for a night – pretty low for Rio, especially in the wealthy area of Barra. And it was a great place – very safe neighbourhood, very quite, and near plenty of places to eat and relax. Definitely would recommend it. A couple of runners from São Paulo stayed there as well – they arrived at the same time as me – and it was good to wander around with them. The taxi driver taking us there was slightly crazy and dodgy though – he almost crashed in to the back of a car stopped at a red traffic light and braked and swerved at the last-minute, before going straight through the light. He blamed the driver of the other car for having stopped, complaining that he didn’t need to stop for pedestrians…. I was happy to get out. Aside from this, however, Barra was very nice – extremely different from the main southern and central zones of Rio – it was almost like a different city entirely

The day of the race… 7am was the start time, so we got there at 6am. Light warm ups and stretches; a bit more water… psyching ourselves up for the race with music playing loudly in a party-like atmosphere at the start… trying to make the legs feel slightly less heavy… and at 7am, off we went.

En RouteThe first minute was spent shuffling along with the peloton to the starting line – there were 3,000 runners and I was somewhere in the front-middle. The music soon faded away, and it was just the sound of our footsteps on the tarmac and the waves. While at the São Silvestre it seemed like the entire city was out watching the race and cheering everyone on, here the event was much less popular, and only a few early-morning drinkers and surfers were watching – probably more bemused than anything else. My legs felt heavy still for the first ten minutes but I was able to establish a nice rhythm of about 5m24s per kilometre and felt good after those initial minutes.

There were water points every three kilometres and I was grateful for every one of them. I would take in general two cups of water and a gulp of Gatorade at each point – one cup to pour over my head and cool me down, and one to drink for hydration. Definitely helped as it was 25C so pretty warm. I had a couple of “Gu” energy sachets, which were fantastic – I took one after 8km and the other after 15km. I prefer the taste of Blocks, but Blocks are more solid, so harder to eat when running, where Gu is what the description says… Gu-ey! So easy to eat and swallow.

I managed to keep up the rhythm for the first 17km or so, up to the main uphill. I was pleased that I managed to beat my 15km São Silvestre time by about six minutes, reaching that point at 79mins. At the uphill, though, I felt my pace dropping a little and then it turned more into a mental battle with myself. It would have been easy to slow down or maybe just have walked a little, but I refused to let myself and had to push myself forward. Am pretty sure that had I done more training, it would have helped a lot here. After the hill, it was okay again, until the final kilometre, or, to be more precise, the final 800 metres…

At that point I could see as sign saying “500 metres” to go… then a bit ahead “400 metres”.. etc… I had been quite happy with just kilometre markers before this, so the time it took me to go every one of those last few hundred metres seemed to take forever; it was like some twisted form of torture!! I am sure they did it for good reasons, to encourage people those last few hundred metres, but for me… well, I was glad to cross the line! And I was elated to have completed my first half marathon!

My final time… 1 hour, 54 minutes, 59 seconds!

Definitely extremely pleased with myself for this, and confident that I will be able to do better next time: Porto Alegre in little over 82 days on 30 June. Check the website of the organisers – if you are around, give me a shout!

(Final note… Aside from the photos from Asics, I didn’t take many pictures from Rio this time, so have included a few from last time I went – such a great city!)

Rio Half Marathon

This Sunday I will be running in the Rio half marathon… slightly nervous really as I have never run this far before, and am not sure about my capacity to do it well. With a bit of a flu the last week or so, I haven’t been able to train as much as I would have liked to. I know we completed the LEJOG a few weeks ago, but cycling is very different from running especially as cycling is a non-impact sport, whereas running is… well, very much impact!

São Silvestre - Paulista

The São Silvestre run in São Paulo – slightly shorter at 15km, but a few more hills…

In the São Silvestre at the end of 2012, it was a lot of fun, a nice route up and down through São Paulo with a great long up hill at the end. The Rio half marathon am sure will be beautiful – running along the coast of the city from Barra da Tijuca through to São Conrado. Pretty much completely flat except for a couple of small hills towards the end, so it doesn’t look the hardest course in the world. I guess the biggest problem will be the heat, though it is starting at 7am so it should be around 25C or so. Hot enough, but not blistering… hopefully!I managed a few seconds over 85 minutes over the 15km of the São Silvestre, which averages out at around 10.5km per hour, so if I manage something similar or just a little bit slower than this, then I will be happy. I guess that doing it in two hours would be pretty respectable, but let’s see. As I say, maybe confidence isn’t as high as it should be!

Off to Rio tonight by bus – it’s a good 6 hour ride and there, so it’s the midnight bus (one of the great things about Brazil are the inter-city buses – pop on a “Leito” from São Paulo to Rio and you will be in chairs that go back almost 90 degrees; pick up the kit from a place (somewhere!) in Rio and then just relax before the main event. I suppose I can’t complain; Rio for a weekend won’t be bad!

A view over Rio from the Corcovado - lovely city!

A view over Rio from the Corcovado – lovely city!

Banks of the River Ness

While waiting for the hard drive and the CF disk to be recovered (with the tecnicians now!! Hopefully should only need one more week or so to come back… hopefully they manage to get all the data!), I remembered that we had a few photos from Inverness that we took on a spare CF disk. I think I talked a bit about Inverness when we were going up through it, but this time we were coming down from the Orkney Islands, where we had met up with my mother.

Going back down south to Inverness from Thurso after we left the Orkney ferry, we took the bus rather than the train, though we would get a sleeper train down to London. It meant there was a bit of a hassle as we had to put the bikes into boxes to be able to put them into the bus – they wouldn’t let us take them otherwise, so we had to dismantle them and get them in one piece, and then reassemble them in Inverness to get to the train station.

Views back over the hills we had gone through and the coast we had cycled along. Very different going back down south by bus.

Views back over the hills we had gone through and the coast we had cycled along. Very different going back down south by bus.

The good thing about going by bus, however, was that we got to see over the route we had taken. The bus driver was crazy and was going pretty fast along the roads which seemed much narrower being in the bus than when were on the bikes – both Natalia and I looked at each other, thinking that we both must have been nuts to be going along that road with drivers like this! And am sure that this particular driver must have passed us a couple of times when we had been riding as the service from Thurso to Inverness was quite frequent. It was nice though – the two-and-a-bit day ride that we had taken from Inverness compressed into a four hour bus journey. This time we were able to sit down and relax, and enjoy the views as we went.

In Inverness we had a good seven hours or so to wait before the train, so plenty of time to put everything together, leave everything at the left luggage point in the station, have a nice long drawn-out lunch (at Zizzi again, where we had eaten on the stop-over coming up – as I say, definitely liked that place a lot), and then a stroll along the river. We could see mountains in the distance, mountains we had been and sweated through. It seemed a bit strange not having to ride any more, and the journey really was coming to an end with just a couple more days or so before going back to São Paulo. Both of us felt like we were in shape to continue for another couple of thousand miles or so, and I don’t think either of us really wanted it to stop and go home. So we sat down in evening on the sleeper train to London, much as we were pleased with ourselves for doing it, it seemed slightly anti-climatic… here we were going back down to London, and it will be a long time before we do anything like this again… Admittedly, the next time will over considerably longer distances and the challenges there will be fantastic, but all we could think about was that it would have been nice to have been able to keep going.

Hoje finalmente estreia o Entre Papos e Panelas, um programete semanal que teremos aqui no site.

A Dra. Isabella Alencar – nossa nutricionista funcional – comandará as facas e panelas da nossa cozinha para ensinar receitas super práticas, saudáveis e que certamente ajudará na nossa – e porque não sua – performance esportiva.

E por falar em performance nada mais justo que a primeira receita seja daquela que é adorada pela maioria dos atletas de alta performance: a batata-doce.O baixo índice glicêmico dela nos permite ter energia por mais tempo durante a atividade esportiva!

Abaixo uma lista de benefícios sobre esse tubérculo só lembrado nas nossas mesas durante as festas juninas:

  • Fonte de carboidratos, fibras;
  •  Rica em vitaminas do complexo B e sais minerais, como cálcio, ferro, potássio e fósforo.
  •  Regula o sistema nervoso e Digestivo;
  •  Previne a hipertensão;

Cada 100g de batata doce tem em média 116 calorias – 1,16g de proteínas, 30,10g de carboidratos e 0,32g de lipídios.

Conquering the Impossible / English / Français / Deutsch / 日本

Mike Horn’s journey around the Arctic Circle is truly inspirational and his book Conquering the Impossible, the story of this 12,000 mile (around 18,000km) journey is superb. Even if one doesn’t have plans of going to the North Pole, I would definitely recommend reading this.

Mike, with relatively little experience in the Arctic environment, set about in 2002 on this journey that would take him 27 months to complete; sailing against currents and winds to get to Greenland; going through the permanent pitch black night of the Arctic winter in northern Canada, struggling through temperatures reaching as low as -68C (-92F)(!!), coming face to face with polar bears and, in the summer, grizzly bears; falling into freezing water; losing control of his kite and being dragged  miles due to the speed it was going; worked his way through a massive amount of Russian bureaucracy and finally making it across Siberia (a large part through winter)… At the same time as this, meeting a vast array of generous and fantastic people who helped him on his way. Mike really reached the limits of what an adventure explorer could face., motivated himself to get past these boundaries and go through the environments in the winter, which nobody had gone before – for the simple reason that they would die. Incredible.

With our own plans of this expedition, reading about Mike’s journey is first of all very educational and then also extremely encouraging. The sponsorship; the equipment used, the plans made, the thought processes behind decisions, all interesting to see and useful for us to take into consideration. Though we will have our polar training in just less than a year, it was fascinating reading about Mike’s experiences with polar bears, and the understanding and experiences he gained through speaking with Inuit peoples and then face-to-face with them. He talked about how you can tell what mood the bear is in by just looking at the tracks; how wide they are and what angles they are going in – essential in being able to gauge how to react to it if you were to actually come close to it… the details he provides of his adventures throughout the book make for a really riveting read.

All extremely absorbing and keep the pages flicking by, and I would highly recommend it!