4 days, 4 different disciplines. An enchanting, extraordinary, yet brutal event.
Life is what you make it, its events like this that you meet like minded, incredible people that all come with their own story, their own journey and their own reasons for doing something different. That’s what I love, it’s these people that change your outlook, they change your world.
I had no idea what to expect, I had never ski toured, fat biked or cross country skied before…let alone run a marathon!! Yet, armed with 1 hours coaching in each discipline, I was about to embark on one of the most incredible journeys of my life so far. My blog won’t do this event justice, as it would need something more like a book to even begin to touch the surface.
I’ll hold my hands up and tell you right now, I am not that competent at alpine skiing. I mean I can ski down, but I’m no speed demon. So touring skiing already came with a challenge. The countdown begun 5,4,3…run to your skis’ and ski down to the bottom. All sounds quite simple, bar I couldn’t get one ski on! After I’d faffed around with that and made it to the bottom it was time to ‘skin up’. For those of you not familiar with touring skiing, it’s in effect a slightly longer ski than a standard alpine ski, with different bindings that allow your heel to be released and you have skins which stick onto the bottom to allow you to walk in your skis uphill without sliding backwards. You remove the skins and lock your heel down when you are descending. Once skinned up, we in effect summited two mountain peaks, skied down, skinned back up and headed for the finish line. It was a long and warm day, I was in a t-shirt within 30 minutes of climbing up. I took one stop off with the doctor to sort some blisters out and continued on. To say we looked like Brits abroad is somewhat of an understatement…ski touring in a ski resort where there are lifts to the top, certainly made some people look at us in a weird way. To the point one gentleman stopped me and asked what we were doing and if we were all British…I say no more.
It was a baptism of fire, but so incredible at the same time. Each night we camped in traditional Norwegian Lavvu Tents. They are similar to a teepee, but with a log burner which was always welcome after a long day when the sun was setting and the temperature dropping. Not to mention seeing the northern lights right after camp had been set up.
The second day brought the fatbike, a mountain bike with wider tyres for better traction. Although this day seemed to go on forever, it was hands down my favourite stage. Like all the stages, I never really knew how long it would take and low and behold on this stage I ran out of food and water with around 9 kilometres to go. This stage involved me throwing myself over my handlebars on multiple occasions, skidding round and falling into knee deep snow and not to mention a Norwegian’s idea of flat…which basically means not a mountain, but anything from a steep hill to a small incline. My eyes were starting to shut on this stage and superstar Rosabee turned up just in time with some welcomed fruit gums…even if they were stuffed down her sports bra I was not going to say no. By the end of this stage, my back and neck were pretty painful after being sat in a position my body was just not used to. But physio Mark came to the rescue and by the final day my neck was far from the issue.
That evening, it was time to go husky sledging and wow it was incredible. Driving a sled with 7 huskies was just the most surreal experience, these dogs are absolute machines and watching them work together is somewhat inspiring…they were also the nosiest dogs I’ve ever been around when they were stationary. All they wanted to do was get going and if you held the brake on for too long, one of them always looked around as if to say ‘amateur, what are you doing?’. Little did I know, that evening would be the calm before the storm.
The third day arrived, cross country skiing. Even in our one hours coaching session on pretty flat terrain, it was quite apparent to me that there was a lot of skill involved to be efficient in this discipline. When we got to the start line, I looked out at the horizon…this was no beginner course. Fall after fall, shuffling along and my frustration was becoming greater and greater. This stage I had no love for, mainly because I couldn’t cross country ski. The only saving grace was the most spectacular scenery, which I only noticed when I actually stopped to look around and wasn’t hell bent on just trying to stay on my skies! I soon succumbed to running down the descents, shuffling on the flats and herringboning on the climbs. Once again I think I probably looked like a Brit abroad, but the aim was to finish it and finish it I did.
The final day arrived and it was the stage I had dreaded the most…the run. I think its safe to say, that the most I had ran was about 12 miles, certainly not 26.2 and certainly not on ice and snow. Saying all that, I found myself quite enjoying it and continued to plod along…I’m not a fast runner by any stretch of the imagination, but I can plod and plod I did. Even with a problem with my achilles, which meant limping for over 8 kilometres, nothing was going to stop me from completing this challenge. For me the run was the most emotional stage, there was one person on my mind, the one person that I set Inspirational Friends up for in the first place. Elle is a massive part of my journey and will continue to be in every challenge I undertake. Finishing N60 meant so much to me, it was a massive mental test that undoubtedly made me stronger. It forged new friendships and a bond with many that will never be forgotten. I am certainly not an elite athlete and I still stand by my words from the Atlantic row ‘if it’s something you want to do…go and do it!’
This is not the end of Inspirational Friends, because new friends come along and inspire you to do more. Which is exactly what happened with this trip, I met some of the most amazing people who were all very modest. This December I am more than excited to be going back out for a second attempt of rowing across the Atlantic with Harriet and I truly hope that as Inspirational Friends grows, we inspire people to go out and do the things they never thought they would get the chance to do. Life’s for living, get out there and live it!
For further information about the event, check out IGO Adventures