Friday, December 9, 2011

Day 17: Back at work, and a day of 'everything'....

85:37.235S 82:18.002W

Elevation: 1470 metres

Under 500km to go: 487, to be exact!

After the variety and excitement of yesterday, I had sort of prepared myself for getting back to the harsh realities of pounding my way direct to the Pole! The rigours of the 2hr, 1.5hr, 1.5hr, 1.5hr, 1.5hr, 1hr, 1hr (last hour optional!) the much-looked-forward-to but bitterly cold 10-minute breaks spent huddled behind my sled, and then the 'getting started again' process, putting skis, and backpack back on, and starting the warm-up process. It's a full-on routine that varies depending only on the weather, terrrain, and what layers of clothing I have on.

It may seem mindless, but it requires focus, concentration and a good sense of understanding of one's body and how it deals with the cold.

When all goes well, and everything is in tune, I lapse into this form of trance, where my focus moves automatically between the compass, a distant sastrugi 'beacon', and a point 1-2 metres on the ice infront of me. These three sources of information are scanned subconsciously, processed and micro adjustments made to course, weight bias and foot movement so I effortlesly cross the uneven terrain, but in a line as straight as an arrow, on the desired compass course, and as fast as possible....! I'm on autopilot, and at one with the environment, my mind is sort of void, but flipping through non conceptual things, often bringing up thoughts about you guys... but all nice and peaceful... In this space, the kilometres fly by, time is irrelevant, at the break when I look back the sled tracks are straight as an arrow disappearing into the rear horizzon, and the GPS confirms that the course and speed were 'perfect'!

My brother-in-law, Bob, a respected sports psychologist, who makes quite a few comments on the blog, would say, "I'm in the zone". This is the place I desire to be in, for the 10 marching hours of the day, but it's not always easy...

So much out here contributes to being able to get in this zone. Being too hot or too cold makes it impossible, lots of sastrugi obstacles, calorie stores, equipment / clothing issues / irritations, and maybe most importantly my frame of mind, are the main doors / barriers to entering into 'the zone'.

Well today was a day with lots of different weather, from clear skies, a bitterly cold headwind, still, flat light greyness, to a valley hole that was windless, and felt as hot as Death Valley! This all requires lots of clothing layer changes, which makes it hard to be relaxed and enter the zone. I was pretty restless, and tryiing to delay layer changes in the hope I wouldn't need it often took me close to being too cold and 'worried'... At one point I was walking with my wind pant leggings rolled up, with 'skinny' black underwear-only legs sticking out to keep cool. Too hot is almost as bad as too cold. At another time I had three layers of gloves, full windsuit with my face wrapped in ruff, and just being warm enough. Given all this change and the difficulty of getting into the zone, I was pleased with the day's distance.

I am still concerned about my right foot: about 7-8 hours into the day, I get excruitiating pain, and am busy working through some options... This pain certainly does make entering the zone easy! Anyway, nobody said it would be easy skiing to the Pole!

I'm reckoning on another 20 days out here, which basically means I musn't think about that, and just get on with the now, and enjoying being out here, like I have been. Yesterday's excursion was good confirmation to me that I'm fully entrenched with life in this Antarctic environment, so that's good!

Finally, its great to have a few school classes along: BJHS, ESL class are doing their usual amazing stuff, and a big welcome to Rancho Bernardo students (Chaparral Elementary, BHMS, RBHS and Poway High). I wonder how many of you have experienced cold, snow and ice? Remember school can be a huge personal adventure, you just need to set your 'South Pole' goals for yourself for school and then grab the oportunities school provides to reach your school 'South Pole'. It's not your teacher's adventure, it's yours, just like this one is mine, for me!

Lastly, I hope you guys also take the opportunity to learn about Antarctica. It's such an important place to our earth and we humans in so many respects. Explore, learn about it, and then you can help protect it for the future...

That's all today... Hopefully I'll be back to 'normal' tomorrow!


  1. Hi Howard
    Still enjoying the blog and your personal comments - the "zone", and the meditation that you are experiencing. Trusting that you will get your foot sorted out and that the travel gets easier. Also enjoyable to know that there are lots of children and teenagers following your adventure.
    Regards _ Martin

  2. Hello Howard.
    Next time consider extreme chess or something equally dodgy :)

    But seriously, thinking of you a heck of a lot and trusting you to stay smart and make good, conservative, intelligent decisions.

    All the best.


  3. Hi Howard, delighted to hear you made such good progress today, and dealt with all the changeable conditions efficiently. the demands of the journey are extraordinary.. as the Buddha said...anicca, dukka and annata... everything is subject to change, nothing is ever perfect and hence disappointing, and there is no solid self, we are part of a greater whole. It's what one does with this insight that counts. Can one tackle life with enthusiasm, cultivate joy, deal with the shit without becoming shitty(forgive language)and have compassion for all living creatures.
    In my humble opinion, you are right up there Howard!! Keep giving it a blast and enjoy the process, so we can enjoy it with you. many many thanks for continuing to share it with us. warmest wishes patrick

  4. Howard

    Thanks for another exciting adventure. We are here following along with you. Is Indinda - your African mask with you? Fair Winds. ~~_/) Sabrina & Tom s/v Honey Ryder.

  5. Hey Howard-your self analysis is fascinating and like all of you who have participated in multi day endurance events I fully appreciate your description of being 'in the zone'...nothing like it! You descriptive writing style has me hooked...I find my mind wandering to you out there on the ice often during the day and at night when I'm relaxing. Thank you for sharing and stay focused and safe....Peter and Pat

  6. H! Hard to express how very pleased to be reading your blogs when I get home from work circa 2am every day! I hope one day I'll find a 10th of the willpower you seem to conjure from within yourself!
    Keep on track! I believe you have it in you to accomplish anything you desire (already proven many times thus far, with more to come I'm sure).
    Can't wait to talk face to face about your adventures.