The food supplies for Yukon Arctic Ultra weigh nearly 16 kg
Alone at the training camp in Lapland
I would like to write a little about the training camp in Lapland, so that you could understand, what I have to deal with where I am going.
On the first day, when I arrived in Kittila, I wasn’t happy at all, because the place where I was, wasn’t fit for training, and I was so tired from the flight, the darkness and previous packing of equipment, that I couldn’t think of anything and just had one question: where is the snow?
I have to mention that I didn’t know much about this place and did not quite understand how things go right a way. Of course, me being me, if something is wrong, I have to start looking for solutions fast and, thanks to the help of good acquaintances, I was lucky to find better conditions.
The new place was Levi, where the conditions for both training and overnight stay were very good, as I was right next to the ski and sledge slopes. The ski tracks made it much easier for me to run with the sledge, and I was also able to safely test sleeping outside, without any drunk people coming to disturb me in the middle of the night. If I had stayed in a hotel, I would have paid for five nights and got nothing out of it. I am very grateful to the Estonians living in Finland who helped me, so thank you very much to the whole family.
NOT ENOUGH SNOW
Due to poor snow conditions, Lapland initially looked pretty pale, because there wasn’t enough snow, and due to that, I had to unfortunately cancel one a sledge run. In addition to myself, there were crazy Finnish sledge enthusiasts who had traveled to Lapland and despite not enough snow they were still sledging around. Fortunately, by the end of the first week, snow started coming down and every night there was more and more snow. Frankly, at first I was pretty worried that I wouldn’t be able to do all of my training, but by the end of the camp, there was 40 cm of fresh snow and all the training was completed.
TRAINING PLAN IN FINLAND
During the 13 days I completed a total of 272 km with the total time of 43 h. Below is my training plan:
Sat, 1st December Travel to the camp, a jog in the evening, pulse 120-130 1 h 20 min
Sun, 2nd December Track mapping 3 h 30 min
Mon, 3rd December Running with a sledge 4 h, slow pulse 110–125, stretching and foam rolling after running
Tue, 4th December Warm up run 1 h. Sections 12×10 sec, pause 1 min, max. speed for the recovery run
There is a 5-hour break between the workouts
Recovery run, slow and calm 1 h 10 min, after the workout foam rolling and stretching
Wed, 5th December Running with a sledge 3 h 30 min, calm, pulse 120-130, after the run foam rolling, stretching and abs 4×25, feet up
Thu, 6th December Day off, setting up equipment, night outside
Fri, 7th December 9h of movement in the morning, eating and drinking every 2 hours, spent the night outside again
Sat, 8th December 5 h of movement in the morning and rest time in the hotel after that
Sun, 9th December Slow recovery run 3 h, pulse 115-125, foam rolling and stretching after running
Mon, 10th December Day off, setting up equipment, night outside
Tue, 11th December 10h of movement in the morning, eating and drinking every 2 hours, night outside
Wed, 12th December Recovery day, jog 2 h 40 min, afterwards stretching and foam rolling
Thu, 13th December 1 h warming up run, 16×10 sec sections, 1 min pause, 20 min recovery run
Recovery run, slow and calm 1 h 20 min, after running abs 4×25, feet up, foam rolling and stretching
Fri, 14th December Day off, traveling home
SLEEPING IN THE SNOW
The first morning outside in the bivy bag (special sleeping system) was strange, if you start to think that most of us sleep in a warm room. Of course, after the first night I was covered in snow, so before getting out of the sleeping bag, I had to make sure that it wouldn’t get wet from the snow. After waking up there is no time to spare, you need to act quickly, gather your things, prepare food outdoors and get on the road.
The first night was the hardest, because I didn’t know anything about these things, everything was unfamiliar and sometimes I even asked myself: damn, WHY? In addition, you get yelled at by the local sledge runners, who are taking the tourists on joy rides, because apparently you are not supposed to run on the sledge tracks. How could I have known this? Anyway, like a typical stubborn Estonian man, I ran on, until after 3 hours I met the same man who was waving and yelling at me on the track earlier. This Finn had already gotten on my nerves so much, that I pushed my chin up and ran straight through 40 cm of snow in an unknown direction, just to get away.
On the first night, I tried to sleep so that I only put the mattress in the sleeping bag and did not inflate it, because I wanted to know if it is going to get cold at night or not. It didn’t take long before I felt the cold reaching my body through the bottom of the sleeping bag, so I started quickly changing my position to get warm.
With these kinds of things, you just need to understand the small details, so you can also anticipate the worst things that can happen to you. The first night I was able to handle it easily, but after the 10-hour race there was much more emotion to deal with.
I can say that moving in the thick snow is worse than ice swimming, because here you really understand what cold means and how strong you mentally are.
There’s not much you can do with the physical side. Running in the snow for 5–6 h, you realise fast, what cold actually means, but if you know that you still need to keep moving for 5 h and you have no help, only your sled with you, then you might realize how serious it all is.
During the run you constantly need to control your sweating, keep the drinking water from freezing, keep your hands and feet warm, make sure you don’t run out of drinking water, etc. One thing is for sure: without water, food and preparation it is not possible to complete this kind of competition.
During the camp I realized that when you get cold, you naturally put on more clothes, but the most important thing is to drink and eat quickly because the body needs fuel. I would say that you don’t play around with the cold, you control it constantly.
After I was out running for 10 h, the clothes were already damp, and when I arrived at the campsite I had to quickly change out of the wet socks, eat and go to sleep. For the night I put the wet socks against my body, between the layers of clothing, so that they would be dry in the morning, otherwise the socks would have been frozen when I woke up.
I also had to put the running shoes in a waterproof bags, so that the sleeping bag would not get wet from the inside and the shoes would not become ice bricks by the time I woke up. Basically, all the clothes – socks, gloves, hats, shoes and sweatshirt – were in my sleeping bag during the nights, so that the clothes would be dry in the morning and wouldn’t freeze.
I also had to keep the electronic devices in the sleeping bag, so that I could recharge them if necessary. Basically, I isolated all the things I used from the cold.
The next night was much colder than the first one, and then I felt the cold air make my throat a bit sore. There was condense from my breath that had turned into ice crystals by morning, and I started realising just what I have to deal with during Yukon Arctic. This is definitely not a joke.
Of course, this camp helped me to better understand the daily routine, ie how I eat, sleep, dress, and, for example, the dangers of changing my clothes in the wrong order. Timing is everything in the cold, sometimes it comes down to seconds, sometimes to minutes. It all depends on what the outside temperature is and how fast you move.
Since it is very important for the clothing to allow your body to breathe, I could try my clothes out for the first time. Since merino wool is a must in such an environment, I used the Aclima warm net underwear, which is sold in Estonia by Matkasport and is an amazing product. It is just right for active athletes because it is warm, breathable and when it gets wet, it dries quickly.
As interlining, I use Inov8 running gear, because I’ve been running in it for years, I trust these products. I have the Inov8 ultra sneakers for footwear (the model: Arctic Claw 300) and the Neos cover sneakers. Just in case I ordered half-size smaller sneakers to be 100% sure in size.
The expedition jackets and down jacket and pants are from the brand Nunatac, as this jacket weighs only 440g and is super warm. The sleeping bag I use is PHD HISPAR 1200. Here I have to mention that the sleeping bag, the down jacket and trousers are custom made specifically for my body, ie they are pure handicraft.
Outside, I used the Blackdiamond bivy instead of the tent, because it just seemed very good and had been used during Yukon Arctic in the past, but it is unfortunately not sold in Europe, because there is not much demand here.
I have 4.5-litre thermoses from the Thermos brand, but I definitely plan to get one Stanley thermos because I want to be 100% sure I have hot water even in the worst conditions.
To move in the thick snow, I use Atlas 26 snowshoes, which are lightweight and allow you to move faster and easier. In addition, I have now had more time to test my Garmin InReach GPS device, which allows everyone to track my location when I’m running in real time on my Facebook page, and people can also send me direct messages during the competition using the link there.
At the moment, I’m thinking a lot about strategy – how to complete this competition, and I’ve made calculations for the worst and best scenarios, but, as my coach says, reality is born on the spot.
The latest preparations are about making a meal plan – what to eat and how much food I should take with me. This, of course, depends, in turn, on how cold it is and how fast the conditions allow me to run. At the moment we don’t know what the temperature is going to be and how I will be feeling.
One thing is for sure – my form is very good at the moment and after the camp I got to do the blood tests in Synlab and the blood work came back good. Now I can rest a little and then keep my form until the start of the competition on 3rd February.
Finally, I would like to take a deep bow to all my supporters and fans because you have believed in my crazy venture.
See you soon or until the next blog post!
By now, I have almost completed three hardest parts of my training, which have definitely physically taken me to a new level. However, sometimes I feel as if I am all alone at this stage.
At the same time, I know that I have made a huge leap in my development and the feeling of excitement before the competition is starting to settle in. I believe that most of you would feel the same way.
As one of the most important things is the equipment, I must make sure to know exactly what to wear on my feet, what to eat, how much water I need, where and how to sleep, what happens if I get blisters, abrasions or chafing. Taking care of my feet is very important and must be thoroughly thought through, and there is no specific way to do it – it is very individual. Even my night sleep is sometimes disturbed, because I keep imagining how I try on socks and shoes.
In fact, what I’m doing is completely crazy, but at the same time, I have to say that this is something that I will remember for the rest of my life, and you can’t buy this experience from a store.
At the moment, I’m testing out the food that I plan to consume during the competition, so I have to be very careful about the nutritional value, because in the cold the body consumes three times more energy than in warm, and therefore I need to consume more energy-dense foods. The food must be easily digested and absorbed, quick to cook and tasty. The main product line for me is Tactical Food, our own Estonian producer, who produces high quality and delicious food that is suitable for both hiking and more extreme events. I also have to take other snacks with me, so that the meals would not become monotonous, but I’m still in the process of planning out that selection. In short, I still have to test the food and find out what is good and what is not.
1st-14th of December I will be doing my first cold training in Kittila, Finland, where I can also partially test my gadgets.
On different days, I am planning to run through the sledge-tracks with a sledge and complete a longer hike. I will also have to sleep in the snow for the first time and actually prepare my food and complete other activities outdoor. I really hope that all the equipment that has been ordered from different parts of the world will arrive before I leave Estonia.
I will add more information about what equipment I have to take with me to the competition, so you could see what I have to deal with. 😀
• lithium batteries
• 2 sets of matches in waterproof containers
• fire starter kit
• winter sleeping mat
• sleeping bag, -45 C (EN13537)
• expedition jacket, size L
• bivouac bag
• emergency whistle
• first aid kit (band aids, petroleum jelly, nausea and diarrhoea medicine, etc.)
You might think that I’m crazy..
My preparation for Yukon Arctic
I have been so busy with the preparations, that have not yet been able to share information about everything that has happened. So now I will try to write a bit more in detail about my preparations for Yukon Arctic!
Why is preparation important?
In February, I announced that I had set a new goal for myself, but my first trainings started already in December, and got more serious in January.
The first thing I tried to figure out was cold tolerance, and then took on different sprints, general body training, pulling tires, etc.
During Yukon, it is important to be able to cope with cold, while pulling a sledge, and do it for 690 km.
Surely you think I’m crazy?
Yet these are the things that have to be done to get back home safely. Once you have taken a goal that goes beyond your boundaries. then you take all the responsibility and if something goes wrong, then no one else is to blame.
You need to stay focused, understand all the dangers and set a strategy that would make it easier for me to be the first Estonian to finish Yukon Arctic 2019!
What is my training schedule?
My weekly schedule includes running while pulling a tore three times a week, with different pace and heart rate; swimming twice a week in open water; and full body workouts once a week. I work on my cold tolerance on a daily basis as well. My favourite day, of course, is my rest day once a week, but it always goes by very quickly.
1st CHALLENGE: Building up cold tolerance
From December of last year to June of this year, my day-to-day activity has been tempering the body in the cold both in the mornings and in the evenings. In addition, I have been sitting in the snow, swimming in the pond next to my home several times a day.
At first, it was all quite a shock for the body, because I had to completely come out of my comfort zone. When you first start taking cold showers, it is not for a very long time, but then you start to lengthen the time every day to train your nervous system and resistance. This is definitely one of the most difficult activities, because your brain gives you the signal to stop this nonsense, but you have to withstand it. Before I started building my cold tolerance, I took a 10-week cold training from the Guinness record holder, Wim Hof, during which I had to practice a variety of exercises that motivated and inspired me to train. From various examples in his book, I realized that we are much stronger than we think. The more time I spend training, the easier it get, of course, but it is still difficult to withstand the cold.
I must mention that the hardest part is when you wake up, you are tired or sleepy, and your body is so blocked, that you stand in front of the shower for 10-15 seconds. That is precisely why I know that this is a very important part of my training and I have to practice it more. In Yukon, there will definitely be similar situations during the competition in the mornings. What happens when I wake up in the snow and I have to get out of the sleeping bag with the outside temperature of -35 or -50? it is going to be a real challenge.
2nd CHALLENGE: Training in the open water
In addition to building up cold tolerance, I go swimming in the sea twice a week. I made the first swims in the reservoirs in the beginning of July and now I’ve been swimming mostly in the sea.
The goal of the swimming is, in particular, to simultaneously rest my feet and train in cold resistance.
Open water swimming is definitely one of the most natural exercises to help your body get used to the cold, because if you swim in an 11-degree water without a calypso for 30 minutes, the body will react and the cold will take over. First, the movements become stiffer and you can’t move your fingers very well. This is a sign of hypothermia. You feel like you are becoming a block of ice. After getting out of the water, it takes at least 1 hour to warm in the 18 ° C outside temperature. You can only imagine what your body will be doing at negative degrees, but it is an important process to increase resistance. I go swimming with my coach Eiko Toom, just to make sure nothing happens. I am not a very good swimmer, but I get better every time.
Any one of us can go into the cold for a little while, but can you stay there for 1h? This requires proper preparation, meditation, breathing exercises and the reason “WHY”!
3rd CHALLENGE: Pulling a tire
One of the most difficult parts of my workout is to run for hours, pulling a car tire. When I started, I thought the tire weighs about 15 kg. When I had been running for 2 months, three times a week, I realized that the tire actually weighs 30.4 kg.
The thing that made the tire heavy at first was all the dirt that built up in it. The solution to this problem was macro-flex.
The purpose of pulling the tire is to stimulate pulling the sledge with portable equipment in the Yukon Arctic competition.
I run with the tire for about 8-9 hours a week and aim to train the legs and the entire body.
At first it was a challenge, but now the body is stronger. This is indicated by the heart rate, that I can now control. I’ve also gotten rid of muscle soreness, which was quite serious in the beginning after every tire-run.
Training is hard, but I would rather experience it now and not be overcome by the pain during the competition! These are just the first stage trainings, and the second part begins in late September. In the meantime, I have to work and find good partners, who believe in my undertaking and deal with all the detailed issues relating to the equipment.
But for now, let’s keep on training!
MY TRAININGS SO FAR:
MY NEW CHALLENGE YUKON ARCTIC ULTRA 2019
On my feet for 130km – My run from Tallinn to Pärnu
On the 24th May I ran 130 km – the start was from Peetri Village, the destination – Pärnu.
The aim of the run was to do a longer distance to polish my running technique, and for my muscles to memorise at least one longer run.
Of course, the idea was completely spontaneous – what would happen if I ran to Pärnu?
It is incredible how people are actually capable of much more than they think. That is what truly motivates me – leaving the comfort zone. In today’s society, comfort is everything people want, meaning, getting somewhere needs to be as quick and effortless as possible.
I, on the other hand, have recently been inspired by the less popular attitude, and all I can say is that I can certainly feel the internal growth.
The day before the run
A few days before the run, I did not work out at all, I just rested. On Wednesday morning, I went for a short jog, in order to slightly tone my muscles, and in the evening I went to sleep at 10 pm. I took two sleeping pills, so that I would fall asleep quickly and feel rested in the morning. It worked. I woke up at 2 am in the morning and had a quick smoothie with chia seeds to properly fuel my body with with carbohydrates. I personally like to have such light meals before running. After that, I checked that I have all the necessary things with me: energy bars, gels and, of course, a small first aid kit. This time I ran without an entourage, so I had to carefully plan the entire distance, and be ready to refuel my body when I get tired.
A run in the beautiful nature of Estonia
The start of the run was great, because I was feeling good and I particularly enjoyed seeing different forrest animals, the fog, the weather changing and, of course, the sunrise. It was just breathtakingly beautiful. Just imagine running alone, and everywhere you look, you see pure nature with not a human around. At the same time, the nature offers the kind of beauty that, at first glance, seems unbelievable.
When I had been running for 6 hours at a pace of 7 to 7:30 min/km, I started feeling sleepy for the first time, but after another 30 minutes of running I somehow felt good again.
I had reached one of the most difficult roads in Estonia – the Tallinn-Pärnu highway – where after 42 km I felt a standstill in my mind. I immediately used my energy gel and the meditation I learned in yoga. I don’t know exactly what worked, the energy gel or the meditation, but somehow I got my strength back and ran on towards Märjamaa Circle K. I had only 0.5 litres of water left, and wasn’t sure if it would last me until then. Fortunately, there was a café on the road before Circle K, where I filled my bottle with cold water and cooled down for a moment. I knew that I did not have much left until my pitstop and did not want to add too much weight at the expense of water.
The hard part was still ahead
The first big refuelling was in Märjamaa Circle K, where I had quick meal. I drank a lot of water and had something savoury to eat, because I had had enough of sweet snacks already. I also met a friend with whom, of course, I did not have time to talk to. I was in my bubble and it seemed like I was loosing my mind a little bit. I guess it really was the case!
When I reached the middle of the Tallinn-Pärnu highway, I felt like I was back in the wilderness, like during the last year’s Marathon Des Sables 32, where I had to cool my body down the same way.
An inside fight
The next part of the run was a fight against sun-induced drowsiness and muscle pains. When I left the Märjamaa gas station and had been running for about 30 minutes, the sun completely wore me out. I felt like my body was thrown on a grill alive. It was so unpleasant that I felt like I was losing consciousness, but I prevented it with a small guarana shot (https://matkasport.ee/products/MDY-Liquid-Pure-Guarana), which instantly made everything clear. I also began to think that I had blisters, because my legs felt very strange. I took off my socks to check, and fortunately everything was fine. Taking all that into consideration, I can say that the Inov-8 equipment is just great (https://www.facebook.com/inov8estonia/).
For the onward run, I had planned to have enough water until the next Olerex gas station. Because of the blazing sun, though, I ran out of water 10 km before the planned stop, and so the torture began. The pace slowed down, the sun was blazing, and the only bursts of cool air came from the big trucks passing me. This moment can not be described in any other word than simply “horrible”.
When I reached the Olerex gas station, I immediately drank one Borjomi water and a smoothie, and ate a sprat sandwich. After having ran for 85 km, the Olerex gas station was one of the best things, since I could use the toilet and of course I needed to properly cool down. Every time I stopped, I poured a large bottle of cold water directly onto my head and clothes to cool my body. That is how I confused my heart rate a bit as well.
The last part – fight till the end
Now the pace was already somewhat lower, but I fought against myself and told myself that pain is just an illusion and nothing else. I had to use two pain killers to soften the blows of the asphalt to my feet.
There was 40 km was left to Pärnu and my next stop was Are, I jogged forward and tried to keep a steady heart rate, keep track of my feet, and make sure I have enough water and other supplies.
Before reaching Are, I reached Alexela gas station, where I just had to run in to cool my body down, because I felt like I was about to die. From there, I still had 25 km to go, and the end was so slow, that I thought about giving up at least three times. When I reached Are, a former acquaintance from Pärnu came to meet me, and brought me cold water and savoury seljanka soup. In addition to everything, I also got a slight cramp, after which my movement was more of jogging/walking and at the end the pace was 9 min/km. The fact that my acquaintance and his friends had to come to meet me and ran with me was very positive, because the last 13 km just passed so slowly that I really wanted to end all this “crap” 😀
I thought that walking would mess up my average time, but in fact it was very good. All in all, everything went well.
But the main thing is, that whenever a run is over, I always feel good, and I think that this feeling is the reason I keep doing things like this.
Finally, I would like to thank all my followers for their support on social media. And you know what?…. Our Estonia is one of the most beautiful places in the world. As Estonians, we have to be happy that we were born here.
Thank you very much!
Tomorrow I will run from Peetriküla to Pärnu
In preparation for Yukon Artic Ultra run, it is important for my feet to get comfortable with longer distances.
For that, I will have a day for myself and I will run from Peetriküla to Pärnu with the distance of 130 kilometers.
The goal is to run 15 hours straight, but it all depends on how I’m feeling – I might even finish faster.
I picked that route, because there are many gas stations on the road. There I can refill my water bottles and eat when I get hungry. I will count all the hotdogs at the end of the day and let you know. 😀
I have planned to start the run at 3 AM, so I can get back home by the evening on the same day.
I will start from home on thursday 3am and my goal is to get to Pärnu by 6pm on Thursday. I will share my moments and whereabouts on Instagram.
Description of the distance:
Tallinn (Peetri küla) – Kernu 42 km
Kernu – Märjama Circle K 25 Km
Märjamaa Circle K – Jadivere Olerex 24,5 Km
Jadivere Olerex – Nurme tankla 31,6 km
Nurme Tankla – Pärnu 6,8 km
Why the Yukon Arctic Ultra Race?
I’ve recently neglected my blog a bit because I spent a month away from Estonia. Unfortunately, in most places there was no internet connection, so my emotions could not really be transmitted in real time, but I’ll make sure to share my backpacking photos and videos with you in my next blog post. For now, I would like to give you a glimpse of my new challenge, so you could understand what it is and why I decided to take it on.
When I finished the desert marathon Marathon Desables 32 last year, it made me feel so good, that I can’t even describe the feeling – you just have to be there to understand.
Why the Yukon Arctic Ultra Race?
Last year, after completing the desert marathon successfully, one of the competitors joked, that the next one will be the Yucon Arctic Race. I, of course, was curious what it was. When I heard more about it, I just had that feeling of … oh, maybe I should really do it! At that time, it was certainly not an exact plan, because it just seemed too crazy and a bit of a “suicide” to take it on.
My main goal has been to learn from these challenges, because this is the one thing that pushes me forward in my life and I can use this knowledge in my work. Although I completed the desert marathon, I had a lot of difficult moments, but during the race itself I did not think about them. If anyone asked me what was most difficult, then I would say that with these projects it is most difficult to find people who will come along with it all. I also never had initiated a charity project. It became a real challenge for me, because collecting a budget amount through grants is much more difficult than it may seem.
All this has taken time, and I am glad we got the first charity project together. I use the term “our park” because, with this project I wanted to show that in reality there is not just a single person, but a whole volunteer team, behind the initiative – as evidenced by the names of all the supporters, written on the stand of the health park square!
With Yucon Arctic Ultra Race I would like to invite even more Estonian people to work together and help create 10 new training parks in Estonia. The desire is to bring together small communities and create something nice that would help highlight the right values. Exactly three months ago, I was advised to read “What Doesn’t Kill Us” by Wim Hof, and in doing so I got a lot of inspiration and ideas on how to improve my workouts and results, and I am immensely enthusiastic about the book.
I have been doing various breathing and cold exercises since January to help my body fight everything that is waiting for me. One might even say that I have become a victim of human experimentation!?
Participation in the Yucon Arctic Ultra Race is definitely a challenge – the mere idea of waking up and going straight into the cold water was, at first, quite strange. The first month of training, I stayed under the cold water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, and now I have extended this time.
It can be said that I’m leaving my comfort zone and getting to feel what real life is. Everyone can certainly do this, but it’s not about how you go into the cold environment, but how you can control your body in cold weather, so that you don’t freeze too quickly. I have also been testing, by means of breathing exercises, how to confuse my inner “computer” so that the body is able to absorb oxygen faster, which can prevent the formation of too much lactic acid in the muscles. That’s my goal at the moment, but whether it really works, will become clear in the course of further workouts. Of course, I have not yet understood everything, but I’m working to make the journey more enjoyable than it really is.
The most problematic will be the equipment that I have to order and which I plan to tailor to fit me, because it is going to be a race in really extreme conditions. My previous interview, in which I confirmed that I am aware of all the dangers, is also a testament to that.
In total, it is necessary to complete 690 km in the snow, carrying all the food and supplies on a sledge behind you. The fact that I am going to take part in the competition does not scare me as much as knowing what has happened to people in the previous races. It motivates me to better prepare for the challenge. This is one of the world’s toughest races, and this fact is also reflected in the number of sign-ups which, including me, is currently 18 people.
There is a lot of work and overcoming boundaries ahead, but I will do my best to come back from the Yucon Arctic Ultra Race in one piece.
There are still challenges to write about – so stay tuned!