''MY BIGGEST OPPONENT IS MYSELF''
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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.

 

EQUIPMENT

 

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.

 

THOUGHTS

 

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!

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