The first stage during a speed record attempt is to establish speed and get the body tuned in, says veteran Norwegian explorer, Lars Ebbesen, during a chat with ExWebs Correne Coetzer.
As a home team member of the speed skier Christian Eide, he monitors Eide closely and explains what is the core of his strategy, what his biggest problem is so far, how he conditioned his body to achieve the marathon distances, how technical the skiing is, what the goal of the expedition is, and more.
ExplorersWeb: Christians expedition seems to go without any major problems so far.
Lars: Well, the boy is not doing too bad. A few small mistakes and problems, but nothing to really slow him down. A shoe delaminated a bit, but that was easily fixed.
The biggest problem so far has been the heat. It has been very difficult to shade the face well enough without sweating too much and hamper breathing. That has resulted in a nose that looks like it has been dredged in Port for a considerable time...
But now that he is getting higher the temperature is getting better for the strategy, so he should be fine in a few days. A burned nose does not really cause problems, but things like that may ruin rest.
ExplorersWeb: Tell us about Christians strategy the first few days to condition his body for the speed attempt.
Lars: The interesting thing is that everybody wanting to go fast and hard, keep bragging about all the wrong things. How fast they camp, how fast they go to bed after dinner, how little they sleep, how fast they are on the skis after waking up. If you ask me it's all probably way too fast.
The strategy with Christian is the other way. It is built around rest.
The first stage was to establish speed and get the body tuned in. That is 4-5 days. During that period we have to understand how fast, how hard, how much rest etc. When that was settled he knew how much he has to push during the day.
ExplorersWeb: After the first stage where the speed is established and the body tuned it, what is the strategy for the middle part and the final push?
Lars: Then 7-10 days is when everything settles down and you can start to feel the confidence coming.
If there is no injury or problems after 10 days, and the equipment is doing fine, you are well set for the middle part where it is all about using as little energy as possible. Preferably this period last till the Pole is suddenly there.
But on low risk expeditions like this you may go for a push to do the last 2 degrees in 4-5 days. But unless you are in a race where you are allowed to treating the Antarctica as a stadium, there should be no need. The work should be done by then.
So far everything is going even a bit better that planned. But we do not want to push as one must always have some reserves for the upper polar plateau where the cold, the slow snow and the thin air can hit you hard. That is why breathing, stretching and getting enough food and drinks often enough is high priority.
ExplorersWeb: You say Christians strategy is built around rest. Tell us more please.
Lars: The speed/distance dictates everything as the main thing is rest. After stopping he wants several hours of just letting the body calm down and slowly fill up with the right food.
After dinner it is no use falling asleep too fast. And when you sleep you need between 7 and 8 hours.
Same goes for the morning. It is no use shocking the body by being on your skis in 30 minutes. It will mean several bad stints and too much use of energy before the body is ready. By which time the day is a struggle anyway.
To get enough time to give the body enough rest you have 2 options. One is to lengthen the day by a couple of hours and the other is to go faster to reach target distance. Christian has chosen to go for the last option. As you see, w he builds everything around rest and not unrest.
ExplorersWeb: Christian is doing long distance (more than a marathon per day) in relatively few hours for a skier sledge-hauling; 9-10 hours skiing per day. What is the technique behind his speed?
Lars: As for the speed itself, it is no magic really.
The bonus for 'speed' is that the faster the sledge glides the better it glides and the lighter it feels.
But to get there, you have to understand that skiing is very technical. Very often polar explorers tend to drift into this lulling where they just trot along. But if you keep your concentration high you can save enormously by gliding out every step, use the hips as much as possible, and find a good balance between arms and legs.
Arms must not be there for decorations and balance. Work the balance, but keep your hands low and close to the body. Push the pole backwards not down (the lump underneath you is called Earth and it is a waste of energy to try to move it away from you. Much easier to push the body forward...).
Balance is very important. Every side step is energy in the wrong direction. Arms to far out and too high is energy in the wrong direction. Too short steps give less glide and negative momentum which wastes energy, etc, etc.
You have to think and work technique all the time and especially towards the end of the day.
ExplorersWeb: Technique, technique So this is all about being born with skis on?
Lars: No, not at all. Start reading the history books and do as the old guys. They travelled all over to ask and search for knowledge and advice. Today too many ask too few. You must accumulate as much info / knowledge / facts as possible. Do not ask for advice. That is personal shit and may not apply to you.
Process the info to recognize your weaknesses, strengths and possibilities and make the strategy after that. If technique is a problem; come and visit and we'll save you a week.
ExplorersWeb: What is the goal of this expedition?
Lars: Hard to say. But to delete the solo record was main priority. It is not that our American friend didn't do an entertaining stunt, but it was so without polar handicraft and tradition that the sooner it goes the better.
To arrive in tatters, being sent straight to the hospital and having littered your path with all your belongings so that someone else must drive out to fetch it is hardly done by the polar or exploration handbook. Not Shackletonsk.
After that goal is done with, there is no real goal, but while doing it - it is no reason to hang about. He will just try to be sensitive to the signals from his body, and if he makes no mistakes, time will show when he can take his skis off. If he then can jump around in joy and party hard straight away - it will be mission completed.
Christian Eide started a solo South Pole ski speed record attempt on December 20 from Hercules Inlet, unassisted and unsupported. His sled with his food, fuel and gear weighed 62 kg and his back pack 12 kg.
Eide completed the first half of the expedition (5 degrees of latitude or 565 km as the condor flies, in 13 days. Previous ski speed record holders, Hannah McKeand and Todd Carmichael, crossed 85°S 21 and 23 days respectively.
Christian Eide is born in 1975 and lives in Oslo Norway. He has a Masters degree in Engineering, is an expedition leader and owner of an adventure company, Latitude AS.
Apart from his 9 Greenland crossings and other ice field expeditions he was leader of a record breaking Norwegian South Pole expedition who skied from the Messner (Ronne-Filchner Ice shelf) Start in 24 days 8 hours and 50 minute and averaged a very fast 36.87 km/day.
Christian has also climbed mountains: Denali/ Mt McKinley, Mt Vinson, Cho Oyu (no oxygen, no Sherpa), Kilimanjaro x 6, Elbrus x 2, Huscaran, Aconcagua via Polish Glacier, Carstensz Pyramid, Pequeno Alpahamyo, Condorriri, Anchohuma, and more.
During this current Antarctic season Christian Eide has climbed Mount Vinson (summit December 8) and skied the Last degree to the South Pole (arrival December 15)
Apart from many mountain expeditions, Lars Ebbesen did twelve expeditions on the Greenland ice sheet (with pulk, dog sledding and ski sail). He has skied Spitsbergen from north to south, headed north on the frozen Arctic Ocean (though he did not reach the North Pole), he has paddled in Greenland, on the Finnmark Plateau, and in Asia; twice Lars has crossed the Atlantic Ocean, he has been on a rafting adventure in the Grand Canyon, explored the Siberia and the Kola Peninsula. In the polar community he is known for organizing and joining Cato Zahl Pedersen and Odd Harald Hauge for an unassisted, unsupported expedition from Berkner Island to the South Pole, called the unarmed Expedition.
As a professional graphic designer, Ebbesen has played a key role in the publication of numerous adventure books. Currently he is in partnership with Borge Ousland. They organize and guide expeditions to the South Pole, North Pole and Patagonia Ice Caps.
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