On Monday night I received some devastating news from Scott Andrews the organiser of the Rock and Ice Diamond Ultra. His e-mail is below:
I'm afraid I have some disappointing news for you. The crew and I have to scale back the Rock and Ice Ultra to just the 1-day Cold Foot Classic for 2010; we have no choice but to cancel the K-Rock and Diamond Ultra next year.
This whole 'global economic crisis' has, in fact, been quite devastating to the mining and mineral exploration industry. Despite working in mineral exploration for nearly 20 years I have not been able to secure enough work this year to fund the Rock and Ice Ultra. We have awesome sponsors with BHP Billiton, MATRIX, Arctic Response and others but the operational costs for this event are many times more than that of a 'hot' desert race, like the Marathon des Sables. Registration has also fallen short of our expectations and this was the year the Rock and Ice was planned to break even. No doubt this is due to others who find themselves in the same position as me financially and our strong Canadian dollar is making travel here more expensive than just a few months ago.
The crew and I have landed one of the very few contracts in Canada and it will keep us working all through the winter. We have to take this work, there is nothing else and it will get us back on our feet so we can plan for Rock and Ice 2011.
It was like being punched in the guts. Besides the time I’d already invested in training, numerous kind people had already donated to my two charities (Lupus UK and Kinder Mountain Rescue) and companies such as Haglofs, Inov-8 and Snowsled UK had already supplied me with kit.
Once I’d picked myself up off the floor, I started to think about my options and immediately remembered a flyer I had pinned up in my office for the 6633 Ultra www.663ultra.com . Organised by Martin Like, who I knew from the 2000 Marathon des Sables, 6633 refers to the latitude of the Arctic Circle and fortunately takes place at a similar time of year to the Rock and Ice. I hastily wrote an e-mail to Martin and, within 5 minutes, he’d already rung me back and offered me a place on the race. Covering a similar distance to the Rock and Ice Diamond Ultra I opted for the 120 mile option, deciding against the complete insanity of the 350 mile race that only four people have completed in the last three years. However, even choosing the 120 mile race was significantly upping the ante on the Rock and Ice.
For a start the 6633 is not a stage race meaning that the 120 miles has to been covered in one continuous effort rather than broken up over six days. They will be no overnight camps with provided tents. If I need to stop to eat or sleep it’ll be a case of bivvying down by the side of the trail. Check-points, where water can be picked up, are few and far between with typically 26-70 miles separating them. Next up, the 6633 starts about 500 miles further north than the Rock and Ice. The first 26 miles of the race takes you into the Arctic Circle. The course is also far from flat with several mountain passes to be crossed. It’s been described as “The toughest, coldest and windiest extreme ultra marathon on the planet. This race is only for big boys and girls unless you’re mad.”
With all of that in mind, it’s a good thing that I’ve upped my training by taking on the services of Marc Laithwaite aka The Endurance Coach www.theendurancecoach.com . Having put me through a battery of painful tests I’m now under his strict supervision so there will be no more slacking. Probably the biggest change in the routine is his insistence that I hit the gym and lift some weights to build all-round strength and robustness. I did my first session on Monday and, as well as being pathetically weak, I can still feel soreness in my chest typing this today!