The sponsor meetings and media commitments in Dubai kept me so occupied, I didn’t even think about the importance of the upcoming week. It was my last exposure to subzero training ahead of the expedition. While I sat in front of a CNN crew shooting an interview at Almaz in Harvey Nichols, I looked down at my phone to read my trainers’ messages as they raided my house in London to pack my bags for the trip. Where are your plunge mitts? Do you need your RAB down coat? Fleece? Carabiners…
I barely had a chance to kiss my parents goodbye (again). Somehow it gets harder as I get older to say goodbye to them yet again. But this time my mind was already planning all the stuff I’d get done on the flight to Paris.
We drove from Paris to La Plagne and the training started the next day. I expected it to be physically grueling, at times scary. I looked forward to over four consecutive hours of hard work to test all the progress I gained in my indoor training.
As it turned out I barely noticed the hard work. It came with the territory. Instead the mental challenge came to life. Every action I did I compared to the realities that awaited me in April. Every time I slowed down to talk to my trainer, I thought about how I would freeze if I didn’t keep up the pace during the expedition. Every time I pulled out my BlackBerry to tweet or respond to my PR agent’s e-mails, I thought about the silence that awaited me. Every evening that was filled with a home-cooked meal, bath and remedial sports massage, I thought about the eight-hour days with no warmth at the end coming up in a month.
And somehow guilt set in. Frustration set in. Frustration with myself, as I wanted more from myself, more resilience. I slept little and found sunrise a relief, as I woke up to meditate before the day started. Without that my mind raced, which made the daily trek even harder. This ended with a stern lecture from Philly, who herself competed as an extreme skier for a very long time. And understood the psyche of setting crazy goals.
Not being able to prepare for every aspect of the challenge is inherent to such expeditions. Fears that you never thought you had do surface. And those are the exact moments to press forward… which is what I did in La Plagne.