So yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting my Mongol 100 team mates for the first time to discuss what is going to be possibly the greatest adventure of all time.
The team are Jim and Rob from Rat Race Adventures, Lee and Graham who I know through doing a bit off running and that, Pete who is going to be our man doing the filming, Darren who is a pretty nifty ultra runner and David Scott - our man in the know about all things Mongolia and a total legend. David will be making sure we don’t die/fall in a hole/get eaten by wolves/offend the locals - all things that now seem like quite likely to happen. There’s one more member of the team - Merlin - someone I have yet to meet but that I can add to the collection of Merlins I know (making it a total of 3 - how has that happened?!)
We sat down around the rather nifty map (above) with some delicious sports drinks and David took us through what to expect on the lake. He had been out on the lake the previous week - it was -20 degrees and the waves were already freezing. By the time we get there in late January the temperature will be around -40 and the ice should be around a metre thick and covered with snow at the north end. The south end will be like a massive ice rink.
The tiny island in the middle will be where our Gers sit for the first night - the tents that we stay in at night. The lake is 85 miles long and about 20 miles across and we will be attempting to traverse it from south to north and the back down to the island making it around about 100 miles. The Gers are fully packed with stoves and beds - if anything they get too hot apparently - I find this quite hard to believe.
We will be on the ice for around 3 days - with a day to acclimatise at the start. We all had loads of questions which David answered so confidently that I really started to believe this might be a bit of a holiday. It won’t be though. There’s the running bit to consider and the not getting frostbite. Or being eaten. Here are some of the things we asked and the answers we got.
What will we eat?
Whatever they catch for us. This could include Wolves, Reindeer or Elks which we will barbecue every night - vegetarianism is not an option but when it’s that fresh you can’t argue. We will also have a hot breakfast in the morning and snack thoughout the day as an when. David will provide water for us on the ice in flasks so it doesn’t freeze. I have also heard Vodka doesn’t freeze so you know…..
What do we wear?
The biggest question, that I think I could bang on about forever. David recommended a Wolf Pelt coat which can protect you up to -60. It basically make you look like and extra from Game Of Thrones so I am 100% in. Definitely buying one as soon as I get there. The rest of the gear I will be sourcing in the next few weeks - more about that on the gear posts laster this month. I am planning the wear my Altra Lone peaks with spikes on the bottom and 20 pairs of socks. You have to be fully covered head to toe as frostbite can set in within minutes if anything is exposed. I think gloves will be a sticking point mainly due to my love of snacks and not being able to get to them with mittens on.
Where will we sleep?
We will sleep in mega cosy Gers that will be dismantled and taken on horse and sled to the next set up point. Proper beds and a heater. Nice.
How far will we be running every day?
We have about 9 hours of light so I am planning on getting a bit of a pace on if possible. There will be a fast team and a slower team - we should have eyes on us at all time. The ice is thick enough to take cars, but it creaks and bangs and can be a little terrfiying. There is also a tectonic plate running through the middle of the lake that we need to be aware of. If that moves then we have a problem. We will having locals checking the thickness of the ice a day or so before to make sure its all safe. We will as safe as it can be.
What sort of wildlife will we see?
Brown bears, Wolves, Elks, Reindeer and possibly Lynx’s. Thats possibly the coolest thing I have ever typed. The local do keep guns but attacks are unlikely as the animals tend to keep away from the lake - theres nothing there for them to eat. Apart from us.
What sort of customs do we need to observe?
This is where it gets really interesting. Mongolian etiquette is a minefield it seems - we have David to guide us so it should be fine but still, a little overview for you….
Always say hello (“sain bainuul”) when you arrive. But DON’T use platitude likes “It’s SO nice to meet you” you will be met with a stony glare. Don’t say hello more than once to the same person.
Always receive objects with your right hand. Keep your palm facing up when holding cups and accepting things.
Always accept gifts. Always take a bite or a nibble of offered food, even if you’re not hungry. The national drink of Mongolia is Airag - a fermented horses milk - noms - if offered this, and we WILL be offered it a lot, you must take a sip or place it to your lips before handing it back to the pourer. If it’s not Airag it will probably be Vodka. I know what I am hoping for.
Always keep your sleeves rolled down - it is considered impolite to show your wrists to someone.
Always sleep with your feet pointing toward the door to the room.
Never point at anyone with your index finger.
Never lean on a support column in a Ger or go through the middle of the poles - it is disrespectful to your hosts. Men pass to the left in a Ger and ladies to the right. I don’t know my left from my right.
Never put water on, step on or put rubbish in a fire. Fire is sacred.
And now the most important one - never touch other people’s hats. Touch their hat and you will probably end up in a fight.
I have a feeling I might get into trouble here……..
So that’s a bit of a feel for what it might be like.
Now the training. I have been pretty well trained all year - I’ve backed off a little since the Autumn 100 but have 2 marathons this weekend that I am sure will be handy - the first one being Bovington on Saturday - running round a freezing, wet, muddy tank range - and the Portsmouth on Sunday which will be a more mental challenge because it’s in fucking Portsmouth. Always good to get a bit of multi day action under your belt! Then it’s back to the shorter long runs (5-8 miles) over christmas and new year and really starting to up fitness in January - I’ll be going back to British Military Fitness at least once a week and doing 4-5 runs a week. To be honest, I am exhausted from this year - I’ve done over 1,500 miles and I need a break. After the last 2 marathons of the year this weekend I’m going to do a bit of a rest
Stay tuned for a bit of marathon blogging over the weekend! For now here are some pictures that David took last week in Mongolia - I am truly mega excited! Look at my T shirt with my Mongolian name on!