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I’ve started to round up sponsors for my North Pole Marathon run. The first one is Pixie Mate, a local Boulder company that makes an awesome specialty drink based on Mate – a South American tea that’s loaded with antioxidants as well as more fun loving caffeine than tea (but less than coffee).
I met with the founders – T.J. McIntyre (a swimmer) and Duane Primozich (a runner) in their office above Rudi’s near Hwy 36 and Table Mesa. They’ve got a rocking business going – powered by a bunch of Mate drinks. I’m been enjoying various flavors of Mate’s for the past few days and am hooked.
We’ve got some fun stuff planned together, including providing a bunch of Mate for the race participants (I wonder if I’ll be the first person to ever drink a Mate Latte at the North Pole?)
As the reality of agreeing to run a marathon at the North Pole settled in today, I was bombarded by intros from Tom Heinrichs to great cold weather / snow runners that had lots of advice to share. All were incredibly quick to respond, encouraging, and full of great info.
One of the first email exchanges was about snowshoes. There’s at least a 50% chance I’ll have to run the race in snowshoes, so I might as well learn about them, train in them, and be ready for the possibly that my IceBugs won’t be enough. The United States Snowshoe Association has tons of info about snowshoeing so that was a good start, but Tom’s friend Hal had a great summary of the stuff I needed to think about.
- Success in snowshoe racing is very dependent on the conditions. Most official snowshoe races in the US are a mix of groomed trails (by snowmobile) and “single track trails” that have usually been broken in – there are not many cases where racers are running through virgin powder. As a result, snowshoe racers commonly wear very small shoes.
- You should prepare for various conditions. You want a pair of very small, light weight shoes, a pair of “middle of the road” shoes, and a larger pair of hiking snowshoes. Snowshoes tend to have a give and take between surface area and size/weight (inversely proportional). Consider the following models:
- Small – Crescent Moon Dual Trac Super Lite (135 sq. inches) for groomed trail
- Medium – Tubbs Catalyst (used to be Tubbs 10K and many dealers know it by this name).
- Large – Atlas or Tubbs hiking snowshoes.
- It is very hard to hike in powder and I’m not sure how long it would take to do 26.2 miles of hiking in this. Some of the hardest stuff to hike in is crusty snow, but that usually occurs after a rain on snowpack or when diurnal sun cycle is high (when sun is rising in day and setting at night, causing melting and re-freezing.) I don’t think it’s possible that the temp is going above freezing at north pole, especially in April, so you should be fine with this. There is no melting/ freezing diurnal cycle because the sun angle is basically constant at pole.
- As for training, it’s a bit different than running. Training hip flexors is key and the best way to do this is to get on the snowshoes as early as you can in season. Another way is to train with Power Cranks on a bike.
- If you started training in the fall you should be good. Some of the best snowshoers in USA are coming out of Colorado. There are usually several big races in Colorado each winter and I would definitely check these out as you will get practice running in shoes and meet other people into this.
- The advantage of snowshoes, even on light powder, is that they help keep each step consistent. With sneakers sometimes you’re staying on top of snow for 3 or 4 steps, then punching through and this disrupts your rhythm or can lead to injury.
If any of you have information or experience running in snowshoes, I’m all ears.
On April 7, 2007 I’m going to run the North Pole Marathon. I’ve increased my marathon in every state goal to include the Marathon Grand Slam Club which is a marathon on every continent and on the Arctic Ocean in the North Pole Marathon. I’m super excited – in my “you only get one shot at this life thing” philosophy, this is a trip.
Tom Heinrichs, the Associate Director of the GINA Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, is the instigator of this madness. I met Tom last year on my trip to Fairbanks to talk about venture capital and entrepreneurship. He’s been a regular reader of my blog and we’ve corresponded by email over the past year about a variety of things. A week ago Tom asked me if I was interested in having the University of Alaska Fairbanks send me to the North Pole to run this marathon as part of International Polar Year. After doing a little research, I determined that IPY is a huge deal in research for the issues surrounding the Earth’s climate and – given all the focus on global warming (scientific, political, entrepreneurial, and otherwise) – it’d be fun to dig into, learn about, and participate in the real research side of things. In addition to UAF, a number of research groups in Boulder are going to be involved in IPY, which makes it all the more exciting and relevant for me. Today, Tom sent me a note saying that UAF has approved doing this and I said I “game on.”
I get to exercise three parts of me with this experience. The physical is obvious – this is not a trivial marathon. However, I’m a good cold weather runner and I like running in / on snow. The intellectual is – in some ways – even more powerful. I’ve been looking for an intellectual connection to global climate issues – beyond the mainstream global warming rhetoric. While I’ve been impacted by a lot of what I’ve read, I’m still struggling with the lack of critical thinking in many aspects of the discussion – both regarding the problem, but more importantly – the proposed solutions. International Polar Year has an extensive reach, over several years, which gives me a lot of different ways to exercise my brain and engage in these topics in non-mainstream ways. Finally, the experiential part - especially as I sit here typing in Homer, Alaska – cannot be denied.
I’ll be talking a lot more about this over the next nine months, including what I’m learning through my involvement with International Polar Year. We’re starting to line up sponsors – while UAF is making this happen – we plan to have a variety of interesting people and companies involved. Of course, I’ll be blogging regularly about the experience (and maybe even doing a podcast or two.) If you want to be involved – in any way – drop me an email.