Monday, March 7, 2016

Race Report: Baikal Ice Marathon

"Man Proposes, Baikal Disposes."

On Sunday, March 6, 150 or so Frenchman, Poles, Germans, English, Chinese, Japanese and Russian runners took part in the Baikal Ice Marathon. There may have been other Americans in the race, but I didn’t meet any. About a third of the participants competed in the half marathon, running 13.1 miles to the midpoint of frozen Lake Baikal and then hopping in hovercraft to complete the passage. The rest attempted the full crossing, 26.2 miles from Tankhoy on the lake’s eastern shore, to Listvyanka on the west. In its twelfth running, BIM lived up to its billing as one of the world’s most spectacular and toughest marathons.

The view outside my hotel window on the morning of the race.

Friday, March 4, 2016

A Bowl of Uhka at the Steam Bath

This morning after listening to a lecture on the aerobics of running from our guide Arkadiy, my Ice Marathon mates and I attempted to put theory into practice by making another assault on Lake Baikal. Yesterday afternoon, while I slept, a snow storm passed through leaving the ice covered in a blanket of fresh powder a foot deep. That turned our run into an awkward stumble. We soon gave up and reverted to tottering along on roads much to the annoyance of the local canines.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

My 44-Hour Day

My trip to Siberia began spasmodically. I made an error when I applied for a Russian visa in January, noting my date of arrival as March 2, the day I was scheduled to land in Irkutsk. I failed to consider my stopover in Moscow, which would happen a day earlier on March 1. When I showed up at LAX on Monday, Aeroflot told me that, due to the discrepancy, I couldn’t fly that day. I had to rebook.

Tuesday, I was allowed to head out. I took a 12 ½ hour flight to Moscow followed, after a two hour layover, by a five and a half hour flight to Irkutsk. I landed there at 4 a.m. Wednesday local time. I was met in the terminal by a young Russian who drove me the 145 km to my hotel in Baiklask. Door to door I was traveling for 27 hours.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Khius and Kolobovniks

I bought a copy of Russian for Dummies and have been boning up on simple phrases that may come in handy when I run the Baikal Ice Marathon next month.

Доброе утро, товарищ! Это великолепный день в России-матушке!
Good morning, comrade! It is a glorious day in Mother Russia!

Нет воды. Водка!
No water. Vodka!

Kaк далеко до следующей станции помощи?
How far is it to the next aid station?

Я не могу чувстсвовать свою мошонку.
I can no longer feel my scrotum.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

On to Siberia

Every now and again, you’ve got to s***-can the straight and narrow, say lah-de-dah to your worldly responsibilities and do something hare-brained, off kilter  and fun.


Two years ago, I traveled halfway around the world to take part in Transvulcania, a 50-mile race in the Canary Islands. It reduced me to tears, left my feet swollen to the size of footballs, and provided me with the incomparable experience of running up and over a volcano with a bunch of crazy Spaniards. Last year, I flew to Yellowknife in Northern Canada to trot along 30 miles of ungroomed trails on snowshoes. Beat to death, I quit two-thirds of the way through but I’ll never forget the experience of standing in the middle of a frozen lake without another living soul in sight.

You really ought to try it.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Frostbite 50 (31) and Me

On March 28, some 85 people took part in the Frostbite 50, sponsored by the Yellowknife Multisport Club with the able assistance of the Yellowknife Ski Club, Yellowknife Search and Rescue and other generous volunteers. About half the field participated in teams, splitting the course among two to five competitors, the rest took part as soloists. Racers also had the choice of tackling the course on cross country skis or snowshoes, with the majority opting for the former. Only a few chose, as I did, to attempt the course as a solo competitor on snowshoes.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Good Wife

No doubt the most astonishing fact of my upcoming trip to Yellowknife for the Frostbite 50 is the decision by my wife, Lindi Rosner (a virtually-born-and-bred, flip-on-the-heat-when-it-dips-below-68-degrees, Southern California girl) to tag along. Lindi has her heart set on witnessing the aurora borealis and Yellowknife purports to be the best spot on earth to accomplish that goal.

Obviously, such an expedition requires careful planning, and I, having spent a total of 8 days out of my 60-plus years in the Arctic and Sub-Arctic, have been appointed Lindi’s expert guide. In making my wardrobe recommendations, I adopted a classic layered strategy that favored practicality over fashion. 

You judge the results!

For the base layer, I chose merino wool tops and bottoms. Lightweight and breathable. They’ll keep her warm in the face of the most severe Arctic blasts, but still comfortable when snuggled on a polar bear rug back at the hotel.