Learning Never Ends

I’m always learning something. This relates to all areas of life, military, physio, all the sports I’m involved in and the list goes on! 

In preparation for my polar expedition, I’ve read countless blogs and spoke to different people about their experiences in cold weather. 

Not everyone will do things the same way. I have cooked inside the tent and outside in the vestibule area. Both have their benefits, with both it’s important to make sure the tent is ventilated! The last thing you want is carbon monoxide poisoning! 

I had to change how I would usually pack my pulk. I would normally have my sleeping system in a piteraq bag on top of my pulk. We had a lot of wet weather so I had to waterproof a lot of my kit. The last thing you want is a wet sleeping bag! 

We had to adapt on several occasions, adapt to the weather and conditions. I’m always learning and will continue to do so throughout this journey. 

Believe in yourself

Recently I was asked what advice I would give to others that wanted to go on their own adventures.

Believe in yourself and don’t wait! I know it’s so easy to say but just taking that first step is huge.

I’m very impulsive and if I want to do something, I will generally find a way! Sometimes there will be obstacles but then I will work around then. I’ll squeeze it in if I have to. I’m also very stubborn..

I decided I wanted to join the Army when I was 19, I didn’t actually tell anyone because I didn’t want anyone to stop me. It’s still one of the best decisions I made.

I decided I want to do an expedition in Antarctica. Why? I want to inspire people to believe they can do anything. It’s not that common as an Indian female and I do believe that representation matters. I want my 8 yr old niece to believe she can achieve anything. Imagine, if you grow up thinking like that. The possibilities are endless.

Tent Bound

Being tent bound for 6 days due to storms was tough. 

The relief of getting back into the tent out of the wind after shovelling snow for hours. I would take a few seconds before attempting to delayer.

My goggles would freeze up in a few minutes so there was no point in wearing them. My buff has ridden up from covering my nose. My zip was generally frozen so I couldn’t take the jacket off as soon as we got in. 

When we got back into the tent, it was always my toes that took the longest to warm up. We had to get the stove running straight away. My fingers would lose their dexterity quickly so lighting a match wasn’t always that easy. 

When water was boiled, it would go straight into our Nalgene bottles and into my sleeping bag to warm up my toes. Everything was damp, I made a few attempts to try and dry my down jacket with the hot nalgene water bottle but it didn’t actually dry until we were off the ice.

We stayed in the tent for a few hours, warming up before heading back out again. Back to shovelling the snow so the tent wouldn’t get buried in the storm. Definitely one was to build resilience! 

The Northern Lights

My journey back was not smooth at all. I was frustrated that nothing seemed to be going my way. I remember looking up and just thinking wow. At first it looked like a faint grey light and then would turn into this beautiful aurora. It’s at times like this, I remembered that I’m in such an incredible place. 

I saw them a few times, once on the icecap when we were building a wall for the storm at 0200, on the East and West Coast. This photo was taken by the hostel manager on the east coast on his iPhone. 

The journey back was still challenging, especially when I was feeling physically and mentally tired. When we finally got off the Greenland Icecap, I wanted to get home as soon as possible. 

I spent a few days on the phone to Air Greenland trying to get 2 of us on a flight that had 1 space, I managed to get us on the flight. We took a pretty rough 1hr boat ride (open boat, no life jackets). I held my breath every-time I saw a big wave coming toward us! 2hrs before the flight, we were told it was delayed and had to wait in Kulusuk for 3 days, a small town on the East Coast with approx 240 inhabitants. 

I was frustrated at this point, I just wanted to get back. None of the return journey went smoothly. Our hotel booking was messed up on the West coast so we were waiting outside at 2200 for the hostel owner to find us different accommodation. 

Our luggage (which we sent at the start of the expedition to the west) with our clean clothes in had been sent back to the east a few days before we arrived. So I was still in my expedition clothes.

Sometimes you just have to laugh (or cry!). It was so nice to get home and get into clean clothes. I still don’t have my luggage (with the clean clothes) but hoping I’ll get it back in the next few weeks). 

Every part of this trip was an adventure, even the times that I was not on the ice cap. I just have to remember that wherever I am, just to take a minute, appreciate how I got there and take it all in! 

London Marathon

Virtual London Marathon completed! 

A week ago, I wasn’t sure I would be doing the London marathon this year. I had just come off Greenland ice cap and was physically and mentally tired. 

A few days before I flew back to the UK, the travel isolation rules were introduced. I had my race number and decided to see how I felt this morning. I also didn’t have my trainers because they are in my luggage in the east of Greenland, so I would have to do it in my boots..

This morning, I thought I’ll do a few miles and then see how I feel. I can walk/jog in the house/garden. When I was about 2 miles in, I thought, if I can do 2 miles, I can definitely do 26.2… I’ll just take my time!

And that is exactly what I did. I took my time. My legs were tired before I started. I walked/jogged in my boots and completed the 26.2 miles. I had a few breaks in between and it took over 7 hrs. It took double the time it usually takes me but it didn’t matter today. I’m glad I completed it, in my boots during my isolation.

If you want to do something, you’ll find a way! 

Four flights, a helicopter and a boat

Yes, it took four flights, a helicopter and a boat to get to the start line. About to get on the boat in the next hour and then no internet for a while. 

Very excited to start! The last day and a half have been spent sorting all of our equipment, buying our food and packing everything! My pulk (sled) weighs about 80kg and I have enough treats for the journey! 

My trusty Casio watch broke yesterday which was great timing but have “fixed it” with cord and tape. 

We have stayed at The Red House for the last two nights and Robert (the owner)has been amazing, literally drove us everywhere to get our fuel, food and equipment and invited us for food.

The next update will be when I’m on the ice! 

One step closer

We got negative Covid re-tests!! I’m SO relieved!! We’ve spent 6 nights in the west of Greenland, Nuuk. This was mandatory before flying to the East. Me and Are took Covid tests in our respective countries before arriving in Greenland and again, five days later in Greenland. So we’re Covid free and good to go! 

The first 5 days were spent in quarantine, luckily we had WiFi in our apartment and cooking facilities. We spent time route planing and sorting logistics. 150 waypoints are in my GPS. You can see some of them in the GPX screenshot below.

I downloaded some films on Netflix, audio books and songs all ready for the expedition. The films are there for when the storm hits and we’re stuck in the tent.

We had time to explore for a day and see some of the breathtaking views that Nuuk has. 

At the airport now, ready to fly to Tasiilaq where we will be buying all our food and fuel! We’ll be on the ice soon! 

Getting to Greenland

Well this has been a journey in itself! I had decided last year that I was going to do the fall crossing in 2020. I would’ve finished my MSc exams and it fits in well with Summer Leave at work. 

With Covid restrictions, the plan had been cancelled… up until a week ago. I was looking into every possibility of getting there. I would have to fly to the West of Greenland, do 5 days of quarantine, get a negative Covid re-test and then fly to the East, prep all the kit, get on a boat to the start and then start the crossing…. of course I was going to do it!! 

I spent that week in England, contacting everyone to borrow as much kit as possible, Mike Fisher, Jenny Wordsworth and Louis Rudd have all been incredibly helpful! 

You require a negative Covid test within 5 days of travelling to Greenland from a Scandinavian country. I contacted the authorities and managed to get an English Centre approved. 

The easiest way for me to get to Nuuk (the West where I had to quarantine) was via Copenhagen. This is where I met Are Johansen (my guide). Our flight was the next day so we spent one night in Copenhagen before flying to Kangerlussuaq. This will be my finishing point too! From there we took a smaller flight to Nuuk. We had 90kg in our checked in baggage, this doesn’t include the 1kg of m&ms I had stuffed in my pockets.. 

And we made it to Nuuk! Only 5 days of quarantine to go, my Covid retest is on Monday and then fly to Tasiilaq.

“I may not be there yet but I’m closer than I was yesterday” and I will get there, I just know it

Take your own advice

I find it’s always easier to give other people advice, not just in my role as a physio but for most things. 

We are generally our own worse critics. I sustained an injury a few months ago and kept pushing through because I wanted to train. A few training trips were cancelled with Covid, so part of me felt like I wanted to train harder. I felt like I haven’t really achieved much this year, other than winter training, polar training , first year of my MSc. It’s so easy to forget! I would tell my friends to not be so harsh on themselves, take their time and make sure they rehab. Why couldn’t I take my own advice!

I decided I needed to train smart. I wrote my programme down with sets and reps, you’re much more likely to stick to it and remember if it’s all written down, it works for me anyway. My injury (tendinopathy) required gradual loading so I took a step back, stopped over loading (by running) and started with the basics. It was frustrating not being able to run, especially when the weather has been so nice.

I’m finally starting to come out the other side and even managed to get back to some tyre dragging. Things started to improve when I started training smart and I’m ready for my next training trip. I’m still not sure what this will be as it depends on restrictions on parts of the country. I have a few back-ups plans too so I’m sure I will be doing one of them in August.

I’ve been doing my rehab exercises, working and took my little sister up Mam Tor in the Peak District for her 10thBirthday (I give the best gifts..) 

Have you ever just wanted something so much that you will do anything it takes to get there. That’s how I feel. It’s time to be smart about it. Don’t get frustrated over the small things, like when you’re tyre gets stuck around a tree in the woods. I don’t need to waste my energy on that. 

‘Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting’ 

Mental Health Awareness

A few people in my life have been struggling with their mental health recently. People have also spoken to me about feeling low as they are unable to see family, friends or have had holidays or events cancelled. However, they feel bad because so many people are in a worse position. 

I don’t think we should feel bad or make each other feel bad for feeling low at a time like this. It is completely understandable to feel this way. Be kind to yourself and take one step at a time. 

I used to think not talking about my emotions made me stronger, I didn’t want to appear ‘weak.’ It doesn’t matter how strong and resilient you are, keeping it all inside can be overwhelming. What I’ve learnt is this, talking more about my emotions has just made me stronger. I am so grateful to all the people in my life that support me. Thank you.

I’m in the middle of my MSc and one of the modules I’m taking is Exercise Medicine. One of the components is physical activity and mental health. National guidelines recommend physical activity for persistent mild-moderate depression in group settings with support from an instructor, typically 3 session per week. This is not as easy with social distancing however there are more and more classes available online. I know more than a few adults that love PT with Joe.

If I’m feeling low, these are some of the things that help me:

Staying in touch – It’s more difficult know that we’re inside but keep in touch with people over the phone or online. Feel free to send me a message if you don’t know who to talk to.

I know I always feel better after speaking to my niece over zoom. We played snakes and ladders today, she won this round. I’ll get payback next week. I usually travel a lot and have great people in my life that keep me company at 0200, during long trips or when I am waiting at the airport (the picture at the airport below was pre-isolation..)

Be more active – if you feel up to it, go for a short walk or join in one of the many classes online. I know that this is easier said than done. I’m usually really active and find it difficult to slow down. Just take one step at a time, even sitting for less periods will be helpful. 

Try to maintain a healthy diet – I always find I eat better when I have planned my meals. My mum is diabetic and has started doing the same. 

Have a routine – Its easy to get into poor sleeping patterns. Try keeping a diary to help you with routine. This can include meals and physical activity. I have a training routine when I have something I am training for. I am currently still training for my next training expedition. 

Make mini goals – something you have control over. ‘Today I will get out of bed and have a shower’. Recently mine have been ‘complete my essay and prepare for exams!’ I like to move around and have recently been enjoying revising outside sat on my roll mat. Or build a fort – I was very proud and excited by our bed sheet fort (see pic below).

I am by no means any kind of expert, these are just some of the things that helped me in the past. Spending two months in Antarctica alone will definitely be challenging and I will do all of the things above to help me prepare. 

If you’re struggling, please reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone.

My quote today:

‘Your illness does not define you’