Tracks on the pavement

So there is a Chinese proverb that says “若要功夫深,铁杵磨成针“ which roughly translates to – if you persevere, you can grind an iron bar into a fine needle. That hasn’t quite happened yet, but I can already see the marks on the pavement of Regent’s park where my tyre dragging has left scratch marks.

Beautiful day out training today. Will post pix later.

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Life potential

As my MBA comes to a close, I find that my friends and I spend quite a lot of time trying to make sense of the past two years here. The classmates I have at the London Business School (until recently ranked #1 globally by the Financial Times 3 years running), are some of the most diverse, talented and amazing people around.

When you talk about the global elite, these guys are it. From Olympic athletes, to financial wizards to singers and entrepreneurs, this is a driven group that strives to squeeze every drop of meaning out their lives, and maximise their life potential. I guess that is the main reason they came to LBS (that and to party it up in London).

That is not a very different goal from MENCAP.

There are 1.5 million people with learning disabilities in the UK. MENCAP works to change laws, provide services and training so that people with learning disabilities can choose how they live and to maximise their life potential.

The way I see it, the goals that we have are the same – to become better people, to challenge ourselves, to be independent, to be happy, these are constant in direction; though the actual heights achieved may differ.

That is why I am raising funds for Mencap, and I hope you can help me achieve my goal.

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New addition to the family!

As part of the learning from my Canada trip, I realised that my tyre wasn’t heavy enough, hence I decided to add another one to the mix. It was strange walking up to the garage and asking for another tyre.

Great guys at the LBS maintenance team helping me drill a hole in my new truck tyre!

Taking the big one and the little one out for a walk.

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Arctic Circle Training

I just got back from 12 days on Baffin Island, (super far north Canada), which is in the Arctic circle. Training with polar adventurers extraordinaire – Matty McNair and her two kids, Sarah and Eric McNair-Landry (who hold records for being the youngest to reach the South Pole, 596km kite-skied in a day etc.)

This was a good introduction to the Arctic weather. While I had been in similar cold before, on a mountain, it usually started off cool and got colder the higher one got – which gave one time to acclimatise, or at least turn back. At Iqaluit, the instant I stepped off the plane, we were down to -30°C temperatures instantly, thank goodness I had some warm clothes with me.

In a crowd like this, there was a bunch of amazing people staying at the Northwinds lodge – Irish explorers and a Japanese man about to do a solo expedition to the North pole. A few of the guests and visitors had also summited Everest.  It was a real privilege to see the systems that they used, and debate the merits and trade-offs of the different types of gear to bring along.

Every night, I was out in the tent at the back, getting used to the weather, and trying out different sleep systems.The first few days were theory, where I reconciled my prior knowledge and experience from climbing, adventure-racing, work to the requirements of a polar environment.

I think respect for the environment is key – hence the need to come for training and learn from those that have successfully done it.

Great fun, had a chance to go on a dog-sled ride, kite-ski, but mainly learn to cross-country ski with a pulk and live comfortably in that environment.The photos don’t do justice to the excitement, speed and sheer fun of running with the big dogs!

Of course, it wasn’t all fun and games. The main learning was in the field, with a 7 day mini-expedition with Sarah. We navigated, cooked and even went for a swim.All through-out, the weather was incredibly cold, and numb fingers and toes were pretty much par for the course. Holding anything – food, gear, cameras, all soaked away precious heat from the fingers, while sweat cooled and turned to ice, lowering the body core temperature. The sleds were loaded down with all our gear, and had an extra 80lbs of dog-food, just in case they weren’t heavy enough. Many people think that ice is smooth, but with the tidal action (we are skiing on frozen sea-ice) and wind, they form incredible rough patches hundreds of meters to several km wide that are an incredible pain to cross.

Many people say that jumping from a plane is a unique manifestation of a suicidal wish (having done it quite a few times, I would agree). The same goes for taking a dip in water when the air temperature is -50°C with wind-chill and frost-bite hits naked skin in 30seconds. This was to practise crossing patches of open water that could not be avoided

Me in my bathing suit! Worst thing was springing a small leak, and getting wet feet! A little bit worse than in London.

The final evolution was to make my own way back, once Sarah was convinced I wouldn’t blow things up when left alone. Armed with a shot-gun, tent, food, satellite phone and fuel, I took my bearings with the compass and sat off back to civilisation. The way was pretty far, and the howling wind on the second day made it almost impossible to set-up tent, or to sleep. The violent winds had me thinking all night about the tent collapsing, especially while the stoves were running. Not happy thoughts.

On the final day – I had to make it back to Matty’s by a fixed time, because I had a flight to catch. I had enough time to shower, change and then hop on the plane. A short nap later,  I was back in civilisation, having a good meal.

Surreal indeed.

PS – many people ask about going to the toilet in such conditions. I can only say this – if you are one of those blessed with huge capacity, then you’re the lucky one.

PPS – so why do this – answers below



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The skiing in London is great

ImageSo its not always easy to get the right snow conditions in London right for cross-country skiing, so I have to make do with roller-skis. Its great fun, but a bit slow when you have a tyre strapped to you. (Thanks for the photo Carolyn).

Love this comment by Jon on Facebook –

  • John PP ‎10,000 BC, the wheel invented in the Neolithic era to facilitate movement of heavy objects.
    2012 AD, a Cambridge mathematician with an MBA from LBS forgets how to use one.

Somehow I can’t help but feel that training like this is similar to what we do in the MBA – take abstract models that “kind of” simulate the challenge of reality, and tell ourselves that we still capture the important essence despite the simplifications.

So a tyre for a sled, because it is just about weight and drag, and roller-skis to simulate cross-country ski action. =0

But what to do, the snow in London isn’t always great for skiing.


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Rain or shine, sick or not …

Been really sick this past week, can’t hold any food in the stomach, so training has to be done when hungry, then out to drag tyres for an hour or two before trying to eat, then curled up in bed for a few hours after that.

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The weather in London

Strange that London in January is so unseasonably warm, makes it difficult to train. Lots of laps around Regent’s Park.

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