Just three weeks to go now before we set off for Canada and the Yukon Arctic Ultra Test and if I’m honest my emotions are torn between excited and anxious.
Polar explorer Alan Chambers, Hope HIV founder Phil Wall and myself have tasted just a tiny bit of what we can expect when we spent five minutes inside the cold chamber at Land Rover HQ in Gaydon, near Coventry, and as soon as they turned the wind machine up to just 1 mph you could feel the icy difference. We will return there shortly to spend more time getting used to the bitterness of what a Yukon winter can throw at us although some texts I’ve received recently – notably from a 2008 competitor who endured the coldest Yukon yet and told of how one of his fellow trekkers pulled out before day one with frostbite – reminds me that, for all my previous experiences as a sportsman, this will be no walk in the park.
Alan’s been there and done it in terms of polar conditions but even he admitted that when he tried the 100 mile Yukon race – we’re attempting the 300 mile version – he ended up hallucinating that dropping acorns were a panther chasing him.
Then there is the small issue of our knees and ankles holding up in what will be testing conditions and the possibility of leg breaking traps left by hunters, let alone the real danger of frostbite setting in.
It may be a race over around eight days but I’m not seeing it as a race. When you consider how few people actually succeed in completing it since the first race ten years ago our focus is fully on finishing. I’d be gutted if I was unable to do so, for whatever reason, but at least I know I would have tried my best.
So what have I been up to since I last blogged? Well, Christmas has come and gone and I trained on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, and indeed every other day as well except for Christmas Day. Some of this has been with Alan and Phil – we went to spar with former super middleweight world champion Glen Catley in Bristol, for example, which was an eye-opening day for all of us – and some has been by ourselves. I have taken to much hill running close to where I live in Bradford Upon Avon. It’s an entirely different exercise to the more powerful and explosive training rugby has forced me to do for so many years, but I’m enjoying the mental and physical challenge of running 10K in the hills.
Soon we are all heading to the Scottish Highlands where we will live and work as if in the Yukon, carrying heavy rucksacks and walking 100 miles over a weekend. It will be roughly 20 hours a day where we will test out our equipment, race tactics and daily routines. Sleep deprivation will play a huge factor out in the Yukon so we’re going to get used to it beforehand.
I’m also excited with the news that we will be meeting the British Ambassador out in Vancouver before flying north to the Yukon, and undertaking a rugby training session with some local teams. In doing so we will be spreading the message about Britain’s Great Campaign, designed to promote all things great about Britain. It should be a lot of fun and at least get our minds off the challenge that lies immediately ahead.
For now, though, it’s last minute training and preparations, making sure we have everything we need, and we know how to deal with everything that might be thrown at us.
It’s nearly time. I’m counting down the days because now I just want to get on with it. It’s funny because two years ago I was gutted to be injured during the Six Nations which, of course, is almost upon us. Two years on and all my focus is on one of the bleakest, coldest and most dangerous places on the planet.
Please support Lewis in his Greatest Challenge, so that street children can stop facing theirs.
Text ‘MYGC99’ and £1, £5 or £10 to 70070, e.g. MYGC99 £5
Lewis Moody, Phil Wall and Alan Chambers hope to raise £300,000 for HOPEHIV. To donate go tojustgiving.com/teams/mygreatestchallenge. For more information please visit mygreatestchallenge.org and to share your greatest challenge use #mygreatestchallenge @MYGC2013.