Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Antartica and the Last Desert Race


On Nov 24th, I'll be competing in www.RacingthePlanet.com 's "The Last Desert" race...a 6 stage, 150 mile foot race through the ice and snow of Antarctica. My Australian teammates and I, will be competing along side 24 others from a number of countries and varied backgrounds. After completing similar races through the Sahara Desert in Morocco, the Gobi Desert in China, and the Atacama Desert in Chile, this will be my 4th desert, and thus will have taken me to the driest, hottest, coldest, and windiest places on the planet..and tested my limits both physically and mentally.

We'll be boarding our ship in Ushuaia Argentina, and making the often harrowing, two day sail across the famous Drake Passage, which is home to some of the world's roughest ocean waters. When we're not hanging our heads over the side with sea sickness, we'll be anxiously scanning the gray horizon for our first glimpse of the amazing white continent!

Antarctica is classified as a desert because it's interior averages only about 50 mm of precipitation a year...less than the Sahara. The very little snow that falls there, stays there, because there's so little evaporation. But it frequently appears that blizzards are occurring because the ever present winds are picking up, and blowing around snow that has already fallen...so white-out conditions are common. Antarctica is the coldest and windiest continent with the lowest recorded temperature ever, at minus 128.6 degrees F!!

At this point, I'm used to the scorching heat of the "regular" deserts, but this cold is a whole new beast to wrap my mind around. It will surely be another great test of what we are able to grin and bear it...and trudge on through. It will require a lot of new gear that we aren't so familiar with, but which is vital in protecting us from the cold and wind. The folks at Mountain Hardwear have been nice enough to deck all three of us out from head to toe in the their latest gear, which is a HUGE help..and I want to thank them for that!! But once again, having my teammates along to lighten the darker moods will certainly boost our attitudes and hopefully make it another incredible experience. We had many moments of hilarity in our desert tents in the past, as we laughed at our shared pain and misery. I expect that "boat life" will be quite similar...but hopefully a bit cleaner!!

My teammates were just featured on the Australian Wide World of Sports and their TV spot is a great way to understand what it is we do, and why we choose to do it. Here is the link (might take a couple min. to load):
http://wwos.ninemsn.com.au/videoindex.aspx?videoid=545f0ddd-c604-4d74-aa35-1a79aaca780e&tab=1

And once again, it's a real pleasure to be raising money for my charity as well.... St. Jude's Children's Hospital. It's a very worthy charity and it gives me quite the motivation to think about what these kids are going through when I feel like quitting myself. But please don't feel the pressure to donate because I know these times are tough for everyone. But if you feel that you can afford a few extra dollars for a great cause, this is it: https://waystohelp.stjude.org/sjVPortal/public/displayUserPage.do?userId=24604&programId=401&eventId=4641

I have read many books about this far and forbidding landscape, and still can't quite believe I'm going to be experiencing it first hand. This land of such great explorers like Capt Cook who was the first to cross the Antarctic Circle...and Amundsen who was the first to the South Pole...and Scot who died coming back from there...and Shackleton's incredible survival story...all make this place seem like a fantasy world. In reading these stories, their brutal adventures came to life on the pages that I read growing up, in the warmth of my home. Most of us are "armchair adventurers", reading all about the farthest reaches of the planet, while sitting in our favorite chair in front of a gas fire that we can turn on with a simple push of a button!! It's tough to really imagine what these men must have felt while truly living these incredible, and many times brutal adventures...when we're enjoying such cushy lives. (but don't get me wrong...I'm not apposed to reclining chairs and roaring fires!!) But for me now, to actually go there and see some of what they saw, and feel some of the cold that they felt...it is beyond amazing!!!

You can read about the competitors, learn about our journey there, and follow the race at http://www.4deserts.com/thelastdesert/

5 comments:

afuntanilla said...

hey frank! i am in awe and very envious! Can't wait to read out it and see how you are your team are doing. best of luck! keep thinking about those kids!

Lisa Smith-Batchen said...

Frank,...nice to know you have a blog..you rock:)
have a great race....:)
ok for me to put your blog link on mine so others can read???
happy day
lisa

dm said...

Hi frank, the kopecky's are all cheering you on! the girls are excited to follow you. best of luck!

doris, chris cierra and sophia

Morgan said...

Good luck with your race. To me the 4 Deserts race seems like one of the coolest things ever! I happened to stumble upon the website and I wanted to sign up for the next race as soon as i got there. I've always loved pushing my physical and mental limits and i love being outdoors and discovering new places. Hopefully I'll be in your shoes in a few years. If you have any advice, I would more than willingly accept it! Can't wait to hear how things went. Keep up the fire, sir!!

Morgan

Lisa Smith-Batchen said...

Frank..come on and update this blog!!!! we all want to know:)
Lisa