RACE COVERAGE

The Last Desert Blogs 2018

View All Posts 2018 From : Simon Melanson

Thank You

7th December 2018 02:24 AM[(GMT-05:00) Eastern Time(US & Canada)]

A heartfelt “thank you”... To everyone that took the time to read and  post on my blog.  To Cathy Salter, for the plastic penguins and book on leopard seals.  To my coworkers for the days I came to work tired and grumpy from early morning runs and altitude training. To the crew at Wheelhouse for all the intervals and sprints.  To the bears in Gatineau Park for not eating me during our many impromptu encounters. To Zach, Sam, and Hannah for pumping me up when I felt low. And, most sincerely, to Dawn, Olivia and Grace.  For supporting me during the thousands of hours of training.  For believing in me when I wasn’t sure. For being at every finish line, in the remotest parts of the globe. For being my “why.”  I could not have done it without you. 

 

One more desert to go!

Comments: Total (3) comments

Michelle Matthews

Posted On: 07 Dec 2018 18:27 PM

I had no idea you were on another run. Congratulations Simon!!! You continue to amaze me with your determination and fortitude. And now I'm off to read your blog! BZ, Michelle

Lydia Nzembela

Posted On: 07 Dec 2018 18:34 PM

GO SIMON SO!!!! you are amazing

Catharine Liu

Posted On: 07 Dec 2018 19:47 PM

Congrats Simon! Talk about going to the ends of the earth to test your limits! I'm so impressed. Thanks for sharing your experiences - your pain has been our gain. The next time something feels difficult, I will think "Well, at least I'm not running endlessly up a mountain in freezing temperatures and in pain..." You are truly a champ.
Closing Thoughts - "why?"

7th December 2018 02:23 AM[(GMT-05:00) Eastern Time(US & Canada)]

Sometimes, I ask myself this question when things get hard.  But, the answers are never very far away.  

 

First, there can be no success without adversity.  These races are not easy and they certainly don’t feel good physically or mentally. They more grind than shine.  A nightmare and a beautiful dream at the same time.  Competitors endure a lot of painful training, injuries, and rough situations just to finish.  

 

Second, the caliber of people on these races is extraordinary.  Every competitor is exceptionally accomplished personally and professionally, and continually striving to improve themselves. They are genuine / comfortable in their own skin.  Never boastful.  The conversations and comradery are authentic and rich.  Dawn observed “Now I understand why you hate running but you do these races.  I had no idea that such a cool club of people existed.” 

Lastly, my girls, Olivia and Grace.  Believe in yourself.  Dream big. Work hard.  Don’t compromise  on what you want from life.  Be fearless. Sacrifice.  Conquer.  Only make time for the people that are worth your time.  Stand tall.  Run strong. You may not make it immediately but you will accomplish great things, absolutely and definitely.

Comments: Total (0) comments

Purple Monster

2nd December 2018 03:12 AM[(GMT-05:00) Eastern Time(US & Canada)]

Saturday, mid-day.  We are roughly a third of the way through the Drake Passage, headed back to Argentina. Before leaving Antarctica, the Expedition Leader informed us that we will need to brace ourselves for a significant storm.  “The ship will be fine but, [we] will be uncomfortable.”  The Captain ordered the portholes on decks 2 and 3 to be closed/secured. And, the crew have been busily buttoning everything down. 

The electronic wind charts show strong (purple) winds out of the northwest at 40-50 knots.  The ship is strong.  Nevertheless, she is rolling pretty good.  This morning in the galley, people were slamming into each other in their chairs like bumper cars.  As I type this in my cabin, we are rolling a between 30-35 degrees. When the starboard side dips down, I place my foot on the wall, as if it to walk up a ramp.  When the ship dips to port, I lean forward and do a push up on the wall.  Olivia and Grace are only mildly entertained by my playfulness.  I have a scopolamine patch.  They are not recommended for children and so, they are only operating on Gravol.  Olivia has been throwing up since this morning.  And, Grace has just succumbed as well.  Dawn is doing surprisingly well.  Though, she has had a few close calls, flying across the cabin.  She tries to make her near misses look like dance moves.  

There is a constant “swooshing” sound as the ship rolls.  Items of all kinds are crashing throughout the cabins. It’s impossible to do much, except hold on.  36 more hours to go.  

Comments: Total (13) comments

Tricia Cameron-rendell

Posted On: 03 Dec 2018 15:00 PM

Reading your blogs I am vicariously experiencing your journey - the scenery, the elements, the experience of it all - crazy but wonderful at the same time, but am thankful to be on solid ground, warm and not sea sick! Olivia and Grace will have many unique experiences to share, that's for sure!

Riley Kirkpatrick

Posted On: 04 Dec 2018 06:53 AM

Incredible. What a family team! Well done mate. Can't wait to hear about it all in person over a cold beer, hopefully soon!

Katie Mcdonald

Posted On: 04 Dec 2018 13:46 PM

Congratulations on finishing, let alone 9th place! You’re incredible. What a tremendous experience for your girls. Sounds like they’ll have a lot of stories to tell. The polar plunge... Olivia’s crazy!!

Katie Mcdonald

Posted On: 04 Dec 2018 13:47 PM

Congratulations on finishing, let alone 9th place! You’re incredible. What a tremendous experience for your girls. Sounds like they’ll have a lot of stories to tell. The polar plunge... Olivia’s crazy!!

Jenn Whiting

Posted On: 04 Dec 2018 14:52 PM

Wow! You are a fantastic family of adventurers and we are so excited to hear all about it when you return. Good luck as you make your way home. All the best, 2A

Jenn Whiting

Posted On: 04 Dec 2018 14:52 PM

Wow! You are a fantastic family of adventurers and we are so excited to hear all about it when you return. Good luck as you make your way home. All the best, 2A

Jenn Whiting

Posted On: 04 Dec 2018 14:52 PM

Wow! You are a fantastic family of adventurers and we are so excited to hear all about it when you return. Good luck as you make your way home. All the best, 2A

Nicki Pall

Posted On: 04 Dec 2018 20:02 PM

Simon! Wow. Congratulations on this MASSIVE achievement. We can't wait to hear all about it - Safe travels on your way home!

Ginevra Vettore

Posted On: 05 Dec 2018 00:36 AM

Wow amazing! Good on you! The only other person I know that does this is Ray Zahab! Courage... =)

Ginevra Vettore

Posted On: 05 Dec 2018 00:37 AM

Congrats! The only other person I know that does this crazy stuff is Ray Zahab!

Rick Vaughan

Posted On: 06 Dec 2018 20:16 PM

Simon, A huge congratulations to you and the outstanding finish - if the race alone didn't show the type of character you have, then having your family around throughout the journey certainly did. Your enthusiasm for the sport is surpassed by that of the admiration for your family - your girls will remember this for a lifetime, and be so proud of what they saw you achieve. A huge kudos for that - inspiring for them and all who have been reading along at home. Safe journey back!

Rick Vaughan

Posted On: 06 Dec 2018 20:16 PM

Simon, A huge congratulations to you and the outstanding finish - if the race alone didn't show the type of character you have, then having your family around throughout the journey certainly did. Your enthusiasm for the sport is surpassed by that of the admiration for your family - your girls will remember this for a lifetime, and be so proud of what they saw you achieve. A huge kudos for that - inspiring for them and all who have been reading along at home. Safe journey back!

Jeff Schuvert

Posted On: 06 Dec 2018 23:37 PM

Ah the patch. Keep us updated !!!
Stage 5: Medals & Penguin Poo

2nd December 2018 03:10 AM[(GMT-05:00) Eastern Time(US & Canada)]

Mikkelsen Harbour was the setting for the last stage.  A snowy knoll at the base of karst peaks.  The landing zone was essentially a penguin latrine.  I had the boots for it.  But couldn’t help but notice that these Gentoos were rather untidier than their counterpart colonies.  They were covered in mud and poop.  No matter.  I was too tired to care.  Just a short jaunt to the final finish line.  Done!

Comments: Total (4) comments

Yvon Carriere

Posted On: 02 Dec 2018 20:16 PM

Congratulations, Simon!! This is awesome, and let the de-brief begin!!

Zach Melanson

Posted On: 02 Dec 2018 23:30 PM

Congratulations Simon!!! What a tough bastard you are! If I had one thought during the many scraps of our childhood it was"one day I'll be big enough to take him out". I was wrong - You have too much crazy, too much drive, and too much heart to be bested :) What an inspiring run! Thought about you more than a few times this week, running face first into the elements, screaming as if into battle.. and it made me smile :) Glad you made it out safe and sound. P.S. Loved the blog - It's a real page turner :) you're a great writer! Zach

Terri-ann Hurst

Posted On: 05 Dec 2018 13:57 PM

Wow, so amazingly awesome! Congratulations Simon.

Grace Di Cesare

Posted On: 05 Dec 2018 18:44 PM

Congrats Simon!!! You are an absolute SUPERHERO!! Can't wait to see you and Dawn so i can hear all about it.
Stage 4: Sideways In Port Lockroy

2nd December 2018 03:10 AM[(GMT-04:00) Santiago]

0430 on Thursday came swiftly. I was so stiff from the day before that I rolled onto the floor before contemplating my next move.  After getting to my feet, I attempted to look out the window of my cabin, but it was crusted in freezing rain and snow.  I ran my checklist and packed my backpack and drop bag.  Shortly thereafter, the Race Leader announced that our landing would be delayed until 0800 due to weather.  The delays dragged on through the morning.  I tried to sleep but, no joy.

By 1030, the weather had subsided enough that the Captain and Expedition Leader gave the Race Leader permission to embark the zodiacs and begin Stage 4.  We headed to Damoy Point on Wiencke Island, near to Port Lockroy.  The seas were …energetic.  I was covered in GoreTex, and it was a good thing.  There was a 50 km/hr wind with freezing rain and spray.  I took a couple of waves on the way to shore.  They beaded off of me as if I were a plucky penguin.

The race resumed around 1100.  No one was sure how long we would be out there.  Around 1300, the Race Leader advised that we would continue for 6 more hours – until 1900.  I steeled myself mentally for the journey ahead and traipsed along as best I could.  Up the hills, down, through the valleys of deep snow, past the penguin colonies and snowy peaks. The freezing rain and snow blew sideways from the West all day and into the evening, filling my beard with frozen refreshment.  I was constantly wiping my ski goggles to see where I was going. (Someone should really invent ski goggles with built-in wipers!)

As I ran down the last hillside, I saw the most wonderful sight.  Dawn, Olivia, and Grace arriving in a zodiac, cheering me on.  I crossed the line and collapsed in the snow…and made the world’s ugliest snow angel.  It was really more of a snow splotch.

Comments: Total (1) comments

Jenn Whiting

Posted On: 04 Dec 2018 14:48 PM

Congratulations on your amazing success of finishing the race. Grace's class is so excited that you finished the race and hope there will be some time to recover. We all believed you could do it! From 2A
Stage 3: Aftershock

2nd December 2018 03:09 AM[(GMT-05:00) Eastern Time(US & Canada)]

I got back to the ship around 2100 on Wednesday night after Stage 3.  I was exhausted and in a testy state.  I was badly sun burnt on my head and chest where I had zipped down my shirt to release heat.  My ears were puffy and sore from the sun and frostbite.   My back was chafed from my pack. The carpet-burn like lesions were sticky with merino wool lint from my base layer.  The drawstring in my pants had sawn through several layers of skin, leaving an ugly red ring around my waist.  I threw my pants in the garbage and laid on the floor.  Dawn cleaned the wounds and bandaged me as best she could.   

Around 22:00, the Race Leader gathered all the competitors together to advise us that there is a big weather system moving into our area and the Drake Passage for the next few days.  Correspondingly, we would start earlier than planned the next day.  0430 wakeup. In the zodiacs at 0530.  0600 start time.  There was a resigned silence in the room.  Nobody said a word.  We were all exhausted and hurting but, knew what we had signed up for.  I went to bed sometime just before midnight. 

Comments: Total (0) comments

Rolling With The Punches

2nd December 2018 02:02 AM[(GMT-03:00) Brasilia]

Sunday morning.  Not much sleep last night.  Sea state peaked around 22:30.  We hit a 10 (out of 12) on the Beaufort Scale.  Winds were 55 knots out of the northwest, with swells of up to 8 meters.  We rolled to 36-37 degrees (45 degrees is technically the max the ship can handle).  So, we had wiggle room.  My bunk runs perpendicular to the beam of the ship.  I felt like a squeezed tube of toothpaste.  Every time the ship rolled to starboard, I would feel a surge of pressure in my legs and feet, pinpointing all of my sore spots.  When the ship rolled to port, it felt like my head was going to explode and the toothpaste would flow out all at once.   Dawn, Olivia, and Grace slept in a large/r bed, parallel to the beam of the ship.  As I lay awake, I couldn’t help but laugh watching them rolling back and forth, in unison, like synchronized logs.

The worst of it should be over. Another purple monster is closing in from the northwest/Chilean coast.  But we are making good time and should be tucked into the sheltered waters of the Beagle Channel just before it hits the Drake.  Profound respect to mariners all around the world.  I don’t know how you manage to get work done in these conditions.

Comments: Total (0) comments

Land Ho!

2nd December 2018 01:59 AM[(GMT-03:00) Brasilia]

We have finally made it to Cape Horn (40 miles to the west).  Not a moment too soon.    Everyone is fed up with the Drake Shake.  I was so focused on getting to Antarctica and finishing the race that I had not given any thought to the return voyage, filled with tedium, storms, and seasickness. Next stops: Ushuaia.

 

Comments: Total (0) comments

My Girls

1st December 2018 03:08 AM[(GMT-03:00) Brasilia]

Combining pleasure with work (or in this case, racing) is delicate.  One is about enjoyment, the other…well it’s not fun, it’s about the challenge.

Nevertheless, things have worked out quite well.  While I have been racing, Dawn, Olivia, and Grace have been hiking, going on zodiac tours, and even went camping overnight on Couverville Island! They slept in a small expedition tent with two thermal sleeping bags each, a sleeping bag liner, bivvy bag, and long underwear.  They had a snowball fight before taking down the tent and returning to ship the next morning.

One of Olivia’s favourite parts of the trip so far is observing penguin behavior.  Specifically, how they build and maintain their nests.  Gentoo penguins live in large colonies near pebbled beaches.  Despite an endless supply of nest building material, they constantly thieve from each other.  As soon as one penguin turns its back for a second, a neighboring penguin, or a penguin toddling by on one of the penguin footpaths, steals a pebble in its beak to reinforce its own nest.  This process is continuously played out every second across the entire colony of thousands.  It’s at once funny and perplexing.  Scientists recently conducted a field study on this phenomenon.  At the beginning of the nesting season, they painted the rocks of select penguin nests in a single colour (i.e. pink, blue, green, yellow, etc.) Within a matter of weeks, the painted pebbles were found scattered across hundreds of different nests across the penguin colony. Whereas it would be easy to ridicule these “bird brains” for their pareto efficient approach to life, it so closely resembled budgeting and cash management in the bureaucracy that I was the one who felt silly.

Dawn, Olivia, and Grace also made a continental landing at Base Brown; an Argentinian research base And, they visited Port Lockroy – a small British base complete with a cute little red post office and resident penguin colony.

Lastly, Olivia went for a “polar plunge.”  She changed out of her boots and many layers, into a bathing suit, and jumped into the water and swam amongst the penguins, icebergs and bergie bits.  What a spirited girl!  

Comments: Total (3) comments

Yvon Carriere

Posted On: 02 Dec 2018 20:11 PM

Polar plunge!!?? Very brave of Olivia. Super to see you getting so much more than the run itself out of this event.

Jenn Whiting

Posted On: 04 Dec 2018 14:40 PM

Amazing, Olivia! We are so impressed that you braved the cold water! From 2A

Rachel Fabich

Posted On: 07 Dec 2018 15:46 PM

Olivia ...YOU ROCK!!!
Mondays Are Generally Tough.  yesterday Was No Exception

27th November 2018 04:05 AM[(GMT-03:00) Brasilia]

Mondays are generally tough.  Yesterday was no exception.  There was at once collective relief amongst competitors that we had made it across the Drake Passage and a bit of dread that the start line was upon us, as many had suffered varying degrees of seasickness. Stage 1 was 10 hours, set on King George Island in the South Shetlands. I woke up at 0415 and immediately peeked out the porthole in my cabin.  There it was: Antarctica!  Towering hills of black rock, generously caked in snowy white icing.  I grabbed some food in the galley, my pack and drop bag, and put on my gear.  Zodiacs started ferrying competitors to shore at 0600.

 

We started out in a blizzard. My zodiac skipper was the expedition leader.  A woman with an incredible knowledge of Antarctica, diligently earned through nearly 50 trips to the white continent.  She was dressed in black from head to toe.  In the short 10 min transfer to shore, she became completely caked in white snow and freezing rain from standing and operating the outboard engine.  It was as if she had changed into a costume of the abominable snow wo/man. Fortunately, I was seated, wearing GoreTex from head to toe, and tucked in behind a fellow competitor 

 

The race started almost immediately after we hit the beach. The wind was so strong that it sounded like a roaring jet engine.  It forced me to take a knee on a few occasions, lest I be blown overAfter about an hour, the wind, snow, and freezing rain subsided and were replaced with rising temperatures and fog.  The snow pack began to melt.  The snow became soft like coarse beach sand.  This made things slow and especially challenging going up and down the hills. 

 

As the day wore on, the snow turned to slush.  The melting snow at higher elevations created hidden streams and rivers underneath the snowpack running downhill to the sea. I fell through the snowpack several times and was dunked to the knees in ice water.  I witnessed many competitors experience the same; some all the way to the waist and chest.  One competitor went for an—albeit unintentional— ice bath in a swimming pool of slush and was helped out using trekking poles .  As the afternoon turned to evening, the wind picked up again.  My wet clothes began to freeze and felt like hard plastic.  I couldn’t feel my face, feet, and hands.  I was a human popsicle.  I barely had enough gross motor skill to get in the zodiac.

 

Despite the challenges, I put in 60 kms in tough conditions.  I twisted my knee falling through the snowpack.  It hurts, especially on the downhills.  Mind over matter.

 

I give credit to the owner of the 4 Deserts, Mary, and her team.  They were first on the beach and last of.  They were present in the remotest parts of the stage; cheering us on (and making sure we didn’t cut any corners).  I am also grateful that Dawn, Olivia, and Grace were permitted to come ashore to see for themselves just how tough these races are.  You really do have to see it to believe it.

 

 

Comments: Total (13) comments

Dave Laforge

Posted On: 28 Nov 2018 12:46 PM

Simon, your detailed reports back to those of us cheering you on are fantastic! Your words are painting an incredible picture. Here's to a few days with the wind at your back.

Tricia Cameron-rendell

Posted On: 28 Nov 2018 14:42 PM

Stay strong!

Grace Di Cesare

Posted On: 28 Nov 2018 15:57 PM

I found myself complaining that the slush made things a little slippy on my walk to work this morning. I then thought of you and promptly shut the hell up. We're cheering you on and watching your progress, Simon. You're killing it!

Geri Bloom

Posted On: 28 Nov 2018 16:17 PM

The OPP and Coast Guard family are all cheering you on (as well as living vicariously through you). You make us proud, Be safe and have fun.

Sam Melanson

Posted On: 28 Nov 2018 17:05 PM

You are a constant inspiration brother!! Hoping the weather has relented a little and conditions cooperate as much as possible! We are cheering for you back home!

Sam Melanson

Posted On: 28 Nov 2018 17:05 PM

You are a constant inspiration brother!! Hoping the weather has relented a little and conditions cooperate as much as possible! We are cheering for you back home!

Edith Richard

Posted On: 28 Nov 2018 18:14 PM

Congratulations Simon on a successful day one! ❤️ I know you can do this! Sending strength and love

Katie Mcdonald

Posted On: 29 Nov 2018 04:55 AM

Simon you’re CRAZY! I found myself thinking today “I wonder what Simon is doing at this exact moment”. Keep pushing through. Looks and sounds like you're killing it. We’re all rooting for you back home!

Riley Kirkpatrick

Posted On: 29 Nov 2018 06:12 AM

Great start Simon, you've got this! Incredible to read your updates and we're keeping a close eye from Australia! Mind over matter indeed, keep trekking mate!

Hannah Melanson

Posted On: 29 Nov 2018 06:21 AM

Si-Bones! You legend! Sounds like you are smashing it despite rough conditions. We are so immensely proud of you (albeit a little bit jealous that you can be an absolute machine of an athlete and a gun writer, but mostly just super f*cking proud.) Keep going. Riley, Rudy and I will be cheering for you every step of the way! xx

Jenn Whiting

Posted On: 29 Nov 2018 18:42 PM

Good Afternoon, 2A says hello to all of you and wanted Grace to know that we miss her but know she is having a great adventure! We are amazed at how far you went yesterday. Some questions have come up and the students were wondering how you survive in this weather. Do you wear any special race gear? Do you ever sleep between stages? Do you drink water while you are running? and the last question is what do you eat there? The students are hoping if Grace sees any animals, like polar bears, she will bring back some pictures. Good luck on the next part of your race. All the best from Grace's class

Milkshake R

Posted On: 29 Nov 2018 21:03 PM

Hope all is going well!!!!! Looking forward to updates.

Kara Kitts

Posted On: 01 Dec 2018 01:38 AM

Following and cheering you on Simon!!! You said it - mind over matter. Looking forward to read posts. Miss you and Dawn in the spin room!
Stage 2: It’s Not Funny, It’s Hill Areas!

27th November 2018 03:50 AM[(GMT-05:00) Eastern Time(US & Canada)]

Antarctica is easily the most picturesque and pristine place in the world.  Canada’s north is beautiful and special.  But, Antarctica is another planet altogether.  A vast, untouched estate filled with icing sugar peaks, pristine waters teeming with life, and icebergs that change colour with the shifting daylight.  Emerald green, turquoise, royal blue, and all the shades in between.

 

There is almost no flat terrain on the Antarctic peninsula. It’s a seemingly endless string of craggy peaks that jut from the sea, crowned with glacial ice. Simultaneously intimidating and welcoming.

 

Stage 2 was set on Danco Island in the Gerlashe Strait,  over 200 nautical miles from Stage 1.  Up the mountain/s, down, repeat.  I didn’t do nearly enough hill training to prepare for this place.  It was rough.  I fell too many times to count.  It was comical.  At the bottom of the hills, the snow—warmed by the sun and the sea—was too soft to support my weight and equipment.  (At 193 lbs without clothes and equipment, I am definitely one of the heavier competitors.  I had to crawl on my hands and knees in places – to save myself from sinking to my waist).  The hilltops were steep and icy, polished by the katabatic winds.  My poles and spikes didn’t have the force to break through the shiny crust.  I slipped, skidded and fell through the entire stage.   I felt was like a character our of a timeworn/ Loonie Toons cartoon.  I fell over and over again,  in spectacular fashion, and promptly reentered screen left.  The Gentoo penguins must have thought “what is with this human – is he sick? Dying? He laughed at our waddle when he showed up this morning but HE can’t even stay upright”.  More than once, a penguin toddled over, as I lay defeated on the ground, as if to say “Hey buddy, you OK? You want me to call you a taxi?” 

 

Do you they Uber in Antartica?

Comments: Total (0) comments

Repartee With Turnbull 2a

27th November 2018 03:47 AM[(GMT-05:00) Eastern Time(US & Canada)]

Hey friends!

Thank you for your message and questions.  I was really happy to hear from you!  Here is some news on what’s happening down here in Antarctica.

First, we flew from Ottawa to Toronto to Buenos Aires. Then from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia (a small port town at the very southern tip of Argentina). Once in Ushuaia, we boarded an expedition ship, the Plancius, and sailed across the Drake Passage to Antarctica.  It took about 1.5 days to get to Ushuaia and 2.0 days to sail across the Drake Passage.

We missed our connecting flight in Buenos Aires and had to buy new flights to Ushuaia that departed from a different airport on the city.  It was a stressful 6 hours in Buenos Aires, but we made to Ushuaia just in time to board our ship to Antarctica!

The Drake Passage, in the Southern Ocean, is one of the roughest bodies of water in the world.  Our voyage over to Antarctica was quite good, but we did have some crazy waves.  When the waves came at the front of the ship (from the south), the bow went up and slammed down hard on the surface. The vibration could be felt through the whole ship.  When the waves came from the sides (from the East or West), the ship rocked back and forth, like a sea saw.  Our cabin is on deck 6, the highest deck, so we felt the rocking more than most.   Thankfully, there are handrails throughout the ship and most of furniture is bolted to the floor.  Lots of people got seasick on the voyage to Antarctica, except…guess who…?  Grace!  While everyone else was throwing up and staying in their cabins, Grace was walking around the ship having a good time and talking to the crew.  She likes to go up to the Bridge (where the Captain drives the ship) and watch the whales and see how deep the water is on the electronic charts.  Some parts of the Drake are more than 4 kilometers deep, others just 250 meters.  The sea floor is a lot like the land, only covered in ocean.  There are underwater mountain ranges, valleys, and lots of whales. We saw more than 30 finback whales feasting on krill (small pink shrimp).  The finback whales are the second largest whales in the world (after the blue whale).  They eat so much krill here in Antarctica that their poop is PINK – we saw it with our own eyes!  There are also lots of Minke and humpback whales.

There are no polar bears in Antarctica.  Instead, they have 17 different types of penguins and lots of different seals as well.  Grace visited many penguin colonies and speaks nearly fluent Gentoo now!

As for the racers, we stay on the ship at night and race at different locations during the day.  We have a lot of specialized equipment that we carry in our backpacks.  Many of us have spikes on our shoes and use trekking poles to help us run on the icy ground.  We also wear lots of layers to stay warm.

Food is not allowed on shore in Antarctica because it could damage the fragile environment.  Fortunately, we have a special permit to bring a small amount of food.  But, no meat, seeds, or nuts are allowed.  I use a special powder that has carbohydrates, sugar, protein, and electrolytes (salts).  I mix it with my water and it helps give me energy to run.  I also bring lots of candy! Stingers, Skittles, gummy bears, and Mars bars.  The only trouble is that the candy is usually frozen.  So, it hurts my teeth to chew it.

One more thing before I go.  Grace drove the Zodiac from the ship to Port Lockroy in a snowstorm.  She’s really good at it.  But, she drives super-fast.  Everyone had to hold on to the rope on the edge of Zodiac because they didn’t want to be blown overboard.

Grace says she misses you and will show you pictures of her adventure when she gets back to school.

Bye for now :)   

Hey friends!

Thank you for your message and questions.  I was really happy to hear from you!  Here is some news on what’s happening down here in Antarctica.

First, we flew from Ottawa to Toronto to Buenos Aires. Then from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia (a small port town at the very southern tip of Argentina). Once in Ushuaia, we boarded an expedition ship, the Plancius, and sailed across the Drake Passage to Antarctica.  It took about 1.5 days to get to Ushuaia and 2.0 days to sail across the Drake Passage.

We missed our connecting flight in Buenos Aires and had to buy new flights to Ushuaia that departed from a different airport on the city.  It was a stressful 6 hours in Buenos Aires, but we made to Ushuaia just in time to board our ship to Antarctica!

The Drake Passage, in the Southern Ocean, is one of the roughest bodies of water in the world.  Our voyage over to Antarctica was quite good, but we did have some crazy waves.  When the waves came at the front of the ship (from the south), the bow went up and slammed down hard on the surface. The vibration could be felt through the whole ship.  When the waves came from the sides (from the East or West), the ship rocked back and forth, like a sea saw.  Our cabin is on deck 6, the highest deck, so we felt the rocking more than most.   Thankfully, there are handrails throughout the ship and most of furniture is bolted to the floor.  Lots of people got seasick on the voyage to Antarctica, except…guess who…?  Grace!  While everyone else was throwing up and staying in their cabins, Grace was walking around the ship having a good time and talking to the crew.  She likes to go up to the Bridge (where the Captain drives the ship) and watch the whales and see how deep the water is on the electronic charts.  Some parts of the Drake are more than 4 kilometers deep, others just 250 meters.  The sea floor is a lot like the land, only covered in ocean.  There are underwater mountain ranges, valleys, and lots of whales. We saw more than 30 finback whales feasting on krill (small pink shrimp).  The finback whales are the second largest whales in the world (after the blue whale).  They eat so much krill here in Antarctica that their poop is PINK – we saw it with our own eyes!  There are also lots of Minke and humpback whales.

There are no polar bears in Antarctica.  Instead, they have 17 different types of penguins and lots of different seals as well.  Grace visited many penguin colonies and speaks nearly fluent Gentoo now!

As for the racers, we stay on the ship at night and race at different locations during the day.  We have a lot of specialized equipment that we carry in our backpacks.  Many of us have spikes on our shoes and use trekking poles to help us run on the icy ground.  We also wear lots of layers to stay warm.

Food is not allowed on shore in Antarctica because it could damage the fragile environment.  Fortunately, we have a special permit to bring a small amount of food.  But, no meat, seeds, or nuts are allowed.  I use a special powder that has carbohydrates, sugar, protein, and electrolytes (salts).  I mix it with my water and it helps give me energy to run.  I also bring lots of candy! Stingers, Skittles, gummy bears, and Mars bars.  The only trouble is that the candy is usually frozen.  So, it hurts my teeth to chew it.

One more thing before I go.  Grace drove the Zodiac from the ship to Port Lockroy in a snowstorm.  She’s really good at it.  But, she drives super-fast.  Everyone had to hold on to the rope on the edge of Zodiac because they didn’t want to be blown overboard.

Grace says she misses you and will show you pictures of her adventure when she gets back to school.

Bye for now :)   

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Rock N’ Roll

24th November 2018 02:13 AM[(GMT-05:00) Eastern Time(US & Canada)]

We left beautiful Ushuaia late Friday afternoon.  Shortly before midnight, we steamed out of the Beagle Channel into the open waters of the Drake Passage. Our entry to the Drake was met with immediate rolling of the ship and the sound of objects crashing and clanging in the dark throughout the decks.  The Plancius is a wonderful expedition ship and very professionally crewed.  She is not as large as some of the other ships plying the route to Antarctica and has no stabilizers.  We are getting the full open sea experience!  I have only fallen over in my chair once (it was not bolted down) and have no seasickness – thanks to the scopolamine patch behind my left ear.  Though, as I type this, the two chairs next to me are sliding back and forth across the small carpeted room.  And, the walls creek as they flex with rise and fall of each wave.  Coffee cups and dishes are hitting the floor in the lounge.

 

We should arrive in Antarctica’s northwestern islands sometime Sunday night.  Rumour has it that the first day of raciing will be in the range of 100 kms. It seems that just as I am getting my sea legs, I will have to get my land legs back. Notwithstanding, I am looking forward to seeing the icy continent.

Comments: Total (10) comments

Sophia Lega

Posted On: 26 Nov 2018 13:15 PM

Simon! I had just started with CCG when you returned form your FIRST desert marathon and gave a presentation about your experience. I listened in awe. Can't wait for the next debrief ;) Break a leg!!! (as they say).

David Laforge

Posted On: 26 Nov 2018 14:57 PM

So very cool. Memories to last a life time. Go Simon Go!

Baldish Toor

Posted On: 26 Nov 2018 17:21 PM

glad I found your blog! good luck and have fun! I'll be following along as I'm hoping 2020 will be my year! :-)

Cathy Salter

Posted On: 26 Nov 2018 17:40 PM

Simon - I found the best "GO SIMON" penguin picture - but i can't add a photo to this blog - so its on your door for when you get back i find it amazing you can blog from your race in the Antarctic but we don't have wifi in our building - go figure Good luck - you've got this -and remember there aren't many pain free days in the office either and really - where would you rather be?? cathy

Cathy Salter

Posted On: 27 Nov 2018 12:20 PM

if penguins had an army i found the "onboarding bootcamp drill sergeant" yesterday - he's on your door now too. MOVE IT MELANSON!!!!! cathy

Susanne Carlin

Posted On: 27 Nov 2018 12:40 PM

Wow Simon!!! What an amazing adventure! Enjoy and good luck. I will be cheering you on from a distance.

Michael Pal

Posted On: 27 Nov 2018 14:39 PM

You are a champ! Checked in and I see that you are 9th. Amazing

Tricia Cameron-rendell

Posted On: 27 Nov 2018 17:33 PM

Only you...! Believe in your determination (stubbornness) and ability to crush it!

John Bertorelli

Posted On: 27 Nov 2018 17:54 PM

You are my hero, our hero Simon but please don't mistake a beautiful, cute little Emperor penguin for anybody else and remember, "through endurance you shall conquer." GO SIMON GO...

Yingli Cai

Posted On: 27 Nov 2018 18:40 PM

Hi Simon , It is so cool and you are amazing !!! Good Luck :)
All Aboard!

23rd November 2018 04:36 AM[(GMT-05:00) Eastern Time(US & Canada)]

Competitor briefing complete.  50 inspiring, accomplished competitors.  Boarding the Plancius shortly; aka “Base Camp” for the next 12 days.  The infamous Drake Passage—over 1,000 kms of open ocean lies ahead.  Seasickness is likely.  On the other side, the usual suspects are lying in wait: second thoughts, injury, dehydration, frostbite, sweat/hypothermia, and sunburn.  Fortunately, “Dr. J”, ER doctor from Chicago is going to help us make it through.        

Comments: Total (16) comments

Rick Vaughan

Posted On: 23 Nov 2018 17:48 PM

Give it your all Simon - looking forward to hearing all the stories and following along. Safe travels across the open seas!!

Rachel Fabich

Posted On: 23 Nov 2018 17:49 PM

YOU WILL BE AMAZING!!!! Can't wait to see the updates!

Cedric Kinnard

Posted On: 23 Nov 2018 18:00 PM

Dude, didn't know you were doing another one. Kill it! good luck.

Gregory Lick

Posted On: 23 Nov 2018 18:01 PM

I am rooting for you and will be following the trek. Make sure your Gravol is ready for the Drake Passage. Best regards, Greg

Grace Dicesare

Posted On: 23 Nov 2018 18:07 PM

Good luck Simon!!! YOU GOT THIS!

Emily Simmons

Posted On: 23 Nov 2018 18:12 PM

Simon, When the inspiration tap runs dry and you are pushed to that inevitable breaking point, remember your "why"! You are going to absolutely crush this.

Erin Lecompte

Posted On: 23 Nov 2018 18:22 PM

YOU. ARE. CRAZY. (but we already knew that) and an inspiration. Also, Cool! Penguins!

Katerina Daniel

Posted On: 23 Nov 2018 18:36 PM

Go Simon! We miss you and are rooting for you from O-town!

Judith Mailhot

Posted On: 23 Nov 2018 19:18 PM

Good luck Simon!!! Keep us posted. :)

Nicki Pall

Posted On: 23 Nov 2018 19:43 PM

Simon, you're going to absolutely crush this. So SO crazy and admirable Go Simon Go!

Zahrah Hai

Posted On: 23 Nov 2018 20:07 PM

At least finish the race for the penguins.....they need some entertainment!!! :) GOOD luck boss! We can't wait for the stories when you get back!

Kevin Carrigan

Posted On: 23 Nov 2018 20:16 PM

You got this! Good luck and warm wishes from team west.

Ellen Brown

Posted On: 23 Nov 2018 21:17 PM

I JUST found out that you were running across Antarctica... Absolutely incredible! Have a blast and good luck :) :)

Maria Rodrigues

Posted On: 23 Nov 2018 21:38 PM

This is awesome Simon! Good luck!

Maria Rodrigues

Posted On: 23 Nov 2018 21:39 PM

This is awesome Simon. Good luck!

Ken Smith

Posted On: 23 Nov 2018 22:47 PM

Simon: This is crazy, WTH are you thinking? Oh right, anything to shorten your Ottawa winter. I'm sure this will be a great adventure and test with incredible memories. Go get it!
Learning To Trust

23rd November 2018 04:35 AM[(GMT-05:00) Eastern Time(US & Canada)]

Training.  It’s a lot like learning.  Incredibly important.  Yet, never enough to face the reality of what life throws at you.  

As I sit here in Ushuaia Argentina, overlooking the spectacular Martial Mountains and Beagle Channel, I wonder: Did I train enough to run in Antarctica?  Am I ready?

On the one hand, I am definitely older,  slower, and less flexible than I used to be.  Pain-free days are rare.     

On the other hand, I ran approx. 3,000 kms to prepare for this race.  On footpaths and trails across Canada and beyond.  Down old, indiscernible forest fire fighting trails from the 1950s and 60s in the bowels of Gatineau Park; tree branches tugging at my pack and tearing my clothes, rolling my ankles (and swearing out loud with no one to hear me).  I did strength training and triple and quadruple spin classes.     

It happens before every race.  I question my fitness, my training plan, my race strategy, myself.

Trust and confidence.  They are often overlooked components of successful training and racing.    

Fortunately, Dawn and the girls are along for the journey.  Olivia reminded me: “you ran the Sahara with a broken foot and the Atacama with your guts hanging out and needed surgery – what are you worried about?”

Nothing.  The conditions are never perfect—to do anything.  Sometimes,  I just need to be reminded to start where I am and trust my training and experience.

Comments: Total (2) comments

Yvon Carriere

Posted On: 24 Nov 2018 00:13 AM

Hi Simon, I love this post. The doubt sets in no matter how prepared you are. The good news is that you will find a way, as you have every other time. I look forward to following your progress and live vicariously through you for a few days!! Enjoy every blissful, demoralizing, easy and the toughest of moments.

Rena Battistella

Posted On: 26 Nov 2018 02:41 AM

Good luck. Fantastic journey and amazing insights. Wishing you and the 'girls' a wonderful time.
Stage 3: Pyric Victory At Paradise Bay

28th December 2017 03:48 AM[(GMT-05:00) Eastern Time(US & Canada)]

If you had told me before this race that it would take me 11 hours to run 52 kms, I would have laughed in your face and wagered a tidy sum that I could do twice that distance in the same period. 

Naivety? Arrogance? 

Unquestionably.

Antarctica is the house; and she almost always wins.  The reason is simple. The odds/conditions are heavily stacked against the risk-taker.  I knew better.  I have raced all over the world.  I can do math.  Here, competitors scratch and claw for every centimeter of progress but get weighed and measured in kilometers.  It’s madness. 

Stage 3 was set in beautiful Paradise Bay.  A place so packed with beauty it scarcely fits into a 360 panorama.  I gave everything I had in Stage 3 – and more.  I really wanted it.  And so, I had to pay the price.  Eleven non-stop hours of up and down the glacial mountainside/s.  My GPS watch showed almost 2 kms of total elevation gain (and descent… that hurts too).  My heart was beating out my chest.  My left knee was begging me to slow down.  The sun was shining from every direction, reflecting off every snow-covered surface.  My feet were ice blocks but the rest of my body was cooking.  I stripped off my layers, to just a long sleeve zip top and a ball cap.  I just kept pushing.  Most of the day was a blur.  I remember the sun traveling slowly overhead.  The icebergs changed colours as they glided slowly past.  Glaciers cracked noisily. Huge chunks of ice fell into the sea, creating waves that made the icebergs bob up and down.  There were thunderous avalanches on neighboring hillsides that roared into the ocean at inexplicable speed.  I was relieved to not be in their path.

I was in the most beautiful surroundings.  Yet, mostly numb to them.  I had my head down, focused on the task at hand.   Eventually, the sun set behind the mountains, the temperature dropped, the wind rolled in, and a snow squall passed through.  I couldn’t be bothered to change into warmer clothes.  I just kept going.  My ears and face went from badly sunburnt to slightly frostbitten.  The race leader called the end of the stage at 20:00.  As I ran down the mountain to the waiting zodiacs, my mind was completely blank.  I was too tired to think –of anything.  I left everything I had in Paradise Bay.  I paid the house.  But, I felt like a winner.

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