BRIT adventurers are being invited to test their mettle in an ice-cold new 100-mile endurance race across a frozen Mongolian lake.
The ‘Mongol 100’ is the brainchild of UK firm Rat Race Adventure Sports and initial entries are now open.
The race itself, which will debut in March next year, will see competitors traversing the ‘Khövsgöl Nuur’ in northern Mongolia, a body of freshwater known as the ‘Blue Pearl’ and which freezes solid in winter.
And not only will participants have to brace blood-freezing temperatures of -47ºc, they’ll have to confront their fears as they tentatively cross ice that’s criss-crossed with cracks and fissures… with a 1,000ft deep expanse of water beneath them.
The theme of the Mongol 100 is ‘by any means’ – where racers can choose their mode of transport – either running, walking, ice-skating or biking.
It’ll take four long days to complete the 100-mile mission.
Whatever form of propulsion racers do opt for, they’d better hope they’re quicker than the local wildlife… which includes wolf, lynx and fearsome brown bear!
Hackney-based ultra-marathon runner Allie Bailey, 36, has just become the first woman in history to complete the crossing on foot, as she joined an early Rat Race team test run earlier this month, ahead of the event’s official launch today.
Speaking about her achievement, she said: “It’s an amazing feeling. But even better was the camaraderie between those of us who were out there. It was an incredible experience and I’m proud to have a ‘first’ on my CV.”
And here the marketing consultant unleashes her ultimate ‘survival guide’ for those looking to enter the race proper in 2019:
YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE:
“When I agreed to join the Rat Race team for what I was told was going to be a new event, I remember saying, ‘yeah, sure, as long as it’s not cold….’ The next thing I know I’m standing on a frozen lake in the middle of Mongolia with temperatures reaching around -50ºc. But I’m an ultra-runner and for me, the more exciting the run, the better. There’s only so many times you can run the London Marathon. You’ve got to have that YOLO attitude.”
BELIEVE YOU CAN DO IT:
“The biggest barrier to you even entering a race like this is not having faith in yourself that you can actually do it. But if you’re organised and you train, you can do it. Before the Mongol 100 I was typically running around 50 miles a week and running events every other weekend, purely because I get bored training on my own. You might as well go get a medal and meet new people.”
DO YOUR RESEARCH:
“I had to really prepare to be cold. And this is about doing your research and getting the right kit. (I took compression tights, ‘Wed’ze Freshwarm’ baselayers. ’Nike Dry Fit’ winter tights, salopettes, Gore-Tex full leg gaiters, Merino wool tops, a North Face fleece, Wed’ze breathable puffa, Montaine water and windproof jacket, Salomon Propeller mittens with separate merino liners, and Kahtoola Microspikes). But it’s actually very hard to prepare for cold. I could go and sit in a meat freezer, or the cryogenic freezing room at King’s College, but that’s not really going to prepare me because I’m not moving. But you can prepare in other ways, like buying trainers two sizes too big so that they will accommodate several pairs of socks!”
PREPARE TO LIVE IN YOUR CLOTHES:
“Once I’d got into my kit, I didn’t take it off again for the five days we were out there. Not to sleep, not to do anything. It sounds grim but because it’s a dry cold you’re not sweating. Your hair doesn’t get greasy and nothing gets dirty. But if you’re a princess, don’t go and do this race. All the foibles you have living in a developed world go out of the window in an event like this.”
YOUR WET WIPES AND TOOTHPASTE WILL FREEZE SOLID:
“By day three we’d become experts at tackling this. You’d get your wet wipes, moisturiser, butt wipes and toothpaste, put them in your shoes, and position them far enough away from the fire in the Ger (a Mongolian yurt) that they wouldn’t burn but equally they would be defrosted by morning.”
COMFORT BREAKS ARE TRICKY…
“You’re not allowed to wee or poo on the lake as it’s sacred – and you don’t really want to anyway as there’s nowhere to hide! Ironically, when you’re cold you need to go to the bathroom more than when you’re hot. So you have to come up with other solutions. We had long drop toilets set up at base camp, but the boys had taken to carrying plastic flasks which they would then use, and run along carrying a ‘wee slushie’. God, it was romantic! And you just have to basically make sure you didn’t need to do things you didn’t want to do in front of lots of other people on a frozen lake.”
DRESS LIKE THE LOCALS:
“The socks I had taken were really not brilliant, and it’s hard to get socks right. If you wear too many socks it cuts off the circulation to your feet and your feet then get really cold. I ended up buying yak socks from a local Mongolian woman. And they were amazing – toasty warm. We also wore Mongolian ‘deels’, a huge yak and fur lined jacket, and fox fur hats.”
ENJOY THE FOOD:
“I’m going to feel slightly worried telling my seven-year-old niece I ate ‘Rudolph’, but we ate freshly-killed reindeer and I have to say it was delicious. But don’t think about drinking beer – our drinks froze within 60 seconds of us opening them. I’m not joking…”
PREPARE TO BE DAUNTED BY THE SCALE…
“On the first day, before we started running, we drove the route we’d be taking in a van. It took five hours, which is quite sobering when you’re thinking, ‘I’ve got to run this…’ There were cracks in the ice the vans had to drive over – we’d all had to get, and the van would drive across as quick as it could before we all jumped back in again. When you first get on this amazing, almost see-through ice, you’re tiptoeing on it, listening to the cracks and the bangs. The lake is almost 1,000ft deep beneath you. It’s scary, but you have to acclimatise to it.”
ICE, ICE BABY:
“I didn’t know this before, but there’s lots of different types of ice. There’s ice with frosting on the top, there’s ice that looks like jellyfish, there’s ice that looks like big bits of ice floating in water – ice, ice, ice, everywhere ice.”
IT’S COLD, BUT NOT AS YOU KNOW IT:
“It’s very, very cold. But it’s a ‘dry cold’, as opposed to a ‘wet cold’ here in the UK. And a dry cold, with no wind, is potentially more dangerous as you don’t really appreciate just how cold it is. It creeps up on you, and so can hypothermia.”
“Nights were the worst in terms of cold. I had all my clothes on but still couldn’t settle. On the last night we all got in the same yurt, we all snuggled up to each other in all of our kit, and we got through it. The cold also sends you into a weird dream-like state where you feel really confused without knowing why. You have to have your wits about you.”
YOU NEED TO BE MENTALLY STRONG:
“When the event launches next year, competitors will run it in four days. But we did it in three. So that meant three back-to-back ultra-marathons. The last day was 36 miles and I was tired. And I spent a lot of time running on my own adrift from the group. I fell into a back hole of ‘what am I doing? I’m not good enough.’ There’s no distraction – it’s a white and blue abyss you’re running across. The landscape never moves. You think, ‘That island doesn’t look too far away…’ Then you run towards it for ten miles and it’s as far away as it was before.”
RACE ADMIN IS KEY:
“Anyone considering doing this needs good admin skills. That only really comes from having run multi-day races before. We’d get back to the Ger and then it was an hour and a half of admin every single night. Kit you don’t want to wear – off. Kit that needs to dry – up. Buffs to dry – up. And then you lay out your kit for the next day. What’s frozen? What needs to defrost? Everything has to be packed in the right bags.”
A SPORTS BRA WILL COME IN HANDY:
“I usually eat things like Clif Bars, Shot Bloks, gels, Bounce Balls and nuts. But everything, apart from the nuts, froze solid. So I used to keep everything I needed down my sports bra to defrost it. One day I also ate frozen tuna baguettes… I just needed to get the carbs in me! I lost nearly a stone in a week because my body was burning every fat store it had to keep me alive.”
DON’T FEAR THE WOLVES:
“We were sat outside the Gers having our dinner as the sun was going down, and you could hear the wolves howling in the forest. It was like it was being played on a tape recorder. They were so close and it’s something I’ll never forget. And just being on the ice, on your own, with no vehicles around you, in silence, no other living creature… and then hearing the ice cracking, was astonishing.
“Running isn’t just good for your mental health, it mirrors mental health in many ways. If you’re running an ultra and you think you can’t do it, it’s a case of putting one foot in front of the other, for however long it takes, until you get to the end. And that’s literally the same with your mental health. It doesn’t matter how slow you’re going, as long as you’re progressing.”
** The ‘Mongol 100’ is part of a new Rat Race series called ‘The Bucket List’, and which will also feature expedition to Namibia and Panama.
For more details and to register: http://ratrace.com/bucketlist/