The weight of things - March 7th 2014

7th March 2014

The weight of things - March 7th 2014

£12.99 for an 11g spoon? Absolutely worth it. £400 on a 535g ultralight sleeping bag? Seems reasonable.  7.45 calories per gram of macademia nuts - best stock up. I have even asked my girlfriend to order me a single €200 note for my 'emergency cash' on the basis this will be a few grams lighter than ten €20 notes. The lengths I am going to in my efforts to reduce weight are becoming truly obsessive.

The concept of the MDS is actually very simple. Bring everything you need to survive for your 7 days in the desert (excluding water and a tent) and then you run with it. You can't buy anything whilst you are out there and you must carry everything yourself. This presents a number of challenges: how can I carry the least amount of stuff, but also have what I might need? What is the optimum amount of food based on nutrition, volume and weight? Can I find lighter kit that does the same stuff? 

The importance of weight

Running is bad enough as it is. Running in extreme heat and in sand is even worse. Add a 10kg backpack to the mix and you have the recipe for a really miserable time. For the North Pole, I didn't care that much about weight. You don't really notice an extra 10kgs when dragging it in a sled across ice. Stick 10kgs on your back and try running and you soon know how important this is. So, I have become wholly obsessed with cutting weight and am going to truly extraordinary lengths...

I have determined the absolute bare minimum of what I need in the desert, then made a couple of conscious decisions about 'luxuries' - namely an iPod  shuffle and a camera. In total, I have 73 items (excluding food!) covering bathroom/medical kit, clothing,  cooking, mandatory emergency kit and sleeping gear - quite unbelievable when you think about it. For each and every item, I have tried to find the absolute lightest version of everything and am throwing hard earned cash at the problem.

The stupidity inherent in my thinking

Will spending 4 hours researching inflatable pillows and spending £28 to save an extra 4g to get the lightest compass really make a difference? Well, it depends on how you look at it... I recently had a day with the ultra running guru Rory Coleman, a man whose accolaides include 9 MDSs (the most of any Brit), 900 marathons, running 1000 miles in 1000 hours (a mile in an hour, every hour for 1000 hours) and running to Portugal to watch Euro '96. Rory taught me a lot. Essentially, I took away that there were two things that were important 1) my training and 2) my kit.

It's fair to say that if I had spent just half the amount of time as I did on kit and actually trained in this time, I would be far better prepared than I am today. Will saving a grams here and there really make a difference when I am in reality quite a slow runner? No, not really, but I will feel a lot better knowing I am not dragging the kitchen sink. The weight of my gear that I will be carrying and wearing all in? 4.589kgs. Perhaps not hugely relevant given I still weigh 82kgs myself!

 

Updates

Sand running and volcano climbing - November 29th, 2013

Sand running and volcano climbing - November 29th, 2013

Why am I going so slowly? 8kph? Really!? My feet are on fire. There is sand in my shoes. This hurts. There are people staring at me. I am sweating more than I thought was possible. Hmm... This...  more »

Intercontinental running  - November 3rd 2013

Intercontinental running - November 3rd 2013

A half marathon in Joburg. Have a shower, get on a plane, 16 hours later, get off the plane, run a half marathon in Washington DC. This style of life is becoming the norm and trust me......  more »

Facing up to the Marathon Des Sables - September 8th 2013

Facing up to the Marathon Des Sables - September 8th 2013

The (other) 'Toughest footrace on Earth', as described by the Discovery Channel. 7 brutal days of running 250km, through soft sand, in temperatures exceeding 50c, whilst carrying about...  more »

Altitude, heat and hoodlums - August 25th, 2013

Altitude, heat and hoodlums - August 25th, 2013

Move aside Thames Path with your variety of interesting historical monuments, your traffic free running lane and your shady tree laden shores. I am moving to Johannesburg, city of gold, hills...  more »

Part 2: Cruising to Polaris - April 11th 2013

Part 2: Cruising to Polaris - April 11th 2013

The weather was amazing as we left Resolute for our epic journey ahead. It was ‘only’ about -17c, no wind and beautiful sunshine. For the next few days, we would be pushing forward...  more »

Part 1: Journey to the top of the world - April 6th 2013

Part 1: Journey to the top of the world - April 6th 2013

The nostril hairs and my eyelashes started to freeze up – something that has only happened a few times in my life – typically at about -25c. The worst part was that I was still a two...  more »

'Adventure is just bad planning' - March 31st 2013

'Adventure is just bad planning' - March 31st 2013

It is with Amundsen's quote that I start my final blog before my own attempt to walk to a pole. Whilst I doubt my effort will be as celebrated, I hope it will be as successful. In the final...  more »

Counting Down... - March 13th 2013

Counting Down... - March 13th 2013

100s of KGs of kit, hundreds of individual items, food to be purchased in Canada, guns and ammunition to manage and sponsorship/fundraising efforts to sort out - the lead in to the North Pole is...  more »

Success on Aconcagua - February 9th 2013

Success on Aconcagua - February 9th 2013

100kph winds, -40c, deep snow... I had it all in my fight to get to the summit of the highest mountain in the Western and Southern Hemisphere's at 6,962m (22,841ft). Whilst telling everyone...  more »

How cold is 'cold'? - January 6th 2013

How cold is 'cold'? - January 6th 2013

One of the most common questions people ask me is 'how cold will it be at the North Pole?', to which I normally reply 'could be anything from -25c to -55c... and with windchill,...  more »

Maps & Tracking

Maps & Tracking

You can explore the full route to the North Pole and follow Paul’s progress with live maps that will plot his position each day as he progresses towards the pole  more >

VSO

VSO

VSO is the world’s leading independent international development organisation that works through volunteers to fight poverty in developing countries (www.vso.org.uk). The Fire and Ice Challenge is aiming to raise £50,000 for VSO’s secure livelihoods programme  more >