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kottke.org posts about Tarka L’Herpiniere

The absolutely nutso Quintuple Anvil Triathlon

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 02, 2016

The competitors in standard course triathlons, which is the format used for the Olympics, have to swim nearly a mile, bike 25 miles, and run 6.2 miles. The men’s gold medalist at the 2016 Olympics finished with a time of 1 hour 45 minutes. The Ironman triathlon is much longer: a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and then you run an entire marathon (26.2 miles); the current world record for this distance is 7 hours 35 minutes.

The Quintuple Anvil Triathlon is five Ironman triathlons in five days, i.e. your basic total insanity.

Crushed by exhaustion, you may dream of a competitor’s head morphing into a Pokémon-like demon — and then open your eyes and still see it. The next day you will quit the race.

To fill your queasy stomach during your third 112-mile bike ride, you will discover the best way to eat a sausage-and-egg sandwich: shove it in your mouth and let it slowly dissolve.

After 500 miles on a bike, 10 in the water and more than 100 on foot, it will make perfect sense to grab a branch and a broomstick in a desperate bid to propel yourself — like a giant mutant insect — the last 31 miles. It will not be enough. You will collapse on the road.

Seasick, miles into the swim, you will vomit. Twice.

Neck cramps will attack so fiercely on the bike that your head will slump. You will go cross-eyed and nearly crash.

This reminds me of one of my favorite things I’ve ever posted, this story about ultra-endurance cyclist Jure Robic.

For one thing, Jure Robic sleeps 90 minutes or less a day when competing in ultracycling events lasting a week or more…and goes crazy, like actually insane, during the races because of it. Because he’s insane, his support crew makes all the decisions for him, an arrangement that allows Robic’s body to keep going even though his mind would have told him to quit long ago.

I’m also reminded of Ben Saunders and Tarka L’Herpiniere skiing/walking to the South Pole and back, covering a distance of 1795 miles in 105 days. That’s 17 miles a day for more than three straight months. And just this morning, I was thinking my chair was a little uncomfortable.

Update: So get this: the the Quintuple Anvil Triathlon is a mere trifle compared to the Triple DECA Iron in which competitors do an Ironman triathlon every day for 30 days. ASDFADASGRETHRYJH!!! I cannot even start to think about beginning to even with this. (via @ben_lings)

Nearly there

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 05, 2014

Ben Saunders and Tarka L’Herpiniere are reaching the end of their 105-day, 1800-mile solo (nearly) unsupported journey to the South Pole and back again. Towing sledges across unchanging icy terrain for 100 days doesn’t exactly make for compelling reading, but it’s been a highlight of each morning during the past three months to read what the boys have been up to. I hope offering my congratulations on a job well done isn’t premature.

Fear and loathing near the South Pole

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 02, 2014

70 days ago, Ben Saunders and Tarka L’Herpiniere set out from the edge of Antarctica, bound south. Their goal was to ski, alone and unsupported, to the South Pole and back along the route Captain Robert Falcon Scott travelled in 1912. I’ve been following their blog every day since then, and they were making the whole thing — skiing 19 miles/day in -30° white-outs hauling 300 lbs. and blogging about it the whole way — seem easy somehow. They reached the Pole the day after Christmas were hauling ass (and sled) back toward the coast.

But their seemingly steady progress hid a potentially life-threatening truth: they needed to be skiing more miles a day in order to travel quickly enough to not exhaust their food supply. They’d been missing their mileage goals and in an attempt to catch up, weren’t sleeping and eating as much as they should have been. Things could have gone very wrong at this point, but luckily Ben and Tarka came out ok.

Our depot was still 74km away and we had barely more than half a day’s food to reach it; eight energy bars each, half a breakfast and half an evening meal. 16km into the following day Tarka started to slow again as he led, before stopping entirely and waving me forward to talk. “I feel really weak in the legs again”, he said. “OK. What do you want to do?” I answered snappily, before realising this was on me. I came here to be challenged and tested, to give my all to the hardest task I have ever set myself and to the biggest dream I have ever had. And here was the crux. This was the moment that mattered, not standing by the Pole having my photograph taken, but standing next to my friend, in a howling gale, miles away from anyone or anything. “Let’s put the tent up”, I said, “I’ve got an idea”.

Adventure is never about battling the environment or elements or whatever. It’s always a struggle with the self. And as this battle reached a fevered pitch, Ben and Tarka were not found wanting. Calling for resupply, and thereby giving up on one of the major goals of this expedition 10 years in the making, was probably the hardest thing Ben has ever had to do in his entire life. But he did it, for his family, his loved ones, and his teammate. Ben, Tarka, I’m proud of you. Thank you for letting us follow along on your journey, for showing us what is humanly possible, and for the reminder that pushing the boundaries is never about how far you can tow a sled but about what you do when confronted with the no-win scenario: beating yourself.

There and back again, South Pole edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 28, 2013

Scott Expedition

Right now, two men on skis pulling 440 lb sleds are inching their way across the Antartic continent, bound for the South Pole and then back again. Ben Saunders and Tarka L’Herpiniere are attempting to complete, solo and unsupported, the same journey that claimed the lives of Robert Falcon Scott and his party in 1912. They’re calling it The Scott Expedition.

Saunders has been working towards this goal for more than 10 years with many false starts. His former partner in exploration, Tony Haile, explains the journey before the journey:

In short, a South Pole expedition is pretty much the worst way to spend four months you could possibly imagine, but if you were to ask Ben I don’t think he would say that’s the tough part. The tough part is getting to the start line in the first place. Antarctica is far away from everywhere and doing anything in Antarctica is ridiculously expensive. Imagine if you kept a car in New York but the only way to fuel that car was to charter a private jet and fly fuel in from England. That’s the logistics of an Antarctic expedition and between us we had no cash and no clue how to get any.

We didn’t go to the South Pole in 2003. Or 2004. Or 2005. Living month to month on whatever I could scrounge together, putting together small expeditions or managing other people’s just so I wouldn’t lose my connection to the cold places, I grew to fear and then hate my parent’s yearly Christmas letter to their friends which would explain ‘Anthony has decided to postpone his South Pole expedition for another year to raise more funds’. For Ben and I, we had proclaimed a grand goal. We had told people year after year this was the year we were finally going to go south. And every year we had to look at the nervous smiles as we publicly failed. Again and again.

The journey is just underway…the plan is to travel 1800 miles to and from the South Pole and you can track their progress online and read tweets and blog posts from Ben and Tarka along the way. Back in 2005, when Ben and Tony were planning this trip the first time around, they sold miles of the expedition for donations of $100 apiece. They didn’t make it that year obviously and in the days before Kickstarter, crowdsourcing $180,000 was a bit more difficult than it is now. But I bought a mile back then (I actually got mile #900, the point at which they’ll reach the pole) and I am beyond excited that they’ve set off and can’t wait to see how the trip progresses. Good luck, Ben and Tarka!