Thursday, 8 November 2012

A right pain in the bum!

After 6 weeks of agony and suspected Sciatica believed to be cause by cycling up steep hills, I've now found out that all I have is a weak piriformis and I need to do more squats!

Following an hour of having my physios elbow in my right buttock...all seems to be feeling much better - thanks!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

DW training updates

We both survived our first endurance training session on the canal section of the Devises to Westminster Canoe Race over the school holidays week.

Over a period of 5hrs we got in and out of the boat 32 times, we paddled in driving rain, had to negotiate the dark and ate far too many flapjacks!

It was probably as bad as it could get in terms of the weather, both rain and wind so made for a perfect training session.

Later on this evening,  I'II be heading out for our wednesday training session on the Ely River is Cardiff (not so pleasant) and as the temperature plummets it makes the training all the more challenging.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Devise to Westminster Canoe Race

It's official, my next major challenge is to complete the 120 mile Devizes to Westminster Canoe race that starts on the morning of the 30th March 2013 and finishes (hopefully) 22hrs late as we paddle under Westminster bridge.

Neal, my race partner, and I have been out in the K2 now most weeks for the last few months and things are beginning to flow.

This weekend we head up for our first taste of the real thing as we intend to paddle the first 25 mile section of the race.

It's getting harder as the weather is turning and I know that between now and the race most of my training will be in the dark, in the rain and in the cold. I'm already suffering with cold fingers, following my lake Baikal expedition, so it's going to be a real challenge.

Lots of updates to come!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Oscars of Adventure

I was more surprised that anyone to find myself standing up on the stand receiving an award for completing the Siberian Black Ice Race in March 2012.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Cardiff Aspire Double Marathon

After 9hrs and 29 minutes of non-stop running, I finally managed to complete my long journey from Brecon to Cardiff as part of the Cardiff Aspire Ultra Marathon Race.

Having not run further than 12km in training I was pleased with the way my body was able to continue.

Subdued by ibuprofen and paracetamols my mind was able to keep me going through the pain of pounding on tarmac. Two days on and I still can't walk properly!

I was delighted to come 54th overall out of over 130 starters.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

My first Surfski Race

On Sunday 6th, I headed down to Rhoose lifeguards to take part in 2012 Surfski Race, a race that has been running for 30 years.

The conditions were perfect and it was great to get out on my ski so close to home. The course was an 8km loop along the coast and back.

Having not had much practise lately in my ski, I had fears of capsizing so decided to wear my wetsuit. Lucikly it was not needed, but this meant that I was sweltering hot.

It was great training for my Devises to Westminster bid next year!

Monday, 30 April 2012

2 day Adventure Race

The best thing about Adventure Races is that they are never cancelled due to bad weather, so this weekend was a wet and windy one. Some great mountain biking, trail running and kayaking on Exmoor in and around Sydenham Country Park.

Great to have won too, makes coming home and having to deal with wet and dirty kit totally worth it!

Results now up.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

I'm still checking the weather

So this is the latest from Lake Baikal! If the ice hasn't melted by now, it won't be long. Given it was only a month ago I was riding a bike over that lake, makes me rather nervous. This race really needs to be held in Jan or Feb when it is properly cold.
I'm really looking forward to catching up with everyone at the EWR Awards ceremony in June to hear all the stories now it has sunk in for everyone.

Friday, 13 April 2012

The bike has been given back, but I've got a new one to play with.

It was sad to have to hand back the fabulous Qoroz Mountain Won that had taken me over  Lake Baikal....

however I've now been given something to ride around on which I can only describe as a supersonic machine...The Race Won

Having my first outing on it today, it felt like the bike needed no rider as it seemed to fly at top speed perfectly well on it's own! It's such an aerodynamic position that the perceived wind has far less impact than on other road bikes. I'm just trying to figure out if Qoroz had actual built an engine into this one! I seemed to put very little effort into my 40km ride today.

Luckily my tendonitis in my left knee was only a minor problem today so I'm going to try and get back on the bike most day's now.

Jamie & Louise

Here is my next interview with Jaime on BBC Radio Wales. Scroll to 43mins 22 secs.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

A hair disaster

I've just been sent a very attractive picture of me post expedition. I recommend for any woman who is concerned about bad hair day's not to do the Lake Baikal race!

Or any expedition for that matter. Here is my Marathon Des Sables hair disaster picture. It's a slightly blonder version!

There seems to be a common theme taking shape here...

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Diary of my Siberian Black Ice Adventure


I boarded the Trans-Siberian train and was immediately ushered into my cabin with bike, bags and everything I had. It was small and cramped and I could hardly fit in myself, when a Russian businessman then also came to join me. He climbed over my bike and immediately started to undress. He whipped off his tie, shirt and trousers to revel some incredibly unattractive thermals along with some hideous slippers.  He quickly turned to me and indicated that the bike was a problem and with that he then proceeded to man handle the bike. Unable to communicate with him and intervene in time he literally bent the bike in half and squash it into one of the overhead lockers, along with my bags and other belongings. All satisfied with himself he then cracked open a bottle of beer and started playing some very annoying games on his mobile phone. It was going to be a long journey!

Having hung around in Severobaykalsk now for 3 days since the finish of the Siberia Black Ice Race, I was well ready to leave. The 7 days I’d spent on the ice was a massive learning curve for me and was in fact spurring me on to think about my next adventure.

As I was beginning the reflect for the first time on everything that I’d recently been through and when I thought things couldn’t get any worse with my Trans-Siberian experience, a second business man appeared and immediately, as if it were a ritual, whipped of his clothes to reveal yet more horrendous thermals and this time stripy slippers. He climbed into his bunk and immediately began to snore which practically shock the cabin. The train began to roll away and it was now too late for me to escape! I proceeded to spend the whole night coughing loudly, which did actually stop the snoring temporarily.

15hrs into the journey and we had our first prolonged stop of 2hrs. It was the perfect time to head out, stretch my legs and get away for this train which was heated to 30 degrees and full of thermal wearing, slipper conscientious and expressionless Russians. Playing it safe I returned 30 mins later only to find that my carriage and all following carriages had disappeared. My frantic sign language led to nothing and I was left on the platform in a state of panic. At that stage I spotted my cabin companion, one of the businessmen and proceeded to run after him down the platform.  As he approached the end of the platform he jumped down off the platform and crossed over six railway lines. I didn’t hesitate to follow him and luckily he knew what he was doing as he led me straight to our carriage and the rest of the train that had split from the other section of the train. Very relived I got immediately onboard and was reunited with my sauna like cabin and for the rest of the journey I thought all about the race I had just managed to complete here in Siberia.

Following a very long commute that began at 8.00am on the 15th March, starting at the Deer Park, I finally arrived in Irkutsk. It was great to have spent this time with all the other competitors and we compared notes on kit and gear and strategies. Most of the others had been on polar training and hence this made me nervous as I’d really never had to survive in such extreme temperatures. I was fine with the distance but apprehensive about the cold and the fact that I was racing on ice. What would I do if I fell through the ice and does the ice actually just give way and then I sink to the bottom? All of these questions were making me incredibly nervous and I struggled to relax in the others company. During the commute we’d had a massive problem with all of our excess luggage and as a result only just made it through customs in time for boarding. As we landed in Moscow I was so very excited about being in Russia for the very first time and it was something I’d always wanted to do. The next flight went well and having taken some meletonium, herbal sleeping tablets, I was fast asleep. This was desperately needed, as I’d be starting the race within 24hrs of landing with 9hrs of jetlag hanging over me.

We arrived at 1.00pm in Irkutsk and the bitterly cold air was quite a shock. All of a sudden the extreme cold just added to my anxiety. We were promptly transported off to our hotel following a bit of a media frenzy at the airport and I was pleased to see it was a hotel of good standard with some excellent food. The whole afternoon was jam packed with planning, packing, last minute shopping, briefings and safety checks before hitting the pillow at just before midnight. I lay awake for most of the night, watching the minutes tick by. The last time I looked at my watch it was 6.42am. At 7.45 my alarm sounded and it was the day of the race. I’d been waiting for this moment for a whole year. On the bus to the race start other competitors were getting last minute lessons on how to use their GPS’s, which actually put me much more at ease because if some can’t use a GPS then I’m one step ahead already!
We had yet another large lunch before standing on the start line at 2.30pm. More media frenzy, some interview, lots of Russian’s questioning what we were up to and it was time for the start. The count down began and all of a sudden I felt confident, happy and ready for action. My nervousness subsided and I was ready to race hard.


Setting off in the deep snow was a tough start with intermittent riding and pushing. I’d managed to keep en eye on the one of the Russian bikers who was a cycle-cross champion and followed his every move. Things were going well and he obviously new the best route to take as the 2 of us steamed off at the head of the field. After about 2hrs and much to my sheer and utter dismay my right pedal fell off. All of a sudden I realised I’d made a massive error by not tightening it up sufficiently and with the first 2hrs of hard pedalling I’d managed to damage the thread on the inside of the pedal crank. Oh god, I didn’t know what to do. I removed the lose aluminium and tried 5 times to get the peddle on but it just won’t go on straight. I then decided to bind the pedal shaft in some tape and much to my delight it bit and I was able to screw it in. 20 mins had passed, I was cold and a few others had caught me up but at least it wasn’t the end of my race. As I rounded the first headland I was properly exposed to the Lake Baikal winds and they blew ferociously in my face. By now there were a few of us together, walks, skiers and bikers. The wind was too strong to ride so I had the burden of my bike, whereas the wind caught the skiers and walkers pulks and made it equally tough. We were all in it together and fighting the elements. By 7.30pm and after 5hrs on the go, the light began to diminish and so, along with a few others we fought the wind to get the tents up.
Over night the wind died down nicely but in the morning it was back. The night had been cold (approx – 27 degrees) but thanks to all my kit and clothing I was kept nicely warm. Having to get used to a deep thundering noise of the ice cracking underneath me was something that would take me a while and hence I was in and out of sleep all night.

By 9.00am I was on my way along with 2 other bikers. The snow had been cleared by the wind and now only patches remained with mainly black ice. For the first time I could experience what it was like to ride on Black Ice. It was truly petrifying being able to see straight through the ice. It didn’t take long for the wind to pick up and soon I was having to fight hard as I pedalled directly into it. I felt strong but didn’t go flat out as I was keen to stick near the others for the day. They were nice guys with lots of funny stories and a hilarious relationship resembling an old married couple!
It was a long day of 10hrs with only a 5 minute stop every hour. Progress was slow and I only managed to cover about 50km. There were still walkers in sight which caused me concern. Had I chosen the right mode of transport?? On a positive note, the wind had blown away a lot of the snow so I was preying that the next morning would present me with clear ice.
I woke early on day three, about 6.00am and shouted at the guys in the tent next to me that it was time to get up. Reluctantly they began their morning route but by this time I was all packed away and ready to go. I waved them good by and shot off. The ice was great and there was a gentle tail wind. The sun was shining and I was really happy. I hit a top speed of 47kph. Nearing the southern tip of Olkhon Island I decided to stay close to the coast, as I wanted to get a good look through the gap. This was actually a bit of error in my judgement as soon after I hit a large field of broken ice. I looked left and looked right but saw no way around and hence began the arduous task of partially carrying, partially pushing my bike. It took me about an hour until I could see clear ice again and I’d barely covered 2km. Back on the bike, my knee was beginning to give me some pain. It had been from the day before when I’d spent 10hr peddling hard into a 60 mile and hour wind.

The day was long and after 2 falls off my bike, from broken ice, one which saw me land very heavily on my helmet I arrived at the midway point on the northern part of Olkhon Island. I was third to arrive but rather disappointed that no organisers were there to greet me. After 20 minutes they appeared from their cabins. I was asked to step inside to be checked over by the medic and then given my transition bag so I could re stock up on food. I was given yet another 5 litres of fuel that I had to work out how to carry on my bike. I’d only used ½ litre of the last 3 days.

After having pitched my tent, I found out that quite a number of other competitors had already retired or been pulled off the race due to frost bite, exhaustion, burning their tent down, going the wrong way or having carried too much gear to manage. This actually made me feel like I’d achieved a lot all ready and having been re-united with the two other guys I’d previously ridden with we soon settled in for the evening and shared some wine and cheese (which I’d hidden in my transition bag!) to compliment our freeze dried food in the comfort of our tents. I was actually getting quite used to tent life and my tent routine was getting really good now.

The next morning I was up early again and gave the guys a shout. Again they took their time to pack up but I decided that I’d rather stick with them for the time being since the organisers had warned me that ice conditions were not great at the top of the island and that I must report any large areas of broken ice. This made me rather nervous and at this point I was really only concerned with finishing the race in one piece. I helped them with their tent and gave them some boiling water for the breakfast. After they’d spent the best part of the morning fixing their panniers, which had broken from the previous days wear and tear, we were off.

Very quickly we came across a large 200m crack in the ice where we had to find a safe passage. Luckily Matt who is a x Royal Marine loved to go first and test the ice and Jez and I were more than happy to let him do so. Each time we found an area that looked stable enough Matt would go first. We’d then push his bike across to him, then I would go and my bike and Jez’s bike would follow and then Jez would cross. We got into quite a good routine with this and I decided I really liked my new friend!!

After about 2hrs we heard a huge thunder and about 20m behind me and only 3m behind Matt, who was at the back, a massive 200m crack appeared. The ice rose up into the air and freshwater bubbled to the surface. Matt yelled and we peddled hard. Stopping a few minutes later we could see what had just happened. I’d begun to get use to the constant cracking noises but the pitch was slowly changing from a low grumbling, which is where the ice is cracking deep down to a much more high pitched crack that would happen as my wheel rode over the ice. My level of apprehension rose a few more notches and I was dead pleased to be in the others company.

My left knee was beginning to hurt again from the day before and just then we hit a massive sastrugi ice field. It was similar to that I had endured the other day but this time 20km long. I was secretly happy as it meant that I wouldn’t be riding and I could give me knee a rest. It didn’t hurt when I walked. For the next 3hrs or so, Matt, Jez and I pulled and tugged and swore and threw our bikes around trying to get them over the ice field which was practically un-walkable. The ice studs that Wayne had put in my boots worked brilliantly and I was able to precariously balance of ice slabs and jump from one to the next. I partly carried the bike but mainly pulled and pushed. Some fowl language came out of my mouth and for the first time on my journey it was time to put on my head phones and try and bury my thoughts in something else. Wayne had put some really lovely messages on my ipod for me which really helped me to keep going. Having said that quitting at the stage was just not an option, and despite the fellas having on a few occasions indicating that they would not do the full route, I just couldn’t wait too see what Lake Baikal had to throw at me next!

It was getting late in the day and we soon hit flat ice, with snowy patches. Again though we hit large 200m long cracks where we would need to test the stability and this time I decided to go and check it out. As I was standing on the left leg poking around the ice with my right, the ice gave way and I sunk thigh deep into the smashed ice and water. Matt was very quick to grab my jacket and pull me out. The water had risen above me left boot and now by socks and thermals were wet. We needed to move on quickly as it was far to unstable to camp here and so, struggling to find a good spot to cross, Matt had the genius idea of building an ice ramp that we would cycle hard towards so that we would clear the opening on our bikes. Matt went first a did a spectacular jump. Next was my turn and as I approached Matt yelled that I’d need more speed. As I turned a circle to pick up speed I’d lost the exact point of crossing and hit it a m off and before I could think my front wheel sank into the water and I winded myself badly as I landed on my chest and slide along for about 15m. Even though I was quite hurt, it was a comical situation, which we then spent the next hour saying we’d wished we’d caught it on camera. By now I was winded, had a bad knee and was cold and shivering. We cycled on until it began to get dusk and once again the wind picked up.

On the outside of my Baffin boots I had a very useful loop which each time I got my tent out I would immediately clip it on to this loop with a carbineer so that whatever happened, my tent would not blow away. Had I lost my tent, I would be pulled from the race. The wind was so ferocious that the tent would have been gone in seconds. The guys had already lost their tent bag. We tied out tents together for extra security and that night was by far the worst. The ice I’d been crossing all day had been very unstable and the cracking was loud and all around me. I could even feel reverberations of the ice moving and, whether it was in my head of not, I could feel the cold water, not far below sucking heat from my body.  Each night I made sure to dig my tent in properly, ensuring there was a good amount of snow covering each side. This was to stop the snow filling up my tent. In the morning the mounds were 4 times bigger from the over night wind. I was up early again and set to go by day break.

Having cleared most of the unstable ice it was set to be a good day until the wind picked up a few more notches and at this point, I just could not stay on the bike. It was a rear/side wind which would all of a sudden steer my bike directly down wind and send me off at a million miles an hour in the wrong direction before wiping the bike clean from underneath me. I’d attached my bike to my boot loop to ensure I didn’t lose the bike either. The visibility also dropped down to a couple of m’s and the snow began to fall in a driving horizontal direction. I was very slow today both because of my knee pain but also not being able to stay on the bike was a major issue. I was on and off all day and after 12hrs was totally and utterly exhausted and frustrated. My left hip and left elbow were swollen to 4 times the size and I just couldn’t handle the pain of falling off anymore. This was the first time that I thought that my fast & light set up was not good and I needed more weight to stop the bike from blowing away.

That night I treated myself to some Italian Spaghetti Bolognese, Chocolate Chip pudding and lots of whey protein powder to try and rebuild my battered and bruised body. For the next 2 days I lived on extra strong paracetamol and ibuprofen, way beyond the recommended dosage but it definitely did the trick.

The following day I was greeted to over a foot of snow and the ice road that supposedly a few days early ran along the western shoreline was once again buried. I managed fairly well to ride an ordinary mountain bike in deep snow and was delighted to soon found a track from a vehicle that had recently driven on the ice. At one point I came across a truck that was trying to adopt the same concept that Matt had a few days early of building an ice ramp to jump over a crack in the ice. He reversed at an amazing speed and then with full throttle and snow spraying all over he charged for the crack and cleared with ease, leaving the ground by a good metre. These Russian’s are crazy people! I would never ever drive a car on this ice and I doubt I’d ride a bike on it again. Apparently there are hundreds of vehicles lying at the bottom of Lake Baikal!

Again I did a 12hr day only stopping every hour for a quick 5 min food and drink break. Towards the end of the day the snow got deeper and I was pushing/ pulling my bike through it. I camped very close to the shoreline and decided that tomorrow would be the last day. I was only getting 70km per day closer to the finish but actually covering almost double this distance due to the winding in and out from the coastline that the tracks were doing. These Russian’s need to learn to drive in a straight line. By following these tracks was my only possibility of riding part of the way as the deep snow meant it was now almost impossible to even push a bike through.

On the last day I kept a really close eye on my GPS. I was feeling strong again, maybe something to do with the painkillers I was taking. It was really disheartening to ride for 30 minutes and see that I’d only got 2km closer to  the finish but had actually covered 7km. At one stage I looked at my GPS and it said 13.1km left to go and 20 minutes later it said 13.7km. It killed me. The whole journey I’d been feeding myself with all my favourite things such as jelly beans, salted liquorice, salt and vinegar crisps, daim chocolate, kinder chocolate and on this day I was really enjoying it. The fact that usually I can’t eat all I want made all this pain temporarily worthwhile so each mouthful I’d say to myself it’s only because I do what I do that I can eat this stuff, this kept me going!

As I approached the finish I could not find the finish line so after entering the shoreline side of Severobaykalsk and climbing through someone’s back garden…all a bit random, I saw the finish flags.

I had completed the race but there was no one there to greet me. It was a bitter disappointment. Some local Russian’s that owned a cussack (wooden caravan type structured) ushered me inside into their + 30 degree sauna like home and fed me tea and biscuits. Because I could not communicate with them I decide to show them how my hair stood up on end due to 7 days of no attention. They laughed a lot and it broke the ice…..bad pun I know!

The organisers arrived about a hour later and the job was done. I was delighted and believe it or not, ready for more. I even joked that maybe I should cycle back again. In retrospect, given my homebound journey it would probably have been easier, quicker and more pleasant!

ITV Wales News Item

Here is the news item from before I left to go to Siberia. I'II post yesterdays 'sofa guest' item when it become available. Plus I've almost finished my diary of the expedition which will appear here soon.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Friday, 30 March 2012

Home safe and sound and a World Record under my belt!

Here is a recent press release written about the race. I will get a full day by day account written soon.

Also, I'd like to thank everyone who has helped make this possible. Thank you for your advice, kit, gear and moral support!

Maria Leijerstam, one of Wales's leading adventurers is now safely back on Welsh soil after becoming the first woman to complete the Siberian Black Ice Race along the length of Lake Baikal. She was second placed overall, second only to a local Russian Cyclecross Champion and out of 20 starters one of only eight to finish.

"I was nervous before the race", said Maria, "but having now completed it I'm even more nervous about the consequences of racing on ice". Due to the unusually high day time temperatures the ice had already begun to crack and so cycling on the ice was not just a matter of fitness, it also meant being very lucky to avoid open water which would have lightly re-frozen at night as temperatures dipped down to - 27 degrees.

Many other competitors succumbed to the extreme conditions through frost bite, fatigue, a fall through the ice and one team even managed to burn down their tent.

It took Maria only 7 days and 4hrs to complete the race where she covered approximately 900km as she weaved her way around hugh sastrigui ice fields and deep snow.

"On a few days the wind was so fierce that I simply could not stay on the bike as it was blown from underneath me", said Maria. "On other days I was having to work really hard as I peddled through deep snow fields. Only occasionally I was able to enjoy a tail wind on pure unbroken ice", she continued. "It was a race of massive extremes."

"Everything freezes, said Maria, so I slept with everything in my sleeping bag. I had batteries, toothpaste & wetwipes stuffed in my underwear and all water was kept near to my body."

Maria's tent routine at night was vital as the extreme cold temperatures dictated survival. The minute she stopped cycling she would put on her down jacket and begin erecting her tent. Once both the tent and bike were firmly secured with ice screws she would climb into her tent with her roll mat, sleeping bag, stove and food. Then began the arduous task of melting snow to make vital water for drinking and for rehydrating her food rations which took anything up to an hour and a half. 

At night Maria would lie awake listening to the ice cracking underneath her tent and on a few occasions even heard gurgling water as it began to get closer to the surface.

On one day she did take a brief involuntary dip as her front wheel sank right down and she flew over the handlebars. "It took me 4hrs that evening to dry off next to my stove", Maria explained.

"Lake Baikal, known as the Pearl of Siberia is a beautiful place but now I have completed both The Siberian Black Ice Race and the warm challenge of the Marathon Des Sables in 2007  I'm ready for more, said Maria.

Maria helps to raise money for the Alzheimer's Society through her races so please find the time to donate.

If you fancy a challenge Maria is full steam ahead with planning another season of local multisport adventure races. To find out more visit her website on

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Maria first woman to win the Siberian Black Ice race

Great news! Maria has finished the race after 900k of cycling and come in second place, pipped only by a local Russian who came first.
"A huge congratulations to Maria for being the first woman to win the Black Ice Race. Herself and bike are now safely on the Trans Siberian Express on her way back to the UK," say the organisers.
Full story to follow soon.
It is day 10 and we are at the finish line receiving and sending people back to Irkutsk. A huge congratulations to Maria for being the first women to finish the Black Ice Race on Lake Baikal. Herself and her bike is now safely on the Trans Siberian Express on her way back.
It is day 10 and we are at the finish line receiving and sending people back to Irkutsk. A huge congratulations to Maria for being the first women to finish the Black Ice Race on Lake Baikal. Herself and her bike is now safely on the Trans Siberian Express on her way back.It is day 10 and we are at the finish line receiving and sending people back to Irkutsk. A huge congratulations to Maria for being the first women to finish the Black Ice Race on Lake Baikal. Herself and her bike is now safely on the Trans Siberian Express on her way back.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Maria at first checkpoint in third place

Day 4 of the Black Ice Race and several teams on the marathon have made an awesome effort covering over 100 miles on their mountain bikes to reach the checkpoint. Jezz and Mat, followed closely by Maria, arrived at 18.30hrs and 18.40hrs respectively after a gruelling day on the ice. They are all in good spirits and looking remarkably fresh after a long day.
We are still waiting for an update from Maria but a fellow racer has this to say about the conditions. The first day and evening on the ice was a major shock for us and we had no idea that the conditions on Lake Baikal could be so harsh! It was a frightening wake up call.

Monday, 19 March 2012

 Just a quick update. Today started well. I was up nice and early and on my bike. Got about an hour of good cycling in and the winds here just got stronger and stronger throughout the day until I couldn't stay on the bike any longer. It was literally blown from underneath me on a lot of occasions. And when I thought it couldn't get any worse I hit a field of sastrugi so then spent the next two hours dragging my bike in high high winds over that. By about 6:00pm  I was just lucky to pitch my tent which took me two hours to do in the strong winds, but I am now safely inside and have had something to eat.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Day One- Horrific start

I am finally tucked up in a tent thanks to two very nice guys Jez and Matt. We had a pretty terrible start because the wind has been really ferocious in our faces and we have not really been able to cycle much at all. It has been freezing cold, but now everything is fine and we are having some food in the tent in sleeping bags. Yes, morale is still OK. I can't say I am looking forward to tomorrow but will take one step at a time.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Maria jets off to Moscow

Arrived at Terminal 4 at Heathrow with three hours to spare in spite of intermittent fog on the way. Maria very excited even though she couldn't get her very large bike bag through the bollards. That was a minor concern considering her massive challenge ahead. Lots of good luck wishes came in today from friends far and wide.
Just had a text from her saying 'arrived in Moscow after a rather eventful journey. Great group of people with lots of chat about tactics. It's anyone's race.'
Don't forget Maria is raising money for Alzheimers, click on the Just Giving link on her website.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Yoga for relaxation

The nerves are building so I've decided to head off for a yoga class tonight to try and ensure I get a good nights sleep.

My mother will take over from here with write ups and you can also keep up with the latest news on the Extreme World Races Website.

Excess baggage

I don't think I've ever boarded a plane without a major excess baggage concern and tomorrow will be no exception. I've worked out that it's all my food that is adding the weight. I'm carrying 11kgs just of food! I'm hoping I won't need it all but I can't take risks and need to prepare for worst case scenarios.

I don't think it's so easy to get hold of advanced nutritional substances and expedition food in Irkutsk!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

One more day before take off

Since I'm an ultra organised type of person I'm all packed and ready to go with one day to spare.

The GO PRO Hero 2 camera arrived yesterday so I've been running around learning how to use it. At the moment I can't get it off wide-angle so everything looks curved!

There are so many gadgets that I need to consider for charging purposes and as always there is not one lead that does all. I have a camera, an ipod, a Satellite phone, a GPS, a head torch and a front bike light and to charge them I have 12 spare lithium batteries a power monkey solar panel and a storage unit.....I hope I can figure it all out.

I've calculated how long the race could take me, but this is the very lucky, brilliant weather, no wind, no storms, no mechanicals, lots of ice and not snow and legs feeling strong scenario.......80hrs & 30 mins!!!!  If I'm finished by 8pm on the 21st March then I would have managed it. We start at midday on the 17th.

This is the first race I've done where I genuinely don't know how it will go and most of my decisions and planning will need to be done en-route. This makes it very difficult to work out food rations and clothing but for worst case scenario I've taken 9 days worth of food and plenty of clothing with me.

I'm starting to wander if my Baffin minus 100 boots are a little OTT since the daytime peak temperatures have been around minus 8 degrees C recently! Night time is still down to minus 27 degrees so at least my toes will be warm at night.

My mother has very kindly agreed to keep my blog up to day whilst I'm racing, so keep tuning in for more updates.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Ice to Water

So today I've been busy making water and working out the most effective method for converting ice to water in the fastest amount of time. The most important lesson is that it takes water to make water so always begin with some water in the bottom of the pan Also, add ice very slowly and let the water properly warm up before adding more ice.

The ice axe I'm using was made by my father especially for this race. It's perfect as it's small, compact and lightweight yet very good at breaking up the ice.

...and whilst I was waiting for my ice to melt I put the time to good use and learned a few important Russia Phrases such as 'Pomogitye mn'e, pozhalujsta?' meaning 'Will you please help me? !!!!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

A few photos

Qoroz Mountain Bike loaded up and ready to go

Yes, that's a shovel!

The fantastic Hilliberg Soulo which could be my lifesaver!

Lots of kit all laid out!

Thank you

To everyone who has already sponsored me....I can't thank you enough

Thursday, 8 March 2012

BBC Radio Wales

Today I went to visit Jamie & Louise at BBC Radio Wales. Scroll forward to 1hr 35mins to hear my interview.

I've had a rest day today, which has been the first for a longtime and it feels really nice. My plan is to train until Sunday and then stop and taper.

I'm trying to focus on my nutrition this week by having a high protein, low fat and plenty of vitamins and minerals in my diet.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

My Just Giving Page

Please help to raise money for the Alzheimer's Society. Just click on the graphic below and it will take you to my page. Thanks a million!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Weather Watch

This is todays weather on the finish line of the race...ahhhh...minus 30! Am I going to be able to cope with that???

At least the wind is not too strong and not too much snow fall either. I always try and look on the positive side!

Getting excited and nervous all together right now.

My latest dilemma is with my goggles. I need a lens that will be good in bright daytime and night time. I've found a pair of Julbo's which are really comfy but it has a mirrored lens which is a no no for night time. Sorting this out is one of tomorrows jobs.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

The Bike is good to go

Having dropped into Qoroz on Thursday evening, Chris very kindly spent many hours helping with putting the final touches to the Qoroz Mountain One bike to get it fully ready for it's first visit to Siberia.

With a set of rigid forks and a specially made aluminium plate fitted to the forks, that ensures the gear that I'II be carrying on the handlebars doesn't come into contact with the front wheel, I'm all set to go.

Qoroz really is a made to measure bike manufacturer.....I've now seen it first hand!

On top of this I've fitted some ergonomic handle bar grips, some extra large peddles, some powergrips and removed the front break.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Ice Time

It's been another day on the ice rink today. I can't believe I leave 2 weeks tomorrow!

Monday, 27 February 2012

Another media day and back on the turbo

Luckily, I'm feeling better so my day began with a few hours on my turbo trainer to get back into the swing of it. I've never read so many books before and am getting through one book for every 3 sessions I do on the turbo. Brilliant training for both brain and body. I know all about the Trans-Siberian Railway now!

Today, ITV Wales were here filming some of my training and asking lots of questions about my kit. I even showed them the bottle I will have to pee in -  I wonder if they'll cut that bit!

My flight tickets came through today and my visa application, so far is progressing well so it's all getting very close to reality now.

I'm still getting so much support from the adventure community and everyone is willing to lend a hand or advice so I'm very appreciative.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Down with flu!

The last 4 days I've been somewhat house bound with a terrible cold, cough and all over flu symptons. At least it's happening now and not a few days before I leave.

I've still managed to progress my gear preparation and am probably 95% of the way there with getting together everything I need for my trip. The bike is fully loaded and riding well. On Friday I was down at the Ice Rink with Wales on Sunday and here is the outcome in today's paper.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Haglofs - Clothes that are up for the job!

Following a meeting with Haglofs yesterday I've decided on the following items to keep me snug and warm!

Actives 1 Q Hood
Actives Longjohns 

Primaloft 1 piece

Qnair Softshell with Primaloft
Suta Pants 

WS Balaclava
Expedition Mitts
Merino Gloves 
Fang Gloves 

Monday, 20 February 2012

Up North!

I've come up to the Lake District for a few days to get some variation in my training and managed to find some ice to play on over the weekend!
To break up my continuous cycle training I spent Saturday evening ceilidh dancing the night away at the adventure racing annual ball. It was a nice change and a damn good work out. My heels only lasted about 10 minutes before I switched them out for a pair of inov-8 f-lite's - quite a sight, matched with my ball dress!

Friday, 17 February 2012

Today on Lake Baikal

I found this satellite image of what Lake Baikal looks like today. A little cloud and snow accumulation in the far south and North of Olhon Island.....I'm hoping I can find the ice roads amongst it all!

Planning..what's that?!?

When I go out riding, I never plan where I'm going to go.

Basically my rides comprise of two phases. The outbound journey, which is fun and free as I turn left and right without a care in the world and no end goal in mind until my legs get tired and I'm hungry. My inbound journey then involves trying to figure out where I am and then how I'm going to get back. As you can imagine the outbound is far more fun and the inbound never fails to be painful....for me, it's a perfect way to train as I'm training my mind and body.

I'm now in the Lake District and not knowing the areas too well, I had over 5hrs of exploring today. After about an hour it began to rain and still hasn't stopped.

The bike is going very well but with only a front break on, some of the descents were interesting as the break began to scream!

I'm hoping for some snow tomorrow so I get get some snow biking in!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

It's all about the feet

My boots have arrive and they are huge!

I had some very strange looks today as I cycled up and down the lanes testing them out. They actually worked surprisingly well and within 10 minutes my feet were boiling. I tried to savour that thought for my cold days and nights in Siberia.

Monday, 13 February 2012

First hurdle cleared!

I managed to stay upright today at Cardiff Ice Rink! Chris, the manager, very kindly allowed me to cycle my bike around the rink before the afternoon session began. The ice tyres worked wonders and I was even able to break without skidding (too much) in a reasonable amount of time. It felt totally wrong but once I'd rounded the rink a few times I then cycled in figures of eight and zig zags with a reasonable amount of confidence. Once I've got all my gear together I plan to go back for one more session.

I actually only just made it to the ice rink in time as my 3hr ride this morning turned into more of a 4hr ride with a time trail sprint at the end as I'd miss judged how far I'd gone....I love it when the kilometres just fly by.

Some of the things I thought of today when I was cycling were:

(1) New inventions....I've come up with a great one today and it's cycle related!
(2) Whether or not I'd like to live in the villages that I cycled through
(3) Going to Ikea for lunch....I missed lunch all-together today due to my mis-judged time
(4) Whether the muscles in my thighs will ever snap through over use
(5) What the lake is really going to be like. If there is loads of snow then I won't be able to ride and hence I should run more in training and work out some method for pulling my bike

Tomorrow I'm actually going to go climbing for a change, that's after I've cycled to the climbing wall!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Going Nowhere!

It's been a turbo day today...3hrs on a turbo is far worse than 3hrs on the real thing but it's great for mental training.  I wanted to leave the Qoroz Mountain Bike in the freezer for a good 24hrs so tomorrow morning I'II see how it fairs.

I'II be out on the road all morning and then heading over to Cardiff Ice Rink at lunchtime for a quick spin around the rink in between hockey matches. I'II be sure to capture it on action......all I want is to be able to stay upright at this point.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

The morning ride

I'm busy testing kit at the moment. This morning I heading out when it was minus 2 degrees and was delighted to feel in control of my body temperature. I'm focusing hard at the moment to ensure that when I go out riding I don't sweat at all so I adjust my effort level and clothing appropriately. I've never really had to think too hard about that before but when it's minus 30 degrees, just slight perspiration could mean the end of my race.

Next week I'm meeting with Haglofs to discuss clothing and to kit myself out with the very best. I need layers for riding in minus 10 degrees and minus 40 degrees as well as clothing for when I'm stopped at minus 40 much to think about.

I'm getting very excited now!

Weather in Irkutsk

I'm starting to study the weather now. Makes me feel cold just looking at it! I'm rather pleased though that by the time I'm out there racing, there will be 12hrs of daylight each day.

Friday, 10 February 2012

It's chilly tonight

At 1am last night I was on skype chatting to Chris Pike who lives in Chicago. In 2010, he and 5 friends circumnavigated Lake Baikal and he was kind enough to share some of his knowledge with me. 

Today I've been busily removing my back break as he explained it's not going to be of much use to me in Siberia, particularly when the disk gets clogged with ice and snow and I don't expect to be using it must anyway. I'm very pleased to have removed a 1lb or 2 from the bike also!

I've also decided to subjected the Qoroz bike to a night in a freezer (pictured above) to see how it fairs. I'm pretty sure all will be fine.

I'm still trying to decide on the pulk, pannier or go fast & lite options. I met with a friend of mine last night, an experienced Arctic runner who has kindly lent me her pulk to see what I can do with it. The concern I have is that if strong winds get hold of the pulk, I'II be off the bike in a flash as it will have no traction. I was rather pleased when Chris said that even he, an experienced mtber, fell off his bike 50 times in one day due to the winds.....that won't make me feel so bad when I hit the deck for the 100th time! 

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Loading up the bike!

Following my training session this morning I spent a few hours trying to work out how I'm going to carry all my kit on the bike. So far I've strapped the tent & sleeping bag to the handle bars, the roll mat on the top tube, food, fuel and cooker in the frame bag and warm clothes behind the seat. Where I'm going to put the shovel and ice axe I'm still not too sure! I haven't tested it yet so not sure how balanced it is...that's tomorrows job!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Siberian Black Ice Race - Lake Baikal Preparations

I can't actually believe that something I've been thinking about for the last year has finally become reality. Last week I sent in my entry fee for the Siberian Black Ice Race and I now have a confirmed place!

7 weeks to go and training is well underway. I'm running and cycling for about 3hrs a day and yesterday I collected the Qoroz Titanium bike which I shall use to get me across the lake as fast as possible.

It's a 600km race across a frozen lake in - 40 degrees. We've got 18 days to complete it but I'm hoping for between 7-10 days. The more I find out about the conditions, the more accurately I can set a target!

I went on a 30km road ride today to work the ice studs properly into the tyres and luckily enough the roads were icy and the snow began to fall so it was good training conditions also. I was happy with my clothing, footwear and gloves (having said that is was only -2 degrees!)

I've been spending hours a day on the internet researching kit and clothing and how I'm going to get it all to fit on the bike, is anyones guess! At the moment there are 3 options, panniers, towing a pulk or loading up the handlebars and using a large seat bag. There seems to be pros and cons with everything so I guess I just need to get testing.

Next big challenge is working out whether I can actually ride on ice at all and hence I'm trying to organise with Cardiff Ice Rink to let me come and cycle round in circles until it begins to feel natural!

Working out what boots to wear is becoming problematic as I've been recommended to get minus 100 degree boots because with cycling your feet are still and hence freeze very easily. Problem with this is that a boot with these properties weights a ton and is bulky so doesn't make for easy cycling.

I've been fortunate enough to be introduced to some very knowledgeable people so my note book is filling up nicely with lots of good tips that I would never have thought of!