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.