Turning to Ice: The Scope of What It Takes to Become an Iceman (Read 3 of 4)

In case you haven’t yet learned about Anders Hofman, you’re in for quite a treat, and a real eye-opener on just how far we can push the human experience when we eliminate our perceptions of what we think our limitations are. Anders Hofman is training to become the world’s first Iceman –– a conqueror of the never-before defeated Antarctic Ironman consisting of swimming 3.9 km in ice water, biking 180 km and running 42.2 km in ice and snow on Antarctica’s glacial surface.

Anders’s journey began from an epiphany while watching the documentary, "“The Jump” about Nick Jacobsen. Nick and his kite take an astounding leap from the top of the iconic 321-metre-high Burj Al Arab in Dubai. Anders was inspired to do something equally as “crazy” within the triathlon world that would be perceived as impossible. Eventually, searching for a huge Nick-level jump of his own led him to the idea of completing an Ironman in the only continent yet to be graced with its test of physical exertion: Antarctica.

While completing an Ironman itself is impressive, what is even more impressive is completing an Ironman where no humans permanently inhabit because of its extremely cold, harsh conditions. Very impressive indeed, and some might even say impossible, but not to Anders. He’s ready to prove that what we define as “impossible” is merely our own perception of what we feel we can and cannot attain; that what actually matters is just how far you’re willing to go to make the impossible, possible. You can read more about his “why” in the first of our four-part series here.

Never mind that most wouldn’t even dare attempt the Iceman.  Most wouldn’t even dare attempt to undergo the extremely rigorous training for it, but Anders dove in right away, literally, by shattering his own perception of his limitations in nearly-freezing water. “I wanted to see how much longer I could stay in ice water by jumping in ice water 7 days in a row. The first day I could only stay in for 35 seconds until my mind gave up, on the 7th day I stayed in for 11:05 minutes (an 1800% improvement), this really showed me how much it’s all about power over your mind, staying in control of yourself and your breath, as I couldn’t possibly have changed that much physically in that short period of time,” he shares. That’s only one small facet of his strenuous training regime, which you can read more about in the second of our four-part series here.

ice challenge

A large part of what we perceive to be impossible for ourselves is what we fear and our own limiting beliefs. It’s easy enough to dismiss a seemingly big risk in our everyday life due to lingering fear, but when you’re taking on a risk as big an Antarctic Ironman, you have to be made of ice yourself against fear –– a.k.a. one of our largest vehicles of self-sabotage. When asked about what he fears in his journey, Anders replies, “I don’t talk about fear, but more about what I have respect for.” Though one thing Anders mentions makes him a bit uneasy has nothing to do with the Iceman itself, but the boat trip from Argentina to Antarctica, which will take 5-7 days. “I easily get seasick, so that is going to be interesting,” he notes.

One might think it’s interesting that seasickness accounts for the bulk of Anders’ apprehensions, considering that there are five key challenges that Anders has had to overcome in his Iceman journey.

The first challenge, and likely the furthest most would make it, is the astounding €400.000 it costs to carry out the entire project to the desired extent. Half of this cost is dedicated to the Antarctica expedition, primarily due to the high traveling costs. While some might tout raising that amount of money as impossible, Anders considers it only the first obstacle that he plans to overcome in his journey. The second is setting the journey. The duration of the landscape Anders must trek has to be strategically planned. His team is currently overcoming the challenge of setting the route at Portal Point, determining how long the bike ride and running portion will be to ensure proper safety is in place, and ensuring it is logistically feasible.

team

Anders’ third challenge revolves around finding the gear and equipment that will withstand the exertion of the challenge as well as he plans to do himself. This means finding a bike that can withstand the extreme conditions and other high-performance gear that will aid Anders quest, not hurt it. Then, of course, is the ice swim. Nothing screams frigid cold more than diving into ice-berg laden seawater for 3.9km. Despite that Anders will don a wetsuit, the 2-degree Celsius water is still likely to penetrate it, as the only thing separating Anders’s body from some of the coldest and harshest ocean water in the world is only a few layers.

swim

Finally, and easily one of the most terrifying key challenges Anders will likely have to face is the danger of Leopard seals. Known for aggression and hyper-predatory hunting skills, the leopard seal is one of Antarctica’s top-ranked predators. Stringent safety precautions during the swim to mitigate the risk of attack will have to be taken to protect Anders.

leopard seal

A miniscule portion of the training, the challenges, the risk, and everything else that works against Anders is in itself enough to stop someone from attempting what’s been touted as “impossible.” In fact, people telling Anders it is “impossible” was precisely the ammunition he needed to turn it from an idea to a dream, and soon, to reality. 

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