Piers Daniell has just returned from IGO N60, a four-day multi-sport event in the mountains of central Norway, held in early March 2018. He was part of a team of four, which pitted themselves against a course that involved ski touring, cross country skiing and then a trek and run. IGO N60 was his first race of this sort.
First a bit of Form
I hate running but over the years have got into doing 10km a week and regularly a few of us will go for a run after work or go to the gym - our company offers gym membership, which makes it easier, but still it requires some focus and dedication to go! I have been supporting a number of events that build up team work, fitness and a sense of accomplishment, so we have taken part in Tough Mudder, some Spartan races and the Three Peaks Challenge. Last year we completed 10Peaks in the Lake District. We entered the Short Course, though it didn’t feel short at the time...
Why IGO N60? Why now?
I was introduced to IGO and the N60 challenge by a friend who we met through work. We put together a team of four, which meant we could share a tent, and at the same time we also raised money for our company charity, Place2Be. We have raised over £50,000 by doing this event, I believe.
I liked the idea of being able to do a challenge and learning some new disciplines at the same time (I hadn’t been ski touring or cross country skiing before). It gives an extra sense of achievement. And the adventure element of IGO provides another stimulus beyond the competitive edge - it is more about you against the elements than against other people. Personally I find this much more rewarding.
Also I hadn’t been to Norway before and thought this would be a great idea. The only thing that put me off was the camping element between the races – the thought of not having a hot shower after working hard filled me with dread, but in fact, when you are operating at such low temperatures you don’t sweat as much as normal, and of course in the cold you can’t smell yourself!
What sort of training and planning did you do for the event?
Like everything in life, you sign up to an event like this and then it sort of goes to the back of your mind - until you realise you only have weeks to go. I maintained a good level of fitness, running once a week (10 km), walking and cycling (my wife has competed in Iron Man so is keen to spend every hour outdoors doing something), and spending mornings in the gym on weights and the rowing machine. I actually think the rowing machine is great for this kind of event as it works out everything and helps with the cardio aswell – it is super boring but I certainly felt the benefits.
We organised a number of days learning to cross country ski in Hyde Park, on ‘roller skis’ - basically cross country skis with wheels on each end. While the lessons were fun, the falling over was not. Every time I went, I seemed to get some major injury, falling over and scraping all the skin off one hand or landing on my back. I got a bit of a reputation for it. Ironically though, it must have helped, because out on the course I was ok and managed to come in third. Snow is certainly more forgiving than a rainy park in London…
What was the most challenging aspect of the event?
For me the thought of spending two days cross country skiing was quite daunting, especially as I hadn’t been on them before, apart from the practice on the roller skis. The technique is pretty difficult to master, especially to make good progress. I think a lot of us expelled a lot of wasted energy. However the days themselves were great and, while difficult, very rewarding. I believe some of the fittest athletes in the world are cross country skiers and after doing many kilometres you can see why. Also climbing hills is tricky on cross country skis, let alone the descents while trying not to fall over!
Other than that I was worried about the camping aspect and with one night reaching -27 degrees we certainly felt the cold. I had a great sleeping bag but even in that I woke up with cramps, dead feet and ice all around my mouth and bag. Just coping in such low temperatures and then getting up to do a full day on the cross country course increased the challenge. Luckily it didn’t go much below 20 after that, which was more manageable.
The other tough part was climbing a hill in heavy snow with low visibility and trying to find the way. Once at the top there weren’t any trees so everything was just white. It was very difficult to navigate to the third camp.
What was the race like?
While I joined a team and we were very supportive of one another I was surprised by how much of the race we spent on our own following the course markers. We covered quite a distance each day and with the cross country skiing it is difficult to be with someone anyway (as usually you are following tracks). So you do spend a lot of the day on your own, taking in the outstanding scenery. There was a big range of physical ability among the racers, but because people were racing against the course, there was a real sense of the challenge and what each person had achieved to get to the finish line, whether they came in first or last each day. Certainly we all pulled together, helped each other out and were on that finish line to cheer one another's achievements. It's a real break from normal life, which gets you back to nature and isolation, so anyone looking for an experience, to meet new people and to feel that they have used their holidays to the max should definitely look at one of these adventures.
What was the most painful moment?
Definitely the sleeping on the night when it reached -27 degrees – super cold right to your core! I had a few issues with muscles on the course and so getting into camp and having them strapped up or treated by the resident physio - Louise, who was available throughout the trip - brought a tear to the eye!
Did you have a favourite moment?
The cameraderie at the end of each day was very special, though for me the highlight was the dinner on the night we finished the actual race. We finished our run, had a hot shower and everyone was still buzzing from the day, so we bonded there in a catch-up, before the proper celebration dinner the next night.
What did you learn?
Without sounding big-headed I think I really was sorted on my kit. I used pretty much everything I took with me and the choice of tight clothes was perfect for the temperature and type of exercise. So I was pleasantly surprised I nailed that, though if the weather had been different I might not be sounding so pleased with myself.
A big part of the race is about pacing yourself and I think we all did this effectively. It made a big difference to those who got their pace right at the beginning and kept it for the whole way around. I guess I could have been faster if I had done some more work in the gym beforehand, but I was quick enough to enjoy the experience.
What does adventure mean to you?
I really find exercise boring, so the sense of doing something to achieve a goal makes a big difference: whether it’s completing all the obstacles in Tough Mudder or climbing Ben Nevis, I need something to take away. Certainly this experience was full of adventure. I learned new disciplines, navigated unfamiliar terrain and survived out in the wilderness. I believe Bobby thought of IGO while crossing the Atlantic in a rowing boat and wanted other people to experience the same sense of accomplishment but on a much more achievable scale.
See more about IGO Adventures.