Monday, May 11, 2009

Pictures from the North Pole Marathon

It's hard to take pictures of the marathon when you are actually running the race. Here are some pics (some of me, some not) of the North Pole Marathon itself. I am wearing bib #7 on my leg and back.

Richard Donovan (the race director) Giving last minute instruction before the race. Have you ever seen a field of runners dressed in such fashion?

The start of the marathon. 38 brave and foolish souls. (36 would finish) Small races are fun to run. Not very often you can know everyone in the race on a first name basis. Before this the smallest I ran was in South Africa with 49 marathoners.

And they are off... look at those cheering crowds! look at the colorful balloons lining the route! Look at that ice....

Not me, but one of my favorite pictures. The runner almost looks fake in comparison to the landscape. When you are alone on a run at the North Pole... YOU ARE REALLY ALONE!!!

Oh yeah! Look at Bob run! Run Bob, Run!
This was lap #2 of a 9 lap race. Lap #1 I had the goggles on, lap #2 they were on the head, after lap three they were off along with the outer jacket to be replaced with a heavier one. The inside of the black jacket was solid with ice and I could not get warm. I ended up changing socks twice and upper body clothes twice. 26.2 miles = 11 pair of socks, 9 shirts, 3 hats, 2 jackets, 2 glove liners, 2 mittens, 2 face mask. Oddly enough the legs were fine. Everywhere there was moisture, it froze, even 2 layers in. If you look where the gloves meet the jacket you can see ice. (along with the whole head)

If you look quick enough, you can see me (#&) in the lead. What you don't see is that there are 20 people in front of me. We were bunched into 3 packs in the beginning, by the end there was long, long gaps between everyone. It was very rare to be running with someone.

Done, done, done. Taken about 30 seconds after I crossed the finish line. Do I look happy? Do I look cold? If you zoom in on the picture, take a close look at my eye lashes, every so often you needed to squeeze the eyelashed to break/melt the ice so they would not stick together. Fun stuff.... but I'd go back in a minute. Not even a second thought needed.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Picture time at the Pole!

If you are going to make the journey to the North Pole, you start to think, "what can I bring up there for a photo op?" You don't want to be home and then think of something you should have brought. Here a few pics from the pole with various flags, items and yes - The Travelocity Roaming Gnome.....

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Finally, some pics....
The town of Longyearbyen: The Northern most populated (over 1000) town in the world. It also has the northern most everything: airport, supermarket, bar, library, atm, etc. It is a harsh place located at 78 degrees North. But it is amazing - friendly people and great atmosphere.

Main Street - Notice the snowmobiles

Main street - 2am...will the sun never set??? (actually not for a bout 5 months)

Longyearbyen is a mining town. The means to move the coal from the mines to the collection site and on to ships? Overhead cable cars.

Sorry the pic is so bad - it is from a moving van at night (well, 11pm) so the sun is up but not super bright.

It was -22 when we arrived in Longyearbyen and the walk across the runway was a brutal shock. After a week at those temps and colder, the walk across the runway to leave was different. No hats, unzipped jackets, etc. What a difference a week makes in getting used to those temps.

Do you ever get a little nervous when flying if there is snow on the runway? If so, this may not be the airport for you. This is a picture of the runway out my window of the plane. While they do plow the snow. My idea of a clean runway and there idea of a clean runway differ just a bit...

It may be hard to see - but the whole town of Longyearbyen. It is just a small port in the middle of the ice. The island chain is 2 hrs North of the Norway mainland by plane. The North Pole is another 2 1/2 - 3 hrs North from here....

Flying back to the mainland of Norway to the city of Tromso. What is very interesting is that we had to go through immigration in Tromso. We were not officially in Norway in Longyearbyen. Since the islands are encased in ice half the year and you could possibly walk from Russia/Greenland/etc to Longyearbyen (and people do - walk, ski, dogsled) there really are no borders. So when you return to the Norway mainland, the plane stops, you get off, go through immigration and get back on the plane.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

90.00.000 degrees North - The North Pole! At least for a few moments.

It's done - I finished the North Pole Marathon. It has taken a few days once I returned to Kansas City to catch up on sleep, emails, thaw out, etc. It was amazing. Almost impossible to describe. Since there is nothing permanently at the pole, a base camp is built every year for the short season when it is warm enough to be there but not so warm that the ice splits. The North Pole is completely on ice, there is no land, and the ice moves, a lot. The ice flows from east to West (kinda) and is constantly splitting and reforming.

Camp Barneo: Every year the Russians fly up close to the pole and look for a suitable place to build a camp and runway. When they find a place they like, they jump out of the plane and parachute to the ground. In addition they bring a bulldozer and a few supplies. After the runway is done, the plane starts bringing people and supplies and they build a camp. Lots of info at:

Camp Barneo is only there for 4-6 weeks a year! Then the ice splits up too much, they pack up and leave till next year. It is used by geologist, adventure seekers, a last stop before the pole and well, marathoners. It is constantly moving and was around 20 miles from the pole when we were there. It will sleep about 40 in addition to the staff. The tents are heated...but that doesn't mean they are above freezing. The warmest I saw in our tent was 27 degrees - but that is about 60 degrees warmer than outside. Water bottles had to be in the sleeping bag, wet clothes on the floor would freeze, etc. In a word = cold. But beautiful. Nothing for 1000 miles in any direction. No people, no building, not even any color but white.

We were at the camp for about 24 hrs before the marathon. Marathon started around 3:30 in the afternoon and since the sun never sets, you could run pretty much anytime. The temp at the start was -36 and then dropped to -38. Not too much wind, but enough that you knew when the wind was in your face. The course was an odd shaped, kinda oblong, zig-zaggy route that had to be completed 9 times. The snow/ice underfoot was everything from very solid slick ice to 8+ inches of fluffy snow...and it changed. As every lap proceeded the snow was more churned up and harder to run in. It is so dry that it does not pack. In between each lap there was a heated tent where we placed all of our water bottles and any food that we needed. If you were wearing snowshoes they had to be removed before entering the tent as it had canvas floors. Many people gave up the snowshoes after a couple times of taking them on/off. At those temps, it was very difficult to fasten the shoes. After two laps I was actually sweating and thought about dropping a layer. By lap three I was freezing and glad I kept it all on. I had three layers of socks. Three layers on the legs, five layers up top, face mask, neck gaiter, two hats and two layers on the hands. I had goggle for the first lap, but they kept freezing up and discarded them. It was cold. No other way to put it. As soon as your breath hit the air it froze to the mask/neck. Once I took off my gloves half way to adjust something, the little fine hairs on the back of my hands immediately froze into little ice crystals. When I touched them, the hair fell off. After 5 laps I thought I was done for. I could not get warm, was miserable and was doing a run/walk (run 20 flags, walk 5) I stopped in my tent, changed all my socks and all my upper layers. The warm and dry clothes refreshed me a bit and mentally I was back in it. Physically though, the loose snow was taking its toll. I slowly went to a run 15 flags/walk 5 to a run on the hard ice/walk in the fluff. The final lap I tried to run more and found that in the snow I could fast walk faster than I could run. I finally came in at 7:27 - the longest marathon I have ever done. The fastest time was just under 4:30 and the last person came in at 16:30+

After I finished, I quickly changed clothes and my spirits returned. Most runners then hung out in the heated tent and waited for the other runners. When someone would come in it was like an assembly line. We'd find them a place to sit, fix them tea or coffee, get them some food (mashed potatoes and goulash) and help them strip off the frozen pieces of clothing. After my roommate came in I finally went to sleep - about 6am. Was back up around 9am to see the last person finish and then 2 more hours of sleep.

Since the camp wasn't exactly at the pole when we were there, we boarded two old Russian transport helicopters for a quick flight to exactly 90.00 degrees. When we landed, the guide planted the temporary pole exactly at 90.00 We had a drink, took pictures, ran around the world, played alittle soccer and then headed back to camp. (that's not me on the left. Ted Jackson - crazy man. But that's a great pic of how it was)

Less than 48 hrs after leaving the pole I was back in Kansas City. 1 helipcopter and 7 plane flights later. I have a little bit of frost bite on my nose and a few toes, but nothing serious and all will be fine in a few weeks. I took lots of pics, but it will take a little bit longer before I can get them downloaded and in a form to post. I took lots of flags to the pole including the family flag seen on the right. That's right - the Bundschuh family has a crest/flag. Sure it is not the most colorful or interesting thing, but it has now been to the North Pole. I made new friends and had time to be completely alone in a place where when you are alone, you are REALLY alone.

It was amazing, simply amazing.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

ps: the channel has been frozen solid for so long that the town has not had a supply ship in 4 months..... they have actually run out of keg beer..... please send....
It's 10pm in Longyearbyen....still light as the sun will not set again until August 23rd.... wow, this reallymesses with your brain. The temp is a balmy -22.24 degrees. (yess, they give the temps that way) Last check it was -38 at the pole. We leave tomorrow at 4pm, arrive 89 degrees North at 9pm. The marathon is set for 2:30pm on Tuesday. Fly back to Longyearbyen on Wednesday.
It is hard to descibe this place. All the roads are ice. A few cars which are mainly taxis or delivery vehicles - everything else is by snowmobile. A polar bear wandered into town yesterday.... yup, that sums it up.
wow - I am not even at the North Pole and it is a completely different world. Got off the plane after 27 hours of travel and walked out into a -22 degree evening. (no airport gangway, just down the steps and walk across the runway) The sun will never set while I am here, gets twilightish, but never dark. Was a nice -27 this morning, about to go snownobiling to wear the polar bears are. Though one did walk into town yestersday. You do not leave town without a weapon! Gotta go....