An Icy Proposal
Being able to glide on 5-6 feet of clear ice with constant ever changing patterns was a true joy. Inevitably there was a slog through parts that were unskateable, sections needing intensive use of poles or the path suddenly blocked due to enormous new ice fissures but those obstacles only highlighted the most beautiful ice I’ve ever seen. The cold harsh wind that hit all racers 10 miles or so from the end also served as a reminder of just how superb overall conditions were the previous days. And I can think of no more a majestic backdrop than the ancient snow capped peaks that followed the entire western shore.
While I will find another big adventure and plan on enjoying more endurance racing (and skating some amazing ice), it is the larger group camaraderie of the Mongol 100 that will be difficult to replicate.
While I like to think the inaugural cohort set the bar fairly high all the way around, I would strongly encourage anyone interested in a culturally immersive and highly challenging event to take advantage of this most unusual opportunity.
Dan C on Ice
I step off the plane into Chinggis Khan international Airport. I’ve finally completed a lifetime’s worth of plane and bus journeys in a little over 24 hours, but spirits are instantly raised as I spy the friendly and welcoming site of the other Rat Racers huddled in the corner of the airport. There might as well be a sign above our heads saying “out of towners” but I feel almost immediately at home. The feeling that this is a friendly country full of warm, hard-working people begins at this very moment – a view that is only confirmed as the adventure progresses over the next ten days.
I’m here. This is happening. Months and months of planning, preparation and perspiration from hours of training, has all led to this…
Mongolia’s capital city Ulaanbaatar, is a city under development. Less than 20 Years ago a Ger (Yurt) wouldn’t have looked out of place in its main streets, but now skyscrapers fill the horizon and flashing signs light the way. This is a city is on the move, constructing a base ready for tourism and all the benefits that come with it. I hope that those in charge of this drive don’t lose sight of all that makes Mongolia unique.
Each night we camped on the shore of the lake (night 3 being on an island in the middle of the lake) where our Mongolian support crew erected our Gers and were forever melting ice from the Lake for our freeze-dried rations. They supported us throughout the trip with good humor, probably slightly fascinated why this bunch of westerners were undertaking such a trip. One Mongolian decided to have a go on my Bike and we needed to dispatch one of the 4 x 4’s before he disappeared over the Russian border. 30 minutes later I was reunited with the bike J.
Weather conditions on the final day were against us. Cycling into a head wind on a frozen lake in Mongolia with ice that is harder than concrete and falling off, were not good for my ribs, but with only 10k left nothing would stop me from completing this epic trip, and allegedly becoming the 1st person to cycle down the entire length of the lake.
“A truly unique adventure, in breathtaking surroundings, with incredibly humble and supportive people. Amazing memory’s and new friends made that will last a lifetime. The Rat Race team had thought of every minor detail, the logisitics and the risk they took on with an event like this was incredible, but they seemed to take it all in their stride – I have never travelled with a more impressive company, they took all the logistical worries off my shoulders so I could focus on the event. I will be sure to sign up to future events run by these guys.”
John Paul Matthews
“I would to thank everyone at Rat Race plus all the volunteers and all the locals who made this whole event possible. It is simply a wonderful and awe inspiring challenge – running 100 miles down the length of the frozen Lake Khovsgol, it is worth noting it gets cold here, very cold! This is not like other races, first of it is a 4 day challenge and it is not about being a few seconds quicker it is about challenging yourself and getting to immerse yourself in real Mongolian culture – not the tourist stuff. I cannot describe to you how tough and hard working the Mongolians are – pure workhorses and so, so friendly.
You will make lifelong friendships here, the camaraderie with all the other participants is of a scale I have never seen before. If you are looking for an epic challenge that is quite, quite different to anything you have done before then I would say do not hesitate to enter Mongol 100 – you will have an unbelievable time.”
This is an adventure that will change your life. Nothing will be the same for you again. From the epic expanse, beauty and terror of the lake to the customs, kindness and hospitality of the Mongolian people, the Mongol 100 is truly the greatest adventure on earth.
It’s brutal, epic and beautiful in equal measure, but this is also a lesson in survival, bonding, lasting friendship and teamwork.
You have to experience this to understand it. The greatest race on earth. Bar none.
No amount of running or adventure experience can fully prepare you for Lake Khovsgol…and that’s the point. You go there to learn and respect; not conquer. The stunning backdrop of mountains and a lake stretching to the horizon in front and behind satisfy a desire we all have to ‘get away from it all’ whilst being surrounded by ‘your kind of people.’ Your distance run, what position you are in and ‘where is the next checkpoint’ become irrelevant in a world where you are caught up in simply beating the conditions with every step. Keep that water bottle from freezing, wipe the ice from your eyelashes and feel your everyday world fall behind to the rhythmic crunch crunch crunch of your ice spikes on the deep black marbled ice. Every breath freezes the inside of your nose and your senses are bombarded with the artillery-like noises of the ice cracking and moving beneath you.
This is the closest thing to an Ice Volcano you’ll ever experience. The landscape around you is alive.
To come here to run 100 miles is missing the point. This is an authentic adventure in a place few have trodden. The challenge brings you to live with the locals for a week; as a result you feel part of a family on the ice, not a crew ….but actual family. Many races bring rewards of distance or positions, many chase podiums and times. But here you measure achievement in experience, learning and friendship.
No race will be the same again after this.
When I was browsing the map of places to do fantastic things and considering Mongolia, I really had no idea that about a year later I’d be ice-skating the length of a frozen lake, wearing a fur hat. Still, life is indeed stranger than fiction. I have always been a skier: X-country, back-country touring, alpine, the lot. But it has been 20 years plus since I ice-skated back at the Doncaster Dome somewhere in the murky haze of the ‘90s. And that was a teenage treat, not a regular occurrence. That skiing background definitely helped and some experience of x-country skiing specifically will stand you in good stead for the skating here. But it is not outside the realm of reasonable for anyone who wants to go down their local ice-rink and strap on the skates. Have a slide, see how you feel and get used to the sensation.
Then imagine yourself gliding silently across a huge lake with the horizon ahead, mountains either side, blue sky above and a dark, pearlescent polished surface beneath your feet.
Truly other-worldly. You would expect me to say that this was incredible, amazing and totally unique of course. Rat Race is my company and I want you to come and do the event! But all I can say with hand on heart is that I have been to many, many places. This is right up there. The event will be special for many reasons; but how many opportunities will you ever have to ice-skate across a remote lake in the Mongolian wilderness. I dare say the Mongol 100 is most unique for that opportunity alone.
The Lead Runner
It’s hard to explain the enormity and awe of how it feels to find yourself running across a lake 22 miles wide and 85 miles long. The expanse of ice creaks and thunders around you as it grows and contracts, making you feel very small indeed, this was an adventure that I will treasure forever. It’s amazing how varied the ice can be underfoot, the cold is inexplicable, but when your eyelashes and eyebrows are freezing together you know there’s a chill in the air.
The skies remain clear, the views or the surrounding mountains are incredible and you hear nothing but the crunch of your spikes in the metre thick ice between you and the 262m deep lake below, you’re running 100 miles across a 2 million year old lake in Mongolia, it’s crazy but amazing!
You have seconds between clothing changes before you might find yourself in trouble, do not underestimate this stunning environment, it will bite if you give it a chance, but it’s worth it. The Mongol 100 is truly an awe-inspiring journey that will stay with you for years to come, if you want a special story to tell your grandkids, then this my friend is a real jaw-dropper.
I love riding my bike so this was an opportunity I wasn’t going to miss. With mixed feelings of excitement and trepidation I jumped on and peddled away onto the lake. I had definitely been apprehensive. But as soon as I started riding, my mood lifted immediately. In fact I was grinning madly under my balaclava.
This was amazing. I was riding across sheet ice at minus 40 degrees in Outer Mongolia. Not many people have written that sentence, let alone actually done it!
The bike set-up was perfect – loads of traction and with an ability to fluently cover the varied surfaces with ease. It’s not without its own challenges though; my hands, feet and bum got really cold. Big mittens solved cold hands but made braking and changing gear near impossible and I never really solved the cold feet and bum issues. I suspect I just didn’t have the right kit with me, but that kit is out there. So progress on the bike is great fun and on the smooth sheet ice sections it is very fast, but for me it was slowed by having to walk for about 20 mins after every hour’s riding in order for the feet and glutes to warm up. It’s also much tougher on the broken up ‘chossy’ ice slab sections. Cycling doesn’t make this challenge any easier, it definitely has its own problems to solve and I would say it is worthy of the same accolade as running. As a biking objective, this is truly unique and definitely makes for some surreal photos! I will remember it forever.
Lake Khovsgol in winter is the most beautifully harsh environment I have ever been too. Perhaps a contradiction in terms but for me, that sums the place up perfectly. The opportunity to be on a vast body of ice and hear the sounds of it shifting and booming around you, your breath turning to ice on your face and your eye lashes sticking together, your sweat turning to snow both outside and inside your clothes is like nothing I have ever experienced. But the warmth of the local people supporting you means that the running is in fact just a wonderful bonus.
There are many things that will challenge you on this Event, apart from the distance itself. Previously simple tasks like cleaning your teeth (with frozen tooth paste) and going to the toilet in the middle of the night (without anything important dropping off in the cold!) bring new perspective to these day to day comings and goings that we take for granted when the mercury is a little higher. But I found myself embracing these quirks with a smile on my face as part of the adventure.
And what an adventure it is. This is one of most unique things you will ever get to experience, in so many ways.