Anders Hofman is the 28-year old athlete who is heading to Antarctica to swim 3.9km in ice water, dodging leopard seals and hypothermia, then cycle 180km, and finish off with a 42.2km run across the ice and snow of a glacier.
RSNG spoke to him to find out how he is preparing for the challenge of a lifetime and how he hopes his efforts will bring attention to how global heating is melting the Antarctic ice…
RSNG What was the inspiration for your ‘Project Iceman’ challenge and why pick Antarctica?
ANDERS HOFMAN, TRIATHLETE ‘I saw this fascinating documentary about Nick Jacobsen, a famous Danish kiteboarder, jumping off the Burj Al Arab in Dubai – it was probably the most dangerous stunt ever attempted in kiteboarding. It inspired me to push the boundaries and search for what was possible in sport.’
‘I had just completed an Ironman – they have been done all over the world but never in Antarctica, no one has even done a normal triathlon there before. Everyone told me it would be impossible, but I want to overcome their preconceived limitations. It’s important to push the boundaries that only exist in our mind.’
‘Iceland was the warmest place in Europe when I was there in January’
RSNG Have you had any polar experience before?
AH ‘No, I’ve never been to the North or South Pole, I still haven’t been to Antarctica – I won’t be going until race day! Last year I ran the Polar Circle Marathon in Greenland and I was in Iceland in January for some swimming and running tests.’
RSNG What are the challenges when training for this degree of extreme environment?
AH ‘The main challenge is actually not being able to train in Antarctic conditions – I live in Copenhagen, Denmark, so it’s difficult to find snow and ice and there are no inclines. Project Iceman will be on a glacier in Antarctica which has lots of steep slopes, and obviously it will be freezing cold, so it’s hard to imitate the conditions.’
‘Another big challenge training in cold temperatures is that you don’t sweat in the same way. You still lose water, but you don’t feel it, so you don’t have the same urge to drink water – it’s really easy to get dehydrated if you don’t force yourself to drink.’
RSNG What will be the biggest hazards?
AH ‘Frostbite is a big hazard during the cycle and run, and hypothermia during the swim. I will be in the ice water for over an hour. Wildlife in the water is also a big hazard – there are lots of leopard seals in Antarctica – they’re a real danger and have been known to attack humans.’
‘Another hazard will be on the glacier itself during the run and the cycle – there are lots of crevices and unsupported ground that I could fall into.’
RSNG How will you raise awareness of the challenges facing Antarctica, and connect them with everyday life elsewhere, given earth is a networked system?
AH ‘I try to be very eco-conscious in my everyday life, I am adopting an increasingly vegetarian and vegan lifestyle, as well as reducing plastic consumption. I have a big following on social media and through my website, so I will be using these platforms to speak about what I’ve seen and experienced during my time in Antarctica.’
‘I have already experienced some really shocking things during my training – Iceland was the warmest place in Europe when I was there in January and, in terms of Project Iceman – they predict it won’t be possible to do it in 10-20 years because of global warming.’
RSNG Have you taken any mantras or mindset tactics from athletes and Polar explorers who have gone before?
AH ‘James Lawrence, the Iron Cowboy, has been a real inspiration for me. He said, “By putting yourself in the game, you're giving yourself an opportunity to achieve something everyone else said was impossible”, which really struck a chord with me and has kept me motivated.’
RSNG What about nutrition – what is your strategy there?
AH ‘It’s been tricky – I’m training 25-30 hours a week, and it’s been hard to eat enough calories to counterbalance this! I’m trying not to overthink it, a lot of high energy foods and carbohydrates such as oats, pasta, bread and rice, as well as avocados and nuts. When I’m training I rely on energy bars and gels.’
‘I still need to figure out how I’m going to manage my nutrition during the race – I will be awake for 24 – 28 hours, so it will need to be a mix of energy gels and bars, as well as more sustenance.’
RSNG What is going to be the wildcard element, the thing that you can’t train for?
AH ‘The main thing I can’t prepare for is the polar conditions. I’ve been to the northernmost point of Norway, Iceland and Greenland, but Antarctica is the most extreme environment in the world, so it’s impossible to fully prepare. The weather there can change within minutes. And, of course, the potential dangers of wildlife.’
‘It’s truly miraculous what the body is capable of if you put your mind to it – it’s as much a mental challenge as a physical one’
RSNG Have you had to adapt your mindset for this challenge?
AH ‘I have always seen myself as a positive and proactive person, but I have really had to shift my mindset to focus on what is in my control, as opposed to what is out of my control. Listening to music has been really important for me here – it helps me focus and get perspective like nothing else.’
‘I’ve been collaborating with Danish audio brand, Libratone, over the past year – their headphones have amazing noise cancelling that helps me zone out of everything that’s going on around me, which means I can really focus on the challenge I have ahead of me.’
RSNG Have you done much ice swimming and does it amaze you how adaptable the human body is to extreme environments?
AH ‘The longest ice swim I’ve done is 2km and it is truly miraculous what the body is capable of if you put your mind to it, we can endure so much. This is just a much of a mental challenge as it is a physical one.’
WHAT NEXT? Watch Anders in this trailer for the Project Iceman documentary…
Comments are for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.