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The Ultimate Test - The ice ultra

Just five years ago Kyle Evans battled to run 400m without having to walk. Now he's back from a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that saw him traverse a spectacular part of the Arctic Circle on foot.



My journey to running hasn’t been straightforward, but endurance sport is what helped get my life back on track after a rocky start.


An epiphany I had one night in a dodgy hotel brought me to my knees and sent

me straight to AA. I threw my life into recovery, I did everything that had to be done and three months later I met my guardian angel, and now wife, Jenna. We moved to Dubai where we went from strength to strength.


I was training again, but soon found I just didn’t want to do yet another bicep curl. I was training a guy who ran ultramarathons and we joked about me doing an ultra. So I signed up for the Oman by UTMB event, entering the 53km (2 500m elevation). At the time I was around 117kg but I dropped to 106kg training with an endurance team in the UAE. I finished just seven minutes before the cut-off.


The training and race were the hardest things I had ever done, and I had to overcome so many setbacks brought on by my weight and lack of mobility, that I realised this was changing me.


The kid who couldn’t deal with his emotions was growing up. I was building evidence that I could overcome adversity, that I could finish things, and I was becoming more confident..

For the next event, I entered the 100km distance. The race was cancelled when lockdowns hit, so I ran 250km on a treadmill over five days in my lounge instead. The endurance bug had bitten. Jenna and I then moved back to Cape Town and opened Mindset Movement, a company that transforms lives through endurance sport, especially endurance running.


INTO THE ARCTIC

I’m still an endurance runner and, after many setbacks and injuries, I’ve got my running weight down to 94kg.


My latest big adventure was the Beyond the Ultimate Ice Ultra, a 230km self sufficient stage race through the Arctic Circle in February, where temps get as low as -40°C.


My goal was to raise R215 000 for the Quiver Foundation, in order to fund two Kungsleden hiking trail that connects the remote and mountainous north of Sweden to the more populated south.





The race takes place in Sweden’s Lapland, starting near the town of Gällivare and finishing in Jokkmokk.


My first challenge was that not all my luggage arrived with me at Lulea Airport. I ended up hiring a car so I could drive around and replace the gear that had got lost by the airline. An hour before the bus left for the race village, I was still buying pants, gloves and nutrition. We arrived at Stora Sjofallet Mountain Centre where we had a very informative briefing (things like “You sweat, you die”) and gear checks.


The other athletes were very helpful, giving me their extra Tailwind nutrition, something I hadn’t been able to find. I shoved my new gear into my bag (probably now over the regulation 10kg) and we were shown to our teepees outside for the night.


No bunk beds – we had reindeer skin to lay on the snow. Between the cold (-20°C) and wind, it wasn’t a great night’s sleep.


STAGE 1: KUNGSLEDSEN

50km | 840m ascent | 680m descent


The next morning we started from the mountain centre, following a segment of the famous 19th-century Kungsleden hiking trail that connects the remote and mountainous north of

Sweden to the more populated south. The first 15km was easy and gave us the necessary time to sort out our clothing layering system.


‘Be bold, start freezing’ was what worked for me everyday, because you don’t want to start sweating, trust me – then you really do freeze.

About 20km in, the going got tougher. We were falling through the snow… Time to put our snow shoes on. That’s the question you ask the most. Snow shoes on or off? If you need to ask, the answer is always on.


The Arctic sun that never fully rises started to set at around 3.30pm, about 40km into the stage. I needed my head torch for the first big climb, although I struggled to find it in

my backpack. Climbing a mountain in deep snow and snow shoes is different. I did a lot of running on the beach to prepare for it, but it is not close to the same thing when you are there.


Kyle Evans in freezing temperatures

As I got to the top I was relieved that there was only a 2km downhill until the day was done. That was until at the bottom I realised I’d dropped my mitt at the top and had to grind back up the hill in knee-deep snow to find it.


When I got to the small overnight cabin, I grabbed a candle and sorted out my bag and packing system. I had prepared and gone through my packing system for three months prior to the race, but with my lost kit and not enough time to put a new system in place, I was having issues. An hour later I ate my 1000 calorie meal and went to sleep.






*To read the rest of Kyle Evans' fascinating endurance through all 5 stages, get your hands on the Autumn Issue of Run Mag on sale now. Or read it here.



*Kyle Evans is an extreme athlete, coach and founder of the Mindset Movement

*Photographs supplied: MIKKEL M BEISNER  MUDERSPACKS

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