Project Iceman: Limitations are Perceptions

At 5:30 a.m. on the 22nd of February, 2020, Anders Hofman plunged into the water and began to swim. After completing 3.9 kilometres, he dried himself and got ready to bike 180 kilometres. And after this, he completed the marathon distance of 42.2 kilometres. Well, why is this particular triathlon so special?

It was conducted in the most desolate, the harshest and the coldest conditions known to man – in the continent of Antarctica. 

With the completion of the triathlon after an astonishing 72:54:09 hours – delayed by 27 hours due to a 150 kmph blizzard on the glacier – Anders Hofman became the first man to have completed an Ironman triathlon in Antarctica. 

The idea came to Hofman in 2017 when he watched a video of Nick Jacobsen try one of the most dangerous stunts in the world – kite jumping off of a 321 metre high helipad of the Burj Al Arab in Dubai. He wanted to do something similar, perhaps something where he wouldn’t be the best, but where he would be the first. He then found out that Antarctica was the only continent where the Ironman hadn’t been completed yet – for obvious reasons. Apart from the deathly cold, the soul-sucking weather and the inhabitable conditions, there were other dangers as well challenges that anyone attempting the Ironman would have to deal with. There were leopard seals in the waters of the Antarctic – one of Antarctica’s top ranked predators. He had to find and use equipment that was most suitable for a swim, run and bike on the glacier and in the waters that were about -0.6 degree celsius in temperature. Then there was the funding to deal with, a team to put together, the training to be done. More than anything, however, the biggest challenge he faced was dealing with the “this is crazy”s, the “this is impossible”s and the “you’re going to fail”s.

He publicly announced to the world on June 13, 2018 that he would be attempting such a feat soon. To prepare, he ran the Polar Circle Marathon – the world’s coolest marathon held in Greenland and finished third, he completed the northernmost triathlon in Svalbard covering a distance of 2 kilometres by swimming, 90 by bike and 21.1 on foot, and in 2020, he finally completed the Iceman. He’s faced numerous challenges along the way, for obvious reasons. From lack of funding, to people saying no, to Nature getting in the way – he’s had to deal with heavy winds both during the Iceman as well as the Svalbard triathlon. But he’s gotten through all of them and so has the whole team around him who helped put this together.   

Limitations are perceptions is the motto Project Iceman charges itself with. During the actual process itself, all Hofman could think of was how cold it was, how much more he had left to do, how stupid the whole thing was, how he would never be able to complete it. He spent 27 hours without sleeping, just cycling through the mind-numbing, ceaselessly white landscape. The first signs of hypothermia hit him as soon as he climbed out of the water, and it took him half an hour to get the feeling back in his legs after completing the swim. A 150 kmph blizzard hit him and the team out of nowhere because of which he had to camp out in the bitter cold and freezing winds for 27 hours before he could resume. 

Every one of us has dreams. And yet, we don’t even work towards many of them, let alone achieve them, just because we think we won’t succeed, because it’s too hard, because no one’s ever done something like this before, because we might fail, because it’s impossible. Even if we do decide to take the plunge, failure at any stage makes us want to give up on the whole thing. There are a million reasons why one shouldn’t follow and accomplish one’s dreams – in this social media-driven age, there are a billion. You need to find that one true reason that’s in your heart that drives you to go for it, to achieve what makes you happy. 

You need to believe in yourself, just like Anders Hofman did. The world told him he was crazy, in fact, his mind itself was telling him the whole thing was crazy. But he held on, he persevered, he hung on till the end, he completed it. 

Nothing is impossible. Dreams are meant to be achieved. 

Limitations are perceptions.

Rajlakshmi Chavan

SY B.Sc. Economics

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