I am athletically very average. Before training for Ice Maiden I had shown no indication whatsoever that I was capable of undertaking extreme endurance in an extreme environment. But, I was looking for an escape route from hum-drum office life and Antarctica was about as far away as I could get.
I graduated from Bristol University with a 2:1 in Spanish and flocked to the bright lights of London hoping to make my fortune as a globe-trotting journalist. Oh, the irony! After 5 years at Time Inc and working freelance, I took off for a year of writing and adventures in Switzerland, Africa, Nepal, Tibet and Rajasthan.
In Nepal I trekked to Everest Base Camp and experienced a familiar sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) seeing all the expeditions preparing to summit. Little did I know that when the opportunity to apply for Ice Maiden arose, that trek to the foot of Everest was the only piece of relevant experience I could offer.
Eventually returning to London, I realised that I needed to start making some serious money and made the transition to the corporate world of marketing. After many years of marketing everything from bamboo nappies to language schools in Riga, and luxury property developments in London to superyachts in the Caribbean, the itchy feet returned and I never found a cure.
A sECOND CAREER
Having spent 4 years in the Officer's Training Corps at Bristol University, I joined the Honourable Artillery Company Army Reserve Regiment in London in 2011. I was looking for a physical challenge that would offset the desk job, and hoping to meet other people that also enjoyed sleeping in woods!
After training as a surveillance operator, promoting to the rank of Lance Sergeant (equivalent to Corporal) and qualifying as a military ski instructor, I saw a notice about Ice Maiden.
I never believed I had what it takes to cross Antarctica, or that I would be selected for the team, but thought I'd put in my application, then wait for somebody to tell me the game was up. Although 250 other people applied, a few things were in my favour - no experience or physical fitness were required.
I trained for 2 years, dragging my tyre Betty II across Central London on my 2-hour morning commute to practice dragging a sledge. This earned me many odd looks, but I was so 100% focussed on getting to Antarctica that I was immune. Completing 7 weeks of training in Arctic Norway took its toll on my marketing career and I had to quit my job, move out of my London flat and live with my parents in Sussex, or couch-surf with friends.
Just 4 months before the planned departure for Antarctica, the team still hadn't been announced and, crippled with Imposter Syndrome, I was convinced I would be axed. When I finally heard I'd made the cut, it felt like such a huge achievement that I had to keep reminding myself we hadn't even started the expedition yet.
And the rest, as they say, is history...