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On Failure
(December 9, 2012)

Erik's GearIn 2005, we were trying to cross the Arctic Ocean in summer - another expedition that no one had ever completed before (and still has yet to complete). I was feeling unusually pessimistic about our chances as I gotten a bad case of the flu somewhere en route - Norilsk or Dixon perhaps. I distinctly remember sitting in my bunk at the remote weather station in Sredny hoping that it would be a whiteout and the helicopter wouldn't be able to fly. But it was Russia, and the pilots were bold and brave. They filled the fuel tank up using a plastic two liter bottle for a funnel, smoked while checking the levels of av gas barrels and flew in whiteouts. Needless to say, we were dropped off on Cape Arctichesky a few hours later.

The trip was hard and scary. But with each passing day, I began to feel stronger and more confident. However, conditions were against us after a few weeks we had made little progress. Despite my protests, the expedition leader made the decision to pull the plug and called for a pick up. I was frustrated and shattered and two weeks later returned home feeling like a failure.

While there is an incredible tight knit group of people supporting Cycle South, a majority of the fundraising and overall planning falls on my shoulders alone. On any given day there is a lot of pressure to complete the myriad tasks that are required to successfully plan and prepare for an expedition like this: money, gear, media, communication strategy, menu, logistics, home life, paying bills, etc... The list goes on and on. But I also place a lot of pressure on myself. I have a strong internal drive to be successful - not in the sense of I have to go here and do this, but I want to do quality work, to tell a good story, to try as hard as I can, to be unique and original. I would like to say I'm above all the other fray, but working alone in my basement, the obstacles and 'no's' take their toll and I spend way too much time, giving myself pep talks. 'Yes, Eric you CAN do this.'

One of my goals has always been to get an expedition supported by National Geographic. I was excited to make it through the first round of Expedition Council grants only to receive an email last week, 'We regret to inform you...'. Ouch. That one hurt. Sitting at my desk in my office (which is also the laundry room and furnace room) I felt that all too familiar feeling of failure creeping in. It's a physical pain for me.

Of course, it's not the first time I've felt it. During my planning and preparation for Save the Poles, I became all too familiar with the word, 'NO'. My failures are frequent and I have developed a thicker skin under my thin skin. If anything, the set backs make me reevaluate my strategies to make sure I am doing my best. Failure is a good reminder that I am not 'owed' things in this life and good luck doesn't just happen. Hard work, I've found, is my rabbit's foot.

Gear and equipment has been funneling in slowly over the past few weeks. Some of it is standard: Goal Zero solar panel, Ergodyne Waterproof Duffles, Wenger tools, Thule bike travel case, Yaktrax, MSR stoves, Clif bars, Bergans clothing, a Hilleberg tent and more. Other gear is custom: Granite Gear panniers, A-train bike racks, cycling boots, nose beak for my Optic Nerve goggles. Written out it seems like a ton of stuff, but realistically the amount of gear that I will use to live and survive over the next six weeks is minimal at best. Still, if I was skiing to the South Pole, all this would be a breeze; however, doing something that no one has ever done before poses more than a few logistical and gear related questions.

The WebExpeditions team has been working in overdrive. Elisabeth Harincar, who will serve as expedition base camp manager, has been working on our advocacy and outreach programs. Elisabeth's fundraising experience will prove a critical asset in our goal to raise $10,000 for the Davis Phinney Foundation and their efforts to help people with Parkinson's Disease. Of course, we are all very excited about working toward the Cycle South goal of 'using bicycles to change the world'. We will be focused on a variety of environmental and bike advocacy issues. Stay tuned for more information from Elisabeth.

On the tech side, Tim has managed to use successfully test, the Iridium Phone we received from RoadPost. Through his efforts, we will be able to update my website and social media sites through an iPad mini, Iridium Access Point, and Iridium 9555 satellite phone. Additionally, I'll have tracking and position updates through my DeLorme inReach which Tim has also managed to integrate with his XJournal program.

I've been following a few of the ski expeditions already underway in Antarctica. One solo expedition I was particularly concerned about as the skier didn't really have much prior experience. So much in fact, that I actually offered a free weekend polar training course, just so he would be safe. As it turns out, he's covered roughly 160 nautical miles in 35 days or so and is not even half way to the pole. I applaud his effort but it is a good reminder that Antarctica is an unforgiving environment and the gap between intention and achievement is large.

Speaking of Antarctic expeditions, I've read with interest about Ranulph Finnes getting ready for a winter crossing of the continent. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't just a little bit jealous. I've haphazardly thought about a winter crossing of Antarctica and wondered about the strategy that might be needed to be successful. Personally, it should be an interesting trip, although I am a bit disappointed that the journey will be mechanized.

I am a little dumbstruck, however, by his recent statement that one of the reasons why he was doing this expedition was to compete with the Norwegians.

No offense Sir Ranulph, but history is stacked against you. After all, Amundsen DID beat Scott to the South Pole. Looking at that British tragedy, I might suggest to Ran to give up now. Then again, this is the guy who cut his own dead frostbitten fingers off with a garden shears and ran seven marathons on seven continents only three months after suffering a heart attack and undergoing by-pass surgery.

Maria and I were talking about how baby Merritt had changed our lives so much - all in the good way. We are typical fawning parents, taking pictures and talking about him incessantly. I was surprised at my own changed perspectives: how I am excited to see him after heading out on a bike for a couple hours of training. It will be hard to see not see him for nearly two months while I'm in Antarctica and I can't help but wonder how we will both change over that time.
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