My Polar Dream – book review

I first came across Jade Hameister‘s story at the National Young Leaders’ Day in Melbourne last year. On a day full of inspirational speakers, she stood out and captivated both the young people and adults in the audience. At the age of 14, she became the youngest person to ski to the North Pole from outside 89 degrees. At 15, she was standing on a stage in front of a few thousand people, recounting her adventures, filling us in on her future plans and sending a very clear message – young people and, specifically, young women can achieve great things. In particular, her #bravenotperfect message struck a chord with the 4 school captains I was with and it was something we talked about and took back to our classroom.

Later that year, her adventures continued with a trek across Greenland and, earlier this year, with a trek to the South Pole, allowing her to claim the ‘polar hat trick’ and become the youngest person to do so (amongst many other ‘firsts’).

View this post on Instagram

do not go gentle into that goodnight

A post shared by Jade Hameister (@jadehameister) on

Having followed her journey via Instagram, I was keen to read the book of her adventures, released recently.

My Polar Dream‘ is a very easy read but definitely not lightweight, especially when you pause to consider the enormity of Jade’s achievements and what it took for her to get there. She is very lucky to have had supportive parents and the means to undertake such treks but neither of those factors lessen what she accomplished. To train for and complete such lofty goals (while also getting on with the business of being a teenager) tells a lot about her character and mental strength.

The book takes you through the 3 journeys and gives you insights into her days on the ice with nothing off limits. There’s discussion about her difficulties with finding appropriate places and conditions to go to the toilet and how it felt to be sharing time and a tent with Dad – probably not something I could have done for that long at that age. Jade also ensures she tells it how it was – not all sunshine and butterflies. It was hard, as if that word could possible describe the enormity of exactly how challenging it was. There were tears and parts where less resilient people would have given up but she is made of much tougher stuff and focused on achieving her goal.

Most of all, Jade’s personality and character really shine through. She is such a positive role model for other young women in an era where there is so much superficiality and focus on how people look on the outside, rather than who they are on the inside. The story of how she handled some internet trolls is particularly telling.

My Polar Dream‘ is definitely worth a read, whether you ever intend to embark on a polar trek of your own or not. And Jade’s TEDx talk is also worth watching and sharing for its powerful message – “What if the focus shifted from how we appear to the possibilities of what we can do?

Run Forrest 2017 – race recap

Every now and again, it’s good to do something that scares you a bit. To stretch yourself, revise what you believe you’re capable of and remind you that life is full of opportunities and rewards for those willing to embrace some risks. In short, being brave, not perfect (Thanks to Jade Hameister for this one – I’ve adopted it as a personal motto).

Run Forrest has been on my wishlist for a while but has always scared me. Even though this year I felt more ready to have a go than ever before, it still took me until last Thursday to sign up. I’m not exactly sure what I was scared of – hills? Trails? Not being able to finish? The unknown. As much as I love trail running, I tend to stick to familiar ones and get nervous when I strike out somewhere new, in case I come across something I can’t handle. Thus my nerves when I thought of this event.

20170611_082833

The morning didn’t start too well as the fog was very heavy on my drive over and just added to the nerves. I arrived safely, parked up and stopped for a toilet break then faced the next issue – how to find the event village. There had been some information on the website but I had expected perhaps some signs however couldn’t see anything obvious (I later saw arrows on the road but had obviously missed them going in). To get to the event village, you follow a little path on the edge of town and wind your way down to trail heaven. There I found a great little event village, complete with fires to warm ourselves as we waited and hay bales to rest on.

20170611_090813

Having managed to slot in another toilet break, I added my bag to bag drop then ambled to the start area. My nerves were still there but I just wanted to get this thing started and face whatever demons I found out on the trail.

20170611_10164120170611_102217

From the start line, we headed out, around and back past the same area before running behind the event village where we were confronted with the first hill. A significant hill. Some people around me could even be heard muttering ‘Silvan’ under their breath (refer to this blog post for that particularly gruesome hill). Having this so early in the event did make me falter a little – I’d already been nervous; was this the evidence I needed to prove that my nerves had been justified? Would it be too hard? I’m pleased to say those thoughts moved on pretty quickly – I’m not in love with hills but I’m much better friends with them than I ever used to be and I knew I just needed to put my head down and get on with it. So I powered on.

At the top of the hill, we moved onto a narrow trail through the beautiful bush with undulations but nothing unrunnable. I instantly felt better, stronger and happier – I could do this. Of course I could. I also noticed I wasn’t alone, with a fair bunch of runners both in front and behind me which made me feel better as well.

20170611_104510

The scenery we were running through was, simply, stunning. The Otway Ranges have long been a favourite place of mine, even before I took up running. I couldn’t help but feel very lucky to get to run through this today, in the most perfect running weather you could wish for (especially in a place well known for rain). As well as getting to run along narrow trails, there was also a tiny bit of road as we headed up to the West Barwon Reservoir, adding to the impressive views. A woman running nearby and I were chatting about our ludicrously large smiles which seemed permanently etched to our faces – despite the sore and hard parts of running, this was one of those runs that just made us smile.

20170611_105436

We headed back onto the trails, past the drink station and up through the turnaround loop for the 10km. This was definitely my sort of running – gentle ups and downs, soft (and slightly slippery) paths and blissful serenity all around. The faint sounds of the event village could be heard through the trees but not close enough to worry about the run being over yet – I was happy for this one to keep going for a while.

As we continued to weave through, we hit more of the technical mountain bike trails with banked corners and a sticky clay surface – both a bit of a hazard but easily dealt with by my fabulous trail shoes. Not sure I would have coped in road shoes for this event. I could have run on this stuff forever – I felt strong and more like a mountain goat than I have before on the trail, ably picking my way around tree roots. But it wasn’t to be as we emerged out of the trees and back on the final stretch before the finish.

I actually think I managed to take a bit of a wrong turn in the last section as I followed runners ahead but then found others converging with us on the path further up. This might have contributed to me pulling up a bit short on distance although I think that’s probably more to do with the general difficulties of measuring trail runs – very hard to work out the line when you’re dodging all sorts of natural obstacles.

There was one last uphill then a downhill jaunt through magical tree ferns – a perfect prelude to the finish line. As always, the finish chute seemed to go on for a long time although I wasn’t as ‘done’ as I normally am and ran it fairly strong. To see the run for yourself, check out my link on ‘Relive‘.

This event really is a one of a kind in many ways. The location, the scenery, the trail, the diversity of runners it attracts, the vibe of the event village – it all builds to a very special package.

20170611_120220