Anders Hofman is training to be the first man to complete an Ironman distance triathlon, in Antarctica…in February. He’s calling it Project Iceman
Anders, can you start by explaining the Iceman challenge?
Project Iceman is the completion of the first ever ironman triathlon in Antarctica, which we’re aiming to do in February, leaving from Argentina.
I’m calling it the Iceman because I can’t officially call it an Ironman but it’s the same disciplines and distances. So, a 3.9km swim, 180 kilometre ride and then running a marathon.
Do you have a background in endurance racing?
I would say I have an untraditional background. I’ve only done one Ironman before in Copenhagen in 2016. For me, why I’m doing this is much more important than what i’m doing. The why is really to show that limitations are perceptions. I want to show that I’m not a professional triathlete but still that an ordinary person can do what will be the most extreme ironman ever completed.
How many people have told you you’re crazy?
A lot of people have told me I’m crazy. Obviously my idea is extreme, definitely, but I don’t consider myself extreme or crazy. I mean, I like to push things and push myself.
With a challenge like this it’s very easy to see the progress and see when you have achieved something. There is an end date and a clear result, but with a lot of other things in life it’s not that clear cut.
“If people don’t question what you’re doing, it’s because you’re not pushing yourself enough.“
Does someone calling you crazy make you more motivated?
If people don’t question what you’re doing and whether you can achieve it, it’s because you’re not pushing yourself enough. You need to divide people. That’s critical in order to make a difference. That obviously means that you set a big goal but you don’t have to achieve it in one step. You take the small steps in order to make that big goal or dream possible.
People are looking at the end result and not the steps you’ve taken to get there.
Look at Usain Bolt. People have seen him running maybe 3 or 4 times. That means they’ve only seen him perform for 30 to 40 seconds, tops. Say he has been training on average 20 hours a week since he was 6 years old—just as an estimate— that would mean that he had been training more than 17,000 hours. Those 30 seconds represent 0.0015 % of all his effort. We don’t see all the small steps in order to do what he has done.
What are the physical challenges you face in Project Iceman?
The painful bits in the training are definitely the ice water tests.
In January when the water was around 0 degrees here in Copenhagen I jumped in the water 7 days in a row. On the first day I was in the ice for only 35 seconds. The whole idea is that when I eventually go into the water with the wetsuit on, I can stay for at least 10 minutes before it starts to affect me.
During the course of that week I built up every day and on the seventh day I was in ice water for 11 minutes 5 seconds.
My body didn’t change at all in that time, it was all up in my mind: I focused on my breathing and relaxing the body. That was a really big eye opener, especially for the message that limitations are perceptions.
What makes the difference?
What I do is break it down into smaller goals.
In Svalbard, after 30km on the bike it was absolutely horrible and I didn’t think I would be able to finish. I began focussing on one kilometre at a time. The same thing happened on the run where I was completely drained of energy. I set the bar the lowest I’ve ever tried. On the last 11km of the half marathon I focussed only on the next 250 metres. Since I could continue going, I didn’t stop.
For me, I always say you can at least do twice the effort that your mind thinks you can.
How often are you training?
The ideal is to train at least 3 hours a day. That’s where I really feel progress.
According to studies for what is most effective, 80% of your training should be low intensity. That means below 70% of your max pulse. I can do a lot of things while i’m actually training. A lot of people prefer to focus solely on the training, which is good if you’re a professional athlete but for me I use training now as mindfulness, to get away from all the stress. To get a reboot of positive energy.
How important is the environment to you and Project Iceman?
My trips to Iceland, Greenland and Svalbard have really made an impression because there you actually see the impact. I went to the ice in Greenland and could see how far the cap has been retreating in only a period of 7 years. You could see where it was before and where it is now and it’s been melting 9metres in height in only seven years. It’s absolutely crazy.
The Iceman legacy
How has the cold training affected your lifestyle?
I think i’m more open to things and up for a challenge. Just the symbolic thing with the ice bath is that it’s always horrible when you’re in it, but afterwards, the feeling is always amazing. With a lot of the things that are uncomfortable in life, when you jump into them, what comes on the other side Is always going to be great.
I feel it has a great health benefit too. It keeps your body alive, instead of drinking coffee in the morning, if you take a 1 minute cold shower, I can tell you your entire system reboots right away and you’re woken up and you really feel alive.
For me at least, how I’m in control of your mind, cold water is a great way to do that.
What would you like the legacy of the challenge to be?
Overall, I would like the legacy of the challenge to be even though you’re one out of 7 billion on this planet, you can make a difference. I want to show that an ordinary guy, a nobody from Denmark can achieve this. People can then say: If Anders can do this, I can definitely also do whatever it is that their own iceman is. The iceman symbolises the dreams and ambitions we chase for ourselves.
Follow Anders on Instagram @Andershofman
Photography: Nicklas Kold Nagel and Jan Bue Laumark
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