There Is No Place Like Home by Therese Frentz
WWTW | March 6, 2014
â€śThere’s no place like home.â€ť –Â Dorothy Gale
That sentiment sure rings true when you’re a Southern girl and find yourself in Antarctica. Despite the efforts I made to galvanize my nerves over the last year, stepping off of the plane onto the Antarctic plateau was daunting. Half of those in the expedition group were already there to greet us and help with getting settled. There were hugs all around, but I didn’t share in the enthusiasm. I was intimidated and immediately started drawing into myself. That’s been my reaction to new situations my whole life, but doing so in an unforgiving environment like Antarctica is an unwise approach.
For several reasons, my self-doubt multiplied during the days leading to the start of the race. You can’t help but question your level of physical fitness when you become short of breath with just the tiniest bit of exertion. Of course it’s the altitude, but I was beating myself up about it. I also had to start a round of strong antibiotics due to a nasty ear infection exasperated by the frigid winds and made my inside feel 50 shades of gross. The unexpected amount of sastrugi exhausted me in a short practice run Team Noom Coach had with our fully loaded pulks. To top it all off, I almost slipped into the pit of the loo on more than one occasion. Everyone else goes on and on about the fantastic castle loos Prince Harry made, but I had become very scared of the damn thing!
Luckily for me, I was a member of Team Noom Coach. Before the race even started, the physically stronger members of the team such as Alex and Mark offered to take some of the weight from my pulk. After the race started, and they saw how much I was still struggling, they took even more of the load. It was awesome teamwork, but I felt so guilty about literally not being able to pull my own weight. Little Margaux was able to haul more weight than me! So what did I contribute to the team other than the ability to eat copious amounts of hakarl?
The end of Race Day Three held a very unwelcome surprise. After settling down in our tents I discovered a blister on one of my fingers. My heart sunk knowing it was frostbite. I felt so stupid letting myself get a preventable injury. Even worse, I let myself become scared. The reality of possibly scarring or even losing part of my hand sunk any self-confidence or excitement for the expedition I had left. With that horrible mindset, Race Day Four almost became the day I quit. My attitude towards my performance and capabilities was at rock bottom. It didn’t help that I was having stomach pains as well. In my mind I began rehearsing what I was going to tell the documentary cameras my reasons for quitting were.
It became extremely important to turn my thoughts away from the negative to keep myself from running into one of the Arctic Trucks when it passed. I would think about all the people at home who have been so supportive of me. I know none of them would ever say, or even think, ill of me for quitting, but I wanted to maintain that image of the ‘tough chick.’ I mean, no one wants to disappoint their fans, right? Also, being involved with WWTW has been one huge once-in-a-lifetime opportunity after another. Who would have ever thought I would meet the Queen of England? Antarctica is where I needed to pay my dues for all of those incredible things we’ve done. I owed it to WWTW to stay in the race. However, what really kept me skiing was my team. Not only were they hauling weight for me, but they never made me feel I was a burden. All of that negative talk was coming from me, never from them. Plus, how could I quit when those around me are dealing with higher levels of pain (Margaux) or feeling even more dependent on others than I did (Ivan).
With those thoughts and the incentive that our first rest stop of the race was just a half-day away, I mustered the will to continue. When Team Noom Coach made our way into camp for our 24 hour stop Teams Soldier On and Glenfiddich along with all of the support members were outside to greet us. I was unexpectedly taken over with emotion. The cumulative stress from the last 5+ days was released. I had come thisclose to quitting, but I didn’t. It would have been a decision I’d have regretted for the rest of my life.
It was after a few hours at the rest stop when Ed and the other elders changed the race into an expedition. I was honestly disappointed yet felt a huge weight lift off of my shoulders at the same time. There wouldn’t be any more guilt about feeling I was slowing my team down. It helped put me in a much better mindset and I actually started enjoying and appreciating this historic trip we were all on together.
I can proudly say I skied every kilometer asked of me to get to the South Pole. I made it. It wasn’t necessarily in the badass fashion I planned on, but I still made it. Now whenever I feel like giving up on something I can look back at my low point on Day Four and know I pushed through to reap the ultimate feeling of triumph. Every member of Team Noom Coach played a big part in my success and I’ll be eternally grateful. I hope I contributed to their triumphs in some small way as well. ‘Murica!
– Therese Frentz, Team Noom Coach