Ray Zahab (explorer & ultra runner)

Ray Zahab is a Canadian Explorer, ultra-distance runner and Founder of non-profit impossible2Possible. He has run 17,000+km across the world’s deserts, and unsupported expeditions in some of the coldest places on the planet.
In 2006, former “pack a day smoker” turned ultra-runner Ray Zahab and two friends, Charlie Engle and Kevin Lin set out on an expedition to cross the Sahara Desert by foot. 111 days and 7,500 km after leaving the coast of Senegal, Africa they completed their journey by stepping into the Red Sea. The expedition had the trio running an average of 70kms a day without a single day of rest, for 111 days.
On this week’s Podcast, we talk about Ray’s beginnings from his very first Ultra to Running the Sahara Desert. We talk about moments where he almost lost his life and plans for the future

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Transcript of our Conversation

Ray Zahab

[00:00:00] Ray Zahab: And was almost pulled under the ice to go a kilometer down river, never to be found again. Right? Like, I mean, it was a thin, so I was in this hole and I was like with my, that my snow shoes on that were pulling me under with the current. And so I was trying to work my boots off. It was about minus 30. I was trying to work my boots off that couldn’t get them off.

And with the current pulling against the snow shoes, right. Using that as leverage. And I. I was sure I was never going to see my family again, this is how I was going to die and it was horrific and terrifying at the same time.

I suppose people listening is when they see the list of the expeditions you’ve done over the years. It’s truly remarkable. And [00:01:00] I suppose what I want to know is how did this love affair with ultra running come about? Well, that’s a great question, John. So, you know, everybody sort of finds the thing that they’re passionate about at, at some point, right?

So. No, my story is not that uncommon. I would say in, in endurance and adventure, I was a guy who, in my late twenties, was, as you had mentioned before, when we were talking, before we came on air, I was smoking a pack two packs a day. I was a very unhealthy person drinking my face off, filling my body full of pollutants and, I think, you know, most importantly, I was a very unhappy person.

I was one of these people that, you know, if you were, if we were drinking together at the pub, you’d think I was like the life of the party. I was always having a great time, but inside I was just a very unhappy person. And I think that a lot of us have a hard time, [00:02:00] at least I know I did defining that and being honest about that, as long as that’s not sounding too philosophical, but it’s the truth.

And so I, I got to a point where I was close to 30 and I was just sick of feeling that way. I was just no longer satisfied with a life that was going nowhere that was void of passion or direction. And I just thought shit, like I can’t see myself lasting many more years living this way. So something’s got to change.

And I have a brother, a younger brother, John, who is a year younger than I am. Just an incredible athlete. And he’s one of these guys who he wasn’t a, a conventional athlete. This is late nineties, right? So not everybody was talking so much about mountain biking and rock climbing and albinism and all the things that we all love to do.

Now, back then, I mean, you know, people talk much more. You know about the other sports that everybody was sort of already used to. Right. I don’t examples, whatever [00:03:00] hockey, football, baseball, et cetera. And so he not saying that it wasn’t there it’s just that it wasn’t as like, I guess as popular a thing. And so he was, he was doing these things and I was like fascinated by the things he was doing.

Now. Maybe it’s also because. I didn’t know about any of these things. So it wasn’t in my mind that people actually did these things, but he was a great example of what these adventure sports could bring to someone. And he was this very confident guy who was like, Amazing shape. And at that time in my life, he was sorta like a, like a beacon of, of potentially what could be.

So I thought, what the hell? Maybe if I did the things he does in his life, my life would, would be different. And I had no money. I had no direction, I had nothing to lose and I figured I’m going to give this a shot. And that’s basically how it started. I mean, I took me three years to quit smoking, which was.

Sort of the symbol of everything else that was negative. That was going on in my life that I was doing in my life, the over party and everything else was kind of like this. If [00:04:00] I could control this one thing, I thought I could control everything else. And because I loved, I loved smoking. I mean, there’s just, there’s no within buts about it.

I, you know, having a smoke and a coffee or a pint of Guinness and a coffee, I just could not picture life without spokes. That took me three years to quit smoking and, You know, it, it, it really gave clarity to me that the most difficult things that we do in our lives are very relative to us as individuals is how we feel about something that’s really the most critical.

Cause I speak at these things at events all over the world and people come up to me and they tell me, Hey man, you took you three years to quit smoking. It took me like a day, what’s up with that. And I said, well, yeah, because for me it was frigging hard, you know, but anyhow, I always tell long stories as you can tell.

So I quit smoking finally on new year’s Eve 99 completely. I tried off and on for three years, and then that’s when my life began to change. Was that one thing. And from that point forward, it’s sort of like a joke. [00:05:00] I followed my brother into the outdoors. He was teaching me things. I started doing the sports he was doing.

I got him an avid ice climber. I became, you know, quite adept on a mountain bike. I started racing mountain bikes that are pretty elite level. You know, cross-country in 24 hours solos. And then, you know, I was adventure racing. I was doing all these things that were reintroducing myself to me, to a new me at 30 years of age, 35 years of age, that I never knew existed.

I had this engine to do these things when cleaned up. I had an engine like my brothers to do these things, and that led me to ultra running. I read an article about a race called the Yukon Arctic ultra. A hundred mile version of that race takes place in the Yukon every year. And it was my very first running race.

I had not done a running race and I not only completed that race, I actually won it. And it was, it was like a [00:06:00] weight, like a ton of, bricks had been lifted from my shoulders and that I, I. Realized that it wasn’t a me thing that, that people, human beings underestimate themselves physically, mentally, emotionally.

And I knew that running an adventure was teaching me like to redefine who I was or what limits I might or might not have. And that. In the longest answer possible is how I started ultra running. And that race led me to other races all over the world. I would continue to compete and I loved that. And then that would eventually lead me into expeditions, which I’ll wait till you ask another question.

do you think, because you said to you a sort of very keen smoker, do you think when you gave up. smoking after three years, it was finding that new addiction in a sense, in a way that we had on the show in episode two, a guy called [00:07:00] James Gwinnett who get gay, had to give up alcohol. And he said he sort of saw at first running as a way of coping, did you find that giving up smoking ultra running sort of moved in to sort of.

Take take the place of smoking. No, I think individual experiences and individual lives are very unique. How we internalize the situation that we’re in and we act on it is a gain, a very individual and relative thing, right? Yeah. But I. I would like to say that it was, but it’s almost like the same way that I entered that Yukon Arctic ultra, after reading this magazine article and I was influenced and inspired by the people in the article, the photos of them that.

They all appear to be relatively normal looking people. They didn’t look like what I thought an elite marathon runner looked like. And so based on that alone, I was inspired to enter this crazy race that when you [00:08:00] think about it on its surface, okay, so you can go over a hundred miles. That’s bad. It’s not in the Arctic dragon, all your stuff with you, right.

As your first running, it doesn’t really make sense. And you know, there’s the old saying ignorance is bliss. It just kind of fell into place. When I first started doing these things with my brother, It had nothing to do really with the sports themselves, it had to do with him and this confidence that he had and the fitness that he just like, he just was, it was a whole comedy.

He was the package of what I wanted to be. And so he could have been a, you know, I’ve made the joke that he could have been an electrician and this would be a podcast about how best to wire your house. And that’s all we’d be sitting here talking about right now. So it really didn’t, I didn’t care. So much about what he did, it’s what he had become.

And so then I fell in love with the sports I was doing. So it wasn’t like I was doing them. Do I have an addictive personality? Quite possibly, you know, but [00:09:00] is it, is it like this dirt, this, this thing that I need to go. And, and I feel every day while if I don’t, you know, Run or mountain bike or do the things I do or ski that like that, that void needs to be filled.

It’s kind of not like that. It’s not like that for me. It’s just, it just is, it just became what it is, you know? Yeah. It’s the sort of love of it now. And he’s the love of it now and what it teaches me about me. And 17,000 kilometers later, plus I don’t even know. I keep trying to add it up at look, it’s a lot of kilometers in deserts and Arctic regions.

I keep learning stuff about us, you know, and I think that that I think is extremely fulfilling, you know, and it sort of fills any gaps. Did you find with the first race? It was very much this idea of, completing the race and then after you’d won it, it was very much of how far can I go? Nope. The [00:10:00] first race I did when I was standing at the start line, I thought there is no freaking way I’m finishing this race.

Like, there’s just, it’s not happening. Like it wasn’t even a, you know what, it wasn’t trying to be positive or it wasn’t. I mean, like it. It was not going to happen. It was just going to, my goal was get as far as I could and then like, push myself, look I hadn’t before. And then see if whatever, all these other people that do this stuff and somehow find something in it.

That’s fun or whatever, a reason for them to go back and do something so hard over and over figure out what that magic is. They know, and then go home. Because I’d done hard stuff. Physically racing mountain bikes is a hard cross-country is hard to do. It’s this you’re just full throttle, your full pin the whole time.

But when you’re climbing, you’re lungs are on the bars of the bike, right? Like it’s just, it’s a brutal sport. And then descending, especially in Quebec where I live, it’s, it’s very technical mountain biking. And so it had it all. So it wasn’t like I was going in trying to [00:11:00] something, find something physically more difficult to do it.

It just. With something that I had never done. And I saw the reward effort, reward equation from other people seem to be is something that I really needed and wanted. So that’s, that’s how that, but then, you know, lo and behold, I’m getting to, I get to 80 K in this race and I’m thinking, well, you know, I’m dropping out of this.

This is stupid. What am I going to tell all the people, you know, back at home that told me not to do this in the first place. Right. So I had this big engine. For mountain biking and adventure racing when I started that race, but running is a completely different thing. It’s a completely different, you know, the, my legs dude where like cement, right?

Like I felt horrible, but something in me compelled me to go forward in that race. And the further I went, and this is the amazing thing that never happened when I was mountain bike racing or adventure racing, the further I [00:12:00] went, the better I felt. It’s like when I fully committed to it, like when I was all in, like at the 80 K Mark onward, I was like, okay, I’m so I’m into this now.

I’m just going to keep going. I’m going to push myself into the ground because to be perfectly honest with you, the people back at home, I’m not, I don’t care anymore. When anyone thinks, you know, I did this for me. I had no money. I spent every dime in my bank account for the entry fee to get to this race.

Friends of mine donated. Aeroplan like, you know, air miles for me to go to the race. Right. So, what am I going home? I mean, I was there for me and I, and I, and I realized in that moment I was there for me and no one else. So however, this thing finished was on my terms. No one else, you know, So 30 years of worrying or not taking risks, because I was afraid of what someone would think or that something was going to work out.

Wasn’t going to work out right. [00:13:00] And all this negative shit that I would predict gave way in this race. And I just cranked it. Like I pushed myself cranked it. I struggled down the trail, walking, dragging my feet to the side. And then one thing led to another story. Finding myself running. I was totally focused about getting down the trail as far as I could.

And then night turns today and dah, dah, dah, and then I finished it and I win this race. Now, how did I do it? I didn’t know how I took all those processes and steps to get me to the finish line. That’s why I continued ultra running it wasn’t because, Hey, I won this maybe, I’m going to run. I’m going to win ultra marathons from now on that’s my new thing.

I wasn’t what I was thinking. When I left that race, I thought. Wow. Like I crossed that finish line, feeling like a million bucks. I want to feel invincible like that, talking to somebody on a podcast or writing a, an email. Like I want to feel that good every day. Now, how exactly did I do that? Cause I felt like shit about 10 minutes after the race ended, because that’s when all the pain came back in my legs.

Right. So. [00:14:00] that’s when I started entering ultra marathons all over the world and I started competing in them and I liked the more adventurey ones. I went to races in the Sahara, the jungle, et cetera. And then I would meet up with a couple of ultra runners. We became really good buddies, and then we decided to run across the entire Sahara 7,500 K.

And that’s when that whole new life began of expeditions, because it was just a completely different. Set of skills and, and it’s been 31 32 expeditions since that day. Got it. And so how from then to your Sahara race, which was in 1997, Sorry, this is hair condition 2006, 2007. Yeah. Yeah. And so in terms of the planning for that to go from your first race to that, did you have a lot of races in between, or was it very much [00:15:00] a couple of times, like I just did, it was Oh four.

So that was 2004, February, 2004. Was the Yukon Arctic ultra then in that timeframe, I mean, you know, between 2004. In 2006 when we left for the Sahara. So basically, like two years, two and a half years I had gone to, Oh my goodness. I saw there was the Yukon. Then there was marathon day sad. The first time then I did the trans ALP mountain bike race.

Then I did the trans three, three, three, 333 kilometers nonstop. And these year I did the jungle marathon stage race. I ended up Brazil. I did. The Libyan challenge, 190 K through the ACA COOs mountains in Western Libya. I did marathon day SAB. Again, I did racing the plan at a couple of other races. All of these you’d one ref run right after another, like he was so beat down before I even got to the deck, people ask me, how did you train to [00:16:00] run 7,500 K in 111 days across the Sahara.

So think about that math that’s about 70 kilometers a day. For 111 days straight in the sand, right? How did you train it as a loan? I just did a bunch of these races for two years. Right. And it was, it was, again, ignorance is bliss. Of course I don’t approach my expeditions that way, the way I approach running the Sahara.

I mean, we were on threads in that, in that expedition, you know, but. Now I take a much more scientific approach to preparing, you know, absolutely mental. And I mean, God, just sort of thinking about it because marathon runners, you sort of see the Mo Farah and all those sort of runners. They didn’t compete in every single.

Marathon around the world, they specifically pick and choose because between each race, do you need quite a extensive amount of rest in [00:17:00] between otherwise? Oh, well, I don’t know the sort of scientific, versions of it, but, Your body sort of needs to recover, but before the Sahara, you were very much going from one to the other, to the other, and that rather than training, you were just competing in these races more, more or less.

Yes. I would say that, that, you know, obviously I was training in between the races, there was gaps of a month or two, right. So, you know, maybe it was on an average of every two months. So I was definitely training in those two month periods. I was obviously tired, you know, and then I had between the last race I did was in 2006 and I’m trying to think, I think it was the Sahara race in Egypt, which I won.

And I think that no, that was in 2005. Anyway, I can’t remember, but I had a few months before doing, running the Sahara now running the Sahara. Well, it’s a different project completely [00:18:00] because it was the three of us together as a team. And our goal was to run from the Western coast of Africa to the Eastern coast, six countries.

and we had a film crew that followed us. Right. So, you know, I always say it was serendipity that had a huge hand in this, but Matt Damon and an Academy award winner made this film, running the Sahara in an effort to raise awareness for the drinking water carrier exists in North Africa, clean water crisis.

and so, there was more to it. Do you know what I mean? And, but running the Sahara was the longest expedition I’ve done. But it was also the most supported. And since then expeditions have become less supportive, completely unsupported in the case of a lot of my cold expeditions, like winter Arctic expeditions or in desert arcs or other desert or desert expeditions that I’ve [00:19:00] done need more coffee today.

they been in brutal climates with minimal resupplies. It’s just more economical to do it that way too. Right. It’s so good. And, and so you were doing that supported in terms of the team you were with, you had runners, you had support crew, you had vehicles all coming along beside you as you run, right?

No. No. So in running the Sahara and people can see the documentary running the run, it’s just called running the Sahara. In that expedition, we would go lengthy periods navigating across the desert and we would eventually meet up with four wheel drives with our crew and then resupply get hydration, everything we need.

And then we take off again, depending on the desert, the train. Sometimes we were stuck on roads depending on the country. Right. you know, and, and, and. For multiple considerations. It depended on the region of North Africa where we were, where we [00:20:00] were at the time. So yes, we had a supported camp. The people setting up tents, feeding us.

There’s an entire film crew, Hollywood film crew filming the expedition as it happened. But then, but there was no pace runners. There was no, I don’t know how else to put it there. Wasn’t somebody there every day. Mile giving us hydration, you know, we carried it with us for as long as we could in the case of that expedition.

okay. Sort of, what are you saying sort of similar to, let’s say the marathon desal, bla, where you sort of are able to refill each night, but you had them sort of at different checkpoints. Yeah, we didn’t have to carry because marathon day SAB was six days, seven days of racing and. You know, you carry everything, having done marathon, they SAB twice.

I’m well aware of how you try to get everything down to weighing as much as it can all fit in this cop. I [00:21:00] swear. You know, so, we’re not carrying all of our foods to 111 days, right. So we would only have hydration packs. And so it was, it was, everything we could by the end. So you’re doing the long day more or less, a little bit shorter than the long day of the marathon day SAB every single day.

Right. As one of the averaged out to be, we had some days that were really long, some days that weren’t as long, but that was kind of like the average, right? So, no, you’re not carrying your sleeping equipment with you, but when I crossed the Atacama desert North to South solo, 1200 kilometers from the previous board or self to Copia.

I did it in summer 2011, the middle of the summer dude, you want heat? It was like in the fifties Celsius every single day, dry his place on earth. It was brutal. I was limited, limited resupplies. I was getting resupplied every 20 to 30 K sometimes as much as 50 K. I was running as much as I could. I had many, many days over [00:22:00] 70 K, and some days less way less than one day I was injured.

I got six or seven K, but on that expedition, I carried everything with me. You can see photos of me carrying all my supplies with me in case because it was unknown territory. A lot of it where I was going through in case I got stuck a day or two away from my crew. yeah. Hoping that it wouldn’t be more than a day because it was so hot.

I just could physically could not carry enough hydration. Right. But you know what I mean? You see the difference right? Running the Sahara crew running across the Atacama desert or the Gobi desert or any one of the other deserts that I’ve crossed very minimal carrying the supplies. I need to be able to take care of myself when I’m out there.

It was interesting because I went to a talk a couple of years ago and it was about how the body is able to adapt to the heat much better than the cold. So I think because, homo sapiens [00:23:00] originated in Africa and a very hot country, our bodies are able to adapt very quickly to the heat in comparison to the cold.

Is it, do you find. When you in sort of 50 degree heat in the desert compared to minus 2030 in the Arctic, you you’re able to climatize quicker. I wish a minus 20. My friend is my backyard and winter and Chelsea go back in the Arctic. You know, when I’m on a winter Arctic expedition, I was doing a project up, near the Island of ticket targe whack, and on the sea ice and across Baffin Island in January, this past January, 2020.

With the winds, the temperatures dipped into the mid minus sixties. So insanely cold. Look, I much prefer heat over cold, but I train now I take a year, two years to prepare for a project. Right. And I find myself at both ends of the spectrum on the [00:24:00] thermometer. I’m in deserts like death Valley. I’ve done two major projects there in the middle of summer, July or August.

The deserts. I love to be there in the summer when it’s the hottest, whether it’s Southern hemisphere or Northern hemisphere summer for that hemisphere in the Arctic and colder regions, I want to be there in the middle of winter when it’s the coldest, when it’s going off, the sky looks completely different.

And so I know that that’s my goal is to be in those places in those times. So I take it very seriously and train and get my body to adapt through stress loading. To be better able to do the hot or the cold. You’re absolutely right. And I agree with the information that you had just shared with us about us being better, able to adapt to heat, but I have a sauna in my backyard.

It’s a big sauna barrel, and I use it when I’m going to the Arctic. I train in sauna barrel in extreme heat. For the extreme cold. So I get my [00:25:00] body used to being able to process fluids under a stressful situation and food like the sauna. If I can get my body working through that stuff, sweating, doing the things that needs to, to cool itself and fuel itself.

Then at a stressful situation in the extreme cold, my body will then have the mechanics. It won’t just go, boom. And then be done right. And keel over. But instead my body is able to better adapt to an alternate stressful situation, which is extreme cold. So, that when I’m on expedition, by Naval to by body use its faculties physically to warm itself, shivering, blah, blah, blah.

You know, but I also have an amazing partner, a company called Canada goose. I don’t know how popular is the UK. I’ve been with Canada goose for. 13 years and they custom make all of my clothing for all of my expeditions. And I use, you know, obviously clothing that’s in the, I [00:26:00] was the term lion up and, literally I’ve had my life saved.

I lived in the cold, you know, bye bye Canada goose jackets that I’ve had that have literally saved my life in dicey situations. Like. It’s crazy. Anyhow. Good. And so do you, with the sort of extremes, do you take different approaches? I mean, when you were talking about putting yourself into the extreme code, do you take, sometimes let’s say approaches like Wim, Hoff methods, his breathing techniques.

Do you. Take those sort of approaches. Okay. So, so I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s a much broader question, but breathing techniques, you know, I’ve been employing breathing techniques, in my ultra running training sense in, since the old days, you know, and when I was racing, nose breathing, et cetera. Because [00:27:00] there’s a multiple reasons.

Actually. There’s a lot of books out there. People can look it up about nose breathing. There’s a lot of research about that. I have an altitude machine. I train, I think the better answer for me to give you is I train very specifically from food. To training in the gym to training outside very specifically for what it is that I’m going to do.

So I’ll give you an example. When I crossed the Namib desert in 2018, I think it was summer 2018. So my buddy Stefano and I Stefano from Italy, Gregor, Eddie, and I ran 1,850 kilometers in a straight line as we could across Namibia. And we knew in planning, we’d be crossing canyons. Gnarly terrain, bushwhacking, potentially sand, obviously.

And you know, some combination of gravel track if there was right, you know, whenever we would end up with that. So I knew that elevation changes. We’re going to be big as they were in the [00:28:00] Atacama desert. When I was off road at elevation changes in the out of camel were crazy, and this is a high desert. So I do all of my running training.

Based on elevation gained each day, not on distance. I leave from my door where we live, you know, I can li leave here and do a thousand feet, every 10 K on very technical trails of elevation gain. So I would design my program around elevation gained and technical trail running because what am I going to do in Namibia technical running?

And I’m going to be going up and down a lot. So I may as well get my bodies. You know what I’m saying? And then if I’m getting ready for an Arctic expedition, I can be pulling a sled. I’m not a big guy weigh about 150 pounds, right. So I need to get strong and build my strength base. So I am doing very specific core centric and specific movements in the gym.

And I have a program designed for me by my brother, by the way, who’s a bleeding strength coach and he, It helps me to get ready physically to pull a [00:29:00] heavy sled. So that’s kinda, and then nutrition. So if I’m going into a desert, many of the desert expeditions that I’m doing, I’m sourcing my foods and getting my food on the ground there.

So, you know, rice is mostly complex carbohydrates, you know, it’s just seems to be the name of the game in the desert. I bring loads of fats with me and stuff like that, but my crew in a desert expedition. I’m supported. Right. And part of that minimal support is camp each night, somebody cooking for everybody, the camera guy, the Bubba buddy in the Arctic I’m dragging everything I’m alone or I’m with one other person and we’re dragging everything for however many days we’re out there.

So in context to that, I’m going to take more fat. Than I am. Anything else? Cause nine calories per gram, you get the picture. So I adapt my body before an Arctic expedition to a much higher fat diet. So rolling into the Arctic expedition, I’m already super efficient, you know? Yeah. [00:30:00] we had a guest on earlier and she was saying how she was like used to swim professionally.

And before each race, because she was always told to pack a carbo load, or so she used to have a massive pass the party as they call it, but it turned out she had celiac disease. So suddenly she, you know, before a big race where she’d been training, she was like, ready to go. She’d have this massive pass the party and then be really ill on the day of training.

And of course, everyone just thought it might be nerves. It might be something else. whereas it sounds like from you, you’re very much physically training and then you’re, or it’s just a natural progression into the race or yeah, I’m already. And then from a mental perspective, Oh, you know, I’m already there, right?

Like I’ve been there thinking about this place in the back of my mind for a year, [00:31:00] you know, some expeditions it’s two or three years of planning, you know? And so I’m already mentally there. And by the time I get to the expedition things seem familiar. How crazy is that right. Things just seem familiar like, Oh yeah.

I think I kind of feel like I’ve been here before, and of course I haven’t, but I’m comfortable in that space. Right. And it’s the same thing that we do with our youth expedition. So the impossible to possible youth expeditions, I I’ve done 15 of those with, through our youth program. You, I know you’re going to probably ask me about this later, so I won’t get too deep into it, but on those youth based expeditions, because I’ve learned this about myself.

We get our youth ambassadors before they go on expeditions to sort of, not as heavily follow the protocols, but depth behind a lot of these theories in preparation, you know? Yeah. Well, I suppose for people listening, why didn’t you sort of explain what the impossible possible is? [00:32:00] Impossible to possible.

So it’s an organization that my wife and I, and, my best friend Bob started in 2008, shortly after we actually came up with the concept in 2007, after I finished the running thing, the Sahara expedition and the idea was pretty straight forward that we wanted to recreate that running the Sahara experience that I had.

But for young people. So give kids between 16 and 21 years of age and opportunity, young people, an opportunity to go and do an extraordinary expedition in some far off part of the world. Amazon jungle, Tunisia and Sahara, Arctic, all over ratchet, Stan. And do a six day, seven day running expedition.

That’s combined with a relevant educational program and resource based on the area that they’re in. If you’re in the Amazon jungle, we’re learning about biodiversity, kicking those lessons about biodiversity, turning them into daily educational modules, and then pumping it out for up to [00:33:00] 10, 20,000 students.

We’re following along through schools through a live websites, those through satellite. Our youth ambassadors do the thing. Every day. We have faculty with us on the expeditions. They take the adventures, they create videos, threads that become educational modules, and then schools participate in the live website.

Everything we do is a hundred percent free, so it’s free for the kids to go on the expeditions. It’s free for schools free for everyone, me too. And I suppose with a lot of these expeditions, I mean, you you’ve been going on them for years on end. I suppose, what sort of in the back of your head, what’s motivating you when sort of times are tough, sort of what keeps you going to enjoy?

probably at the best of times in the desert or in the Arctic, such strange extreme conditions. Well look for starters, it’s my job, right? And I’m very fortunate that it’s [00:34:00] my job to be an Explorer. You know, it, it’s something that, is not lost on me that, you know, I, I truly enjoy and love what I do. I choose to do the things that I do.

So when I’m on those hard days out there, I remind myself that I made the choice to do this, you know, so. I mean, look at hard days are part of the deal. You accept it. If you’re going to do these things. So to dwell on those hard days, that’s why, and everybody’s got their thing. Everybody’s got their gig and the way they want to share what it is that they’re doing.

But I try not to focus too much when I’m on expeditions. On the day-to-day posts that I’m doing by satellite or whatever. I’m trying not to focus on that so much. Right? I obviously mentioned it, but I talk more about, Hey, I’m out here in the middle of , it’s the worst conditions we could have ever imagined, but I’m not talking so much about the conditions of time, but look at this view.

You know, like I’m, I’m, I’m [00:35:00] literally in a place where very few, if anyone’s ever been, you know, at a time of year, sometimes maybe somebody has been there, but not at that time a year. And so, so lost on me that drives me forward, but also the fact that I’m connected. With these schools who are so stoked to be part of my expedition, it’s like having extended teammates.

Right? And so it gives new meaning and purpose to the expedition itself, which excites me even more than getting to the other end of the expedition. I’ve had projects where I don’t finish. I’ve had projects where I’ve almost lost my life. I’ve had projects that have gone incredibly well. The vibe is always the same, you know?

I just pay you, can you go into detail on some of the projects where it hasn’t gone so well? Well, in 2017, I was, I think it was 2017 Dolan came on and get my dates wrong. It’s 2016 or 2017. I can’t remember in the winter. I was [00:36:00] doing a project in the Canadian Arctic in February with my buddy stuff. And all this was not a solo project.

It was the two of us together. And the goal was to take students on a journey across the Canadian Arctic in three completely different regions. And we would do free modes of winter travel in these three different regions. So the warmup was up in the mountains in Northern Labrador, in the, indigenous, territories of new Nunatsiavut and, Nunavik in that area.

And then, from there. So that was going to be the warm, it goes through these mountains, across these mountains, and then in snowshoes then unsupported. And then in the next one, ski across Baffin in February, which would be the hardest one because it’s Baffin Island in the middle of February and then finish fat biking.

snow bikes or fatbikes if you will, from Wrigley to Fort good hope in the Northwest territories. So everything done in the month of February, [00:37:00] basically. Right. And in the very first days of, and as a much longer story that I’ll eat up all your time. So I won’t go into the details cause you know, I’m, by now I tell long stories, but in testing, ice in a river Gorge, crossing these mountains in the very beginning, I was moving ahead of Stefano because I had the most experience.

In that area. He had the sleds and the, and our dog and I was on unhooked and I was testing ice. And I broke through this river with tremendous amount of current and was almost pulled under the ice to go a kilometer down river, never to be found again. Right. Like, I mean, it was a thin, so I was in this hole and I was like, with my.

That my snow shoes on that were pulling me under with the current. And so I was trying to work. My boots off was about minus 30. I was trying to work my boots off that couldn’t get them off. And with the current pulling against the snow shoes, right. Using that as leverage. And I, I, for sure, I was never going to see my family again, this is [00:38:00] how I was going to die and it was horrific and terrifying at the same time.

And. In a desperate move. I pulled as hard as I could with my right leg and my leg flung out of this hole. And the hole was kind of like not triangular shape, but sort of triangular shape at the end, that was away from me. And my crampon on my snowshoe hook, the edge of this hole on an angle. Like my leg was, it was so much forced that I pulled out with that.

It was just a momentum. And my leg was there and I pushed against that and I was able to get myself up. This was after being in the water for almost two minutes and I was able to get my body up onto the ice and then to a place that was safe enough that everything wasn’t going to all cadence definitely could pull me.

He pulled against me and I rolled same time and I covered myself in snow immediately to try and get as much moisture off myself as possible. Then I talked about that Canada goose jacket. I had my super heavy down jacket and down pants that were made for me, these crazy [00:39:00] minus 70 puffy bands. I should’ve put them on for the, for the podcasts so you can see them.

But anyhow, and I put all that stuff, got all my clothes off. I put all that stuff on. And it’s a much longer discussion, but I survived that moment. I could not believe that I survived. I was laughing as a matter of fact, because I’d lost my mind temporarily because I could not believe, I didn’t care that my boots were full of water and they were going to freeze to my feet and that potentially I would lose by feet.

I did not care if that was the deal, to be able to see my family again, take them. Take, I was w I’d never felt that way in my life before there was an absolute clarity in purpose and in, in what was important. Do you know what I mean? It was, it was, it was incredible for that. Anyhow, we eventually, we did not finish that section of the expedition, our photographer, who was photographing caribou way at the other end of this mountain range came by snow machine.

We hide the hike out. We got [00:40:00] to another point the day or two walking in. Snow storms to get to a point where we could set camp. And, he came and got us, but we went on by snow machine and then we flew out, but we went on to complete the next two sections of that expedition. Well, I was in bad shape, but I got it done, you know?

Yeah, that’s incredible. I think, as you say that sort of moment of clarity, when you were saying that I think 127 hours sort of came to me about Cameron. I think his name was Aaron where he got his hand stuck on a rock for 127 Avenue, 127 hours. And he said he would never take it back because at that moment, Of having to, I mean, he had a bit longer than two minutes, but he sort of, he realized what he was missing and what he was so looking for, what he really wanted.

And he got out, probably similar to you. You were sort of there clinging life ready. [00:41:00] And in your mind, you just wanted to see your family and you didn’t care what it took just to see your family again. Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s It’s one thing to you. Like, you know, when we say that, well, you know, I know what’s really important to me, you know, are a lot of things we say in life and day to day, that’s the beauty of adventure, I think, and, or, or anything that we do where we really challenge ourselves.

Right? Whether it’s adventure, whether it’s something else is that you push yourself to a point sometimes in whatever it is that you’re doing. That, that can be a negative push or positive push depending on how you look at it, but it brings you to a resolution clarity in specific moments and sayings that we use.

So, so often in life. And so, you know, the old wine, you know, I’m pretty sure I know what’s important. Let me tell you in that moment, I knew to me what was important. It was both the worst thing that ever happened to me on an expedition and the best thing that ever happened to me on an [00:42:00] expedition changed many other aspects of my life as well after I got home from that one.

Yeah. I think, a lot of the time people are sort of, sort of sleepwalking on a day to day life and they need some sort of kick or something just to snap them out of it, to suddenly realize. What they really want no saying that so similar to you, but a lot of the time, these moments of clarity really helped define what we really truly want.

We’ll take a look at it. And I think also it builds, you know, a way to often used word resiliency, take a look at, you know, COVID. Yeah. I mean, you know, you guys in London complete lockdown, right. And for some people. That’s a huge struggle if you’re not living in a, in a awesome flat with a space and a family and everybody’s hanging out and it’s good times if you’re flying solo, you’re alone in a, in a smaller flat that [00:43:00] has no windows.

Right. And, and that’s your existence, you know, everybody’s. Everybody’s existence again, it’s relative their experiences relative to them and how they internalize it. But I think as a global population going through COVID has taught us things about many aspects of life and what we’re capable of, you know, as humans when we rally together as well.

Right. So it’s like, it’s like a, kind of like a reset switch, you know, last year. I was, you know, the way I take care of obviously if I’m volunteering in my impossible bottle, I’m not making any money with impossible possible. I do all that work because it’s a passion for me as a volunteer, but I don’t.

Collect a paycheck when I’m on frozen sea ice, but I do God. I have a guiding business and I, which involves travel. I do speak all over the world at corporate events that involves travel well, my entire world completely shut down at [00:44:00] the end of February. but. You know, things could have been a lot worse.

And I think that, that we learned that in the different things that we do. And I’m very fortunate in my job as an, as, as an adventure and explore that I’ve learned that I can weather certain storms, you know what I mean? And, and you can get through it. Right. And, and I knew, and I always had this unwavering faith in humanity that people would start to figure things out.

People will get through this and. You know, even when they said, wow, you know, vaccines never been developed in, you know, it takes 10 years. That’s how, and when they first started talking about that, you know what, there are scientists and doctors and like nerds that are going to go crazy on this. And they’re going to just rise to the occasion for sure.

They’re going to figure out a way, well, it’s amazing what people have done and because they were pressed. They were pressed to do it cause they had no choice. Right. And [00:45:00] so now they’ve been able to come up with multiple effective vaccines. And I think that when we come out of this, people will. You’ll go to see your buddies at the pub.

And you’re going to appreciate that physical time together with your buddy. So much more, you know, as I will go into a coffee shop or whatever we do as groups of people, I think that human dynamic is going to be much more appreciated. Yeah, I agree. I think who’ll say, as you say, riding together, when you have governments left, right.

And center throw money on egg, every scientist putting their head together to work, work it out, you know, it’s amazing what humans can accomplish in such a short time, space of time. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. right. Say there’s a part of the show where we ask the same five questions to each guest each week.

And the first thing is when you’re on your expeditions and [00:46:00] adventures around the world, what’s the one bizarre thing that you crave or miss salmon salmon constantly. I get eat salmon like five times a day. Good. My wife won’t let me, because there’s, you know, it she’s an environmental science person. And so she said you can’t eat, you can’t eat salmon three times a day.

It’s not good for you to eat it every single day. So, so when you’re out in the middle of the desert, that’s what you’re craving dude. The first meal I’m having, that’s like, like a, full-on get down into the, like eating overeating is salmon is the main component food. So food is the thing I think about.

Yeah, I think, anyone who’s sort of doing ultra ultra marathons food is definitely a huge part of it. Yeah. do you have a favorite adventure book, a favorite adventure book? You know, I’ve read a couple of really good ones. One that [00:47:00] comes to mind that I’ve read recently is called frozen in time about the world war two pilots that crashed on Greenland.

And the planes got buried in the ice. And I forget who, Oh, writers, the writers name starts with a Zed. Okay. So people can find it. And then the other one, and you know, the other adventure book that. You know, it’s not called the Greeley expedition, but if people can find the book about the Greeley expedition to Ellesmere Hawks, crazy, I don’t even want to tell you what happens.

But my favorite book that I’ve read over the last few years is the secret life of trees, which is amazing. Okay. What’s I mean, no trees, communicating trees can communicate. You gotta read it. Okay. There’s science, it’s all science stuff. It’s amazing. Okay. did you have a sort of inspirational figure growing up Terry Fox?

[00:48:00] Terry folks, probably for myself and some of the listeners who, who is Terry ferry boxes, the greatest of all times he was a Canadian is a Canadian hero icon. He attempted to run across Canada on the marathon of hope. So I’m sure you’ve heard about Jerry Fox day that you guys have it in the UK for the Terry Fox foundation and Terry Fox lost his leg to cancer and ran across Canada.

So look them up for people that don’t know. Incredible incredible. Okay. The other heroes, you know, Richard Webber, polar Explorer, who I became very close friends with and his family, was a huge adventure mentor to me. So just an incredible guy. Amazing. And do you have a sort of favorite Quate or motivational quote?

You know, so that’s a really good question. I mean, I [00:49:00] don’t, I mean, I, you know, I I’ve sort of made up some silly ones on my own. Like when people have asked me about, you know, these things, you know, what is endurance? Like, what is the physical aspect of it? Like, how do you get it done? I always say, well, it’s 90% mental and the other 10% is all in your head, but that’s not really, that’s like my crappy quote.

So I’m trying to think of like a quote that really. I dunno. I read a lot of quotes that I love. I just can’t seem to, my brain doesn’t remember things anymore, but I know when I see it, you know? Yeah. Okay. Well, we’ll take the 10%. and I suppose people listening are always keen to go on these adventures and expeditions, like you, what’s the one thing that you would recommend them to do to get started.

You know, as corny as it sounds, it’s come up with a goal. And when you have a goal, no matter how longterm it is, and you really want that thing to happen, it will eventually happen if you really [00:50:00] want it, it will happen. Okay. Let’s come up with the idea, no matter how you know, I’m going to climb Everest someday.

Okay. You probably will. I’ve had people say stuff to me and they think that the response is going to be Asher, whatever it’s always. Yeah, well, probably will happen. You know, I think one of them that is very important is to write it down. Yeah, sure. If that’s, if that’s what it takes, then you write it down and carry it with you every day.

Right? Penny, if you write what you want down, it sort of goes to your subconscious and deep down, you sort of say right. That’s what you want. That’s what you need. Law of attraction. Yeah. And I suppose, people are wondering, what are you doing now? And how can people follow your journey? Well, you know, I’m obviously, you know, I’m newer to Instagram, but I am on there.

so I’ve got a page. I have a Facebook page I’ve been on there forever. So I’ve got a couple of Facebook pages, but I have a public Facebook page, a [00:51:00] little blue check beside my name. I post there regularly. I’m on LinkedIn, Twitter, blah, blah, blah. But I have a website, just my name res ahab.com. And that has linked to my charity.

It has links to the impossible possible website, so you can follow me there. And then if people are interested in any of the trips or our online cafe, we have amazing coffee. you can check out CAPIC one.com and I don’t think there’s a link from my personal site. You’d have to find it, but we are we’re on Instagram as well.

Amazing. And finally, I’m sure everyone is wondering, what’s next? Yeah. You know what? I, I’m very superstitious and so I know what’s next, but I never say until I’m a hundred percent sure that it’s going to happen because I don’t like putting stuff out there that I can’t make happen. I’m very much a stickler on by Sam going to do it.

I’m going to do it. And so, you know, with COVID and with everything else going on. Just stay tuned and then we’ll [00:52:00] pick it up from there. Well, maybe you’ll have me back on and then I can tell you about how it goes. Well, it’s lucky we weren’t doing this last Friday. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Well, yeah, I would absolutely love that once you’ve done it.

Come back on and tell us how it all went. Awesome. Love to, well, Ray, thank you so much for coming on and yeah, we look forward to whatever your next adventure holds. We’ll be following with keen eyes. Thanks, John. All right. Thank you so much. Have a great day. Thank you, Ray.

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