Also, I'd like to thank everyone who has helped make this possible. Thank you for your advice, kit, gear and moral support!
Maria Leijerstam, one of Wales's leading adventurers is now safely back on Welsh soil after becoming the first woman to complete the Siberian Black Ice Race along the length of Lake Baikal. She was second placed overall, second only to a local Russian Cyclecross Champion and out of 20 starters one of only eight to finish.
"I was nervous before the race", said Maria, "but having now completed it I'm even more nervous about the consequences of racing on ice". Due to the unusually high day time temperatures the ice had already begun to crack and so cycling on the ice was not just a matter of fitness, it also meant being very lucky to avoid open water which would have lightly re-frozen at night as temperatures dipped down to - 27 degrees.
Many other competitors succumbed to the extreme conditions through frost bite, fatigue, a fall through the ice and one team even managed to burn down their tent.
It took Maria only 7 days and 4hrs to complete the race where she covered approximately 900km as she weaved her way around hugh sastrigui ice fields and deep snow.
"On a few days the wind was so fierce that I simply could not stay on the bike as it was blown from underneath me", said Maria. "On other days I was having to work really hard as I peddled through deep snow fields. Only occasionally I was able to enjoy a tail wind on pure unbroken ice", she continued. "It was a race of massive extremes."
"Everything freezes, said Maria, so I slept with everything in my sleeping bag. I had batteries, toothpaste & wetwipes stuffed in my underwear and all water was kept near to my body."
Maria's tent routine at night was vital as the extreme cold temperatures dictated survival. The minute she stopped cycling she would put on her down jacket and begin erecting her tent. Once both the tent and bike were firmly secured with ice screws she would climb into her tent with her roll mat, sleeping bag, stove and food. Then began the arduous task of melting snow to make vital water for drinking and for rehydrating her food rations which took anything up to an hour and a half.
At night Maria would lie awake listening to the ice cracking underneath her tent and on a few occasions even heard gurgling water as it began to get closer to the surface.
On one day she did take a brief involuntary dip as her front wheel sank right down and she flew over the handlebars. "It took me 4hrs that evening to dry off next to my stove", Maria explained.
"Lake Baikal, known as the Pearl of Siberia is a beautiful place but now I have completed both The Siberian Black Ice Race and the warm challenge of the Marathon Des Sables in 2007 I'm ready for more, said Maria.
Maria helps to raise money for the Alzheimer's Society through her races so please find the time to donate. www.justgiving.com/leijerstam
If you fancy a challenge Maria is full steam ahead with planning another season of local multisport adventure races. To find out more visit her website on www.burnseries.co.uk.