Blog Archive – HTFU

 Week 4 - Really cold downhill

This blog was originally published in December 2008


We´ve adopted a new motto this week, its been kindly loaned to us by the lads at SOUTH HQ who’ll no doubt be needing it back when they attempt their historic expedition in Antartica next November.

The four simple letters HTFU stand for; Harden The F@€k UP.  The idea is everytime you find yourself cringing, smarting or moaning about something beyond your control you counteract the negative thought with a quick HTFU (ideally with an aussie accent) .

Its snowing outside and you´re finding it hard to get out of your sleeping bag for a day in the cold and wet?


The prospect of putting on the same damp clothes that you´ve been wearing for the last three weeks makes you cringe?


You can´t feel your fingers as its theres a bitter wind and your gloves are soaked?


You miss your girlfriend and wonder why the hell you are on a bike in the Pyrenees in the winter and not sitting on the couch with a take-away a bottle of wine and a DVD?

Yep, you guessed it; HTFU

Ultimately, HTFU is a strategy for dealing with discomfort and pain, for turning a negative thought back in on itself and diffusing the disruptive and destructive feelings before they colour the world in the wrong shade. Simon has been using it as a mantra to get past the burn on particualrly grueling climbs. Personally, I prefer “come on te f@”k” (preferably with a deep dub accent). Really, the words don´t matter, its the sentiment behind tham thats important, and by adopting HTFU we are trying to get into the right mindset to grin and bear whatever comes our way.

That senitment has lead us to forgo wearing our gloves when our fingers are numb, and not wearing our heaviest fleece when we were cold- because if we need them in comfortable Europe, if we breakout our Trumps now, then we´ve nothing left for down the road when it will be even colder/wetter/harder.  At least there’s comfort in knowing that we have gloves and more clothes to fall back on, even if there is present discomfort without them. 

So, why HTFU, why bother Hardening The F@#k Up in the first place? Because every now and then, when you are grinding your articulated 50kg bicycle up a 3km climb, you’re wet and your ears are stinging from the cold air and rain, the ipod shuffle throws out the right song, and for 3minutes and 53 seconds you understand what its about in a way that you never would otherwise. You realise that “Times Like These” is actually a time like this and if you never HTFU’d you wouldn’t be here- you might be at home watching TV or sitting at desk somewhere dreaming of being there. And Times Like These would just be be Times Like Those, and you’d never know the bitter sweetness of trully living of trully being in the world – not dreaming of it at a desk, not watching it on telly, and not trying to ignore it with detached ignorance or drowning it in a pickled stupor. 

Thats why we’ll be HTFUing with gusto. 


The Great Revolution Challenge; Wicklow 200

Salar de Uyuni

Ok, its March, the snowdrops poked their heads out weeks ago and the daffodils are following suite. Its chilly but the end of winter is near. Its time to put that new year’s resolution into action, dust off your bike, lace up you running shoes and blast away those winter cobwebs. Now is the time to commit, to something that stretches you, and start training.

We’ve been pushing now for 4 and a half months, and you’ve been enjoying our hardship, trails and tribulations. Now we challenge you to suffer a little bit for a good cause.

You’ll be glad you did. Attemtping something that takes you out of your comfort zone makes you feels alive. Starting to excercise boosts your confidence, energy and mental outlook. Completing a challenge, or at the very least giving 110% of yourself to something, makes you realise what’s possible. Well at least it did for me : )

Join the Revolution!

We’re calling on people to take part in the Wicklow 200, either a 100 or 200km bike ride through the Wicklow mountains. Raise over 150euro and we’ll give you an expedition T-Shirt on the day.

Register your interest in a comment below.

So will you join the revolution?t shirts

You can buy a revolution t-shirt here.

Get your own revolution sponsorship page here or print a sponsorship form here.

All money raised goes directly to Aware.

Mont Blanc Challenge

Series following Simons attempt to climb western Europes highest mountain, Mont Blanc

At 4810m, the summit of Mont Blanc soars above the rest of the French Alps and indeed, all of western Europe.

It has been a long term goal of mine to climb it and Last Friday, my dad, my two brothers and I went over to Chamonix to attempt to achieve that goal. Fearghal was meant to come on this trip but unfortunately a niggle in his knee meant that he had to stay in Ireland as the long descent from Mont Blanc could have caused permanent damage that could cause problems during our cycling expedition.

After a day ice climbing on the Mer de Glace and another practising our skills on the knife edged Arete de Midi we packed our supplies of dried apricots, snickers and lion bars and headed up to the Tete Rousse hut. From the hut, we were to climb the full 2000m up to the summit in a single day as a closing storm system meant that we couldn’t spend longer on the mountain. Spending an evening above the clouds was incredible, being surrounded by amber snowy peaks, glowing in the setting sun.

At 4 the next morning, we got out of our beds, donned our head-torches and crampons (spikes attached to the soles of special stiff hiking boots) and walked across the glacier to the Arete de Gouter. We climbed up this steep, jagged, rocky outcrop and soon enough we faced our first challenge, crossing the Grand Couloir. The couloir is a wide gulley in the mountainside where huge rocks can come hurtling down the slope that could easily knock you down to the glacier hundreds of feet below. After waiting for first light, we checked above for any signs of movement, picked our moment, and swiftly crossed the rocky, icy track. I felt like Super Mario dodging the dragons, fire and maces.

Series following Simons attempt to climb western Europes highest mountain, Mont Blanc

A long, long scramble upwards finally leads to the snow line where we roped together, took out our ice axes and began our ascent up the Gouter Dome. The snowy trail winds up towards our goal, past eerie seracs and around crevasses. The air was getting thinner and it was becoming harder to breathe. It was becoming increasingly difficult to keep a constant pace and we had to stop regularly to get our breath back. Finally though, we reached the top of the Dome and set our sights on the final task, the Boss ridges and the summit which was only 400m above us.

At this point, all of the surrounding mountains were below us, the sun was in full blaze and attempting to sizzle my skin. We pushed on, past the Vallot Hut and up to the Grand Boss ridge. The slope got steeper and steeper, and the snow became softer and softer in the burning sun. The snow resembled sugar and there was little grip offered by either my crampons or ice axe. The wind was picking up too, wind that our guide had said would not be due until the following day. The narrow summit ridge that lay ahead of us is known for its impossibly steep sides, not where you want to be when there’s a strong wind blowing. We sat in the snow and discussed our options. We could head on brazenly, up to the top, then likely get blown off the ridge by the strengthening wind. Or perhaps slip in the ever softening snow, down to the valley below. No; it was time to go down. At a height of 4500m, only 310m below the top, we turned back.

Series following Simons attempt to climb western Europes highest mountain, Mont Blanc

It was wise decision, after only an hour, the wind was howling and we found ourselves in complete white out. The track was disappearing fast and only a few faint footprints remained marked our way back down. After a total of 14 hours of walking, we got to the Gouter Hut where the four of us slept under one of the tables, with others sleeping on top of the same table!

After a terrible sleep, we woke from our floor-beds and emerged into the -20degree wind outside. A further 6 hours of a knee-jarring rocky descent and we found ourselves back at the car. We munched on cellophane wrapped sandwiches that may as well have been Michelin starred cooking, and they tasted so good!!

View Mont Blanc photoset here

Learning to share the load before hitting the road.

 King of Greystones Triathlon - 09/08/08

Alastair Humphreys, who’s a bit of a hero round here at Revolution HQ, has an interesting post on co-dependency and motivation today. He’s currently preparing for a very ambitious expedition to the South Pole with his mate Ben Saunders. 


With over a year until our expedition begins, and the mornings damp and grey, I sometimes find it hard to enjoy the daily 6am alarm. My wife is unsympathetic. She boots me out of bed and sleeps sensibly, contentedly and undisturbed for a couple more hours.
Insidious thoughts worm into my grumpy mind. What difference will one training ride or one gym session make? There’s over a year to go: roll over and go back to sleep…
Almost always I overcome these devils, and by the time I have splashed cold water on my face and stepped outside I am awake and smug to be awake and I am ready to train.
I know that every session I do will help me get to the Pole and back. It’s not so much the physical fitness increasing fraction by fraction. It’s more the memories in the mind, the strengthening of resolve that each weary awakening gives me.
Sometimes though it is still not enough and I just cannot make myself care. I know that I will regret it in the end, but I just don’t worry enough about letting myself down. This week, however, something dawned on me. Every time I get out of bed to train it increases Ben’s chances of a successful expedition. Every time I don’t bother, or cut corners, or make excuses to myself in the gym; all these times I am reducing Ben’s chances of making it. Our futures and our dreams are bizarrely intertwined for the next 18 months. And it seems that, even if I’m willing to let myself down, I’m not willing to let down somebody else. So I get out of bed.
And on which note, it’s time for bed: it’s swimming in the morning and I hate swimming.


Inner Space

We had our first meeting with Kate Kirby our sports psychologist this morning. Kate will be helping us prepare for the stresses and pressures of being on the road together for a year and a half. Focusing on individual goal setting and working together as a team.

For me two interesting things arose from our chat. Firstly, that both myself and Simon’s answers to the questions “why?” and “what do you hope to acheive?” were very similar which is reassuring. And, the fact that both of us feel that the biggest challenge will be dealing with the lack of craic and banter in the down-time away from the bikes, it will be hard to let off steam and take our mind off the project in some of the remotest places on Earth with little to distract us from the task. It will be hard to talk out a days frustrations with each other when we’ve both been doing the same task. And obviously there won’t be anyone else to help. We both agreed that the blog will probably end up as the repository for our outbursts and elation’s.

The last point really brought home the importance of talking, and how important it is to talk about frustrations and pressures to help with stress and mood. It also reminded me how important Aware’s work is getting people to talk. As our mood depends heavily on how well we can communicate and deal with our emotions.

Behind Endurance

Endurance at night


As we will be spending 18months in the saddle on our ultra cycle around the globe we are naturally interested in anything that will help us increase our endurance. So is a web site that we’ll be keeping an eye on as we prepare to set off. Its got lots stuff on training and nutrition and a forum that I’m sure will prove really popular for swopping war stories of blackened toes and saddle sores.  


Born to Run?

I’m currently humming and hawing over whether or not I should run the Marathon in Cork next June. I’ve been trying to placate that inner voice that keeps telling me to lace up the trainers and start pounding tarmac with suggestions that I’m not really cut out for long distance running. That I’d love to but my body just isn’t designed for it. After last year’s pain, I swore that I’d stick to biking for my endorphin fix.

Then, low and behold, I stumble across this article that says that long distance running actually shaped the way our bodies developed.

 Looks like I’m running out of excuses fast.  

Drawings of our ape-like ancestor, Australopithecus afarensis, and an early human species, Homo erectus, shows some of the differences that gave humans the ability to run long distances. (Credit: Laszlo Meszoly, Harvard University) via