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Evanston man prepares for Arctic trip by eating butter, pulling tires

  • Courtesy of John Huston.
Courtesy of John Huston.
March 04, 2013|By Mick Swasko, @mickswasko | RedEye

For 72 days, John Huston will live on a diet that includes deep-fried bacon and a stick of butter every day. He figures he’ll lose about 25 pounds.

That’s because he’ll also be pulling hundreds of pounds of equipment for 10 to 12 hours at a time as he co-leads a team of three others through 630 miles of the Canadian High Arctic. Huston, a 36-year-old Evanston resident, has already been to both the North and South Poles on expeditions. His journey through Ellesmere Island -- dubbed "New Land 2013" -- will take him through some of the last untouched wilderness in the world, and he’s using all the time he can before he leaves March 16 doing some serious training in Chicago.

“It is physically demanding, it does take a toll on the body,” he said of his lakefront training 10 to 12 hours a week. “Like a lot of other workouts, it’s very heavy and slow.”

Much of his training involves pulling 40 to 50 pound pickup truck tires on different terrain, sometimes five at a time, to simulate the weight of the pack that carries about 30 days worth of food, shelter and other supplies through the arctic. The team will also be joined by four sled dogs for “skijoring,” or using the dogs to assist pulling some of the weight as they ski toward their goal.

“I get comments all the time, people ask me what I’m doing,” he said. “People make silly jokes like ‘Where’s your car? Can I ride on your tires? Isn’t it easier to roll them? Are you being punished for something?’”

But Huston isn’t being punished at all. He’ll endure the sub-zero temperatures, encounters with arctic wolves and polar bears and a stick of butter per day diet completely by choice. The entire trip will be filmed as part of a documentary for Norwegian television, and will provide more material for his gigs as a motivational speaker. The trip is also intended to call attention to climate change in the Arctic, and will raise money for a local youth at-risk mentorship program, Chicago Voyagers.

“I love the simple life of being on an expedition,” he said. “I love very long term challenges, where the goal is a long way away and getting there is a journey. Not having the stresses of day-to-day life at home and being away, it’s addicting.”

Currently, Huston has begun to incorporate butter and other heavy foods into his diet – about 6,500 calories a day – with the goal of “fattening up” before he leaves.

“It sounds disgusting, but when you’re outside everyday at 40 below, butter is your best friend,” he said.

More information on Huston’s journey, which kicks off March 28, can be found here. 

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