Conant principal wins ice race

  • Conant High School and Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School Principal Brett Blanchard recently posted the fastest time in the Mongol 100 - a 100-mile ice race Lake Khuvsgul in Mongolia. Courtesy photo—

  • Conant High School and Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School Principal Brett Blanchard recently posted the fastest time in the Mongol 100 - a 100-mile ice race Lake Khuvsgul in Mongolia. Courtesy photo—

  • Conant High School and Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School Principal Brett Blanchard recently posted the fastest time in the Mongol 100 - a 100-mile ice race Lake Khuvsgul in Mongolia. Courtesy photo—

  • Conant High School and Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School Principal Brett Blanchard recently posted the fastest time in the Mongol 100 - a 100-mile ice race Lake Khuvsgul in Mongolia. Courtesy photo—

  • Conant High School and Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School Principal Brett Blanchard recently posted the fastest time in the Mongol 100 - a 100-mile ice race Lake Khuvsgul in Mongolia. Courtesy photo—

  • Conant High School and Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School Principal Brett Blanchard recently posted the fastest time in the Mongol 100 - a 100-mile ice race Lake Khuvsgul in Mongolia. Courtesy photo—

  • Conant High School and Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School Principal Brett Blanchard recently posted the fastest time in the Mongol 100 - a 100-mile ice race Lake Khuvsgul in Mongolia. Courtesy photo—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/15/2019 7:40:46 AM

As the Conant boys’ basketball team took home their championship this past weekend, the school’s principal was taking home a top honor of his own thousands of miles away.

Brett Blanchard, principal of Conant High School and Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School, posted the fastest time at the Mongol 100, a 100-mile race across an iced-over Lake Khuvsgul in Mongolia. It is also believed that he is the first American to complete the feat.

“I still believe people are capable of amazing things,” Blanchard said in his Jaffrey office on Tuesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after returning home. “If you really want something, really believe in something, and you want to see something done – I’m a firm believer that there ways to make things happen.”

Blanchard routinely competes in challenging and odd endurance nordic skating competitions, but this has been one of his most rewarding challenges thus far due to the support he received from his students and the community at large.

Blanchard said he received a proper send-off from students at both the middle and high school before departing: a bunch of high school students created a large good luck card, while middle school students cheered and displayed banners while at a school assembly.

“For me it was incredibly emotional, it was just this overwhelming support – how much the kids liked the idea and really supported it. It meant the world,” Blanchard said. “The sincerity of the people here, I thought about that while I was out there.”

Blanchard said the conditions overall throughout the race were good, though there were moments of heavy wind and poor ice conditions.

“What’s neat is you don’t know what’s around the corner,” Blanchard said. “You can’t see well enough. On the horizon, everything looks the same. You think you have great ice and you are psyched and you get there and it’s kind of chewed up.”

A unique fold to this race was that Blanchard was competing against runners, bicyclists and other skaters.

When starting the race, Blanchard said he felt he had a chance to take home the fastest time but he was unsure if the weather and ice conditions would favor his skates.

In the final 20 kilometers, Blanchard was in the front of the pack – which is when he really thought he had a shot to win. Unfortunately for him, the wind picked up shortly thereafter, creating a lot of challenge for the final leg of the race.

“Like the Greeks would say, the gods punish a person’s hubris,” Blanchard said. “Then it was a slog, I had to really grind it out. It was a great way to end … it made for an interesting ending.”

In addition to competing in the Mongol 100, Blanchard also skated 50 to 60 miles across a section of Siberia’s Lake Baikal – the world’s largest freshwater lake by volume.

Blanchard said he would like to skate the entire length of the lake – a 385 to 400-plus mile journey, but the trek is likely years out due to the planning needed.

“It’s a huge project, it would be a mass undertaking with daily needs,” Blanchard said. “You could probably do it in two weeks, but you need more.”

One of the most enjoyable parts of the experience for Blanchard was the camaraderie among those competing, and the Mongolian crew that helped carry some of the gear, set up the yurts, and other things to help make living on the ice easier.

Blanchard said he hopes to set up opportunities in the future where Jaffrey-Rindge students could video-chat with Mongolian students to partake in a cultural exchange.

“It’s something I think would be beneficial for everyone,” Blanchard said.

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com.


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