From ARWS Facebook:
Teams are now gathered in Åre in the mountains of Central Sweden for The Nordic Islands Adventure Race.
It’s going to be an epic race and these are the ways you can follow all the action and coverage over the coming days!
Race start is 18.00 Saturday 13th. (That's 12 noon in Toronto/New York.)
Website/Tracking/Live Streams at https://niargames.com/
The race will broadcast 'NIAR Daily Live' at 18.00 CEST every day starting today.
There will be regular updates on ARWS Facebook too.
Team Storm Racing Canada is there: Chris Laughren, Julie Parent, Chad Spence and Vince Trudelle.
Team Chaos Machine/Balega is there: Cliff White, Kate White, Kit Vreeland and Evan Moreshead.
Any other Attackpointers? I'm surprised only 10 teams signed up, given the good reviews last year.
We tried to get a team together, because of the location and the quality organisation of last year's event, but just couldn't pull it together. My hunch is that European-interested races are too plentiful this year for the market demand. NIAR received the brunt of this. For whatever reason, if they had originally decided to wait a year for this epic Are to Alesund racecourse, I have a feeling that they then would have seen what was really possible for number of registered teams. Too bad because as mentioned, Staffan's crew puts on a top notch race!
Broots here...nighttime baby routine includes dot-watching...also a factor: they ran a 48 hour race two months or so ago. It wasn’t a huge field, but it was more robust and more local. Notably absent is the local field, which often comprises at least half (and often well over half) an expedition field. They have 2/9 Swedish teams. The rest come from outside Scandinavia. Who knows, but I think this strategy is either a mistake or too much too soon.
Reclaiming my AP account this morning :) Has anyone found breadcrumbs on the tracking map?
European Championships are at the same time, http://www.areuroseries.com/ar-european-championsh...
That takes part of teams out from the field.
Sorry to say but at least in Finland adventure racing is more as a dying sport than anything else. We do not have even 24-hour race this year here.
Sad to hear that Sovijarvi...
I need to correct myself as there are THREE Swedish teams racing including the all women team. That said they are already unofficial alongside Agde. So, down to 7...I think Agatha Christie wrote a book about this once...
And on this note: the question might be: how many teams make it home? Course looks huge. Estimated winning time is 5 days...for Armed Forces...who is already opening up a big lead. If it does take them 5 (or more) days...how many other teams have a realistic chance of finishing the full course?
The other Swedish team is clearly fast, but they are young and relatively inexperienced. Coin flip there: will they keep it together over the duration of the event or slip? I'm thinking Storm and possibly TucTri might be on the edge of full course with the others on a short course or possibly transported forward...Looking at the course, no super logical ways to cut the course significantly short. You could bypass shorter legs by bike...but the race might become a massive bike course if teams want to make it to the finish on time.
Not making any firm projections. Need to see how more of this unfolds and how fast teams can move. But there may already be 100km or so between first and last with nearly 25% of the teams UNF...could be a very low complete rate at this rate.
And unlike most races where teams would be early on Day two and moving ahead with a fresh day...they started at 6PM, so they are about to go into night two...Sleep deprivation will kick in early and potentially slow teams down.
top right corner of the map: there is a tool symbol. Open it and change the "Tail" setting. That will do it.
Storm has methodically reeled in the young bucks from Hamilton/Sweden and have pulled away from the French. Certainly, anything can happen and so much time left, but I think Storm has a great chance to have a GREAT race here. Hope the keep rolling!
Also hoping our friends from Strong Machine (racing as Chaos Machine) hang with the Australians and Kuwaitis. We actually know Andre from Hard Days Night, and I expect those guys to be very steady. Lots of experience there. We also met Doug from Synergy in Tasmania (he is an Aussie), and I think some if not all of them also have a fair bit of experience. Should be fun to watch Chaos Machine chase and hopefully ultimately mix it up with those two squads. This very well may be the most competitive part of the race when it's all said and done: The Battle for 5th-7th. Barring catastrophe it's hard to imagine anything but a runaway victory for Armed Forces...
Is Storm sleeping? Haven't figured out time stamps, so hard to tell...Really hope so. If not, then I'll keep my mouth shut as apparently I might be a curse...
And Chaos Machine gave up a fair bit of distance to the Aussies and Kuwaitis. Did they sleep as well? If so, I like Storm and Chaos Machine stopping to sleep...if anyone wants to figure out if we can check timing, that would be awesome. so far, I haven't seen if it's possible to analyze things like sleep...
My thought was that they were sleeping. We'll see what happens vs. the French as the bike continues.
I think Chaos Machine's strengths are on foot and paddle, so hopefully once they're through this monster bike, they'll be able to make up a bit of that ground (and, hopefully, they've also banked some sleep!).
45 hours +/-...rough estimate for Chaos Machine's time on the monster bike leg...hope they brought enough food:( That's a mighty long leg!
Looks like CM is officially in TA!
I don't know what's wrong with my computer (or me) but I can't get the tracking to work. Is there a leaderboard?
Not a lot of chatter here and although I like the little news updates on the website, there's not enough of them … :-(
There is a leaderboard. Click on the trophy icon in the upper right corner of the tracking map. Weird that the map isn’t working for you though. :( I haven’t been able to follow this race too closely but the Canadians are doing well!
Chaos Machine finally finishes the giant bike. My math was clearly off, but still 42 hours...The field really is extremely spread out. Entire legs separating some teams. With the most up to date data:
1. Armed Forces holds a strong 7-8 hour lead on 2nd place.
2. Hamilton leads 3rd place by a 70km bike leg that took them about 5 hours
3. TucTri leads Storm by 4-5 hours and has completed the white water leg. Storm still coming into TA to whitewater.
4. Based on the last comparable time stamp, Storm has an 8 hour lead or so on Hard Days Night
5/6. HDN has a 5ish hour lead on the Kuwaiti team
7. Strong Machine another 5.5 hours or more behind Synergy...
This race looks to be about each team's experience and journey with little and maybe no direct competition for placement. It's possible that a couple of the teams come back together and things get interesting, but my bet is against that barring injury or mechanicals; thus far, the nav looks easier than some races; I haven't taken note of or seen any mention of nav issues; much of the biking looks to be very straightforward, hugging valleys/rivers/lakes, etc.. With daytime never ending (I presume no dark zones, but I have no idea), I'm assuming there are no forced stoppages...
My biggest curiosity is short courses: are there any? Anyone seen times? If there are some cutoffs, I think the main question is who makes them...
I was looking at the estimated times on the course breakdown table and it has the winning time predicted at 103 hrs. Then, doing some quick estimates, it seemed like Team SAFAT might be just over this ... assuming they sleep a little between now and the end and take normal times in TAs. The question for me is how many team behind Team SAFAT can push to finish within the 'slow' estimate of 168 hours. That's a LOT of racing, rivalling the gritty push of racecourses like ARWC Ecuador or Australia.
As for course cut-offs, the only one I can assume they're thinking of is to bike from CP28/TA9 to the finish.
Got some info on FB from the RDs.
Full course cutoff is 8AM on Friday at TA10. Teams have to LEAVE by then.
To short course, teams have to leave by 3PM on Friday
This gives teams approximately 42 hours to make the Full Course Cut. 49 Hours to make the Short Course.
So, not a big window between the two...
Armed Forces is through TA10.
Hamilton is not far behind so no danger of them missing it.
Below are thoughts on the other teams and their chances of making it based on leaderboard time stamps...
3rd place: TucTri: From TT's last point, AF took almost 18 hours to check out of TA10. AF was moving approximately 1.25x faster though. Using that number, it will take TT about 22.5 hours to check out. They should be fine.
4th place: Storm. Using the same process...Storm has 31.5 hours to make it.
5th place: Hard Days Night: 41.5 hours
6th place: Synergy: 44 hours
7th place: Chaos: 71.5 hours
So, based on all of these numbers...the top four teams (through Storm) SHOULD all make the full course cutoff. Hard Days Night is RIGHT on the cusp. Synergy is in the mix to make the SC cutoff. Maybe with a big push they can make full course. Chaos, sadly, seems unlikely to make either cutoff.
This all said, it stands to reason that most if not all teams' times as compared to Armed Forces will likely decline further. This very well might mean that Hard Days Night is also in jeopardy of missing the short course cutoff. A classic big blunder or delay for Storm could jeopardize the FC cutoff...
ALSO, skimming Armed Forces stamps, I THINK they are banking quite a bit of sleep. I'm not sure about anyone else, but this also could could skew all the numbers in the wrong direction...
Team Storm was in TA7 for roughly 6.5 hours; in daylight. Perhaps their strategy was to sleep huge there so as to make a one-shot push (with quick naps along the way) for the full course finish? The TA location is an Inn after all, so quality sleep and good eats would hopefully have been on offer. This next trek seems like a big one with a few options for routes along the way...this could be Chad right in his nav element.
And with the nights being "light"...yeah, makes sense.
In Alaska, we had far fewer sleep related issues since it never got truly dark...sleeping during the day might make sense if the conditions are ripe. As you note, the Inn would be perfect.
I saw photos of Vince’s sore feet yesterday so Storm’s longer stop before the trek would have helped him and any others with foot issues.
Some footage of Chaos Machine and Storm in the Day 4 news video. Cliff has made my day. They slept in a sauna!!! And Storm in a bathroom. Classic:)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWBjl0v3ZYs
Wonder how the sauna stacks up with the hot tub at Itera 2016 :)
Nice! Storm was also mentioned in the Day 5 Live Video from about 7:20-8:00, then they were shown and interviewed starting around 15:00.
Not sure if the Facebook link works here.https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=ht...
Aussies have moved past Storm, but like Phatty said, Storm looks to have taken a big rest. as long their feet are ok, I'd think that that sleep will pay off later today/tonight.
Chaos Machine must have been psyched to bomb through a section so quickly after the last couple of legs. They have knocked out the raft and now settle in for a bike leg that SHOULD be quicker for them. Teams ahead took 4-6 hours to do this next ride...but Chaos will be doing it in the middle of the night (other teams may have too, no idea)...Chaos has cut into those projections I made earlier. I think in part as Armed Forces slept for a while before TA5 and CM didn't. Still, It took AF nearly 30 hours to travel to the cutoff from the end of the raft. Based on rate of travel, it's looking like two days for CM on the nose (47 hours)...They have 40-41 to make the short course cutoff...
Maybe the sauna stop recharged them!!! Go Chaos Machine, Go!!
Storm does have some foot/ankle problems from what we've heard and seen but they're currently in an area with notoriously poor tracker coverage. (Friends and family are following the race over there so we're getting some additional updates.)
I suspected there was some secret trans-Atlantic cable:)
AH, good call on the tracker coverage. Storm's tracker is now way ahead of the Aussies again...maybe?
I'm curious as to how the CAN v AUS will play out. Team Storm has slept more of late and now the time gap seems to be down to 90 min as of time-in at TA8 (vs. 9.5 hours leaving TA6). Team HARd has been in TA for 2 hours so only time will tell as to how they plan their sleep from there to the end or if they can catch Team Storm.
Is Team Storm's tracking acting up, I wonder? I hope so as they haven't moved on the packraft section for quite some time and the Aussies just passed their 'dot'.
Cutoff projection update.
Chaos: from where they stand, it took AF 23+hours. Overall, AF moved at 1.8x the speed of Chaos up through TA7...at this rate, it will take Chaos another 42 hours to reach the cutoff...they have 16 hours to make the first cutoff and 23 to stay on the short course according to the info I was given...looks like they need a miracle:( Hot Tub Time Machine?
Ahead of them, it's hard to judge since Kuwait's tracker has gone wonky and the time stamps aren't showing on the leaderboard...This said, Synergy is parked in TA8 according to the map. From AF's time of departure, using the same approach as above, it took them another 13.5 hours to leave TA 10...If Synergy were to leave RIGHT NOW, it would take them 20 hours based on comparative time. Putting them right in between the full course and short course cut offs. So, with a burst, they might make the first cutoff, and they have a small cushion still to stay on a short course. also worth noting: looks like AF took a 3ish hour sleep in between TA 8 and 10, so that gives Synergy some additional time and would actually suggest they might literally be sitting on the cusp of full course cutoff...Worth watching that race against the clock!!
As of now, Storm and Hard Days Night both have a big cushion and seem safe bets to stay full course, knock on wood!!
Well, we finally have something interesting regarding placement. Storm and HDN have both arrived at TA 10 (the cutoff, BTW, so they have made it through unless they sleep for 10 hours...) with Storm holding a 22 minute lead. Sleep strategy and grit now. Plenty of racing left. Good people on both teams, loads of experience. Should be fun (though we are, of course, rooting for our Canadian friends and neighbors...Andre, we love you too though!).
Meanwhile, Chaos has carried the Lanterne Rouge into the Bermuda Triangle of the trek...Fingers crossed they make good time!
There are so few teams in this race that I just have to cheer for all of them to finish! :)
Indeed. Not the most exciting race to watch...
That said, looks like the Aussies have passed Storm barring another tracker problem for Storm.
And the Synergy Watch is on: One leg and one TA to go to make full course ONCE they leave TA9, which they haven't done... They have less than 9 hours...It took AF 10 hours from checking into TA9, but they look to have slept for 3 hours in TA...So 7 hours. Other teams have made it in similar time. So, Synergy looks to have a chance if they go now and if they can keep a good Day 5 pace...though it is 11PM over there. Not the best time to hammer out a cutoff sprint.
So, it looks like it might be very close. If they don't make it, the short course cutoff seems "safe".
Last check in on Synergy...
5 hours left. they are tracking through CP 29. It's taken all teams right around 4 hours or longer to clear the TA 10 check out to make the cutoff...I'm not sure they are moving fast enough to keep pace with those faster teams. Guess we will know in the morning...
Well, looks like Synergy made it! Looking at the times and time zones...I'm thinking the info I was given maybe wasn't quite right as from what I can tell, Synergy didn't get out of TA 10 by 8 AM local time...wondering if check in at TA10 was perhaps the cutoff (which does line up with Synergy's timing).
Chaos Machine is now biking to TA10. Curious to see what happens as it is already 2 PM, so they are missing the cutoff for short course...Abiperk and I were wondering if they might send them by bike from the last TA to the finish so they could finish. Perhaps they will adjust and keep them on bikes and have them bike in from TA10...
And this from FB regarding CM:
"Last night team @chaosmachinear got picked off the course for safetyreasons, there would be no possible way for them to make the time to TA10. Our staff says they are okey considering being competing for 100+ hours."
I'm sure this was disappointing for them. As I noted, abiperk and I were thinking we would perhaps modify the short course for them and have them bike from TA9. They are the only team affected and it wouldn't alter rankings in any kind of way. I'd have wanted them to reach the finish under their own power if possible...Maybe there were reasons preventing them from allowing that (to be fair, the map doesn't look as straight forward as I thought, or maybe there were permitting reasons).
Regardless, bummed that their journey is over, though I'm sure they have plenty of stories to share from 130 hours or so of racing!!
Or, maybe it's because they likely don't have the maps to get them there from that bike section? Who knows...
It looks like a tough race course. Anyone who lasted more than 100 hours is a rock star. I know they’ll be disappointed though.
Whoever is running Chaos Machine’s social media this week just posted 30 min ago that the team is at TA 10 getting ready to packraft and then bike to the finish. Glad they’ll be able to cross the line!
Yes, great video of kateness!
Great to see this. Glad they get a chance to do more and ride it in. Looking like the Aussies are holding a lead on Storm coming down the stretch.
Phatty, question for you: nothing gave abiperk and me the impression that nav was a factor in this race. How was nav last year?
Bike - Not overly technical but because the quality of the maps is so high (eg. akin to orienteering level of detail), I found challenging to keep up my map-watching with the speed of riding. After a while, I learned to weed out some of the detail...but I was quite happy to have it when things got a little tricky.
Paddling - 2019's course was amongst an archipelago, which made for complication and pause because everything gets complicated when your eyes are only 1m off of the water. Amongst fjords and rivers of this year's, it would be a different situation.
On Foot - I did't have maps for any of these sections but I didn't get the sense that it was overly complex. Again, think orienteering where you don't really get lost per se, but you definitely find yourself on a slower route than desired from time to time.
I should also say that the maps themselves were 100% waterproof - eg. they could have bobbed around in a lake for an hour and zero harm done. This was greatly appreciated and didn't add a layer of complexity into navigating.
In Copenhagen on our way back to the States. Thanks to all of you for watching out for us and sending good thoughts!
Race report is in progress but the team's initial consensus on the race was: long but straightforward course, with epic stages that frequently took us longer than the estimated times. Lots of vertical but the travel was very smooth, excepting the two big hike-a-bike sections on the long bike ride. Temperatures were cold, windy and wet for the first two days, then got much better towards the end of the race. Race organization was impeccable and frequently went above and beyond to ensure every team was taken care of. I'm sure that personal touch was partially a result of not having a lot of teams in the race, but I have to say the staff and volunteers at this one really went above and beyond for us. Being in the back meant for a lot of solo time and lonely racing (we didn't see another ranked team at all after the first day), so it became a personal challenge to finish the course, rather than battling any other teams out to the line.
For our team personally, the longer earlier stages took a toll. We almost quit after the 50K packraft stage, but regrouped in the whitewater rafting, got a hotel and our first good sleep after that, and felt mostly better on the shorter stages after that but we knew we had lost too much time to go full course. In case anyone was wondering what happened to us on the trek where we were met by race staff, the downhill from the hut with the CP was deemed too dangerous and was closed, requiring a re-route by car, resulting in the backtrack. The subsequent packraft was also closed due to an angry and influential landowner complaining, so we were driven to TA 10. We were assured we were still a ranked team, and the results at the end of the race confirm that, despite messages to the contrary on the race's social media.
The mountains and fjords of Norway were truly spectacular. Happy to have participated in this race and equally happy to have pulled together and remained on course for an official finish, as we had many moments of serious doubt.
Oh, and as for the nav, because the terrain was so wide open, it was really hard to create difficult navigation. There was also a race rule that we needed to stay on trail throughout Norway (a rule I see from the live tracking that not all teams followed). I would say the nav was pretty darn easy overall, but the physicality of the course made up for it, with each stage containing many thousands of meters of elevation gain and loss, most of it very steep.
Thanks for the inside scoop - looking forward to your report!
Thanks for the update, SM. And congratulations! :)
Chris Laughren's race report (from Storm Racing Canada):
Been a long time since I posted a long winded, Laughren race recap but since the Amsterdam airport ran out of fuel yesterday which subsequently grounded hundreds of planes and stranded thousands of passengers including myself, I've got all the time in the world!?
Disclaimer: My race reports are sometimes longer than my actual race and it's usually filled with plenty of grammar and spelling mistakes so tread carefully.
Earlier this year, our team applied but didn't get selected for the Eco Challenge return in Fiji. We figured it was a long shot so we had a backup plan ready to go. We had strongly considered Iterra Scotland but the appeal of racing in an area yet to be explored in an AR or visited by any of our team won out. We had heard great things from fellow Canadian Adventure Racers (Harper, Leanne, Pete and James) last year as they finished a grueling course which started in Sweden and finished in Finland crossing lots of water by swim runs and lots of paddling along with the other disciplines. We liked that this year's course advertised a lot of "mountain" biking with some big treks offset with kayaking and packrafting with only a few hours of potential darkness each day. It reminded us of northern Ontario but lots of climbing. The advertised course was long.. Almost 700km and we had expected to see over 16,500m of elevation gain on our journey. I'm not sure Mt Kelso back home which is about 70m high could prepare us properly but we put as much time as we could prepping for Nordic. The lead up was the usual chaos although I think after a few longer races under my belt I'm getting a little better with the process. Still getting to the small lil mountain town of Are, Sweden (6hrs north of Stockholm)was no easy task but we made it without too much issue. The host location was beautiful and reminded me alot of Collingwood except with a much bigger "hill" behind it.
Chad had a great start to his AR Season finishing first overall with an American team at Expedition Oregon. Vince had raced with us last year at Untamed and was ready for something longer. Julie and I raced together at the World Champ's in Wyoming back in 2017 but after 130 hrs on course we had to withdraw. She has also raced with the three of us at Wilderness Traverse the last two years so we're all pretty comfortable with each other. Coming into Nordic Valhalla our goal was to finish the full course. This is something I've only done once in an Expedition and Julie was looking for her first. We knew our competition (mostly from Europe) would be extremely tough so the focus was really on our own race and to try to hang on till the end. With a couple of massive legs early on (Trek - 64km, Bike 227km, Trek/Packraft 51km on legs 3-5) our early plan would be to take care of ourselves and push the pace more as we went along if possible.... That seemed like a good idea at the time!?
The race began after a beautiful Gondola ascent up Mount Areskutan where teams had to make their way back down to the village by foot, rappel and zipline. Back at the host hotel teams had a large group of spectators watching as we rappeled down into the dining room. It was fun to see the large group realizing this was the last of people we'd see for a while.
The next leg (MTB - 41km)was a quick bike out to the west along mainly roads. I was pretty sure I saw a bear along this section but was told by many people that I was likely already hallucinating cause they are extremely rare to see and most had never seen one despite living there their whole lives!?
We transitioned well to the leg three trek and passed a team early who we would then flip flop positions with for most of the leg. Although we had some rugged "trails" to follow we opted to stay a little higher at times to eliminate any extra climbing. We kept a decent pace but this was the fastest we would ever move on any treks moving forward. Our feet got mashed as it rained as we continued to cross marsh after marsh. We experienced our first "night" of the race which we didn't even need to use lights for. The first Trek was long and gruelling taking us over 15hrs to complete but that was not too far over our original estimate.
We were happy to see second Place Team Hamilton just leaving the TA as we arrived and unfortunately for them they had a major bike issue which left them scrambling for options. Thankfully for them the French team arrived on our heals but bad luck would have it as they would drop a team member because of an injury. One team's bad luck was another's fortune as the young Swedish team were able to use the injured racer's bike. With a 24hr bike leg expected ahead we opted to try to rest for 45minutes but we were restless and ready to make up some ground so we left the TA in 4th ready to get this leg going.
To be honest the next leg was a bit of a blur. It was so so so long. We would climb alot, descend at decent speeds, we pedalled in the pouring rain and climbed in hot sun but this was definitely the leg that started to do us in. Over a few sections we were required to follow this "red" trail which crushed our soles in sections. No one likes hike a bikes but we figure we pushed our mandatory "gear" up and down mountains, across endless marshes and over unrideable landscape for 25km. Our feet were all on fire in our bike shoes and at times it seemed there was no end in sight to the misery. In order to help Julie, Vince helped to tow her bike across sections that were unrideable but this took it's toll on Vince cause our bikes were heavy. We would get on our bike for 25m sections at a time then walk them again for 250m. When you need to cover 227km this is a fucking terrible way to do so and unfortunately for our whole team we would never be the same on our feet after this. The landscape was getting more mountainous which was pretty to look at but we couldn't help worry about what lied ahead. There were some highlights which included seeing two moose, delicious burgers as we found a great lil cafe although they didn't know what to think of the four customers covered in mud from head to toe. We had to pull our muddy rain pants down to our knees to try and not leave any lasting memories from our visit. At one point along the leg we found a large teepee which Fireman Vince was able to find us enough dry wood to get a decent fire going. At three different occasions in what seemed like days apart we would pass a highway road sign indicating Trondheim was only 104 km away to the north!? Almost 30 hrs after we started leg #4 we completed it.
The next leg wouldn't get any easier as it was a 51km packraft/trek in which teams were required to carry all of their paddle gear (two heavy packrafts, PFDS, paddles etc) plus all other food, clothes gear needed for the entire leg. We were questioning whether our feet and legs would hold up!? Thankfully upon arrival we were told that the packraft section for the next leg had been cancelled as the first place team who likely arrived there a day before were met with some really windy conditions. Good news for us.. No packraft. Bad news, more time on our feet! It was cold and wet when we hit the TA but with no options for sleeping we checked into the Portapotty Airbnb about a km away. For what it's worth, it was one of the cleanest outhouses we'd been in and I'm sure the smell of us made it worse. Julie and I crawled up in one while the guys did the same next door. This was one of our longest TAs as spent about 5 hrs here but managed to get about 3 hrs rest.
Leg Six (51km trek/packraft) started off with a few km's of gravel road but we quickly started to climb. The peaks surrounding us were huge and snow covered. Our pace was slow and there wasn't much talking. We were happy about one thing and that was not having to carry all the additional packraft gear. It was along this section where I really started to get in my head. Alisha, Claire and Claire's grandparents had travelled to Norway at the same time for their own adventures and I questioned why I wasn't with them. It was nothing against my teammates but why go through all this pain and suffering!? It's not a fun place to go in your head as the hours pass but I shoved more unappetizing food in my mouth hoping to snap out of it soon. We passed a few hikers along this section which was nice to break things up as you could tell that this was a fairly popular multi day hike for some hardcore folks. Not too long after my low we summited this one climb and I was overcome with emotion at the spectacular views and sheer vastness of what lied beyond. It was incredible to see the size of these mountains with endless waterfalls flowing for hundreds of meters off of them down to the raging crystal blue rivers below. No need to treat your water in these sections as this was the cleanest glacier water you'll find. I loved seeing the random mountain huts along the way. We had a long descent out of this beautiful mountain pass towards a a mid leg Checkpoint. There were families picnicking at this small mountain lodge who didn't seem too bothered by the four zombie like creatures descending upon them. To help with our mood we were able to find some delicious heart shaped waffles which we smothered jam and cream and crammed into our mouths. They were amazing!? Although this helped raise our spirits we were only about half way through the leg and still had a lot of climbing left. Despite the mid day sun, the Sleepmonsters and hallucinations were abundant. This was apparent when three of us looked a km above us in this beautiful waterfall to see a "van" with it's lights on abandoned half way down. It looked so real but zero chance it was. Afterwards, it was a long descent to the Whitewater TA but at least the trail was a decent switchback trail.
We started the 20km whitewater section late day but were happy to get off our feet and our guide seemed amused as we peppered him with questions. We hit the biggest rapids early which was a blast. Chad was like a little kid in the whitewater when he wasn't trying to nap?! It was a nice "break" but we got off the water frozen and needed to seek shelter in a warm washroom at the TA. We spent a few hours here then headed out on our bikes for a "short" 69km hilly section.
I felt surprisingly good in this section but that was likely sponsored by Redbull, Starbucks and CocaCola. The leg still took us over 5hrs. The next TA we find ourselves in a large parking lot attached to a remote restaurant that wouldn't open for hours. They had a warm washroom and decent patio so we decided to try to get some rest once again. Unfortunately, the grumpy restaurant owner was not happy with us scattered about and yelled at the poor TA staff that we needed to leave. So much for some rest!? We moved down to the lake and attempted for more rest. We were all pretty battered but we kept telling ourselves that the big legs were behind us and most of what remained were shorter legs and we'd be off our feet for good sections. The problem was that none of us could walk and our feet looked liked they had ballooned up at alarming rates. The medics wanted to have a look at us but would be a few hours till they could get to the TA. I took the next couple hrs to have some cold water leg baths which seemed to help with the swelling while my teammates closed their eyes. Thanks to an awesome medic (fellow Canadian Brad) he bandaged us up and gave us a little intel on what was ahead on the next 25km mountain trek.
It's hard to describe but when you know you can usually run 25km on trails in a few hours, it's completely different when you're days into a race and you haven't been able to run since the start. We had options for a bail out so we were determined to start the leg. The next section was extremely tough as we crossed some very sketchy water, contemplated some really questionable route choices and continued to climb over boulders, sharp stones,loose rocks, snow, and had quite a bit of vertical climbing which had us using only our hands. We were off trail so it was up to us to navigate across big mountain passes and stay as safe as possible. Chad and Vince did a good job navigating us up and down and around some really sketchy sections. My legs and feet were in so much pain that every step hurt which was not good considering the uneven terrain that went on for hours. The views were incredible but I just wanted to get off this mountain. I'd seen enough!? Finally we had sight of the mountain lake where we would find our final CP before starting the sketchy descent off the mountain. The problem was that it took us hours to actually get to it. When we finally did we were completely exhausted but figured the end of this leg was close. I couldn't have been more wrong about that. Coming into this section the race director had warned us about a very sketchy section which teams would require helmets and ropes would be rigged for the worst parts. All we had to do was descend 1km, unfortunately it was straight down and over a cliff on a "trail" that had seldomly been used years ago which was now overgrown, rocky and slick. Maybe it was sheer exhaustion but I lost my mind. I knew that I couldn't go back but I was terrified and this was the scariest thing I'd ever have to do. One misstep on my already exhausted, throbbing legs and feet and I could die. Sound dramatic!? I screamed to my teammates that in just over 15 weeks I was going to be a dad for the first time and I choose to do this!? Wtf was wrong with me!? I'm sure my teammates weren't too keen on this descent either but they knew how scared I was so they stopped to help calm me down. Chad who was also in a world of pain insisted that he take my pack and offered up a delicious homemade chocolate peanut buttercup that his wife Meredythe had made him. Julie suggested that I just slide down on my ass which helped as finding any solid footing especially for a tall guy was almost impossible. Within minutes I had ripped a good hole in my mandatory waterproof pants and for the next FOUR hrs I slid down this mountain on my ass. I slowly got my wits about me but my brain was spent trying to concentrate on the footing. It was terrible but my teammates were unbelievable and supportive. I was also pretty mad at times at the Race Director Staffan for making us do this. I have no problem with putting in hard sections but this seemed very unsafe and we were actually lucky it wasn't raining or dark. My email to him was going to be titled *sshole, "what the f*ck where you thinking when you had us descend that" but Chad reminded me that I needed to think positively at this time. Then after 4hours to descend one km we finally hit the flat road before the TA. We were beat but elated to be on stable, flat ground. It was minutes later when we met RD Staffan for the first time as he had missed the first couple days of the race after the early arrival of his son Thor. To be honest I could have punched him in the face earlier but he came at us with big hugs and an admiration for what we had just accomplished. We didn't have to say anything about what we just endured cause he could see it in our faces. I exclaimed that we wouldn't be able to finish the race if we had another trek leg like that one and he assured us it got better...
The next leg was a river packraft with some fun rapids. It was a welcome relief to be off our feet for four hrs but the highlight of my race happened when we were a few km's from the TA and we spotted a group of people along the shore along shore ahead of us. It was our peeps, the Canadian contingent with flags, huge smiles and lots of cheers. Alisha, Claire, her grandparents and Vince's wife and three kids. It was amazing!? I knew I felt like shit and liked the same but seeing Alisha, who is 25 weeks pregnant, big hugs from Claire and support from everyone else was perfectly timed.. It felt like the Survivor episode where contestants get to see their family after days without them.
The next mtb 53km leg was awesome! I felt rejuvenated to start despite the toughest climb we'd ever do ahead. The climb of Trollstigen, which translates to Troll's Ladder, is one of the most dramatic places in the world to ride a bike. It was really busy and seemed chaotic and without a granny gear to rely on, I just put my head down and pedalled away taking in the breathtaking scenery. Julie was an absolute machine on this massive climb. She pushed the pace and was determined to get the strava QOM for the day.
Chris' story continues (interrupted by an emoji that Attackpoint didn't like):
We were once again greeted by some amazing cheers as we got up to our next CP which was an amazing lookout showcasing what we just climbed. After a few more kms of climbing we hit the top and immediately started our massive descent hitting speeds up to 65km/hr towards the Via Ferrata which had been setup for us. After a one minute tutorial we were all deemed experts and ready to take on their course. As long as you remembered to have both carabiners clipped in at all times you'd be fine. Sure sure.. The river gorge crossing was bad and I did everything I could to get across without falling (see FB video if you want to see me crush it). We hoped back onto our bikes and rode quickly downhill to the next TA. The TA to the packraft was in a cool little town and the Australian team came in just before us. We took some time to grab some delicious burgers and grab a few hrs of sleep getting us ready for a scenic but slow open water 17km Packraft through some Fjords.
We were amused by the wonderful mountain art but Vince was not impressed with all of the graffiti and advertisements high on the cliffs. It got dark and for a few of our teammates they had a very hard time of keeping their eyes open. My raftmate Vince would fall asleep while paddling then awake to start again only to repeat this over and over. It was quite comical but made for an interesting paddle as I had my legs wrapped around his waist trying to maximize my paddle stroke while giving him back support. It wasn't that long on the water but we could see the shimmering lights of our destination for a long time but it still took us 3hrs to get there. We got off the water wet and cold but the lone TA support took pity on us and allowed us to warm up in the back of his van while we waited for our paddle bag. We had one more trek (31km)and and one long kayak (41km) remaining.
I have no idea how we did it but we seemed to bounce back a bit for this trek. Maybe we were delirious or maybe it was the thought of knowing it would hopefully all be over within a day. We didn't want to get our hopes up cause they had been dashed before but we knew the end was near. We traded spots wth the Australian team and although we seemed to climb faster than them they would in turn pass us like we were standing still on the descents. This trek followed a beautiful river which offered some more breathtaking views and our one summit was one of the best we'd seen. We passed quite a few hikers but most of them past us cause of our pace. Hikers would ask where we started and their jaws would drop when we'd explain that we had started in Are, Sweden over 630 km days before.
Our final TA was right beside a remote town which was located next door to a cute lil pub where locals were enjoying pints and some delicious looking food. In hindsight, we should have probably stopped here for an hr or two cause we were running on empty but the TA crew pushed us to get on the water and heading towards the finish 41km away in Alesund. It was later afternoon when we got on the water and the wind was strong and we were barely moving. Both Chad and I were gassed and having problems staying awake. Not a good start given the conditions and what still lied ahead. One of the main concerns in these open waters was the large vessels through the night who would not be expecting our tiny kayaks down below. The boats were uncomfortable and power was limited so we decided to pull to shore for a quick break with hopes of getting Chad a quick rest. Chad is a beast but I think this was one of the only times I'd seen him looking so rough. Thankfully, the few minute faceplant nap on the dock seemed to help. I think I drank three Redbulls and ate every bit of food I had left hoping to gain some energy for the final push. It seemed to work as Vince and I tethered their boat to ours as we dug deep to cross the open channels. The problem with drinking all those Redbulls and sitting in a cold wet suit I had to pee bad and there was no shoreline near so i did what any sane person would do and found an empty Tuna tetra pack and managed to fill it 5x!?without spilling too much. "Dad" aka Vince in the front of the boat reminded me that if I missed he'd be sitting in it so I better be extra careful. I was pretty proud of my accomplishment and even repeated this again a few hours later. As we continued to head north the mountains on either side filled up with more "art" displays. At times the visions danced and spoke to us. Julie did her best to keep us chatting and the mind off the pain, I continued to serenade my teammates with classics from Solid Gold Rock featuring Chantilly Lace, The Wanderer, Lean on Me and other oldies. Finally in the darkness after what seemed like hours of being in the water we could see the lights of Alesund in the distance... Although it would still take us hours to navigate through the various shipping ports and channels to get there. Then after 153hrs of racing we finally hit the steps to our final TA in Alesund and hobbled like zombies along the final km to a beautiful finish line in the middle of town around 4 am in the morning. I don't think we had anything left to give and was thankful for the early morning greeting from Cathy And Dakota cheering us on those final steps. We did it.. I really don't know how cause two days into this crazy race we could barely walk and considering trekking at decent paces is normally our strength we managed to complete the entire full course and come in as the 5th place team. There were only 9 teams to start this epic journey (too many scared to attempt the massive course??) so it was extremely impressive that five finished the full course while all others completed the majority of it. I'm not even sure how to wrap this all up but I will never forget this experience (neither will my legs or feet) but it's incredible to think what we're able to accomplish when we just keep moving. It was painfully slow at times but the team dynamic was off the charts. No way we could have done this without each other. Everyone played vital roles and finishing this epic journey and I am extremely proud of our team as a whole and individually for what we accomplished. I know most of our friends and family will see pictures of us from the race course and question why do this at all and it's so hard to answer but once you've been able to push yourself to these kind of limits and finish what you've started it's beyond words. The perspective it gives me about my life, my family and my friends and what is important to me based on the decisions I've made is incredibly powerful. And I couldn't have done it without my amazing teammates and support back home.
Vince is like a dad out there. Always calm and collected and such a huge help. I am still terrible at a few TA items like getting my pedals off yet he takes the time to help all of us when he has his own shit to take care of. His only fear is cold water! Chad is so powerful and an exceptional navigator. He gives the team extra confidence while out on course knowing that we're going the right way. He can sing some pretty mean country songs and always carries more than his fair share of gear to help the team. I cannot think of a more caring teammate that you'd want by your side while out there grinding. Pound for pound you will not find a tougher racer than Julie. Her feet took the worst of the beatings early on. Every single step she took from day two on was painful. We agreed that finishing this race was not worth permanent injury but we would take one leg at a time. She absolutely crushed the bikes especially the hills and I was so proud of her being able to cross that finish line. Thanks to the support from Alisha, Claire, Wendy, Richard, The Logrents, My sister/Steve, the Beaudoins, the Dotwatchers, my training partners and everyone else. I thought about you a ton while out there and it continuously motivated me to keep moving forward and made me appreciate how lucky I am. A special thanks to Staffan, Mickes, Anna, Brad and the whole crew of Nordic race staff who helped us along the way. We may have cursed you at times but thanks for allowing us an opportunity to see parts of your beautiful countries that most people won't be lucky enough to experience and lastly to the AR paparazzi who took some incredible shots while out on course!
Until further notice I'm retiring from AR... As I have different priorities to focus on coming up very soon! A different kind of sleepless adventure lies ahead.
Well except for Wilderness Traverse in August that is...
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