Race report Nordic Islands Adventure Race
A 637km race spanning from Sweden to Åland to Finland.
An event worthy of a Viking.
Big thanks to our sponsors Cykelkraft and Försvarsmakten. MBT, Squeezy Sports Nutrition, Katadyn Group, Hydria Group, Ola Ödmark AB, Ryggcenter.
The race began in the middle of our beautiful capital, Stockholm on the roof of hotel Downtown camper. The perfect setting for hosting 23 teams from 15 different countries.
When the start gun sounded all the teams rappelled of the 30+ meter high roof. We where among the first teams to reach the ground and then we where off onto a 7km city orienteering. We had been given ancient maps over Stockholm which made the navigation a bit more tricky, as we finished the leg many teams where neck and neck.
Leg 3 ; Packraft 16km. The team was pumping the packrafts like crazy and set off on the water just after Swedish Armed Forces, Estonia and Sweco. We where soon reaching a surprise, climbing up and down through a series of lock gates, 4 teams all at the same time. Climbing ropeladders, jumping in the water, swimming all the while dragging our gear with us. Stressful but also fun!
On parts of the leg we had to run with our boats on order the reach the next section of water. On one checkpoint we also received a rune stone which we needed to carry with us all the way to Åland.
The paddling went well enough and time was flying by and we soon reached the next transition as fourth team, the other three teams still in transition. We quickly packed down our packrafts and assembled our bikes, munched down some food and left the transition in first place.
Leg 4 MTB 230km.
Rain was pouring down as we biked on technical, rooty paths and there was many many paths to navigate through which made the pace easy and 5 teams where close together for some time. We lost the first four teams when we got unsure of the navigation on some tricky paths. We biked north through the night keeping our top 5 position as we reached the next Transition.
Leg 5 Kayak 60km. Once again we did a fast transition, even though Simon threw in a couple minutes off sleep. Swedish Armed Forces where already out at sea and we set off close together with Team Sweco, Estonia och Haglöfs Silva.
The predictions for the paddling conditions was that they where ”ridiculously good”. When we rounded the first bit of land and got onto the ocean we where met by not so good conditions, 2m swell and strong windgusts from another direction. The waves crashed over our kayaks and water slipped in through the waist of the sprayskirts. As the kayaks slowly filled with water they also got more tippy and harder to steer. After 2 hours Cissi and Mårtens kayak was completely filled and was impossible to steer. They where sitting in more or less submerged in cold water unable to get to land. We where eventually forced to use our emergency flares to call the attention of the safety boats.
When Cecilia and Mårten where picked up by the safety boats they where extremely cold and unfortunately Cecilia also got seasick and started vomiting.
We where put ashore on the closest island together with the other teams. We where uncertain what would happen with the race but after a while it was decided that the kayaking leg was cancelled and that we would be transported back to Sweden and then take the ferry over to Åland. Riding a boat was not good for Cecilia and her seasickness got worse.
At last we got to Åland! There would soon be a restart of the race with timecredits for those who had started the paddle leg. But the damage was done, as we started the Swimrun leg Cecilia still was not recovered and it was impossible to keep up with the other teams. We where running, it was over 25 degrees warm outside and Cissi was still shivering from cold. As we neared the first swim we decided to stop and let Cissi recover. We slept through the night. The possibility of a top placement had drastically decreased but it was not impossible if we could execute the rest of the race perfectly.
We ran and swam in a good pace on the swimrun leg and started picking of some of the back end teams.
Ahead of the race we had given swimrun a lot of thought, testing different setups for maximum efficiency. We only carried a waist bag with mandatory gear (including the previously mentioned rune stone) and just enough food the keep our energy levels high enough and a Katadyn filter soft bottle to purify the water on the way.
We kept moving forward although we started having some issues, all team members where having some sort of pain, Achilles tendons was the common pain for all team members. Our hypothesis is that during our unusually long sleep on the second night our stress hormones dropped and our bodies went into recovery mode. None of us had experienced so many injuries so early in a race before.
The injuries made us doubt our end goal. Should we continue? are we satisfied placing outside the podium? How long will we have rehabilitate injuries and will we have to cancel upcoming races? A tough mental struggle.. You could say “welcome to adventure Racing!“.
Leg 8; Kayak 40km. At night. Rain and wind. In Ålands archipelago which is crawling with islands. Our navigator Jonas did a splendid job and we nailed most checkpoints which made our suffering a bit more bearable.
Leg 9; Packraft 78km. Even though we were still moving at decent speed we eventually started doubting again, the podium most certainly out of reach and our motivation was affected negatively by severe pains. At last our motivation broke. We sat down and could not find the drive to continue forward. Although we had stopped we did not want to quit. Maybe because of our passion or just because of pure idiocy.
We took another full nights sleep to recover and then we continued onwards and last part of the packraft during the next day.
Leg 10; Mountain bike 91km. The finish line was now close, our minds where alert from a long sleep but our bodies still broken. Jonas stood on his bike for the entire ride because he had such bad sores in his nether regions.
The last bike ride was enjoyable, fast roads and nice smooth paths with some fun navigation too.
The last leg was a 7km city orienteering and just like in Stockholm it was marked on an ancient map. We could have walked since we didn´t have any teams behind or ahead but we ran. We got to the finish line after 4,5 days. Disappointed and destroyed. But more connected as a team and rich with experience.
A big thanks for all the cheering and encouragement from family and supporters! And a huge thanks to Jana Julian for the magic pictures and for sharing our adventure!