As soon as I heard about Explore Sweden I knew it was a race I had to do at some point. Race Director Mikael Nordstrom has a great reputation for organising exciting, adventurous and interesting courses with one of his last offerings, the 2006 AR World Championships, being hailed by great racers such as Ian Adamson as the greatest race course of all time. With this near guarantee of quality, we knew that travelling all the way to Sweden would at least give us a great race experience regardless of our performance.
Over the months leading up to the race we changed team members a few times and lost our main sponsor Aberdeen Asset Management. Thankfully we got a settled team together and some help from interim sponsor Helly Hansen, however, it was still a tough call for me to commit to such a huge race and financial commitment with current personal circumstances. However, the opportunity was too good to miss and my chances of getting away to major expedition races in the next 4 years look to be few and far between so this was a last chance to lay it all on the line.
It was everything it was billed to be and the only thing I could say it was lacking was technical mountain biking. We spent a long time on roads and gravel tracks but a tiny amount of time on technically challenging and fun mountain biking. This was made up for though by the awesome variety of activities we completed including some exposed mountaineering, whitewater rafting on a grade 4 river, white water kayaking on a grade 3 river, canadian canoeing on a grade 2 river and a lot of inline skating! I’ve written a full race report that will be published in either the UK Adventure Sports Magazine or Sleepmonsters, I’ll post it here too when I know.
The race went pretty well for us and my only personal problems were my feet blisters sustained on the 60km mountaineering section and a bit of overheating on the same section. I did fall asleep a bit dramatically and get a serious dose of the sleepmonsters on the long 270km bike leg. I was seeing all sorts of safari animals, though was lucid enough to tell teammate Bruce Duncan that I realised he probably couldn’t see them. Still, didn’t stop me ‘sprinting’ when he shouted that they were charging after us! We finished 8th in the end and were satisfied with this. We lost maybe 4 or 5 hours on the inline skating compared to the Scandinavian teams ahead of us, so potentially we could have been nearer the top 5, but for now it just gives us another discipline to work on and bring up to par with the rest.
It sure as hell was fun and I did what I went there to do – give it my all. It was hard work and very painful at times and 2 weeks later I’m still suffering with tendonitis and am on antibiotics for infected blisters and a haematoma I developed, but that’s what adventure racing is about for me – seeing how much I can push my body and mind through and this time it was pretty far!