Originally Posted on July 23, 2015
A 7-day adventure race through Alaska’s wild and mountainous terrain is not for the unprepared.
Pack-rafting, glacier travel and mountain biking are just some of the activities entrants can expect on the course, with details of the obstacles not revealed prior to the race. If ever there was a race where participants need to be ready for anything, the 350+ mile Expedition Alaska is it.
A large part of the necessary preparation for a course of this nature is mental: entering the race with a positive outlook but allowing room for adjustment of expectations as circumstances change.
When team-mate Chelsea suffered an asthma-attack in the middle of the 2015 Expedition Alaska course, Team Équilibre were faced with a tough decision in an already challenging environment.
“In adventure racing, when a teammate cannot pursue with the team the consequence is that the team is either un-ranked or ranked in a lower category, which is what happened to us,” said team-member Alexandre Provost.
With Chelsea not fit to go forward, Team Équilibre made the hard decision to continue as a three-person team. Coming from a comfortable 2nd place position prior to Chelsea’s asthma attack, the situation was understandingly hard to accept. But as Alexandre explains, it’s all part of adventure racing and the reality of team sport.
“Well, we made the best of of it. Quite frankly we did not have much else planned than racing our best in Alaska, so that’s what we kept on doing,” said Alexandre.
“The course was amazing too. I’m glad we kept on going. In the end we managed to have a good time out there even if the circumstances were not what we had planned for.”
Drawing motivation from the adventure racing community, Alaska’s amazing scenery and a desire to show the competition what they were capable of, Team Équilibre battled on. Strong team-cohesion from the Quebec, Canada- based group helped the remaining members complete the race.
“Jean-Yves, Jonathan and I have been racing together for many years now, so we know each other (and ourselves) very well in those situations. We like racing together because we complete each other very well as we all have our AR role to play on the team,” said Alexandre.
Team Équilibre needed every bit of their training and strength to successfully tackle some of the more daunting parts of the course. With the tag-line “as epic as it gets”, the Soul Crusher segment of the race was the next biggest challenge for Team Équilibre after losing a team-mate.
“It started well with a trail run and then pack-rafting before climbing on a Lord of the Rings-type of ridge. Coming down the mountain proved to be very challenging as there were not many routes and we got cliffed-out many times. We certainly lost a few hours, but in the end we had a very good run at it, completing it with the second fastest time. We left the TA in 8th place and got to the end of the segment 32 hours later in 2nd place,” said Alexandre.
Physically completing the route is only part of the equation when it comes to adventure racing. Planning and packing the right equipment to be able to travel light yet be prepared for the host of activities that can be thrown a team’s way is part of the challenge. Hillsound provided the team with pairs of the Trail Crampon Pro and Trail Crampons for training and use on the higher altitudes of the course.
“We brought our Hillsound Trail Crampon for the “Soul Crusher” segment as we expected snow and ice on the top. It turned out to be very useful and many teams had issues, where [as] we could make our way much more easily and make good navigation decision[s].
“The glacier segment was more challenging than I expected, with many crevasses at some point[s]. We had two days of crevasse rescue course pre-race but still that was something. Thankfully we held on very well with our Hillsound Trail Crampon Pro!”
For Alexandre, the experience wasn’t all a hard slog either. Set against the stunning backdrop of Alaska’s mountain ranges, the course was an adventurer’s dream for new mountain biking, paddling and trekking terrain.
“There was always a mountain with snow cap or a glacier in sight. The forests were green and rivers raging. Just non-stop awesome views for as long as we were awake. I think biking Resurrection Pass and Lost Lake Trail are definitely highlights above highlights. Some of the best mountain biking we have ever done. Jean-Yves was screaming like a little boy while riding Lost Lake Trail! Rafting on Six Mile Creek in successive R5 was really astounding! All that said, just hanging around [like-minded] AR people also provides some of the most enjoyable memories,” said Alexandre.
So will Team Équilibre be back for another adventure race? Absolutely, according to Alexandre. “We will be back stronger.”