Adventure racing is a complicated sport. You are navigating a course while participating in disciplines like running, trekking, mountain biking, paddling and whatever else the organizer might find fun and challenging. Your task is to get from one place to another, taking in the checkpoints printed on your route map. The races can last a couple hours or up to 10 days. New Ultimate Direction Ambassadors (and twin sisters) Lina and Sanna El Kott Helander recently won the wild and super tough Expedition Oregon adventure race. Here’s how…
We knew it would hurt, it would be tough, and it might be one of the worst things you could voluntarily do to yourself. So why did we choose to race Expedition Oregon? Because as ultra athletes we have short term memories! In seriousness, we knew it would be a memorable adventure and be way outside of our comfort zone…not to mention really far from home (we are from Sweden)! Finally, there is the feeling of being in untouched nature, alone in the wild without anyone except your teammates.
Sanna and I used three different Ultimate Direction packs during the race: the Fastpack 25, Fastpack 35, and the Signature Series Race Vesta 4.0. Having options meant we could use different packs for the particular demands of the day’s terrain. With all of our mandatory equipment in a dry bag, off we went!
We started with the lightweight Race Vesta since trekking was the first stage. Many other racers were laughing at us thinking we would have just the Race Vesta for the whole race. You want to be light while running and this was simply strategy. Soon we were scrambling up and down stony cliffs and jumping over fire burned trees and green forests. The deeper we went the more green the forest became with tall, massive trees surrounding us. We finally came down to the river in 4 hours and 51 minutes and everyone was cheering us. As the fastest runners we had taken the lead by 20 minutes!
Now we switched to the Fastpack 35 and went out on the whitewater pack rafting section which was a huge adrenaline rush. In our tiny rubber boats we conquered waves from all sides, with stones and trees in our way and freezing cold water filled our rafts after every big white water. On a small trekking leg we packed everything smoothly into the Fastpacks, our paddles attached to the side and snacks in the front bottle and burrito pockets. Soon we approached a paddling section where the going would get really rough. Photographers lined the banks on all sides for this sketchy section, ready to catch some carnage. Not surprisingly all of us flipped the boats and we were sent swimming in the waves. But practice pays off and less than a minute later we were all steadily paddling again. We felt soaked and stoked! Totally alive.
Next was biking and climbing…and more biking…and more climbing. We encountered darkness, rainfall and burning sun. We really experienced all kinds of weather (even some snow) and went through A LOT of thick brush, both with and without the bikes. It’s almost impossible to describe how horrible parts of the bushwhacking was because you seemingly just CAN’T get through it. In the end, you make it through and you constantly surprise yourself.
All of the top teams were sleep deprived and we had to take three short 5-15 minute stops to just close the eyes. You can basically lay down on the ground and go to sleep in two seconds when you are that tired. It’s actually quite a cool experience. As runners and skiers primarily we began Expedition Oregon a bit terrified of racing in whitewater pack rafts and riding technical mountain bike trails. But through the race we consistently increased our performance and faced our fears head on. Racing is a perfect way to challenge yourself and to learn new things.
58 hours and 10 minutes later we were done. After a lot of struggling and fun, WE WON!