We recently caught up with Team Équilibre after their eventful, multi-day adventure race: Expedition Alaska. Find out more about how they coped with emergency situations and their approach to the team sport of adventure racing.
H: Hello team! What a journey you’ve been on! First and foremost, congratulations for completing the course. I hope you’ve all had a chance to take a breather and rest up.
E: Thanks. It was a journey indeed. Alaska is a wild place! We would have really liked to be higher in the rankings at the end, but that’s racing and the reality of team sport. We will be back stronger.
H: I’m sorry to hear one of your teammates dropped out mid-race due to unforeseen circumstances. The rest of you put up an amazing fight and completed the race successfully. Congratulations!
E: 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. 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.
H: Can you tell us a little bit about what happened before the decision was made that Chelsea had to stay behind?
E: Chelsea had an asthma attack [when] we were comfortably in 2nd place and planning how we would overtake 1st. After some rest time and many ‘revival’ attempts with hot food and gear swap, we managed to get to the next transition area were we had access to our gear and medics. After, again, extra rest time we unfortunately had to make the decision to keep going as a team of 3 instead of 4, as Chelsea was not fit to go forward.
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. So all teams that would manage to hang on together until the end, even on short courses, would be ranked in front of us, even if we would cover much more ground.
H: It must have been very tough to face an event like that in such a rigorous race as the Expedition Alaska. How did your remaining team deal with this situation and troop your way through?
E: I think the amazing scenery and one specific segment named the “Soul Crusher” (that was announced as “as epic as it gets”) are what motivated us to keep pushing. Race organizers did an excellent build-up showcasing how great and beautiful the race course would be, so we really wanted to catch as much as possible.
We also wanted to show what we could do to everyone around, including our direct opponents like Tecnu and Yogaslackers. The AR crowd is an amazing one and just hanging out with them is also a high source of motivation.
H: What were some of the most challenging moments of the race?
E: Having to deal with losing a teammate for sure, and all the consequences. It’s always the hardest in AR (Adventure Racing) and what you want to avoid at all costs.
Then definitely the end of the “Soul Crusher” segment. 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.
H: How did you overcome the physical and sometimes emotional obstacles throughout this mega multi-day race?
E: The only way is to keep it tight together. Expedition races can be very wearying when the fight among teammates adds to the battle with the elements. 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.
We also slept here and there! There is a fine balance between not enough and too much sleep and I think we more or less had it right. The no dark time really helped [with] keeping us awake.
H: Were you expecting some of the obstacles that came your way? Was your team prepared for many different scenarios?
E: Yes and no. I was not prepared to lose a teammate, so it took me some time to deal with it. As for the obstacles on course we had made our homework and brought the right gear. 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].
I don’t think anyone was prepared to be that wet for that long. We shivered about 50% of [the] race time. That’s certainly something one can hardly prepare for.
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!
H: You’ve mentioned to me that Alaska is an amazing place and that you highly recommend a visit. In the midst of all the hectic adventuring, were you able to take in all the beauty of nature that Alaska has to offer?
E: Hell yeah. Especially when racing you get to these incredible places that are most of the time very hard to access to most. Plus, this time around [and] unlike many other races, we actually did get to see everything as there was no dark time! That’s something everyone should experience once! And, in the end, I think we only got a glimpse of what Alaska has to offer. It’s so wide that we will have to go back for sure. We heard of another potential [race] even in 2 years [time], so maybe we will get another shot soon!
H: What was the most enjoyable part of the race?
E: It’s hard to say. 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.
H: Each race and each journey is very different. What is the biggest thing you learned through this race?
E: That we can truly fight for the win in these races.
H: Thanks so much for sharing your precious memories with us. We really appreciate it! Let’s keep in touch and let us know what your next adventure is! Congratulations again.
E: Anytime. Thanks to you guys, we are lucky to have you on our side. Our sport is one of passion and drama and it’s great to work closely to communicate all this with such passionate partners like you guys at Hillsound.
Next I’m racing Raid International Gaspésie this fall which will provide a different and very fast-paced race. Jean-Yves, Jonathan and I will define another target soon for next year!
You can see more adventure photos of the team here. © Perpetual Motion Events.