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Sunday, September 1, 2019

Expedition Extreme: pre-ARC

Next week I will begin the greatest adventure of my life. At least I hope it will be great.

I am nervous.

Nervous because there are so many question marks and so much for me that is new. Not only will I be racing the longest distance that I’ve ever competed in, for the longest duration non-stop, but there are sports disciplines which are new to me as well as the dynamic of competing on a team.

What is this crazy race? It’s called the AdventureRace Croatia, a 500-kilometer, 10,000-meter elevation gain/loss, non-stop event involving not only running, but also mountain biking, climbing, rappelling, kayaking and, since there is no marked course, navigation with maps and compass. 

Teams of four athletes must include both males and females and any combination thereof. Our team consists of three guys and me. We must complete the entire race together, staying within 100 meters of each other at all times. There are 41 teams from around the world; we are the only one representing Germany. 

If we are good at navigating, the course is about 500 kilometers, if we are bad, it could be much, much more. The terrain will range from dry karst mountains to wetlands, grasslands, bogs, trails with dense overgrowth, natural caves, the Adriatic sea and winding rivers dotted with rapids and waterfalls. We will be completely self-supported, carrying all our own food, water and gear.

There will be 17 legs in the race, commencing with 32-kilometers of kayaking in the Adriatic sea, which will be followed by a 40-km run with 2,200 meters of elevation gain. And that is just the beginning. 

In total there will be 8 running legs summing to about 130 kilometers, 6 mountain biking legs covering 300 km, and three stints in the kayak adding up to about 70 km. And at every transition zone where we begin or end a bike leg, we need to build up or respectively break down our bikes. That means removing the wheels, pedals and handle bars and carefully tucking it all away into a 140cm X 80xm X 30cm box to be swiftly and easily moved to the next transition area by the race crew.

Last year the competitors had to rappel from a high bridge down to their kayaks waiting in the water below… in the darkness of night.

Sleep will be a luxury. The best teams do not sleep. We will try to get by with as little as possible. Looking forward to the hallucinations.

My training consisted (obviously enough) of mostly endurance. Long mountain runs/treks, hours on the bike and with regular strength training and a few short races for speed.

My biggest concerns are the rappelling sections (I have a bit of a fear of heights) and the sleep deprivation (who doesn't love to curl up in a warm cozy bed for 8 hours each night?), but I am also so excited to be free from commitments, telephone, Internet and to be able to (completely undisturbed) enjoy two things I love: nature and sports.

Our team goal is far from being on the podium. Our hope is simply to finish the race, injury-free and come home with a team comradery that keeps us motivated for future adventures.

*All photos courtesy of the Adventure Race Croatia and the Adventure Race World Series.

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