Team What’s your Dream took part in the inaugural Nordic Islands Adventure Race 2018, which was held between Stockholm in Sweden and Turku in Finland, via the scattered isalands of the Aland archipelago. It was quite a novelty for the team because three of the members - Kalle Zackari Walström, James Roberts and Jens Larsson - had never raced a full length adventure race before. However, they were accompanied by Marika Wagner, an extremely experienced competitor with podium places in several major events over the years. Kalle Zackari Walström is a well-known Swedish television presenter, who specialises in taking on sporting events as a challenge and then reporting on them. Here the team gives their impressions of the inaugural Nordic Islands AR.
What was Nordic Islands AR 2018 like?
Marika Wagner: It was a very special feeling to race on home soil; during the first 24 hours of the race there were spectators all along the route, cheering us on and giving us a lot of well needed positive energy. The landscape was magical and that kept us going on many occasions during the race.
The first three legs (the abseil, city-orienteering and first pack-rafting section) were intense, because we knew beforehand that the bike was going to be long and a little short of time for us, so we pushed it pretty hard at the start. At the same time, I tried to keep an eye on the pace and the well-being of the team, so we wouldn't hit the wall too early.
What makes NIAR special?
For me the most special moment was the start. There were lots of spectators and I was in my home town. I was touched by how many friends turned out to give us a great start to the race.
James Roberts: The course was a fantastic mix of wilderness and feeling small in nature. The Aland archipelago particularly, where we were swim-running and pack rafting, was spectacularly beautiful. I felt so fortunate to get to spend time there, to get out into the wild environment.
Was the course a success?
Marika: The course and the organisation was well done in quite challenging circumstances - it was a huge logistical task to create a safe, A to B race which crossed a sea and then an archipelago. A lot of experienced and professional staff gave their utmost to give us this adventure and it delivered everything.
Kalle Zackari Walström: The maps and check points were very well placed and accurate. We felt a little low at some of the TAs. When you’re fighting really hard, every TA is a milestone and you put so much effort in to reaching it. We were really longing for something special, only to find the TA was just a parking lot. That took a little mental push to overcome.
Did you get your training and planning right?
Marika: The guys admitted that they didn’t do quite enough training, especially in kayaking and biking, which they found hard to find time for.
Jens Larsson: Marika’s experience and professionalism with the planning made everything work out very well.
How long did you sleep? Did you get the food right? Team strategies?
Jens: Food was well planned and balanced. As always you find some stuff in your food pack you like the most and there’s some stuff you don't want to eat at all. It would have been nice to take a bit more real food, but the extra weight stopped us from doing that.
Sleeping turned out better than we expected because of the timings. We powered through the first night on the mountain bikes and then each night after that we got about 3 hours during the dark before heading out onto the sea with tricky navigation. On the last night we decided to take a longer sleep and we felt very confident with that decision. It gave us a lot more energy for the final bike ride to the finish and I'm sure we gained time in the end because of this.
What was the most challenging moment for the team?
Kalle : The whole crazy adventure was the challenge. This kind of racing is insanely challenging and hard. It really takes 1000% discipline and commitment to make it to the finish line of an adventure race.
Was there a particularly special moment?
Every sunrise was a unique special moment.
Kalle : There is nothing I love as much as a sunrise during an adventure race. I remember the daybreak in the packraft on Day 3: everything was peach. I’m missing moments like that already.
James : A part of the race that meant a lot to us was the friendship; within the team of course, but also friendship with other teams that we met along the course, especially Puppy Adventure Team who we kept an even pace with for a long time.
Also, it felt really adventurous setting out on the third night. We slept in a barn and then headed out on the sea in the kayaks. I really liked that stage. It was the first time I had ever done anything like that.