Marika Wagner will be leading Team Whats Your Dream in the Nordic Islands Adventure Race 2018. She is a very accomplished adventure racer herself, but her three team-mates have never participated in a major adventure race before. A Life of Adventure caught up with Marika as she returned from an all-night training session involving pack rafting, some swim-run and an exceptionally long mountain biking session. She coped admirably with the questions.
The Nordic Islands Adventure Race starts in Stockholm on the afternoon of 12th August. The approx 600 km course will start with a huge abseil off the Downtown Camper hotel in Stockholm and then head north out of the city via mountain bike, crossing to the Aland archipelago in kayaks, where teams will progress from island to island using pack-rafts and ‘swim-run’, before heading across to mainland Finland. The winning team is expected to take approximately 92 hours or just under four days and the course will remain open for six.
First a bit of Form
Team Leader Marika Wagner is a very successful adventure racer, having attained podium finishes in several top races over the past few years. These include second place with Team Peak Performance in the AR World Series in Chile in 2015 and third in Xtrail in China in 2016 as part of Team Haglofs Silva. She also won the world Swim-Run Championships in 2015 and then won the solo multisport race the Åre Extreme Challenge 2018 in Sweden.
Her team mates may be new to adventure racing but they are no means unused to sport and general fitness. 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. James Roberts and Jens Larsson, long-standing friends of his, are both in the police force in Stockholm.
Why Nordic Islands AR? Why now?
We wanted to get Kalle to try out adventure racing and the opportunity presented itself this year, so we invited him to enter the race. I volunteered to show them the ropes and lead the team in the event itself.
All three of the guys are fit - and of course Kalle trains in new sports for his TV shows all the time - but they’re into cross-fit and strength training more than endurance. So it hasn’t been a case of stepping up the training, rather they have had to change focus and go more into endurance – long distance running and biking. It hasn’t been easy for them, but they are getting on well. Last weekend we had a session through the night and they made great progress, plus they have the will to get there. Their technical mountain biking seemed to be better in the dark than in daylight…
We did a short AR race (eight hours) around Stockholm in June and then entered a bike race, the Vätternrundan (a 300km road cycle race around the Vättern lake in southern Sweden), more as a training exercise than for the race. They coped fine, I was super impressed. They hadn’t trained much on road bikes but we worked well together as a team and had a really good time.
Planning and Strategies
Jens is the navigator. He learned the skill in the military, though all of them are switched on in the outdoors. I am the team leader. My role is to take care of the team and keep the focus. I have the knowledge of how races often progress. People say that adventure racing is hard, but I think that’s a misconception. It’s just about fixing your mind on the goal. You have to really want it because you really can’t be half-prepared mentally for an adventure race. We’ll see how we get on.
Like every team we will have our ups and downs, but the three guys have a really good spirit and they’re good at helping each other – if you try to tough it out in AR you’ll never make it. I have been out with novice racers before, in Tasmania, and I learned a lot. I can’t motivate them for six days, but I can use my knowledge to help them.
We have talked about what can happen, and my job is to show them the options when things do go wrong. The most important of all is that quitting is not the first option. People new to AR do find the problem solving difficult. When things are good it’s easy to keep going, but when they go wrong you can always slow the pace, take some rest, even sleep for 12 hours if necessary. I will be there to keep them from getting worried that they might have to quit.
What are you looking forward to?
Marika asked the guys what they were looking forward to about their first full length adventure race.
Jamie Roberts: “I’m looking forward to crossing the sea and experiencing nature out there with the team. Even if it feels a little scary to be heading so far out there in a small kayak…”
Kalle Zackari Walström: “I’m looking forward to moving through the Nordic summer with my friends under our own stream. Giving it everything and having a good time together. And finishing… I’m really looking forward to the finish line
What will achievement look like?
Marika: To finish. That’s the only thing we’re interested in.
What does adventure mean to you?
To me adventure racing is about passion for nature and getting close to nature. You get to see the world’s most beautiful places and I believe the experience is even greater when you push yourself at the same time. When you’re exhausted, hungry and tired all the distractions of the daily grind become irrelevant and everything becomes more real. And you share all this with your friends in the team.