Racing with a different team is always an added challenge. And if the race you are doing with this team happens to be the Patagonian Expedition Race, than it is a double challenge.
At first I should be joining and all-Finnish, working and established team – Juha, Juha, Riitta and me. However, month before the start one of the members got injured (Juha), got injured and was replaced by a Canadian racer, Ken. So we were putting together a new team for Patagonian Expedition Race. Once again.
Getting to the starting line is always a challenge in itself. The location, Patagonia, is a logistical problem on its own and getting all the gear and people at the right down to Punta Arenas… well, if you can make it, that is half of the problem solved.
But the other half, the race is just brutal. 600 km over Patagonian landscape – paddling in the roughest waters, trekking in pristine land with no trails and many mountains with no names and this a mammoth 272 km bike stage westwards – completely in the face of the wind. But this is why we keep coming there again and again. The challenge, the nature, the magic.
This year we started with a relatively easy 34km coast run/trek, which took us less than 6 hours. Swiftly switched to the bikes and then the troubles began. It began very early in the race and went on for four days more. With many short stops and many long stops for sleep we somehow got through the mammoth bike stage, it took us over 40 hours. Then we switched for trekking. With 76km over dense forest, wet swamp, steep hills and one mountain pass, this was supposed to be the crux of the race. And it was. We stayed sharp on navigation, but Ken’s problems became to snowball. Interesting thing was that even with our speed so low and so many stops, we were able to catch many teams and eventually got to 5th place. Maybe it was because of our sharp navigation, maybe other teams had problems also, I do not know.
What I do now, is that we battled the Patagonian landscape for another whopping 51 hours (on food worth of 20 hours!), but it took its toll on Ken. At the next transition, which was about halfway of the race, he informed that he was not able to continue. The disappointment was endless. We were willing to continue under any circumstances, but there was no way of convincing him. No one knows, what is the other going through, what pain he has etc.
Still, needless to say, this is not what we have come for. We wanted to fight till the end, race with other teams and battle Patagonian weather and in the end, finally make it. However it did not happen. I have been in Patagonia many times before and I hoped that I would be able to use this experience when we finally raise enough money to get here with my team. It did not happen this year, but I got some more experience and hopefully it will happen next time the race is organized.