October 02, 2021 Expedition Canada
When the call came to work the Expedition Canada adventure race I’d never heard of the AR world series. AR stands for Adventure Race, and they really mean adventure… I had seen events like this on TV before but never knew much about them. The opportunity to go on the water and be involved in a race like that was very cool.
The race in the Okanagan was called BC Wild. It was originally scheduled for June 2020 and then 2021; stupid covid…
After a few delays, they were finally able to put on the event from September 29 until October 3, 2021.
It was a race that was not for the meek or for the faint of heart. The athletes that competed were in the most amazing condition. There were fifteen legs to the event. Hoodoo Adventures from Penticton was the host organizer and they hired Luxury Lake Tours to be on the water and provide safety and support for the paddling sections on Okanagan Lake.
They started out with a relay swim where all four athletes from each team completed a 1 km lap in the Okanagan Lake in front of the Visitor Centre in Penticton. That was followed by a run through the Skaha Bluffs and then a bike ride from Penticton to Naramata. When the racers arrived at the water in Naramata, Captain Brad met their water safety coordinator and they set out on the lake. The wind was howling and the race was changed to stay on the east side of the lake. The boat ride was an adventure for the racers and our crew alike.
By the time darkness had set in, the intrepid adventurers were wet, cold, and tired. They were also blown off the water and told to start the next leg of their race.
And it was only day one.
I can’t imagine the training and fitness level it takes to even attempt what these men and women accomplished on the first day. And there was much more to come.
After completing the paddle, which was shortened due to weather, the seventeen race teams left the valley floor and peddled to the top of the mountain. From there they ventured into Okanagan Mountain Park on foot and then back on their bikes to go to the next section which was to challenge a treetop course. When morning came they had to cancel the stand-up paddleboard part of the race due to the extreme winds from the night before blowing all the course markers to the shore.
The athletes continued on through the mountains and to Big White Ski Resort. When night fell the racers were informed that there was snow in the alpine and the ski patrol would not go out in the dark to rescue any wayward teams. Most of the late teams were forced to wait until morning. The lead four teams who were setting the pace were able to complete the alpine climb and run. By day three the leaders had pulled hours in front and made it to the lake for the second paddling section by one in the afternoon.
Fifty hours into the race the lead team left everyone in the dust. They finished at Big White and rode their bicycles into town. They weren’t interested in resting. They had the end in sight. All the leaders had to do was paddle a canoe fourty kilometres and then run the last fifteen to the finish line in Penticton. That’s it – just fifty-five kilometres to go.
After 350 km in the wilds of the Okanagan.
I Watched those athletes push their seventeen-foot canoe across the gleaming waters of the Okanagan and was thoroughly impressed. With no rest and no sleep, the three men and one woman were like machines. With incredible durability and stamina, they would finish the fifteen-stage mammoth event in 61 hours 28 minutes, and 29 seconds. The next fastest time was 67:17:09 a difference of almost six hours!
Expedition Canada was a showcase for the strength of the human spirit and how much the human body is capable of when trained and pushed to its limit. A limit that I couldn’t hope to come close to.
I spent fourteen hours on the water watching these intrepid athletes travel the home stretch from The Kelowna paddling centre all the way to the Naramata Wharf. A distance of 41 km. That in itself was impressive. Considering they just completed three of the most grueling days crossing the Okanagan from Penticton to Big White and down to Kelowna – it was even more impressive.
I started my day on the lake at 1 pm and we followed the lead group. By 4:00 am I was back at the dock and the water safety guy took an hour to sleep while I went home. Captain Brad took over and was on the water for another twelve hours. It was twenty-six hours of boat time for the Tripple or Nothing, Luxury Lake Tours pontoon boat.
Out of the seventeen teams that started on September 29 from the Penticton Visitor Centre only four managed to hit every checkpoint on the way. Their times ranged from 61 to 77 hours. The last of the weary souls to cross the finish line made it just before the noon cut off on October 3. The final teams struggled into the finish line after just under 100 hundred hours on the course. It was a remarkable feat of endurance.
After spending the time watching these athletes persevere I was inspired. The human spirit will not only survive but thrive when challenged.