XPDition of a lifetime

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Ten days straight and over 700km of trekking, mountain biking and kayaking with little sleep in between sounds a bit like a nightmare – unless you work for Outward Bound, in which case it’s an adventure of a lifetime.

Outward Bound staff members Chris St Jack, Jason Schreiber, Laura Marshall and Ben Kaiser took on the challenge of this year’s XPD Adventure Racing World Championships and pushed themselves to the ultimate limit of human endurance.

In true Outward Bound style, throughout the race the team embodied principals of the Outward Bound culture; resilience, self-discipline, skill and reflection, as they endured harsh conditions and navigated through check-points to the finish line.

Team member Laura said their ultimate goal was to finish as a ranked team of four, which they successfully achieved, finishing the race with an impressive rank of 37th out of 89 teams from countries around the world.

Laura recounts the team’s experiences:

“’As much an expedition as a race’ is the XPD motto and this year it was combined with the Adventure Race World Championships, 89 teams began, with 44 ‘full teams’ finishing the race.  Ben, Jason, Chris and I headed to the wild, wet and wonderful north-west coast of Tasmania for ten days of adventure racing. We undertook a variety of activities including trekking, kayaking, mountain biking, clay pigeon shooting, caving and canyoning, covering a total of 733km.

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We began steadily, keeping a pace we could maintain. The weather came in many variations: heat, cold, wind, rain and snow. We experienced a few bike mechanicals - a broken chain, a split tyre and worn out brake pads. These were dealt with and we moved on steadily.

We pushed on with minimal sleep. Until the Arthur River we averaged two hours sleep a night, with some nights just settling for power naps, stopping and sleeping where we were for 20 minutes; just enough time to recharge but not get cold. The sleep monsters were evident early on with hallucinations and voices constantly being heard– surely there was a group coming up behind us! Covering large distances on one discipline, like biking or kayaking, is hard when combined with sleep depravation as the monotomy of the task started giving us the nods. This was very evident on the 70km kayak leg where we found we would just catch ourselves before falling into the river! Alternatively, hitting a rapid normally refocused us!

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The Arthur River was a highlight, with continuous flowing water up to Grade Two white water and encased by the ancient and somewhat prehistoric feel of the Tarkine Forest. The river section also had an enforced Dark Zone so from 7pm until 6:30am we had to stay off the water, meaning the chance to dry out with a fire, hot food and more than double our sleep hours thus far.

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The final legs were tough as our bodies were feeling the drain of energy and injuries started to appear in our feet and legs. Nevertheless, we maintained high spirits even with the most gruelling part of the journey towards the end, a trek of 25 km; a short distance but over boulders, dense bush and mostly in the darkest hours of the night.

This played on our minds and bodies quite a lot, so we were relived to reach the final transition and enjoyed a smooth last leg of mountain biking, taking in some roads along the coast to Burnie oval with a lap of the cycle track and a warm welcome form Bens family.

One of the beautiful aspects of XPD was the ripple effect on people supporting us. One example is Ben’s sister, a primary school teacher in Tasmania who used the values of  XPD as a teaching aid for her Grade One and Two class. The children sent us some beautiful poems, pictures and asked us a lot of questions. They also told us that they played XPD at lunchtime and followed our date on line. That’s a whole class of people following Outward Bound!

 

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Our ultimate goal was to finish as a ranked team of four and we are happy to say we achieved this, along with many individual, personal goals. In summary, XPD was an amazing experience and we would like to thank everyone who has supported us, especially Moxie Gaiters, Outward Bound Australia, Andrea Strand, Mick Scicluna, Equipped and our family and friends.”

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