Raid the North Extreme was the first expedition race I didn’t finish, and the first race ever that after the race was over I felt completely demoralized.  I didn’t want to hear how the other teams did.  I didn’t want to umm and ah over every decision every team made on their way to a DNF like us.  Because in the end only four teams finished the race, the entire race.  The rest were either shuttled or took short courses etc. etc.  The results are still being finalized… who knows if they ever will be.  I should note that this will not be your typical race report, so, if you’re looking for a typical race report my team mate Nicki has provided one here.

Here’s our team.  Nicki and Claire from Calgary and Matt and I from North Vancouver.

Matt, Claire, Me and Nicki

Disappointment OR Success?

Since we did not finish the race and we ended up with a team mate in the hospital after 4-1/2 days should I consider the race a disappointment or a success?  I guess that depends on my expectations and our team’s common expectations before the event.  In our pre-race weekend where the entire team got together in Nelson for an entire long weekend we got in some really great fun training and we also set out some goals (or expectations) for ourselves.  Based on the teams in the race at the time we figured a top-5 finish was possible, a finish should be out of the question and we wanted to stay safe and have fun.  Four pretty simple goals.  Based on our expectations we failed miserably.  We didn’t finish, so there goes the first two, we ended up with a team mate in the hospital with Campylobacter because we didn’t treat our water, there goes number three, and we didn’t have nearly as much fun as we did in training or in any of the previous races we had raced together, so there partially goes number four.  Based purely on our documented expectations we scored about 0.5 out of 4.  So the question becomes was it a disappointment or a success?

From an expectations point of view, the race was a failure, but does that mean it was a disappointment?  Failure is more objective while disappointment is more subjective, but they kind of mean the same thing.  By all definitions out there it seems that based on the expectations of the event, the outcome was indeed a disappointment – so how could it be a success?


The race can be considered a success if I choose to learn from the failures or disappointments and turn them into lessons learned for future races but more importantly for just the plain future.  We can learn so much about ourselves when we examine what we deem as a failure.  For instance, the most simple thing to learn from this race is no matter how fast the water is flowing it’s imperative to treat that water.  The life lesson, is don’t take things for granted otherwise they might come back to bite you in the ass (literally).  Amazingly I wrote about this life lesson BEFORE the race here.

Another example of something I’m taking away from this race, is to make sure everyone is on the same page regarding the team’s expectations.  Even if they are written down it’s very important to have buy in from the entire team regarding any expectations that the team may have.  This buy in must be demonstrated by everyone on the team.  Unfortunately this was probably our team’s biggest downfall.  Even though we set our expectations on paper, come race day, and based on pre-race training these expectations were not bought by all the team members on our team.  The life lesson is eerily similar.  If you’re going to set goals for yourself personally or in business it’s extremely important to write them down, but even more important to believe in them 100% otherwise you’ll never achieve them.

So how can I deem this event a success?  I will learn from the failures.  Whether they be as simple as not treating water or as complex as not communicating properly before and during the race.   So is the race a disappointment or a success?  I guess that depends on the perspective you use to look at it.

Epic OR Insignificant?

The race course was truly epic in my mind.  By epic I mean grandiose, I mean large, I mean difficult, I mean extreme, I mean killer.  All of these words explain parts or all of the course that we competed on.  The elevation gain and loss was awesome.  Hardly ever were we walking along the same elevation for more than half an hour.  When we were it’s because we were bushwhacking; we were bushwhacking in the thickest slide alder and devil’s club I’ve seen in BC and it reminded me of the bushwhacking in the uninhabited regions of Southern Chile in Patagonia.

Sean and Enduro heading up to CP2

I have never been on a more difficult course, and for that reason I absolutely loved it.  I loved every minute of it.  Did I love it because of the difficulty?  Yes.  Did I love it because I was conquering it to the best of my physical ability?  You bet!  It absolutely revved me up and still does at my capacity for pain and suffering any my physical ability to literally push, pull and carry my team when I had any spare energy left.  I felt I gave it 100% for 100% of the time and in my one small moment of weakness I knew exactly how to react and I did, getting me out of that weak point within 5 minutes.  I have never been so tested physically ever by something and I felt I passed physically with flying colours.  So how could all of this make me feel insignificant?

Matt and Sean moving through CP2


There are two ways I felt insignificant in this race.  Both in a “this world” is bigger than me kind of way.

The first was the terrain.   Being out in the wilderness in terrain that probably less than 100 people year ever venture into truly made me feel insignificant and made me feel so grateful for the world we live in and the pieces of nature that are left for us to explore.  The Valhalla Mountains and in particular the Devil’s Range left me awestruck.  Walking in snowfields with glaciers underneath, trekking beside frozen lakes, witnessing enough ice to fill a fleet of school buses crash and avalanche to the ground, and summiting two saddles between the range only to see mountain tops in the distance and frozen lakes on the ground, left me absolutely speechless.  Hands down this was the most amazing site I’ve ever seen in Nature and the pictures will be forever ingrained in my mind.  (Unfortunately we forgot our camera on this section…)  Now this may sound pretty Epic, but in reality it really set home how insignificant we are in a world of beauty and wonder that is literally at our finger tips.

The second was the race.  No matter how well I felt or how well I could physically push myself, the result didn’t matter.  In the grand scheme of things, the result didn’t matter one bit.  What mattered was the experience and the things we could take away from the experience.  It was these takeaways that made me realize that as a racer in a race I’m just one small insignificant piece of a larger pie called Life.  I do these races not because I want to have amazing results (though I do like that), but because I love pushing myself to limits and places that I have not yet ventured and adventure racing has always pushed my limits and helped me understand more about myself.

So just like before, Epic or  Insignificant?  I guess again it depends on your perspective.  At least we’re all smiling :-)

Claire, Matt, Nicki and Me

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One Response to Raid the North Extreme – Disappointment OR Success? Epic OR Insignificant?

  1. Phil says:

    Hi, PhilNicolas.- Climb4SMA. I appreciated your read about rtnx. From your description of how your race turned out, we also suffered similar results. Personally, I also managed to foster some campylobacter, even though I was the only person who treated all my water throughout the race. I suffered like one wouldn’t believe and ended up withdrawing Friday evening after the final paddle after giving everything I had, in an effort to allow the best teammates I’ve had, the chance to complete as much of the course as possible. Our fourth teammate was a huge lesson learned, as you seemed to have also experienced. From expections and goals agreed upon, to execution of transitions, to food we carried, and the biggest component: training regiment. We had 3 people buy in, and the 4th claimed he was on board, however we soon began discovering that he really wasn’t. Warning signs were present, however we gave the benefit of the doubt to each other and him. We should have reacted as a team, but that’s another story. Lesson learned. We also high/low moments, and things we’ll never forget. For our 1st expedition for all of us, we did a lot of things right, and a few things wrong, we’ll definitely do better next time. Humbling; many lessons learned.