Race to adventure

🕔Jul 28, 2006

This September, Prince Rupert will host one of the world’s premier adventure races, Raid the North Extreme, sponsored by Canadian company Frontier Adventure Racing Inc. A punishing six-day, 500 km trek, Raid the North Extreme (RTNX) will combine stunning North Coast scenery and terrain with ancient First Nations culture to provide “a course canvas that promises to surpass previous RTNX races,” all while injecting the local northern economy with nearly three million dollars.

An annual expedition-length adventure trek in its seventh year, RTNX is part of the Adventure Racing World Series, and winning teams qualify for the world competition. Geoff Langford, President of Frontier Adventure Racing Inc., says that his race, one of four main wilderness contests in the world, sticks to the traditions of adventure racing.

“Other races have created artificial challenges for their competitors,” he says, but RTNX compels athletes to “work as a team in a way the land invites.” Teams of four will hike, bike, paddle, and rock-climb as they navigate their route through the temperate rainforest wilderness with map and compass only. For the most part, the teams will be completely alone, taking routes of their own choosing, sometimes with more than 75 kilometres between checkpoints.

Because of this, Frontier will put competitors through a basic test of skills prior to the race, just to make sure that participants will be able to look after themselves out there on their own. “We make sure they have a certain level of fitness and a good understanding of wilderness travel,” says Langford. Race staff also inspect competitors’ bikes and first aid kits, and ensure they have the rope skills needed to complete the race.

One may imagine an adventure race team member to be a pumped-up, hardcore twenty-something with tattoos and a buzz-cut, but Langford says most of his participants are professionals in their mid-thirties looking for an exceptional psychological challenge.

“It’s more about teamwork and decision-making,” he says, noting that managing team dynamics and keeping self-doubt under control becomes a lot more difficult when battling the “sleepmonster.” Participants generally get only one or two hours of sleep a day during a race, so tying a safe knot and hiking step-by-step along a rugged path become exercises in mental endurance.

Langford has already travelled to the Prince Rupert area a number of times to garner community support and participation in the project, as well as to design the course the race will take. Frontier had been looking at other locations in British Columbia to host their year-crowning event, but Prince Rupert’s welcoming attitude, coupled with the spectacular terrain and unique First Nations culture of the area, set that city at the top of the list.
“Community support really closed the deal,” says Langford. He cites keen interest on the parts of the City, Tourism Prince Rupert, and practically every community element approached by Frontier on their first trip to Prince Rupert in early December.

There is good reason for businesses in Prince Rupert to welcome Frontier and Raid the North Extreme. The race will bring approximately three hundred people to the city over the course of the six-day event. Media, race staff, and competitors and their families will all need meals, hotel rooms, and last-minute supplies.

Not only that, but Frontier Adventure Racing itself will look to acquire event infrastructure items from Prince Rupert. The cube trucks and cars needed to move competitors and equipment from place to place will be rented from local businesses. Helicopter and float plane transportation needed to access the more remote sections of the course will also come from local companies.

When all is said and done, Langford suggests that 2.8 million dollars in direct economic benefit to the north is not an unreasonable expectation.

Raid the North Extreme will not simply bring adventure race competitors to Prince Rupert from all around the globe—it will also bring Prince Rupert to the world. The event is covered on an international level by television media, notably the Outdoor Life Network (OLN), and by web-casts on the Internet. When one considers the fact that Prince Rupert would like to market itself as an international destination for wilderness tourism, the value of this exposure will literally be priceless.

That being said, Langford is looking for community contributions and sponsors to help facilitate the race, which costs about $500,000 to put on. Frontier is working with the City of Prince Rupert and Prince Rupert Tourism to put in a grant application for some government funding.

“The goal is to help drive business locally, and offset some of our costs,” says Langford. Firms may choose to donate goods or services, or even adopt a team. Service organizations such as Search and Rescue may provide volunteers for wilderness checkpoints, and individuals are also encouraged to volunteer—it’s a great opportunity to see the race from an excellent vantage point.

Of course, an even more up-close-and-personal way to see the race would be to participate in the actual race itself. Local teams are always welcome to enter in Raid the North Extreme, and although Langford cautions that they typically never finish the race, several Rupertites with extreme outdoor experience—and don’t forget that invaluable asset, local knowledge—may put together a team.

No matter which team claims victory and a purse of up to $30,000 CDN this September, Prince Rupert will be the ultimate winner when it comes to the promotion and exposure that this international event will create.