Summit’s Olof and Whitney Hedberg endure Paraguay rainforest, place 27th at 2022 Adventure Racing World Championship
Over the span of a week, Whitney and Olof Hedberg slept for roughly two hours each night as they paddled, trekked and biked over 550-kilometers in the rainforest of Paraguay in South America.
The Summit County residents operate the Summit Nordic Ski Club on a typical day, but in their free time, the Hedbergs train for events that test their limits — like the 2022 Adventure Racing World Championship on Sept. 17.
Over 164 hours — the duo competed alongside two of their Pioneers Svexa teammates as they endured minimal sleep while traversing a rugged and grueling course.
Adventure Racing is a unique type of endurance race. Instead of focusing on just one discipline, the race focuses on several, and the Paraguay world championship course was an expedition adventure race, meaning it spanned for more than one day with sleep being included in the final running time.
The race featured eight legs of trekking, paddling and biking. The largest legs included a 120-kilometer trek and a 94-kilometer paddle.
“Expedition racing is this beast of a sport,” Whitney said. “It takes a lot of gear and it takes a lot of planning. When you are out there, it is just a big experience because it goes on for so long. You are dealing with sleep deprivation. You’re navigating the whole thing.
She said there are points in the course where a race director gives you details about the next leg, but “it is up to you to figure out how to get there.”
“You are often traveling through really remote sections of the world,” Whitney added.
Olof said the team had to hike through the jungle on a 120-kilometer foot leg while being soaked to the bone in the powerful rainforest rains. The rain was so powerful that it broke through the canopy and doused the forest floor, creating sloppy conditions.
“You are literally hanging from vines trying to get up this mountain,” Olof said. “You are maybe going 1-kilometer an hour — at best — and you are like, ‘Oh I have to do this for 120 kilometers.’ You can’t compare it to anything else. You are moving so slow and have so long to go, and you are in a place with no other humans. It is a really intense experience.”
The team atmosphere and the remoteness of the sport is what makes the Hedbergs enjoy it so much.
“What’s appealing to me is the experience that you get,” Olof said. “It’s so much more than just the race. I really like the race aspect, but I also feel the experience you get with your team and this complete remoteness that you have is something you can’t have any other way.”
The Hedbergs have participated in adventure racing races before, and in 2017 they even raced separately in the 2017 world championships in Wyoming. In 2017, Olof took third with the Adventure Medical Kits team while Whitney took 25th with NV Journey.
The 2022 World Championships provided both Whitney and Olof the opportunity to race alongside one another as part of the same team —something the couple say they couldn’t pass up.
The couple came into the race with the goal of finishing in less than 153 hours and placing within the top 30 participants.
After roughly 164 hours of racing, the Pioneers Svexa team came out of the dense forest to cross the finish line in 27th place out of 48 teams. Their finish met the Hegbergs’ goal of placing within the top 30 to secure an automatic invitation to next year’s world championship race in South Africa.
“Regardless of performance, crossing the finish line is really, really cool,” Olof said. “If you bang your head against the wall, it is really nice when it stops. Crossing the finish line and getting able to do that at the World Championships with Whitney was really special.”
“We were satisfied that we executed the race to the best of this team’s ability,” Whitney added. “It really is a true team effort, and we really executed well. We all finished satisfied.”
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