11 lessons from completing one of the world’s toughest races

The Yukon River Quest is a 440 mile nonstop kayak race in Northern Canada; it’s regarded as one of the hardest races on the planet. Nearly 30 per cent of boats were forced to scratch due to capsizing, injury, exhaustion and hypothermia. The race took over 78 hrs to complete with just 10 hrs of rest in that period.

The sense of achievement in finishing the race was enormous, but what was most rewarding were the lessons it reinforced for me that go far beyond kayaking:

  1. Never underestimate yourself. I am by no means a good at kayaking and was petrified by the challenge in front of me, but by working hard you can make up for the lack of skill.
  2. The tough times don’t last forever. It can feel like the elements are against you, we faced headwinds for hours that were extremely demoralizing, but if you put your head down and work through them they soon disappear.
  3. The power of teamwork. You fail and succeed together so it is essential to look after one another. Find people that complement, inspire and entertain you and the challenge will be easier.
  4. Take the lead. If something needs to be done, get on and do it, don’t wait for someone else to do it.
  5. The power of local knowledge is invaluable. If you know where the river runs fast you can double your speed. Developing a detailed understanding of your environment is essential to success.
  6. Don’t scratch. There are times when you feel like giving up. Work through them and you will come out stronger.
  7. Enjoy what you do and smile. Life is easier when you are having a good time, so look for the positives even when everything around you is testing your limits.
  8. Plan for the worst and hope for the best. Identify the things that can go wrong and make contingencies for them. If you can plan for all scenarios then you will be in a better place if they come around.
  9. Set goals. By setting small goals that ladder up to an overall objective this helps to break down the challenge into manageable chunks and helps build momentum.
  10. The harder the challenge the greater the reward. Set the bar high and push yourself to achieve it, the feeling of accomplishment is worth the pain in reaching it.
  11. Stay organized. Try and make life easy on yourself by having everything within reach. For example I duck tapped Krave Jerky to my kayak, used a tiny NoMad KeyCharger that kept my phone juiced up along the trip, without the hassle of a bunch of wires. Thinking ahead to these kind of simple shortcuts kept my kayak organized and stress free!

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