Endurance Quest Espoo

  • Finland (FIN)
  • Off-Road Running
  • Off-Road Cycling
  • Paddling
  • Navigation
  • Open Water Swimming
  • Other Disciplines

On The Road To The European Championship – Team Multisport.Fi Back In Business

Press Release / 13.09.2023See All Event Posts Follow Event
Team Multisport.fi back in action
Team Multisport.fi back in action / © Poppis Suomela

Less than year ago Team Multisport.fi team members Pauliina Pohja, Mikko Sakala and Mäkelä brothers Jaakko and Ville put up a WhatsApp-group which was named “Endurance Quest 2023”.  The first message was about gathering the old gang together after an 8 year break from racing.  

Although it was a long time since the last start together at the 2015 European championship in Ireland, team members had been busy doing other athletic things during the past few years. Could we improve from our previous race together? Last time it was silver- this time hopefully a brighter medal.

Before Endurance Quest in August the team gathered once in July for a training camp. It was good to meet up again after a long time and also to calibrate the speed and targets for the race few months before the start. As all the guys live next to the competition area it was a known fact that this time the race would pass through the home territory.  It was agreed that there was only one target for the race: win.

One day before D-day, the team gathered in Haltia Nature Centre and it was great to see so many other enthusiastic teams.  Team members made the final call on their roles: Jaakko & Ville would work as navigators, Mikko took care of the road book and Pauliina kept up the talk and ensured we paid attention to the details. We knew that racing on home soil could be deceptive: forgetting the navigation could end up costing us and for that reason navigation would be the number one priority.

Race day morning was beautiful and the weather forecast would be perfect for 24 hours.  Maps were handed over at 8.00 in the morning which gave us plenty of time to verify our equipment plan which we agreed on the previous evening. It was the first time ever for the team to get the maps only for the first half of the race. Maps for the second half would be received further on during the race, before stage 4.

At 10.00 in the morning we started the race prologue.  Proper orienteering brought us to TA1 in the lead with a solid performance.  The first MTB stage was familiar to us as the race passed through our training areas.  The MTB stage passed through Espoo central park where small paths and skiing tracks zigzag the area. It was proper MTBO with world class maps. The stage ended atHanikka beach where kayaks waited us.

The entire team had spent some time in the kayaks during the summer so we were confident on our fitness.  Espoon Suvisaaristo is beautiful for any water activity during the summer with numerous islands and narrow waterways. Team SAFAT had been alongside us since the start and the kayak leg made not much difference even if we were a bit faster on water. After three hours of sunny sea kayaking we arrived back to the bikes and started the next bike leg towards Meiko recreational area.

This bike leg was on bigger gravel roads. We had decided to take a shortcut on small paths which ended up being a mistake. In addition to narrow paths, a storm the week earlier had cut down trees on the way. As we arrived in Meiko, we had lost 10 minutes to SAFAT for the shortcut we made.  A new page was turned in the race and we became hunters.

Meiko Nature Reserve is famous for its difficult terrain and orienteering.  Before the leg we received all the maps for the second part of the race and we decided to draw the routes as it was still light. It didn´t take too long as we continued our way and headed out on the 16 km orienteering leg.  The leg was real orienteering and compass use was a must.  During the 2.5 hours we made less than 5 minutes of any kind of navigation errors. In the middle of the leg there was a rope section where we met SAFAT. The difference was roughly 15 minutes so SAFAT did a good job as well.  Changeover from orienteering to the next bike leg was pretty fast as we fueled ourselves and prepared the lights for the night.

The next leg was a long MTB section on the gravel roads and we consider ourselves strong bike riders. The only mistake on the leg, and the biggest during the whole race, was when both navigators were turning the maps.  Mikko and Pauliina went downhill and a road crossing was missed. It took us at least 5 minutes to come back to the same place due to the uphill on the way back.  Later, we saw the red rear lights of SAFAT and estimated that there was roughly 15 minutes gap still.  As the route headed into Nuuksio National Park, the trails became narrow and we started to prepare ourselves mentally for the long hike in the park.

As we reached TA3 before long trek we saw SAFAT preparing for the run. Our changeover was OK as we left all our cycling equipment behind and tried to make our backpacks as light as possible for the run. If Meiko is a difficult place to navigate at night, Nuuksio has similar features. You have to be careful with several path crossings and ensure with the compass that you are heading in the right direction. Our route was planned in a way that swimming through the lakes would shorten the route quite a bit.

The first swim was mandatory for all. The swim was magical as steam was rising off the lake and random lights were seen across the water. We were able to maintain a good pace during the whole leg and at halfway we saw some lights in front of us. We became curious who is in front of us – is it SAFAT? Who else would there be in the forest. The lights disappeared and as we had already seen several campers by the lakes we thought that some camper was on the trail. A few kilometers later on top of a hill we saw 2 headlamps – it is SAFAT!  We had caught them, what a joy!

After a friendly reunion the teams continued the journey together. There were few options two take a shortcut and swim across the lake. We were not too eager on swimming but at the end of the leg we took a swim across Lake Urja as the sun started to rise.

TA4 was reached and we had already decided to do swimrun instead of canoeing and pulling the canoe into thick bushes.  After the race we heard that our decision was probably not the fastest,but maybe not the slowest – who knows? The Leg was straightforward and we returned to the TA after an hour run.

The last run towards the finish of the race was 8 kilometer orienteering.  As we were still neck and neck with SAFAT, teams started to think how the final move should be done as following each other’s moves was obviously important at this point.  The pace started to rise as we were closing on the Haltia Nature Centre. Everyone was still relatively fresh after 21 hours of racing and nobody was falling back. In the end we managed to take the win as SAFAT was racing outside the competition with two racers and pulled back to let us cross the line first.

Victory! We reached our target with a solid race. It was awesome to get a world class team into the race and keep up with them.  There were less than 10 minutes of true navigation errors and we made one bad route choice. We kept a good pace for the whole race and our teamwork was good. Even if we were racing on our backyard, we had to stay sharp with our navigation and that we did.

The organizers promised a straightforward route and proper orienteering. They kept their promise and added beautiful scenery and perfect weather on top of everything.

Is the team now ready for the European Championship – Yes!  It is great that we can go to France and hunt another victory.  Maybe we can improve our result from Ireland back in 2015?

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