This is the reason athletes sign up to Red Bull X-Alps. What will yours be?
It’s the world’s toughest adventure race (no, really, it is). Over two weeks, you’ll bank enough memories of strain, glory, epic flying and mountain adventures to last a lifetime. And the good news is that you’ll mostly forget the exhausting part, as these athletes explain.
I've been thinking a lot about the race lately and all the emotions I had during the event – I still feel them strongly. This race is more than a simple race, it is a huge project that you’ll focus on for more than a year! You have to give everything you’ve got into it – preparing, training, flying, setting your team, finding partners etc.
“You play a chess game in the middle of the Alps with the best players in the world.”
It makes you meet new people, new places. You will spend long times with your team, friends and share great emotions together. You will also discover the Alps, great landscapes, and you will feel a huge freedom flying into these huge places. This race is not just about nine days of racing, it is about everything that is linked with the race. All the people, the places, the emotions, the beauty.
“It is a mind game as much as a physical game.”
As an athlete I would add the ‘chess’ play of the race. That is what I love most in this race. You play a chess game in the middle of the Alps with the best players in the world. What will be your move? What about his? How can you take advantage of the landscape, the forecast, the flying conditions, your physical health. That is what I love about this race! It is all about tactics, thinking, anticipating. It is a mind game as much as a physical game!
“I’ve never done anything so repeatedly and remarkably fun.”
I can’t speak for the other athletes, but somehow, even though there is undoubtedly an absurd amount of pain, not to mention the preposterous training, time, dedication, expense, risk and wholesale relinquishment of anything else important in life that is required to participate in this lunacy, I’ve never done anything so repeatedly and remarkably fun.
Near the end of day nine in the race, one that stands out for being even more stupid than the rest— with over 17,000 feet (5,100m) of vertical climbing to get airborne four times, crash landing into trees after stuffing it into an unlandable canyon, and covering over 60 kilometers on the ground – I got a text from Will Gadd, my partner a few years back on a bivvy trip across the Canadian Rockies and a pilot who competed in the first edition of the Red Bull X-Alps in 2003. It read:
“There is nothing better you can possibly be doing with your time! Go!”
And he was right.
After 11 days and 23 hours, our journey was finally complete. Even though our team was emphatically happy and all smiles, we were all also in 100% agreement: 2017 would be the last. The X-Alps box had been ticked. Why do it again? The time, the cost, the training, the risk: It just wasn’t worth it. Three weeks later, I got an email from both my supporters Ben and Bruce on the same day saying ‘let’s do it again’. I’d been thinking the exact same thing and I’m still planning on making it one more time.”
“It will be the most extreme, exhausting and thrilling experience.”
You should apply because you will never regret facing the big challenges in life. It will be the most extreme, exhausting and thrilling experience, but at the same time you will live through the most intense and beautiful moments. Collect the memories and they will burn deeply into your mind.
The entire paragliding community knows the Red Bull X-Alps race, but perhaps few people have stopped to think what that race really means.
“It's a fight with yourself, your flight ability, your fitness and your mind.”
In theory it is a competition between many of the best paragliding pilots in the world, so hard that most of them will not finish it. But in reality, it's a fight with yourself, your flying ability, your fitness and your mind, in some wonderful mountains that can give you the best or the worst.
The preparation of this race is hard work, requiring months searching for information, maps, routes, sponsorship, training and the best equipment.
“Every hike and fly pilot has to do the Red Bull X-Alps, it's a very good way to know yourself and your limits.”
Every hike and fly pilot has to do the Red Bull X-Alps, it's a very good way to know yourself and know your limits. It’s a race where you find the best emotions on great flights and dreamy landscapes and the worst nightmares with fatigue, injuries, disappointments – but you have to control them and continue.
For this reason the race is really a great school, I thought that doing good positions in XC competitions and having a good shape would be enough, but I came back from the 2017 Red Bull X-Alps with a lot of things to improve and train for the year 2019. We were lucky to have great support in 2017 to cover the budget, I imagine one of the lowest budgets of the race. It would have not been possible without the help of my sponsors and I thank them – and Red Bull – for giving me the opportunity to take part.
For more stories and discussions follow Red Bull X-Alps on Facebook!
Photos © zooom / Harald Tauderer, zooom / Vitek Ludvik, zooom / Honza Zak, zooom / Sebastian Marko