A world-class athlete who turns adventure racing into His Lifestyle
Staffan Björklund has been involved in professional sports all his life. His career started early on in the Ice Hockey world in Sweden, and then he moved onto skiing, climbing, ice-climbing, swimming and mountain biking. Nine winters ago, he ended up in Telluride and soon found his place in this community of adventurers and mountaineers. Here in Colorado, Staffan and I met and have since shared adventures and chatted over many cups of tea.
Last year, his career as athlete really picked up when he was hand-selected to race for Sweden as part of Team Peak Performance, one of the best adventure racing teams worldwide. For Staffan, adventure racing was a natural progression from what he was taught by mountains, ice, rock and the ocean his entire life. His playground is Mother Nature and he feels at home in all the elements.
In case you have not heard about Adventure Racing, it is a cutting edge sport, where teams of four members (one has to be female) race in multi-discipline events which present a progression of challenges such as mountain biking, running, kayaking, rope skills and swimming while constantly navigating. Course lengths vary between 300 - 1100km (240-1,600 miles) from start to finish! An uncertain number of check points exist and navigation and orienteering are always key factor. The whole team has to stick together throughout the race, and is only allowed to be maximum 50-100 meters apart from each other on land and maximum of 10 meters in/on the water. The races may be as short as a few hours, or last up to a week, pushing the team to their absolute limits and beyond.*
Team Peak Performance recently gained the attention of the media worldwide, when a stray-dog called “Arthur” joined them on their race across Ecuador. The team could not bring themselves to leave the dog behind and the dog as well was hell-bound on finishing the race amongst the Swedes.
When I listen to his stories and look at photos from the races, I began to ask myself, what makes you dedicate your life to experience pain and suffering, train for hours on end and race with your team mates somewhere in an equatorial jungle, on snowy mountain tops, hike through knee-deep mud and paddle until your arms fall off?
For Staffan, the answer comes easily as racing allows him to get “in the zone”. Adventure racing is his meditative outlet, a journey to the Self where you are faced with your darkest sides, your deepest fears and you end up pushing yourself through sheets of trouble and pain and experience a different level of being.
Over the years, Staffan’s approach to his activities and races shifted. From wanting to win, beat everyone and become the very best athlete in the world, he surrendered, kept pushing his boundaries, left his ego at home and started to become stronger than his strongest excuse. You think you have reached your limit and then you push passed that and go beyond. This is what Adventure Racing is all about. Just like when studying yoga, we are being told that the possibilities to our existence are endless and that, with diligent practice and patience you can and will achieve anything you set your mind to, Staffan breaks boundaries and lives the impossible on a daily basis.
From just being an athlete, Staffan starting making a living out of the quest to find himself. His life is a race beyond his wildest dreams!