Interview with Nicola MacLeod

Nicola MacLeod, 30, of Edinburgh, Scotland, is an army doctor and one of the world’s top adventure racers. Indeed, in addition to winning the Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race in February, 2009, MacLeod’s team, Helly Hansen—Prunesco, recently won the Adventure Race World Championship race in Portugal. The team, including Macleod, Nick Gracie, Tom Gibbs and Warren Bates, pushed for six days in Portugal with little more than seven hours of total sleep.

Team Helly Hansen—Prunesco is now training and gearing up for the 2010 Patagonian Race. Like last year, MacLeod will race with Mark Humphrey, Bruce Duncan and Andy Wilson for the February event.

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Nicola MacLeod in Patagonia

Gear Junkie: How is the Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race distinguished from other major adventure races you have done?

MacLeod: WPER is a true wilderness experience. I have never felt so isolated from humanity than in the forests and mountains by Cabo Forward, “the cross at the end of the earth.” It’s a vast and beautiful area, and for the first time in adventure racing I really felt as though we were treading ground unseen by others. The difficulty comes from technical terrain, navigating from satellite photos, tough weather conditions and the magnitude of the environment.

GJ: How did the Patagonian race last February compare to the Adventure Race World Championship in Portugal this fall?

MacLeod: The stages in Portugal were short, sharp, and we were surrounded all the time by 60 other teams. WPER was our own race: A team of friends pitting their wits against the weather, the terrain and our own minds.

Team Helly Hansen-Prunesco Kayak.jpg

Team Helly Hansen—Prunesco in Patagonia during the 2009 race

GJ: What separates WPER in the world of AR? How is the race different?

MacLeod: It’s one of the only true expedition races left. There might be three checkpoints a day and the route choice is yours through glacier, forest, cliff, mountain or southern sea. The risks of high weather and life-threatening navigation or route choice errors remains, as we saw last year, and the landscape is just pristine compared with many others we race in now. The organization sees taking part and experiencing Patagonia as the privilege. There is no prize money. This race is there for those who truly love the adventure in the racing.

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