Stage 2, Day 12: Sun-Squinting; Soloing an Oval

R2AK and the Pacific Crest Trail are two grueling endurance events where ambition defies comfort, and participants trade soft beds for whatever flat surface they can find. Both start with a spark of inspiration, a mess of logistics, and the struggle to fit big dreams into small lives. Gear is bought, plans are shuffled, and then comes the First Day, stepping into the wild.

From that first step, racers and hikers begin to transform into beings fueled by willpower, energy bars, and a hint of masochism. They’re easy to spot: disheveled, sunburned, and smelling like a mix of fear, joy, sweat, and fulfilled dreams.

Like long-distance hikers, R2AK-ers stay connected, forming loose packs bound by similar paces and mutual respect for the madness of their quests. They leapfrog each other, sharing tales of close calls and tough decisions along the way.

The racers arriving yesterday are one of those loose packs. 

  • The duo of Team Only Lubbers Left Alive showed up a little before 9 AM, Mark and Chelsea arriving asleep on their feet, but full of life. Out of the four Santa Cruz 27s to cross the start and finish this year, Lubbers were the only ones to do it with less than three crew. Kudos. 
  • Forty-five minutes after Spitting Kisses (Lubbers’ boat) touched the dock, the first R2AK soloist of 2024, Adam Cove of Team Wicked Wily Wildcat doused his single sail just inside the breakwater of Thomas Basin and took the time to make his gear shipshape before rowing the last few meters to the dock. Imagine this: rowing a vessel more oval than arrow-shaped, 18-feet long and 8’ 6” wide. Compare that to a boat built to be rowed—the MAAS single rower: 24-feet long and 22” wide. And yes, he did row that sucker. A LOT.
  • A five-hour gap ensued before Team Knot So Fast, aboard their never-before-having-touched-saltwater vessel brought their Idahoan feet to the dock. Admitting to some level of withholding their true experience level from the R2AK Vetting Team, these guys made it nonetheless, now with a much greater respect for tidal currents.
  • The last arrival of the day was several years in the making. Team Norepinephrine’s origin story goes way back. Father/son duo Lionel and Randy first competed in the 2019 edition as Team R2ACHE, making it as far as Port McNeill before equipment failure knocked them out. In 2020 and 2021, they were ready to go, but COVID had other plans. Randy and Lionel took to the water once more in 2022, but after a gnarly Proving Ground, they had to call it quits. Now, a full five years after that first attempt, they stood on the dock in Ketchikan, finally. Looks like they got smart and brought aboard some ringers—new team members Ted and James seem to have made the difference.

20’ and Under Award

As racers tend to do in the land of Ketchikan, a gathering was had last night at the Alaska Fish House, to the dulcet tones of a local open-mic-ing some passable Lady Gaga tunes. Amid this throng, the Duckworks 20’ and Under Award was brought forth, and recipients John and Kaila of Team Tips Up were presented the ceremonial box containing their prize: a set of tactical sporks in a custom carrying case designed and built by Turn Point Designs in Port Townsend. John and Kaila are walking around with hero status in Ketchikan as other arrived racers continue to rethink the level of their own badassery.

They’re still out there.

Remaining on the course are seven teams—ranging from 9 to 253 miles distant. Communication with these teams is sparse—they’re focused on getting here, not on all the glory. But what we have heard is this: Team Mr. X and Team Spirit of Nevetz got together in Shearwater for some well-deserved R&R, and Liam of Team Fairly Fleabag was the recipient of a racer-crowdsourced hotel room for the night in that same spot. As for the others, their icons seem to be moving, and we can’t wait for the stories.


Header photo by Amy Arnston

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