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300km running, swimming and paddling: the Gaspésie International Raid by Arnaud Côté Boisvert

At 21 years old, Arnaud Côté Boisvert was the youngest participant in the 3rd edition of the Gaspésie International Raid (RIG). During this 4 day challenge, teams of adventurers must complete a 300km journey by running, swimming, and paddling. Arnaud and his teammate Pierre Poirier finished in 18th position out of 40 teams. Our Näak athlete, a skimo runner and trail runner, tells us about his first time participating in the RIG.

Näak: Arnaud, how did you prepare for the RIG? 

My preparation took a turn when I started training like the Norwegians, who have the best cross-country ski team in the world.

For many years now, the Norwegians have been training 80% at low intensity and the other 20% at high intensity. In the past, I used to train at high intensity a lot. Like the majority of people, I thought that if I wasn't pushing myself all the way, I wasn't gaining much in my performance. 

Since I changed my training method, I have been progressing more rapidly. Good recuperation has also been crucial. For instance, I took two days to rest before the race to be in shape.

Arnaud Côté Boisvert  pendant le Raid international Gaspésie

Näak: How was the rhythm of the race? 

The first day of the race (the prologue) was short, but intense. We didn't take any time to rest, because this is the day when you want to show everyone what you're capable of, and you want to start the race with a good ranking.

The first day lasted roughly 4h, whereas the other days were about 8-9h. The race stops at night and resumes at a steady pace in the morning. Every day is different. We prepared the maps in the evening for the next day. Therefore, we did not sleep more than 5-6h per night.

Näak: How would you describe the RIG in 3 words, and why? 

Exceptional: I've never been so crazy about a race before. At times, I would ask myself "Why am I here?". It was my first long distance raid, and I really want to participate in more.

Fast: I was expecting the race to be fast, but I never thought it would be this fast. I like endurance and long distance... With a high pace on top of it, it's perfect!

Welcoming: All along the race people are really friendly and welcoming. The organization and the volunteers are as well.

Kayak sur la rivière du Raid international Gaspésie

Näak: What did you consume during the race?

I ate Näak bars to get as much protein as I could all along the race, and Fruit2 de Xact Nutrition gels. It's what made me last the 4 days. 

I would also eat a wrap with peanut butter for lunch. I thought I would be tired of eating the same thing after 4 days, but every time I was happy to be eating that because I needed it!

Näak: What were the hardest moments during your race? 

The second night of the race. While we left that morning thinking we would have an errorless day, we ended up getting lost. We made the mistake of following another team in the last downhill portion of the race instead of following our own map.

We lost them on the mountain bike trail, and then we had to walk in the dark on that trail with all the mountain bikers behind us and with no food... It was terrible! Let's just say I would've loved to have 1, 2, or even 3 Näak bars at that time to finish the race.

It's in those moments that your mental game is challenged. I had another hard moment on the last race day. We left on Sunday morning at 5am on our canoe. Everything was going well until I suddenly felt seasick and sick to my stomach. I was a zombie for 2h30.

I drank a lot of water and it ended up going away. I later realized that I hadn't drank enough water the previous day, and that my calves were swollen because my kidneys were overworked; a common symptom during raids.

Arnaud eats Näak bars during his races. Näak energy bars are made with 100% natural ingredients, including cricket powder. Click here to find out more about his favourite flavour, choco-banana. 
Näak: How did you overcome your hardest moments? 

The time when we were lost, it's teamwork that made us move forward. In addition, hunger guided us to the end (laugh). 

On Sunday morning, I didn't think I would finish the day. It had to hydrate myself and stay positive to finish the race.

Näak: There were challenges during the race. Which one did you find the hardest? 

I had no issue overcoming physical challenges. However, I don't like tight spaces, so going through a manhole was the least exciting challenge for me (laugh). But overcoming things is what makes the raid great!

Parcours dans un tunnel pendant le Raid international Gaspésie

Näak: What are the key factors for success in a race like this? 

Teamwork above all. You must support your teammate during the hard times, both physically when you have to pull them during a climb, and mentally when the mental strength is low.

To succeed you need to follow your own course. Don't go in there with your head down and following another team, because if that team makes a mistake you make one too. Then, you no longer know where you are on the topographic map.

Pierre called me out on that a few times. Being young and fiery, I would tend to go in with my head down. We got caught a few times, and I learned to take my time, which is sometimes hard to do in the context of a race.

In addition, you cannot neglect nutrition. It's important to constantly be drinking and eating, because if you forget, you pay for it.

Kayak seul sur la mer

Näak: You are the youngest participant at the 300km race. What is the most valuable lesson you learned that will help you succeed next year?

Try to get more sleep and manage my transitions better. We can save lots of time when we are quicker during transitions. 

To keep my head up, look at the maps more, and increase the amount of back-to-back big trainings I do.

Finally, in terms of nutrition, to use more electrolytes in my water to favour my hydration

Näak: What are your next objectives? 

I have an ultra-trail that is 160km long in Octobre. After that, I need to focus on the skimo season with the skimoeast circuit and the Canadian championship. I will also participate in one or two races in Europe this winter: the Sellaronda Skimarathon, and the Mezzalama.

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