Having conquered the terrain in several parts of the world, Lawrence Foster decided to take his act to Africa and returned home last week with the same old result. Another victory.
The 32-year-old from Sault Ste. Marie teamed with three others to capture the Senqu African Quest Adventure Race May 30 to June 5 by finishing the 500-kilometre course in just over four days. Along with teammates Tamara Goeppel, Chad Ulanski and Scott Ford, Foster’s Team Salomon Canada finished eight hours ahead of its closest rival.
But unlike the Eco Challenge North American Championship race he won north of the Sault last year, Foster said this race was a little more challenging because of the mountains and the enormous amount of time they spent on their feet.
The race tested the team’s ability in such disciplines as trekking, mountain biking, rope climbing, canoeing and kayaking, all of it done through the African wilderness.
The victory earned Team Salomon a berth in the 2005 world championships at a site still to be determined.
“There were some very interesting parts of the course,” said Foster, who is engaged to Sault native Tricia Westman, another adventure racer who is currently sidelined with a pair of hairline fractures in her ankles.
“A lot of it involved traversing mountain ranges and when you’re that high up, it’s quite cold. It was really something. There were times when it was 29 degrees Celsius during the day and then it would drop to -9 or -16 at night.”
It was made more interesting by some of the adversity Foster’s crew ran across en route to the finish line.
Coming into the first transition point, Foster’s team was stunned to find that event support staff had not yet arrived with their supplies and equipment, forcing them to sit and wait for three hours for the crew to arrive.
“We were ahead of schedule so when we got there (transition point), the support crew wasn’t there,” said Foster, who just graduated from teacher’s college at Nipissing University in North Bay. “Fortunately, a staff member was there to record our time but we still had to wait around.”
Then, later in the race, Foster’s team again found itself without any support help support vehicles bring gear and supplies to the competitors so they had to carry on for close to two days in the same clothing and with limited food.
“It was pretty funny,” Foster said. “We got to this one little town and I went in and ordered 18 sandwiches and everybody just looked at us.”
He also recalled a mistake he made earlier in the race when he chased down a teammate to tell her they were going the wrong way. The team turned around and carried on for about an hour before realizing they were going in the right direction in the first place.
“That was during the bike session and I made that screw up,” Foster said. “Tamara took what I thought was a wrong turn and she was way ahead of us so I had to chase her down. We turned around only to find out about an hour later that she was right all along.”
While admitting that the course north of the Sault last July was extremely challenging, Foster said the race in Africa tested his resolve like few others.
“I think African Quest was tougher because of the amount of time we had to spend on our feet,” he said. “In the Sault, we raced 60 kilometres of the 500-kilometre course on our feet and the rest of the time was spent cycling or canoeing or kayaking.
“In Africa, we were on our feet for close to 150 kilometres.”
Saying adventure racing is the toughest thing he’s ever attempted, Foster said he no longer looks at other endurance events as miraculous. He said he once thought about competing in the gruelling Ironman triathlon but isn’t as eager anymore.
“I used to think of the Ironman as the ultimate race,” he said. “But this distance in Africa, 500 kilometres, was really something so for me, the Ironman’s not the ultimate goal any more.
“In fact, it’s been quoted that the Eco (Challenge) eats the Ironman up for breakfast.”