The final official R2AK 2023 update from Race High Command has come in, as the last “winners” arrive in Ketchikan after three weeks and more than 700 miles.

Hokay race fans. Gather round and listen up. It has been a long, hard, sweaty, 23 days at Race High Command. We are living off the last crumbled bits of ramen noodles from Ruckus, we are willing the damn Weatherfax to stop its incessant beeping (does anyone know how to turn this thing off??), and we’ve resorted to using our treasured leather-bound editions of dark Romantic poetry to prop up our faithful 1981 coffee percolator, which—in a surprising turn of events—has started to beg for mercy. Our throats are parched and our eyes are glazed; there has even been some unplanned barfing.

You think this is all rainbows and unicorns? This adventure race stuff? Transforming lives and captivating armchair adventurers the world over with a dizzying array of VMGs and LOAs and OMGs and WTFs? Watching smugly over the early days while everyone fogs up their phones with the heavy breathing of Who’s Gonna Get There First, and churning out a big stack of cash and consolation steak knives and now even sporks (sporks!?) to swaddle the “winners” in a sense of “achievement?” Writing sensitive, life-affirming, accountability-group-appropriate daily updates in which we poke some fun and get you a hot little “just arrived at work and am gonna open this email real quick to see what’s up with R2AK” chuckle before you head into whatever soul-sucking meeting starts after lunch?

Well, Let Us Tell You Something Sweeties: This is it. The game is done! Forget about the money and the knives and the sporks. Forget about blowing through the most astounding and unspoiled parts of our planet with some kind of timeline, a dim hope of glory, the hubris of speed. Get with the program and turn off Easy Mode. No up-up-down-down-left-right-left-right-B-A-Start bullcrap. The Final Four have gotten their money’s worth, and you—our stunned, forlorn hangers-on—might *just now* begin to understand what it takes to squeak by the Grim Sweeper and actually Get Somewhere. Even the rowers all finished on Sunday—today we’re dealing with the molten core of R2AK, and they’re facing forward.

This ain’t bicycling through the Louvre—this is grooving through the world’s most astounding exhibits on a vintage hoverboard at a brisk but humane pace, spending as much time as you think is right, reading the labels, making it count (someone had to write those labels!). The day is well nigh done.

Team SeaSmoke blew into the Baranof dock at 12:13 pm Monday for a finish time of 18 days, 1 hour, 13 minutes. For those 3 to 4 people on the whole internet who aren’t up to speed on this—he’s been paddling a fancy fast-looking kayak. It really does look fast. But there’s really no room for extra snacks. There’s no kitchen. There are no pillows. There’s no bathroom. Certainly no freshly-baked cookies or poetic anthologies of any kind. Rob’s been doing this for more than 700 miles. In R2AK HQ parlance, this is nuts—something you Should Not Do. These are boats built for inshore competitions and plucking unfortunate surfers out of sticky situations. Not a multi-week international unsupported passage through some of the gnarliest waters in the world. Also with bears. Nuts.

Toybox Express, oh Toybox Express. Charming. Wholesome. Plucky. Also a kayak. Not as fast-looking, but it has sails, and other extra parts. To be honest it looks kind of weird. But didn’t they win you over on day one with their matching set of delightfully-Canadian flapjack pajamas?  Didn’t they tug at your heartstrings with their bromance-iversary chronicle of Oh My Gosh Our Boat Is Leaking? Self rescue! Pontoons! Perseverance! A visit from the RCMP! But seriously—these guys did it right. They’ve adventured before, and they’ll adventure again, (hopefully less wet next time) but they understand what R2AK is all about. You and your heart versus yourselves and the sea, even when waist-deep in the icy brine. They got in a bit before midnight and went straight to bed; as of press time we’re not sure whether or not they were in those matching pajamas.

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Header photo by Liam Pareis.