Welcome to our series of interviews with American adventure racing teams who participated in the World's Toughest Race Eco-Challenge: Fiji! This 11-day adventure race took place in September 2019 and will premiere on Amazon Prime on August 14th, 2020. Check out USARA's dedicated Eco-Challenge: Fiji page for interviews from other teams and additional material concerning the race!
Please introduce yourself!
My name is Clifton Lyles and I am Team Captain for Team Onyx (#55) from Oakland, CA. I'm the VP and Corporate Chef for Revolution Foods.
What was your adventure racing experience prior to Eco-Challenge: Fiji? Have you participated in previous Eco-Challenges or other adventure races?
I have raced on and off for 20 years, with highlights being racing Primal Quest expedition adventure race in 2004 and 2006.
How did your team come together, and how did you train for Eco-Challenge: Fiji?
I wanted to have the first all African-American team to race on the global stage. So I used social media to find the team members. We trained remotely as we loved in other parts of the country
What were you most looking forward to at Eco-Challenge: Fiji, and what scared you the most?
I was most looking forward to finally racing in Eco-Challenge after 20 years of waiting. I was most scared of how we would race as a team since we had very little experience together.
What was your favorite piece of gear and/or clothing and/or food?
Light and Motion Seca Enduro lights for our bikes - they were the best bike lights ever and lit up the dark Fijian nights like it was day time.
Describe a favorite moment of Eco-Challenge: Fiji, or one where you suffered the most.
My favorite moment was riding into a very remote Fijian village, where we were met by the most amazing people. They gave us fresh coconut water and gave us a traditional Fijian blessing so that we would be safe in the race.
After Eco-Challenge: Fiji, would you do another adventure race? Would you do the Eco-Challenge again?
Yes, I can’t wait for COVID to be over so that we can all get back to racing again. I hope to be at the starting line of the next Eco-Challenge.
What internal struggles did you experience during Eco-Challenge: Fiji? Did you experience any moments of self-reflection and/or growth?
Having a young team, I tried to take on everything, and it wasn't the best way to race. I soon learned that while some of the team didn't have the same level of experience, they were amazing athletes and I didn’t need to try to do it all.
What was re-entry into civilization like, both after the finish line in Fiji and back in your home country?
It was strange - I missed the rugged beauty of the remote areas of Fiji and wanted to go back to that life.
How would you like fans to interpret your participation in Eco-Challenge: Fiji? Did you set out to inspire another group of people and do you think you accomplished that?
I want people to see that the only limits that we have are the limits we place on ourselves. We wanted to show African-Americans and other people of color that they have a place in the outdoors and that sports like adventure racing are not off-limits for people of color.
Stay tuned for more from USARA! Visit www.usara.com for more information on adventure racing in the United States.
A space for AR musings from the USARA team and guest authors. Ready to race? Check out the rest of our resources on the USARA homepage.