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 Steven Bell, captain of Team Regulators (#58) from Redding, CA, and a lineman for a public utility.
What was your adventure racing experience prior to Eco-Challenge: Fiji? Have you participated in previous Eco-Challenges or other adventure races?
Prior to Eco-Challenge: Fiji, I had never competed in a race of this magnitude. My adventure racing experience was limited to 24 and 48 hour races. As a young adult, I religiously watched every Eco-Challenge. It was a dream of mine to have the opportunity to test myself against the world's toughest elements and best athletes.
How did your team come together, and how did you train for Eco-Challenge: Fiji?
Team Regulators came together by each individual’s drive for excellence. Each member was interviewed and selected for their outstanding team attributes, personal motivation, and intestinal fortitude. As a team we all held knowledge in different fields so that our training consisted of sharing that knowledge with each other and hardening our endurance. It was a challenge to prepare for everything we thought the Eco-Challenge would throw at us, so we utilized the amazing rugged terrain, mountains, and waters that surround the North State.
What were you most looking forward to at Eco-Challenge: Fiji, and what scared you the most?
I looked forward to, and was also most scared of, our ability to cross the finish line as a team. Thinking back, no individual leg seemed impossible to me, but I knew, as a whole with food and sleep deprivation, the race would take a toll on us. My sole goal was to get our team across the finish line "healthy" and still as friends.
What was your favorite piece of gear and/or clothing and/or food?
My favorite piece of gear, oddly enough, was a race required tarp. Unfortunately, we spent the few hours of sleep we got away from camp and under the make-shift shelter provided by that tarp. It absolutely saved us from the elements, but was also our reprieve. Every time it went up, it meant a team puppy pile, warmth, security, much needed rest, and at least 5-minutes of laughter before we were out cold.
Describe a favorite moment of Eco-Challenge: Fiji, or one where you suffered the most.
During the race our team was tested in many ways, but we did not suffer on any physical test or ailments; instead, we were tested in our ability to continue mentally. We found ourselves in an extreme storm while navigating the last leg of the race in the open ocean. As the day went on, the storm grew stronger, dark approached, and after 23 miles of paddling, fatigue set in and we made the decision to beach our canoe. The island we chose was approximately 2 miles away from the finish line. We spent the entire night staring at the light from the finish line, while laying on palm leaves, listening to the wind and crashing waves. Knowing it was so close but unattainable at the time was sickening.
After Eco-Challenge: Fiji, would you do another adventure race? Would you do the Eco-Challenge again?
The Regulators would absolutely answer the call once again and compete in the next Eco-Challenge. No one but us expected us to cross that finish line. Now hardened by Fiji, and with what we have learned, we hope to have the opportunity to prove ourselves one again and compete with other top tier teams.
What internal struggles did you experience during Eco-Challenge: Fiji? Did you experience any moments of self-reflection and/or growth?
In Fiji, I experienced many moments of self growth and reflection as most do when in hard times. But for me, I knew I had to fulfill my job as team captain and friend. To be there for each individual in their darkest moments and push through adversity together. To set aside selfish expectations and put the team first.
What was re-entry into civilization like, both after the finish line in Fiji and back in your home country?
I know coming back state-side was extremely different for each one of my teammates. Some didn't acclimate as well as others. However, for me it was right back to the grind. Back to work and training the following day.
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 would like people to see our participation in Eco-Challenge as a huge triumph for the "nobodies." We were a group of rookies, none of which had professional experience, huge media followings, expensive gear or training and all from a town no one knew existed. Yet, we were not subdued by adversity and conquered Fiji nonetheless. We want to show the world that hard work pays off, mental toughness beats all, and the human spirit can overcome anything.
Stay tuned for more from USARA! Visit www.usara.com for more information on adventure racing in the United States.
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