By Abby Perkiss, USARA Board Chairwoman
Episode five opens in the early minutes of day five, with Team New Zealand staring at the 1,000-foot ascent up the face of Vuwa Falls as the chase teams are snoozing in TA. Captain Nathan Fa'avae describes the strategy in their decision; they can set their own pace, without having to worry about teams around them. But the plan comes at a cost. While Gippsland, Canada, and Tiki Tour bank sleep, the Kiwis push on, gambling on their ability to rest at the top before daylight. “If we want to continue to be a champion team,” says Fa'avae, “we have to suck it up and push on.”
But the ropes are slow going, says navigator Chris Forne. And the team is now likely too wet and cold to stop. It doesn’t look like sleep will be in the cards that night. Ahead of them is an 8km swim, a 16km paddleboard, and a 50km highlands trek en route to Camp Four.
A Family Affair
Days behind, the back-of-pack teams are pulling into Camp Two off the jungle leg. Team Able Abels arrive in 53rd place, well ahead of the 12:30pm cutoff. Still, their spirits are low. They just spent 12.5 hours sitting in water, Lauren tells her mom, TAC Allison.
As Allison comforts her daughter, I’m left wondering: are there vulnerabilities in having a family member as your support person? Just as they walk the careful tightrope of parent and crew, so do the racers balance their roles as child and competitor. Is Lauren at risk of throwing off her equilibrium with her mom there, making her more susceptible to dips in motivation and drive?
After a quick montage of teams arriving at TA – Teams Khukuri Warriors, Onyx, and Stray Dogs – we see the sun rise on day five and the dark zone lift at the whitewater put-in.
There, Team Atenah Brazil, now in 24th place, prepares their boats and makes plans for a local guide at the takeout. As they set off, we hear a now-familiar (though no less compelling) refrain – the women of the team have gone from daughters to mothers in the time between Fiji 2002 and 2019. An interviewer asks Karina what she wants her children to say about her. “That I was a life-eater,” she laughs. “That I live my life very intensely.”
Then the conversation takes a powerful turn. We learn that Jose, the team’s fourth member, is filling in for his late wife, Kris. Kris was Shubi, Karina, and Nora’s teammate and coach. Five years earlier, she died of cancer. It has been many years since they all raced. Eco is the first opportunity to bring the team back together. They are racing to honor their teammate and friend.
Back at Camp Two…
Teams Able Abels, Endure, Eagle Scouts, US Military, and Costa Rica are all setting off on the 59km mountain bike to the rafting section. Team Onyx, in 58th place now, is the last team remaining. Until the previous night, they had slept only four hours over four days. The five hours they got in Camp Two were restorative, says Clifton, magical. The team is rejuvenated and ready to rock the next section.
Coree is particularly excited for the upcoming highland trek. A professional trail and mountain ultrarunner, the “ground game” is where Coree thrives. Suited up in a Speedo, Coree is someone we want to hear more from. He came out as gay at 25 years old and now he uses his platform to advocate for the LGBTQ community and communities of color in the outdoors.
Just ahead, the Abels are crossing the first of several river crossings on the mountain bike route. It’s a good reminder that just because you’re on a bike leg doesn’t mean you’ll be riding your bike. Dan Abel describes his role as captain and father as a razor’s edge. It’s almost a conflict of interest, he says, looking out for the safety of his daughters while worrying about team strategy. Seeing the narrative arc of this team – this family – you have to wonder if the relationships, clearly so strong, may ultimately be the team’s undoing in terms of finishing the course.
130km to the northwest, New Zealand has finally finished the ropes course after eight hours negotiating the climb. For Sophie, in particular, the section was a challenge. She hasn’t raced in four years, and she struggles with the shifting identities between mother and competitor. There is, on one hand, the loss of independence that comes with having kids, and the guilt she feels being away for training efforts. And then there are her own doubts about her ability to race with her three strong teammates, who have won three world championships in her absence.
Talk about that razor’s edge.
Nathan, meanwhile, seems to be having his own low moment. He’s tired, and the section has taken longer than they hoped and expected. But he doesn’t have time to dwell on it. The team is getting ready for a quick 8km dip in the Nisavulevu Creek, where water temperatures hover around 58 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bear Grylls tells us that they’re expecting many teams to drop here due to a combination of low morale and physical issues.
Less than 10 kilometers behind, second-place Team Gippsland is ascending the Vuwa climb – nicknamed the Widowmaker, according to Bear. The team is led by Rob Preston, but their secret weapon seems to be Rob’s wife, Katherine. “A real hidden talent,” he tells us. Katherine does look strong as the team surges up the falls.
Team Canada, in third place, is also on the falls. Captain Bob Miller recounts how his race ended here seventeen years ago, when jungle rot ate up his team’s feet and made walking impossible. Keep going, Bob and team! With no Americans in the lead pack, we’re rooting for our neighbors to the north!
Team Tiki Tour, having made a couple of wrong turns, is now in fourth place, and eager to catch up to their Kiwi rivals. Of note here, team member Joanna Williams raced with the New Zealand crew (then Team Seagate) to victories in the 2016 and 2017 Adventure Racing World Championship. A reminder of how small the AR world is; often, competitors become teammates, and then become competitors again. This likely also means that Jo knows some of New Zealand’s trade secrets. Will it help Tiki Tour in their bid for a podium spot?
A hundred kilometers behind, Team Costa Rica is getting ready for the whitewater rafting. Veronica Bravo is particularly nervous for this leg; several years ago, she drowned during the rafting leg of an adventure race and needed to be resuscitated. I get chills watching the team help each other through the section. Veronica says it perfectly: “The moment [of fear] passes, and then you realize, maybe that’s why you’re there – to be resilient.” Wow…
Meanwhile, Team Onyx is ready to make its way out of Camp Two. It seems that the whole team is eager for the upcoming leg. With more land travel than water, this crew of ace bikers and runners is excited to capitalize on their strengths and see what they can do. Riding up one of the many Fijian rollers, Chriss notes, “Some you walk, some you ride, and some you scream downhill.”
Further along on the bike route, rain has transformed the clay road into muddy red muck. While the Mad Mayrs seems a bit caught off guard by it, for Team Endure it’s just another day at the office. “This is the Eco-Challenge way,” Mace tells us as he pushes his bike through the slop, the metal ding of his spokes ringing with every rotation. This is most likely his last race, Bear reminds us. It sounds like Eco is giving him just the send-off he expected.
An emotional Travis reflects on growing up with this Eco legend as a dad. When he was a kid, he tells us, the two would walk the dogs together in the woods every night. And each time Travis would wonder: how is he not afraid, walking around in the dark in the woods? “And I would reach into his pocket,” he remembers, “and grab his hand, and I’d get that feeling that it’s going to be okay. I’m here with my dad and it’s going to be okay.”
Whew… What a journey this team is on.
Further back, the Abels have just reached CP15, the start of the mud slick – or as race personnel tells the team, “bili-bili squared.” You can see the conditions starting to wear on them, particularly for Ashley and Lauren, the two younger Abels. This scene also gives us what might be the first mention of their intrepid fourth team member – maps-whisperer Fletcher Hamel (#ThereisFletcher!)
The Warming Hut
After the eight-kilometer swim, New Zealand has finally reached dry land, and they’re making their way to CP22. There, they encounter a makeshift camp, including a warming hut and a team of medical staff. With water temps below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, race personnel want to ensure everyone’s safety before allowing them to continue on. The Kiwis are grateful for the reprieve – especially, says Sophie, for the warm coffee. Clearly, the team is depleted. This section took its toll. Will they be able to maintain their lead?
Just a few kilometers behind, Gippsland is taking on the cold creek with expert efficiency. They’re chilled, of course, but they’re looking strong and focused; they seem to be better-positioned right now than the Kiwis ahead. When they reach dry land, Bear finds them running down the road. It’s clear the team is racing; they’ve got no time for a chat. They offer the host a quick high five, and then it’s down to business.
Fourteen kilometers past Camp Two, Team Onyx is enjoying the ride. Or at least Chriss, Coree, and Sam are. The three have stopped on the road, chatting with locals as they await the arrival of Clifton. Chriss tells us that this isn’t atypical for them; often their captain is slower on climbs and then catches them on the descents.
When Clifton hasn’t arrived 10 minutes later, the rest of his team turns back to look for him. Cut to action-camera footage of a rider – presumably Clifton – crashing on the side the road, he and his bike tangled up with each other. As the team comes into view, we hear the helicopter overhead, and Bear yelling in alarm: “Team is down, a team is down.”
We’re all hoping this is just a dramatic Bear moment. But we’re all worried that this could be the end of Team Onyx’s race.
By Brent Freedland, USARA Board Member
Day three is winding down and the lead teams are trying to run down Team New Zealand who reaches checkpoint 16 and the start of the white water rafting leg with only two hours of sleep in the bank. The mandatory dark zone has fallen, and teams are forced to wait for the 6AM restart. While New Zealand’s Nathan Fa’avae reflects on the fact that several chase teams will be able to catch up and join them for the restart on day four, there is a major bonus for those caught in the dark zone: sleep. Team New Zealand has been the best of the best for a decade, and while their team dynamics, skill set, and navigational abilities elevate them above the competition, their understanding and grasp of strategy always gives them a further edge. We have heard Nathan note that the team hasn’t started to push yet, it seems that their understanding of time management and course logistics have come into play once more: while other teams race on behind them, at unsustainable paces, one wonders if New Zealand conserved some energy, recognizing that they wouldn’t make the dark zone in time. And now they will be able to bank 3-4 hours of extra sleep trailing teams likely won’t take.
“We are going to help you!” shout the village children as Team Endure approaches the raft launch; Endure gets to work, the team working with the local villagers to build the bili-bili while Travis gets some hot food going. When they complete their raft, Team Endure shows their experience; instead of setting off in the dead of night, they elect to seek shelter in the nearby village. Warm, dry beds will help Mark Macey, who needs extra sleep to forge ahead. While the team is sacrificing valuable race time, they are modeling the first rule of adventure racing: take care of your team’s needs. If they approached the race like most teams, driving themselves beyond the norms of exhaustion, it’s unfathomable that they would be able to reach the finish line. A decent sleep in the warmth and comfort of the village - instead of cold and shivering on a river bank - seems like the right call for Endure, and they will surely move more efficiently on Day 4 as a result.
For the Khukuri Warriors, the bili-bili are a surprise; they were expecting inflatable rafts, not bamboo. In many adventure races, race directors provide teams with detailed guides including mileage and time estimates, elevation profiles, and discipline schematics; thus far, it is clear that The World’s Toughest Race is not playing by such AR norms, reserving maps and course information for transition areas, surprising racers as they progress through the course. Raid in France famously follows a similar model, and it adds an element of strategy to the event, requiring teams to be even more adaptable than they already are. The Warriors seem a bit unsure about the bamboo rafts, and they also note that they have heard rumor of sharks in the river. Upon first thought, this seems like an unnecessary concern, but after a bit of time with The Google, we learned the infamous bull shark does indeed inhabit Fiji’s freshwater estuaries!
At the back of the pack, 24 hours behind the lead teams, night has fallen, and AR legends Team Stray Dogs are lost as they search for CP 12. Upon its inception, Eco-Challenge captured the nighttime adventures of its participants with grainy, green-lit night-vision video. Being able to film such nighttime action in full HD glory only further enriches the story of teams like Stray Dogs, lost in the darkness, undoubtedly fighting “sleepmonsters” as they seek to get back on track and stay ahead of the cut offs. Thankfully, wisdom and experience persevere, and the Stray Dogs make it to the bili-bilis. Marshall Ulrich notes that they are on the edge; at their current pace, they will not be able to keep up with the cutoffs. In some ways, being the Lanterne Rouge in a major expedition race is the hardest job of all: such teams endure the most time on the course; their pain lasts for days longer than the front runners; they encounter the same bad weather (and sometimes more of it), or tricky navigation, or technical terrain as everyone else; but they also have to contend with the mental strain and anxiety of knowing that they face elimination with every wasted minute, every wrong turn, every minute stopped. The Stray Dogs are too experienced to fall apart as a team, but the strain of knowing they might not be fast enough is apparent.
A day ahead, Team New Zealand launches their rafts. As expected, several other teams have made it to the dark zone overnight; for them, the race starts anew. Some, like New Zealand, have slept a considerable amount in transition, but others are launching without the benefit of that added rest. As we get our first glimpse of the rafting, it is breath-taking. Spectacular gorges hewn out of jungle-clad cliffs, cascading waterfalls, narrow crevices full of broiling white-water. The teams are taking this section on without guides, which is a good indicator that there is no big-time white-water. Still, the run looks spicy enough and it is set in an absolutely magical setting. Not a bad way to start day four. Canadian all-star Bob Miller, captaining Team Canada Adventure, notes that “To beat…the Kiwis, we definitely have to sharpen our [paddling skills], but we are also quite worried about the other teams around us.” While anything can happen in an adventure race, it does look like the race for the podium has narrowed down to five or six teams.
As the lead teams depart, Bear wonders if the Kiwis are concerned about their old rivals and Mike Kloser. For the first two days of the race, it seemed that Kloser and Team Out There might make it interesting. But a navigation blunder set them back, and racing from behind is always a difficult task. Closing the gap requires a massive output of energy, sharper strategy and navigation, and a bit of luck. Back in the jungle, Out There is trudging up the mud-sodden roads of the Fijian backcountry. As usual, Team New Zealand seemed to hit the timing just right: roads that were hard enough for steadier riding by the leading teams have dissolved into mud slicks and trenches for the mid-pack, and the Americans know that they are losing even more time, not just to the Kiwis but to the other lead teams. Still, they have clawed back to 8th place, and as Kloser keeps noting, anything can happen!
Back at Camp 2, Team Hombres de Maiz have been struggling with a broken bike. As is common in adventure racing, Andres Duante lost his rear derailleur, rendering his bike unrideable. Unable to accept help from the race organizers and volunteers, they are at the mercy of other teams. Would you let another team take your bike out in the muddy, bike-destroying Fijian jungle? Team Peak Traverse did, and such selflessness, helping another team who you probably don’t even know, defines the AR community. Duante is not only relieved; he becomes emotional, noting that “when you’re the one who [has] the problem, you carry that…I have three other peoples’ dreams of finishing this…on my shoulders.” Thankfully, the pressure is off, and the Hombres de Maiz will continue on!
Also in Camp 2, Bear stops in to talk to Hunter Leininger. Eighteen years old, Hunter is the youngest competitor in the race, and he is racing with his father, Jeff, on Team AR Georgia. As Jeff and Bear discuss, this is such an amazing opportunity for the two to race and bond together, and Hunter reflects on his participation in the event, noting that “the reason I’m here is to inspire kids to do this race [because] you can do anything no matter what your age is.”
The River Medallion
While team Onyx confronts leaky and sinking bili-bilis, Teams New Zealand, Tiki Tour, and Gippsland Adventure complete the raft and ford the river to locate the third medallion, this one representing the rivers of Fiji. “Bula!” the locals call to the racers as they navigate their way through the village, some clearly stopping for some fresh food or drink as evidenced by containers, bags, and wrappers in their hands. For those who have not raced in a country like Fiji, it’s such an amazing opportunity to explore local villages, well off the tourist track. The joy in the racers’ faces is evident as they shake hands with the village chief before claiming the third medallion, and the villagers are equally exuberant as they come out to cheer the racers on, supporting these modern explorers as they pass through on their way back into the mountains.
Ahead of the leaders is a 45-km trek, and it’s here that we see a unique wrinkle in the race. Typically, any outside assistance is prohibited during an adventure race, but the race directors allow teams to hire porters for this next leg of the event. The leaders quickly hire guides and porters to lead them through a complex web of jungle trails, and they offload their packs for several hours of unweighted travel, a rare moment of reprieve in such a grueling race. Team Canada has firmly established itself in the top five, but it’s veteran adventure racer Emma Roca on Team Summit who decides to use the locals in a more novel way: she hires horses. It’s not clear whether this helps them as they end up separating from the horses and then having to wait for them (and their packs) later on, but it’s always exciting seeing what a wily AR veteran comes up with!
Behind the leaders, it seems like all the Americans are on the water: six hours behind the leaders, Team Bend Racing is whitewater rafting through the same spectacular scenery the lead teams took on that morning. They are in good spirits and seem to have recovered from their rough start, climbing all the way back to fifteenth place. It was clear that this team had prepared well for the paddling based on their performance at the start of the race, and they look strong in the raft as well. Onyx, meanwhile, is not doing as well, struggling to fix their bili-bilis. That said, after some mending and teamwork, they get the bamboo rafts back on the water and are able to push on. Awake after a good sleep, Team Endure is forging ahead, too, somewhere on the river behind Onyx. Shane Sigle notes that they “all came here for Mace.” Despite the nightly breaks for Mark to sleep, they continue to be well positioned in the field to make the cutoffs and keep moving toward the finish. From HQ, Bear analyzes the tracking map, noting that Stray Dogs are a long way out from the next cutoff. They, too, are floating along in the bili-bilis, and while Bear knows it isn’t looking great for them, he also affirms: “It’s doable… They’re legends.” Bear’s positivity is clearly contagious, and hopefully his good vibes reach them as they bring up the rear.
As Day 4 concludes, the leaders march into Camp 3. The Kiwis from Teams New Zealand and Tiki Tour can be seen traveling together for part of the trek, but it appears that New Zealand has pulled ahead at some point to reach the transition first. Nathan notes that the team may have pushed a bit too much on the trek, getting caught up in the race with Tiki rather than focusing on their own race. If true, they may pay a price for it in the end, and it would be an uncharacteristic mistake for the most dominant AR team in the world. The rest of the top teams stream into Camp 4, and Day 4 concludes on a high note with Emma Roca reflecting on the amazing performance by their fifteen-year-old guide, Rebonee. “It was a beautiful experience,” she muses, and it’s clear that Day 4, filled with verdant jungle gorges, vibrant village life, and model teamwork and determination was a beautiful experience for all of the teams.
By Abby Perkiss, USARA Board Chairwoman
When we last left off, a major tropical storm had overtaken the racecourse, and race personnel had made the decision to stop the clock and hold teams at staffed checkpoints until they could continue safely. Teams are now spread over 230 kilometers, Bear tells us. We’ve left racing behind and entered “survival mode.”
You can imagine the headache this is causing for HQ, as they try to keep tabs on everyone. Thank goodness for the advanced tracking technology that allows them to have metaphorical eyes on every team. I’m having a flashback to Eco-Challenge Borneo, where Sarah Bordman and her Outrageous Adventures teammate went six hours off-course on the opening leg of the race – an ocean swim – and all anyone could do was hope they weren’t lost at sea…
But back to Fiji 2020.
In the opening moments of Episode 3, we see seventh place Team Estonia, trying to match wits with the raging Waiga Canyon. I love the moment when they reach the far bank, pull out their machete – because everyone travels with that handy machete in their back pocket – and start to cut their way through the jungle, cameraman following behind. This embedded media is incredible. So much of non-Amazon Prime adventure racing gets covered in transition areas. With the resources behind Eco, viewers are getting a visceral sense of what it feels like to be in the thick of it – literally.
As the sun comes up on Camp One, where most of the teams were stopped overnight, everyone is busy sorting gear and plotting maps in preparation for the mass restart. This is an interesting decision from race personnel. Does it give these teams an undue advantage, having that extended access to their kit when teams who were pulled at individual checkpoints are stuck with whatever food and clothes they have in their packs, unable to get warm or plan for the next stage? We also learn here that the first cutoff remains at 4PM, despite the course stoppage. I have to wonder whether any back-of-pack teams would benefit from those extra hours in their push to Camp One.
Speaking of, we return to our friends on Team Unbroken, who have camped overnight on the island and are readying gear and boats for the sea crossing to the mainland. The team maintains their strategy of adhering to a military chain of command, with Hal noting that he made the executive decision not to get on the water at night. You get the sense that he holds the weight of the responsibility that comes with being team captain. “You get to a point in life,” he reflects in recapping the call to spend the night on the island, “where you have to decide whether the things that set you back will be the things that define you.”
On the mainland but still 55km from camp, we see the so-called back-of-pack teams waking up in the Sote Village school house. Teams Stray Dogs, Khukuri Warriors, Onyx, and Able Abels are about to get on their bikes for the long ride to their support crews. As they set off, one of the twins from Khukuri calls out, “Make sure you don’t leave anything behind.” Even in this massive production, which has clearly taken over the entire island of Fiji (in amazing ways and, I imagine, disruptive ones as well) we still get that “leave no trace” ethos of adventure racing coming through. I love this sport.
The schoolhouse is also the backdrop for a glimpse into the inner workings of the Able Abels. As Ashley assembles her bike – for only the fourth time ever, she tells us – we hear how the team came together. Younger sister Lauren was away at college when Ashley reached out. It had been a lifelong dream of hers to compete in an adventure race, ever since the sisters watched their dad cross the line at Eco Fiji in 2002. It’s unclear how much coercion Lauren required, but given that the team is now getting ready to embark on the final section of Stage One, it’s clear she relented. “I’m blown away by Lauren’s selflessness,” Ashley reflects. The exchange is touching; this is a team you’re rooting for to make it to the finish. Side note: still no sighting of the team’s intrepid navigator, Fletcher Hamel. It’s a callback to the fourth member of Team Kodak, racing alongside Luke Skywalker – I mean Hayden Christiansen – and his siblings eighteen years ago. Who was that guy? #WhereIsFletcher
Back at Camp One and racers are gathered for the mass restart. Here, we get a rare glimpse of some of the less-featured American teams in the event, including our friends on Team Bones and Team Strong Machine. Love seeing these familiar faces in high def. Team Bend Racing is there, too, itching to get moving. Hopefully the downtime has helped Dan recover from his early bout of heat exhaustion, and they’ll be able to push onward at full strength.
As Bear counts down, we see teams spread out across the course – 230km separates first from last, remember – New Zealand in their bili-bilis, Unbroken on the island shores. And then they’re off. “Into the jungle we go!” someone yells, as teams head for the canyon.
Near Camp One, we find Bear greeting Team Estonia as they make their way out of the jungle canyon. “That was a long, wet night,” he says, offering kudos and good cheer. Actually, one team member corrects him. “We broke through during the night. We came to the checkpoint and then we slept.”
Sometimes experienced racers aren’t as good for TV drama.
After a brief return to Team Unbroken, who has now reached the Ocean Medallion, and an interlude with local favorites Teams Tabu Soro and Namako – the two Fijian teams in the race – we jump ahead to the end of the bilibili leg. As they pull off the water, Nathan Fa’avae remarks that the team benefited from rising water levels during the storm. Doesn’t it always seem like New Zealand gets that extra boost? A team that knows how to put themselves in the position to take advantage of a little bit of luck.
Following close behind are Teams Tiki Tour, Gippsland, Canada Adventure, Summit, and Thunderbolt – noteworthy that four of the top six teams are from the South Pacific. So far, we haven’t seen much in the way of interviews with these pointy-end racers, outside of New Zealand and Summit. It makes me wonder if the producers didn’t expect this group at the front. With Camp Two in sight, maybe they’ll start to get more attention.
Back in 57th place, the Stray Dogs are struggling. With eight hours to the cutoff and 40km to ride, we find Bob Haugh deep in a heat-related hole. Face caked in sunscreen, he’s trudging up a dirt road, clearly trying to right the proverbial ship. When Marshall Ulrich comes up and suggests that he unbutton his shirt – “show a little skin here” – Bob returns a quick punchline. Give the public what they want. It’s an easy rapport, built over years of racing together. The two are the elder statesmen of the team (and the sport), their decades of experience clearly pulling them along in ways their physical strength no longer can. Bob is grateful for his old friend’s presence. “Almost like having the Buddha with you,” he quips.
An hour ahead, the members of Team Endure are lugging their bikes through peanut butter-thick mud. Despite the challenge, Travis Macy remains upbeat. His energy leaps off the screen. What in Episode 1 might have felt like a performance now feels genuine. It’s who he is, and it’s how he and his teammates are going to help his dad through the race.
Family dynamics are on display across the course, from the Able Abels sorting through sweet tarts (#WhereisFletcher) to the nervous TACs in Camp One, anxiously watching the clock as the cutoff approaches. For the young women of the Abels and Khukuri Warriors, their crews are also their parents. It’s a hard balance, reflects the elder Malik, to at once help them compete and be their father. “The girls are very young still,” he notes, “and they don’t rationalize the dangers as much as I do.” Despite his parental concern, his support is clear. Don’t just dream at night, he recounts telling his two daughters, whose goal it is to open up adventure sports to more women and young girls in their home country of India. Pursue your dreams by day.
Another group breaking down barriers, Team Onyx, has stopped in a small village to regroup for their final push to Camp One. There, the local community takes note of their team makeup. “All black people?” someone asks. “The whole team,” Chriss Smith responds. “First team ever, from all across the United States.” The locals offer their approval, chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!”
Cut to an interview with Sam Scipio: “It means a lot to represent black females, in particular. You don’t see much of it in adventure racing. So, I’m happy to show people that there are black superheroes.” And then we get the first best line ever to come out of a race: “This is the closest we ever get to being superheroes.” Tell me you saw Sam in the trailer and didn’t get goose bumps.
Meanwhile, the lead pack has made it to Camp Two, where they’ll take their mandatory ninety-minute break and ready themselves for the River Leg: 63km of biking, 30km of whitewater rafting, and 50km of jungle trekking. All in a day’s work, right?
Aussie Rob Preston of Team Gippsland isn’t coy about his team’s ambition (for students of US racing, you’ll recognize Rob’s name from the now-dormant Team Tecnu/Adventure Medical Kits) . Their motivation, he says plainly, is to beat the Kiwis. Nathan Fa’avae – a thirty-year AR veteran – and his New Zealand teammates are the best in the sport, Rob continues. “But hopefully we can be the team that can knock them off the podium.”
Back at checkpoint twelve and the bili-bili put-in, midpack teams are busy building their rafts. As Bear tells us, these bamboo boats have been a mode of travel for local Fijians for thousands of years. The rafts also made an appearance in the 2002 Eco-Challenge Fiji. Then, Atenah Brazil’s Nora sliced her finger while cutting line for the raft. Two days later, she was pulled from the race, infection coursing through her body. This time around, she’s wearing gloves for protection.
Cut to Brett Gravlin of Team Curl, who has just nicked his own hand. As he cleans it out, hoping to avoid infection, I can’t help but wonder if this is ominous foreshadowing. This team of AR rookies includes Gravlin, described by teammate Steven Lenhart as a “stoner from Santa Cruz who surfs and raises kids,” plus science teacher Justin Smith, ultramarathon runner Jennifer Hemmen, and Lenhart, a former professional soccer player.
All we learn about the team here is that they all have curly hair – hence their team name. They’re likable enough, but it’s not clear yet why they’re being featured in the show. I get the sense that they must play a significant role in a later episode. Foreshadowing, indeed.
Further downriver, Team AR Georgia is plodding along on their bilibilis. As they struggle, they come across a local who has set up a cottage industry, carving out bamboo paddles at $4 a pop. Just as Stray Dogs set the record for the oldest team on the course, Hunter Leininger of AR Georgia gets the award for the youngest. Hunter did his first adventure race at seven years old and hasn’t stopped since. Now eighteen, Hunter is a seasoned racer, experienced enough to know that the $16 investment is well worth it.
As Hunter and his teammates continue down the river, back at Camp One the course cutoff looms. Team Endure arrives with two hours to spare. Not long after, the Abels arrive, to the delight of their waiting TAC Allison, AKA “mama bear.” When Ashley rolls in and sees her mom waiting, she melts into her arms. As I watch the scene play out, I can viscerally feel that emotional release. Sometimes in adventure racing, you just need a good cry.
Ashley collects herself and the team makes their way through camp to their station, eager to get off their feet and recover before heading off on Leg 2. As they walk, we see others TACs cheering on their arrival – a subtle indication of the tight-knit community forming in the camps. (still asking: #WhereisFletcher)
Here I find myself wanting more on the role of the TACs. What are they allowed to do? Can they resolve mechanical issues? Can they plot maps? Are their restrictions on the help they can give the teams?
As the Abels transition, Bear pops over for a quick hello, and the two sisters squeal in star-struck delight. It’s a sweet moment, and one of the few times where we see a chink in that fourth wall, a reminder that this is as much a reality TV show – with a reality TV star – as a race.
With forty minutes to spare, Team Onyx rolls in. Immediately, captain Clifton Lyles drops his bike and embraces their TAC – his daughter, Mikayla – in a huge bear hug. Clifton has played support for Mikayla her entire life; she’s proud to have the opportunity to turn the tables. As the team heads to their own camp – adorned with a Pride flag hung alongside the stars and stripes– Mikayla works on bikes as Clifton leads a discussion on sleep strategy. Father and daughter make a great pair, leading Eco’s first all-African American team into Leg Two.
At this point, Unbroken and Stray Dogs are the only teams who haven’t arrived at Camp One. Stray Dogs are still working their way through the 40km bike course, and Bob’s heat issues persist. We get a glimpse into how the most experienced AR teams operate: pushing each other’s bikes, offering pep talks, doing everything they can to keep all four team members moving. Adrian Crane reflects this when he notes, “back in the day, we were on competitive teams. Because of the ravages of a few extra years, we are really trying to get each other through this.”
Many kilometers behind, we see Unbroken finally reaching the mainland. They’re met by Race Director Kevin Hodder, who breaks the news that their race is over. It is impossible for you to make it to camp by the time cutoff, he tells them. I have no choice but to pull you from the course. The change in tone is palpable; in just seconds, you watch the team shift from elation to deflation. But then just as quickly, they start to recover.
“We said we’d go until they told us we couldn’t go any further, and we have done that,” says Gretchen. “What happened... was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done, and I’ve relied on you guys just like I would my own troops. And that meant the world to me. You are my guys. We are still unbroken. This will not break us.”
This is one of those archetypical Eco moments. On paper, the team has failed. They won’t make it to the next checkpoint; they won’t be able to continue on the course. But in profound ways, the Eco production team departs from previous seasons here. Rather than playing up the conflict among team members, rather than turning them into caricatures of inexperienced racers, Eco made a production decision to lead with compassion.
As someone who’s watched each of the previous editions of Eco-Challenge several times, I’m so moved by this decision. I’ve always felt that the later seasons – New Zealand, in particular, but Fiji-2002 as well – were propelled forward by intra-team drama and inter-team rivalries. While it makes for good TV, it’s far less compelling than the true nature of adventure racing: the grit, the perseverance, and the teamwork. I can’t tell you how much I love that the producers here have chosen to highlight humanity. And they do so at almost every turn. It’s what makes these early episodes of The World's Toughest Race: Eco Challenge Fiji some of the most compelling television I’ve ever seen.
Cut back to Stray Dogs, who have pulled into Camp One just as the cutoff hits. “It’s now four o’clock,” Bear tells them with a pregnant pause. “You’ve made it. You guys are through.” For a moment the team seems caught off-guard. They weren’t expecting to continue on. But then their whole bodies relax in relief.
“You are still on the world’s toughest race, says Bear. “Now go and smash it.”
Stay tuned for more from USARA! Visit www.usara.com for more information on adventure racing in the United States.
By Emily Korsch, USARA Interim Social Media Captain
Welcome back to the World’s Toughest Race Eco-Challenge: Fiji Episode Recaps! Episode 2 wastes no time in reuniting us with Team Bend Racing at CP 4 on Ovalau Island, trying to manage Dan’s heatstroke. It’s a potential blow to the team’s morale, sitting stationary while watching over 50 teams pass them by. Imagine being in the lead of the World’s Toughest Race, and watching 90% of teams pass you. An inexperienced team may have turned on each other. How will Jason, Melissa, Dan, and Stephen weather the storm?
The leaders are paddling their camakaus back to the main island of Fiji after trekking on Ovalau and free diving for the Ocean Medallion. Team New Zealand leads the pack, with Out There, Thunderbolt AR, Canada Adventure, Summit, and Estonian ACE each offering their quick pieces of advice on the opening legs of the race. In general, it’s hard to temper the excitement of the start with the knowledge that your team is only beginning a battle that will last for days. But the successful team must do just that - managing emotional as well as physical energy so when your reserves are needed in the most trying moments (of which there will be several), you and your team can find the strength to move forward. (Blog foreshadowing for Team Iron Cowboy in a few paragraphs)
The Americans on Team Iron Cowboy have made it to the Ocean Medallion station and elect teammate James to free dive to the ocean floor and retrieve the shiny trinket. As we mentioned in the Episode 1 recap, these medallions are certainly a production feature that you wouldn’t necessarily find in a traditional adventure race, but then again no adventure race is exactly the same. Sonja explains that the Eco-Challenge promotional video specifically challenged Ironman athletes, and their team was created to answer the challenge. It’s terrific to see people who have specialized in swim-bike-run take on new disciplines such as camakau paddling and free diving. Their adventurousness is rewarded when James succeeds in the medallion retrieval.
Meanwhile, back on Ovalau Island,
Team Stray Dogs avoided the camera in the first episode, but we get to know them and their history intertwined with Team Endure a little bit better while they are trekking on Ovalau Island. Team Stray Dogs have the unique distinction of being the oldest team in Eco-Challenge, with all team members over 60 years old. They have significant prior Eco-Challenge experience and are excited to be back in Fiji. They showcase many of the important pieces of adventure racing culture:
All I can say is GIVE ME MORE TEAM ENDURE AND TEAM STRAY DOGS. THE WORLD NEEDS MORE TEAM ENDURE AND TEAM STRAY DOGS.
Lead teams hit CP7 and are anxious to have more of the course revealed to them. This is another characteristic unique to adventure racing; teams often start races with only a partial set of maps, and the course is revealed stage by stage as they progress. This underscores the expedition aspect, and it also rewards teams who are able to quickly interpret maps and adapt their strategy on the fly - so different from other single-sport events where the course is often published months in advance, and/or repeated year after year, so athletes can hone their training specifically to the demands of a certain location. By contrast, adventure racing rewards the teams and athletes who have a higher level of general fitness and the mental strategy to adapt their skills to whatever the course demands on a moment’s notice.
An interview with Team Canada’s Bob Miller describes what Team Sundance Kids nicknamed “Fool’s Christmas” ...when teams receive a new set of maps, it felt like a gift - at least until they opened the maps and saw what brutal terrain the next sections of the course would entail. I love the brief shot of Chris Forne and Stu Lynch of Team New Zealand packing up for the SUP leg. Chris is packing Stu’s pack while Stu is wearing it. Another great strategy of top teams - often teammates get into each other’s packs more than their own, and have to know what each pocket, zipper, or clip will do to efficiently access whatever their teammate needs without stopping.
Meanwhile, back on Ovalau Island,
Team Unbroken is executing their lengthy but safer route between CP3 and CP4. They are discussing a Night One sleep, which is questionable given the hours they are knowingly adding to their race with their route choice. I’m not sure I would have advocated for a sleep, but it’s unclear how long they actually do spend stationary. And this is the fun of Eco-Challenge… armchair adventure racing!
At Race HQ (all adventure race directors everywhere are drooling at all of the team tracking maps and huge touch-screen displays), Bear reviews the navigation choices of Team Unbroken and Team OutThere, and we get a quick glimpse of OutThere’s nav error on the SUP. Evidently OutThere didn’t follow Mark Lattanzi’s adventure race navigation rule of “at night, you move way more slowly than you think. Repeat that,” and turned inland too early.
TEAM ENDURE ALERT!! They are on Ovalau Island waking up from a restorative five-hour sleep (#onlyinadventureracing) and preparing to paddle their camakaus back to the main island. Teammate Shane explains the difficulty in coping with a teammate with Alzheimer’s - Mace is not able to fully contribute his lengthy skill set to the team, and Team Endure instead is focused on caring for him. “The reality is, we can make a difference by supporting people like Mace, and Travis, the path that those two are are on...it’s an honor, bottom line.” I’m not crying, you’re crying. Give us a ten-episode series on Team Endure.
Still on their extended trek, it seems like Team Unbroken is struggling to make forward progress. Keith details his serious injuries from Iraq and what he had to overcome to even start training for Eco-Challenge: Fiji. This group is surely overwhelmed by the enormously challenging course and the looming time cut-offs, but their team spirit is pushing them through despite increasingly bad odds.
Ahead, Team New Zealand crushes the 56km mountain bike section and is first to reach Camp 1/CP12, followed by Canada Adventure, Thunderbolt AR, TIki Tour, Summit and Estonia ACE. I love hearing more about Emma Roca, who is an old-school, extremely talented adventure racer who has made a comeback for Eco-Challenge: Fiji to encourage more women and girls to be Team Captains for adventure racing. As teams spend their mandatory ninety minutes in Camp 1 to prepare for the next leg, we are treated to fun shots of the racers rinsing off in the freshwater creek, which is surely a relief after spending about 24 hours padding in the saltwater of the ocean.
Meanwhile, back on the water,
Team Iron Cowboy is having a tough moment at the end of the camakau paddle. Sonja, a top amateur Ironman triathlete from 2009-2014, dealt with a severe mental health crisis in 2017 and has used Eco-Challenge: Fiji to fuel her comeback to competitive sport. She and her team have experienced huge highs and lows in just the first 24 hours of racing, and there are several more days to go if they are planning to attempt the full course. Surely the difficulty she experienced taking in enough nutrition while steering the heavy camakau has negatively affected her emotional state. Her teammates are doing their best to even out the emotional roller coaster, and provide a steadier emotional stoke to lend consistency to their progress.
Incoming! Incoming! A tropical storm is looming on the horizon. Teams Nika and Peak Traverse are officially so over paddling their camakau against the strong headwind and pushing tide. Race staff offer assistance with the caveat that it will end both teams’ participation in Eco-Challenge: Fiji. It’s a crushing realization to the teams who have spent months preparing, only to have their race end just after 24 hours. But if they have been unable to make forward progress paddling, what other option do they have? Let’s hope they can find a ride back to the race hotel, or even better, turn into super-volunteers at Camps to help out other teams.
Meanwhile, back on Ovalau Island,
Team Unbroken is becoming quite familiar with this tiny Fijian island. Completing the trek but facing a long paddle back to the main island with impending storm conditions, they decide to sleep again. I’m sure it’s frustrating to spend their second overnight of the race still on the second section. It makes me wonder if Teams Nika and Peak Traverse could have made the same decision to wait out the storm with Unbroken and all three tackle the paddle/SUP/bike after the storm passes.
Up again with the lead teams, we get fun shots of Team Summit enlisting local help to build their bili-bili rafts. Emma is a wonder to watch in these interactions - so encouraging and excited that even I want to get a plane ticket and help her build a bili-bili raft. Where can I sign up? Just don’t ask me to paddle it! As Team Summit tries out their new bili-bilis, the incoming tropical storm starts unleashing a huge downpour. For the teams starting to raft, this may be an advantage as the rain will raise water levels. For the teams still trekking through the canyon, it is a disadvantage. As Silver Enselaar explains, “in normal circumstances, you don’t want to go into a canyon in the rain because the level is rising, and the speed of the water is getting larger and larger all of the time.” Team Estonia ACE finds themselves in a potentially dangerous situation, which means their embedded cameraman, Pablo, is also in potential danger. It underscores how athletic Eco-Challenge: Fiji’s media crew is - to follow top adventure racing teams into this precarious and difficult terrain. Even with the water rushing, Team Estonia ACE is fairly calm about their situation and even refuses rescue from an eager helicopter.
As the episode comes to a close, Bear gathers the TACs and announces that the race will be temporarily stopped while the incoming tropical storm pushes through the race course. While it makes sense for most teams, Team Estonia ACE does not have the benefit of Bear’s official guidance, and so continues to try and move ahead in the canyon. Bracing against their teammates to cross a rushing river, Silver and company (and cameraman Pablo!) continue to inch their way through the canyon, hindered only by the abrupt ending of the episode. Hey! How are we supposed to go to sleep now, with that kind of ending? Oh… you mean Episode 3 is loading right now and will play in 5 seconds? Oh. OK. Thanks, Amazon Studios. You’re forgiven.
Stay tuned for more from USARA! Visit www.usara.com for more information on adventure racing in the United States.
By Emily Korsch, USARA Interim Social Media Captain
Welcome to the highly, HIGHLY anticipated return of Eco-Challenge! The adventure racing community started hearing rumors way back in late 2018 that the fabled Mark Burnett-Lisa Hennessy production, shuttered since 2002, was going to make a return with the backing of a major studio. In the Eco-Challenge hey-dey (click here for a more complete history), it attracted a unique mix of the most gifted endurance athletes in the world and your everyday “off-the-couch”ers, competing against each other and against a multi-day, multi-sport wilderness course where the clock never stopped. The production brought the sport of adventure racing from “international niche” status to mainstream in the United States. Co-workers discussed sleep strategies over lunch. People started seeing their neighbors running with backpacks. Kids wondered if they really could just eat candy bars all day and never brush their teeth. And then, what happened? Well, perhaps only Burnett and Hennessy can tell us that, but they came up with the concept of Survivor (you may have heard of it), which brought the same themes to the TV audience without the hassle of following elite athletes through the jungle for days on end.
Fast-forward to 2018, and the technological advances both in the film and outdoor gear industries. Suddenly capturing an adventure race for a TV audience didn’t seem quite as imposing (and expensive) as it once was. Also, we now have big tech conglomerates looking to reach new people, instead of the dot-com sponsorship which had largely funded the first wave of Eco-Challenge races. Mix all those ingredients with Burnett, Hennessy, their amazing crew, and a roster of old and new adventure racing personalities, and we found ourselves in Fiji on the start line of a brand new adventure race.
The addition of Bear Grylls to the Eco-Challenge team is a good choice. He brings a great perspective and a large following to the sport of adventure racing, which combines many of the activities he already exemplifies in his other media ventures. He kicks off the series like any TV host worth their salt: with a flashy helicopter entrance and a pep talk, including one of the most important principles of AR… if one teammate drops, the whole team drops. The crowd then parades down to a fleet of traditional Fijian camakau boats waiting on the banks of a river.
Bear counts the race down and it’s instant chaos. I mean, what would you expect with 264 racers paddling unfamiliar boats towards their chance at reality TV stardom? The highlights from the start include at least two teams capsizing their camakaus, one of which is the reigning Adventure Racing World Series (ARWS) champion Team New Zealand. I love this moment so much - it shows that even the top teams do silly things out there, but what makes them top teams is that they just get on with it. Grab your floating gear, flip the boat back over, and start passing teams. A few minutes later, I also love hearing Sophie Hart talking to her team, giving out pointers and offering up encouragement. This is another sign of a top team - keeping the internal team dialogue consistent and positive. It’s clear Team New Zealand is visiting Fiji on a business trip.
The Paddle (CP1 & CP2)
As the teams settle into their paddling rhythm, we get to hear a bit from Team Onyx who, according to the pre-release press and trailers, will be a featured team. It’s obvious that adventure racing would and will benefit from a more diversified participant and fan base, and Team Onyx has taken the lead in demonstrating that all humans do all sports. I’m looking forward to hearing more from Clifton, Corree, Sam, and Chriss throughout the show. Another featured team appears to be Team Unbroken, composed of civilians and military veterans each fighting personal battles. Hearing Gretchen narrate the discovery of her abrupt loss of hearing is powerful, and her resolve to continue pushing her limits connects us again to the humans in adventure racing - simply some of the strongest people you will meet.
Once teams [for those keeping score at home, click here for a complete list] hit the open ocean in their tiny camakaus, the race rules allow them to raise the boat’s sails if they so choose. This is one of the hundreds of strategic decisions that the teams will make throughout the course, and the “right” answer for each individual team often varies. Team Bend Racing, who has shot out to the early lead, opts to leave their sail down, feeling confident in their pure paddling speed. So confident, in fact, that captain Jason wants to make sure the TV audience understands just exactly how “pretty okay at paddling” that Team Bend Racing is. Yes, Team Bend, you ARE doing okay paddling, obviously.
When the cameras focus on Team Khukuri Warriors, you can see exactly the equation that Team Bend was calculating. To put a sail up is a team effort, requiring the boat to stop forward progress and deal with the parts and pieces of the sail. Then, even after the sail is raised, someone needs to manage it, adjusting for any changes in the breeze. Will those lost minutes be gained back from the wind power? The answer is different for each team.
It’s a thrill to see an American representative, Team Bend, arrive at Checkpoint 1 (CP1) in the lead. The smile on Melissa’s face is incredible and I can just feel the team energy through the screen. As the rest of the teams arrive at CP1, we get to learn a little more about Team Endure. Mark Macy has been an Eco-Challenge fixture since the beginning, inspiring his son Travis to exciting achievements in adventure racing. Mark’s original team, the Stray Dogs, is racing as well, but Travis thought it would be safer if they raced together with a new group, Team Endure. When Mark is explaining his team to the cameras, he pivots into the most honest and approachable explanation of Alzheimer’s Disease that I’ve ever experienced. He brings the audience into his situation with zero awkwardness and an invitation for us to join him in the journey. Again, adventure racers are simply some of the strongest people you will meet.
Speaking of strong, could you be any stronger than planning a “Speedo of the Day” for Eco-Challenge? You keep making it happen, Corree and Team Onyx! I’m not sure your legs will thank you later but it’s not a real race until someone shows up in a Speedo (am I right, Team Virtus?) At CP1 we also learn a little bit about Team Able Abels, a family team. Dan raced Eco-Challenge back in the day, and his young daughters cheered for him at the finish line. Now the three of them are doing the race together, with navigator Fletcher Hamel brought in as an honorary family member/compass whisperer. I love hearing about the backstories to these teams and how the show brings out the humans of adventure racing. The Able Abels is a family crew similar to, yet totally different from, Team Endure. But the power of a parent-child teammate situation is undeniable and so relatable for us watching at home.
The Trek (CP3, CP4, CP5)
As the lead teams finish up the first paddling leg with Team Bend Racing still in the lead, we get to witness our first transition area (TA). This is a key feature in adventure racing - teams must switch sports, in this case from paddling to trekking, changing out any clothing or gear required while simultaneously restocking their food and water needs. Triathletes do this twice in their events - referred to as T1 (swim-to-bike) and T2 (bike-to-run) - and often have the transition down to a science that takes only seconds. In adventure racing, it’s a bit more complicated as there are more gear and nutrition needs to fulfill, plus you need to make sure the entire team is ready at the same time so you can leave the TA together. But a top team will make efficient work of the TA, while slower teams can lose hours in TA without even realizing it.
Team Bend Racing and Team New Zealand transition like the pros they are, and head out on foot in search of three checkpoints on the remote, volcanic island. The effects of the hot, humid climate and the frantic start are starting to show. Teams are puking, flopping in creeks, just doing anything they can to manage overheating. And we are treated to a dramatic episode of overheating from Dan on Team Bend Racing. This is another classic situation in adventure racing, where one teammate has serious issues that force the team to stop, adapt, and overcome. It’s difficult to piece together the entire sequence of events due to editing, but Dan suffers hard for what appears to be the entire 30km trek. And Team Bend Racing is right there with him - carrying his pack, his extra clothes, letting him rest momentarily, even putting him on tow for several kilometers. Towing is common in adventure racing, allowing stronger teammates to assist weaker teammates, but I’ve never seen one as impressive as Dan’s underwear tow. Maybe he caught wind of Team Onyx’s “Speedo of the Day” plan and decided to join in? The real gem that Jason describes to us is not only that can the team provide help, but that Dan will accept the help. How many of you would allow yourself to be towed through the jungles of Fiji, on national TV, in your underwear, all of the good of the team? Again, adventure racers are simply some of the strongest people you will meet.
On the trek we meet another American team composed of four Ironman triathletes, Team Iron Cowboy. The physical endurance developed in long-distance sports like Ironman triathlon will surely benefit them; however, it’s not clear if they are prepared for the realities of adventure racing. Can they deal with the map-and-compass navigation that is the backbone of AR? Can their team put aside the individual nature of triathlon to focus on the team? What will happen when they go more than 140.6 miles? As so many teams are discovering, physical endurance is a small part of the entire adventure racing package. In any case, it’s terrific to see athletes stepping out of their comfort zones and tackling new challenges.
The Ocean Medallion
I'm being honest here - at first glance, the addition of five "Medallions" into the Eco-Challenge: Fiji course seemed like Hollywood worming its way into the rugged sport of adventure racing. The round metal donuts seemed hokey to me, and I didn't want to even give them time in the recap. But, after speaking with Eco-Challenge: Fiji racers, it turns out that the medallions actually were a welcome addition to the race for many. Teams set goals to collect all 5, one for each team member. They were a highlight on the course, allowing teams to complete fun (or "fun") activities and take home a souvenir. Sort of like how Jeff Probst keeps all of his Survivor torch snuffers, now racers have a piece of the course to take home with them. And, you can even find a medallion emoji on Instagram or hashtag on Twitter to decorate your social media posts about the World's Toughest Race. Medallions for the win!
Back on Ovalau, Team Unbroken faces unique challenges on the jungle trek. The darkness of the night, contrasted against the brightness of headlamps, makes it extremely difficult for deaf teammate Gretchen to read lips. Trekking at night is hard enough. Trekking through the jungle at night is even harder. Losing communication ability with your teammates? Well, we keep saying that adventure racers are strong, but Gretchen and Team Unbroken underscore that point. The team doesn’t make it easy on themselves either, opting for a lengthy but safe route between CP3 and CP4. Just like the earlier choice to use the sail or not, route options are things that teams consider carefully hundreds of times throughout the race. In this case, they also manage their way through individual dissent before leaning on the familiarity of the military command chain to proceed.
At the end of the episode, there are so many questions yet to be answered. Will Team Unbroken’s nav choice work out for them? Will Team Bend Racing get Dan healthy again? Will Team New Zealand run away in the lead? Will the rookie teams complete the course? However, one question that has been answered is the production value that Burnett, Hennessy, Grylls, and Amazon Studios bring to the Eco-Challenge adventure race. The camera and audio work is at once expansive and detailed. The mapping visuals help us understand where the course is going. The personal interviews help us learn about all of the human stories that have showed up on the starting line. And, who is going to turn down a TV show hosted by Bear Grylls in a helicopter?
Wow. Are you as excited for the return of Eco-Challenge as we are?
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.