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!
I am Dianette Wells, captain of Team Flying J (#23). I currently live and train Park City, Utah. I flip homes for a living as it allows me the ability to work my own hours (#fliptoclimb).
What was your adventure racing experience prior to Eco-Challenge: Fiji? Have you participated in previous Eco-Challenges or other adventure races?
I participated in Eco-Challenge Borneo, New Zealand, and Fiji 2002. I did many expedition and adventure races from 1999-2003. That (can't say I wasn't warned), led to my divorce. I then focused on mountaineering (finishing the 7 summits by 2008), ultra-marathons, and whatever anyone suggested that sounded like fun.
How did your team come together, and how did you train for Eco-Challenge: Fiji?
My first team collapsed when the team captain quit so I had only a couple of days to put a new team together. I had just participated in a bike race with Guy so I asked him first. I had raced with Harald Zundel (retired Navy SEAL) and he is one of the best navigators out there. I didn't meet Blain Reeves (retired Army Ranger) in person until I picked him up at the airport in Fiji. Felt like I was meeting my long lost brother. Most of us lead a very active lifestyle, so we just kept doing what we always do.
What were you most looking forward to at Eco-Challenge: Fiji, and what scared you the most?
I was looking forward to feeling alive again. I was in a bit of a depression and I will never forget Lisa Hennessy calling and saying my team had gotten in. It honestly was the best thing to happen to me in 4 years. I was very afraid that I was too old, that I no longer had what it would take to cross an Eco-Challenge finish line (after having finished the last two), that perhaps my mojo was gone. It wasn't... there is no more alive feeling than racing an Eco-Challenge.
What was your favorite piece of gear and/or clothing and/or food?
My Salomon Mission 3 shoes and my Specialized Epic mountain bike. I have always ridden Specialized. Salomons are the best hands down. Although, I was very thrilled to discover Altras for when your feet swell up as the toe-box is massive. They make stuffing your feet back into your shoes pain-free. Food: Fritos, Doritos (blue bag), Pepperidge Farm cookies. Skippy Super-Chunk peanut butter/jelly sandwich because when your sandwich is getting smushed in your back-pack, the peanuts keep it all together. Very important race advice right there...
Describe a favorite moment of Eco-Challenge: Fiji, or one where you suffered the most.
My favorite moment was seeing the most incredible sunrise on a ridge-top one morning. I thought my guys were all going to cry. We were so overwhelmed by the beauty of it over the Fijian jungle. Another favorite moment was also during my worst moment (super hippy-dippy, I am aware, but it happened). I was not hallucinating (...that was earlier during the race). During the multiple ropes section, it was very dark, very cold, and raining. I wasn't sure how much longer I could go on, wasn't sure I had the upper body strength, etc. etc. Yet, I couldn't quit - it was too dangerous to just sit in the cold like that (really nowhere to sit), and I heard my son's voice. It was clear as a bell. In that moment, I got exactly what I wanted out of that race. I know he was there and that was everything to me (He wouldn't have missed it!).
After Eco-Challenge: Fiji, would you do another adventure race? Would you do the Eco-Challenge again?
HECK YES!!! to both questions.
What internal struggles did you experience during Eco-Challenge: Fiji? Did you experience any moments of self-reflection and/or growth?
Being a female team captain and not wanting to appear bitchy. In a previous race, I had a bit of a struggle with one of the team members. I will not have that problem again. I have chosen my teammates more wisely this time. I won't be afraid to stand up for myself and I won't be afraid to ask the hard questions.
What was re-entry into civilization like, both after the finish line in Fiji and back in your home country?
It's always hard to come back to daily life - too much noise, cars, concrete. It takes a few days and then for me, it's always been on to the next adventure. I try not to focus on past races, climbs, etc., except to learn from mistakes and try to repeat things that worked. After a few months back home, I missed the whole experience terribly and have waited excitedly for the next one. Doing these races is an extreme high that you can't wait to have again. Some races don't give you the same high as an Eco does. Eco-Challenge is like driving a Rolls-Royce while some races are like driving a Pinto. Climbing is exhilarating, biking and ultra-marathons are fun, but nothing has the same ingredients as Eco-Challenge. I missed being around so many fun and funny people who make up an Eco - the teammates, other racers, staff, volunteers.
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'd like women to think, “If she can do it, so can I”. No matter what happens in your life- live whatever you have left of it to the fullest, most colorful you can. It's a beautiful world out there with lots of adventure. Find it. Don't give up and don't give in. I hope so. Who knows with editing :). I really just want my daughters to be proud of me.
Stay tuned for more from USARA! Visit www.usara.com for more information on adventure racing in the United States.
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