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 Jeff Bates, the team captain for Team Nika (#54). Team Nika is made up of ultra-marathoners, a jiu-jitsu champion, and CrossFit athletes. The team lives in DeLand, Florida with one member residing in Arizona. We are healthcare workers, first responders, a banking executive, and a gym owner.
What was your adventure racing experience prior to Eco-Challenge: Fiji? Have you participated in previous Eco-Challenges or other adventure races?
I have been doing adventure races for a few years including multi-day events. But other members had very limited racing experience prior to the Eco-Challenge: Fiji. This is the team’s first Eco-Challenge and first time ever competing together as a team. The first time some of the members met face to face was just a few days prior to the race start in Fiji.
How did your team come together, and how did you train for Eco-Challenge: Fiji?
I pulled the team together from my friends and people I knew in my hometown. My teammate Keria and I began dating while training for the race and got engaged before the race began on the beach in Fiji. We are now planning a wedding for later in 2020.
What were you most looking forward to at Eco-Challenge: Fiji, and what scared you the most?
We were looking forward to competing in all the new skills we learned to get ready for the race including whitewater rafting and rappelling. The aspect of the race that worried us the most was the sheer length of this huge expedition race; the distance, the sleep deprivation, the amazing terrain.
What was your favorite piece of gear and/or clothing and/or food?
We got some great bikes from Salsa Cycles for the race and we were looking forward to riding those in the race.
Describe a favorite moment of Eco-Challenge: Fiji, or one where you suffered the most.
Our favorite moment was going through a Fijian village in the middle of the night and the entire village was still awake and lined the road, cheering us on. The Fijian people were amazing.
After Eco-Challenge: Fiji, would you do another adventure race? Would you do the Eco-Challenge again?
Keria and I will definitely do more adventure racing in the future and would love to be part of a team that competes in another Eco-Challenge. It is an incredible event and a true test of will power and endurance.
What internal struggles did you experience during Eco-Challenge: Fiji? Did you experience any moments of self-reflection and/or growth?
Coming together as a team was a struggle as we had never competed together before this race.
What was re-entry into civilization like, both after the finish line in Fiji and back in your home country?
Some members of the team stayed in Fiji for a few days after the race was completed and had an amazing time experiencing the country.
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?
We hope that our participation inspired all the fans out there that have never done a race like this that they can do it. This was our first time ever doing anything like this and it was an amazing life changing experience. The Eco-Challenge community is a great group of people from all over the world and full of so many inspirational athletes.
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.