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 Starker White from Team Strong Machine (#60). I live in Rockford, Illinois, and I am a Professional Dealer in Metal Fabrication Machinery.
What was your adventure racing experience prior to Eco-Challenge: Fiji? Have you participated in previous Eco-Challenges or other adventure races?
Team Strong Machine has competed at many regional 12, 24, & 30 hour adventure races throughout the U.S, including 5 USARA National Championships and the ARWS ITERA Expedition Race in Ireland. This was our first Eco-Challenge race.
How did your team come together, and how did you train for Eco-Challenge: Fiji?
We are a family team. Over 20 years ago, when my son, Cliff was a teenager, we tuned in to earlier Eco-Challenge races and marveled at the sport. It was Cliff who drew us into the sport, entering regional 8 hour races and graduating to 12 hour, 24 hour, 30 hour and eventually international expedition adventure races. We never dreamed that one day we would be racing in the Olympics of adventure racing at Eco-Challenge: Fiji. Immediately, upon acceptance into Eco, we hired fellow Eco-Challenge: Fiji racer Jen Segger as a coach and began 6 months of intensive training, with 2-3 hours a day of biking, paddling, ropes, running, and strength building. I knew that at 65, I had to train extra hard if I wanted to keep up with my teammates who were 30 years younger.
What were you most looking forward to at Eco-Challenge: Fiji, and what scared you the most?
I personally anticipated the water sections due to my strength as a competitive swimmer. I eagerly anticipated the diving, paddling, and canyoneering segments of Eco-Challenge: Fiji. Climbing & ropes were another passion of mine and the incredible rope section of Eco-Fiji thrilled me. My biggest fear was an injury or foot infection which might ruin our chance of finishing.
What was your favorite piece of gear and/or clothing and/or food?
Favorite gear was the climbing equipment: the state of the art ascenders, carabiners, and belay devices designed for serious rock climbing.
Describe a favorite moment of Eco-Challenge: Fiji, or one where you suffered the most.
The warmth and generosity of the Fijian people was overwhelming. In every village, every transition area (TA), the locals treated us with kindness and respect, always offering food, water and shelter. This was a great lesson in how Eco-Challenge: Fiji brought people together .
After Eco-Challenge: Fiji, would you do another adventure race? Would you do the Eco-Challenge again?
Eco-Challenge: Fiji was a grand finale adventure race for me. At 65, I realized my body just was not achieving what my mind was asking it to do. My team, all 30 years younger, was outperforming me and I realized I was slowing them down and causing them undo stress in their care and attention to me, rather than focusing on the race. It was a sad realization, but I am excited to do shorter races and hopefully be a Team Assistant Crew (TAC) for Team Strong Machine in another go at Eco-Challenge.
What internal struggles did you experience during Eco-Challenge: Fiji? Did you experience any moments of self-reflection and/or growth?
My internal struggle was relinquishing control as a father and senior team member, to my son Cliff, my daughter-in-law Kate and our friend Mike: the youthful, tougher team members.
What was re-entry into civilization like, both after the finish line in Fiji and back in your home country?
Post Eco-Challenge: Fiji was, I felt, what a soldier must feel leaving his buddies at the front, returning home to a very comfortable life, but still craving the adventure, excitement and camaraderie of a team, on whom you have depended and who depended on you in challenging conditions, for mental and physical survival.
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?
Adventure racing is a challenging and multi-faceted sport, which anyone of almost any age can participate in on some level. I hope a diverse cross-section of people from around the world are inspired by our story, become involved in AR, and discover just how character-building and team-building AR truly is.
Stay tuned for more from USARA! Visit www.usara.com for more information on adventure racing in the United States.
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