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Primal Quest Badlands

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The life-altering adventure that is the Primal Quest kicks off today. I raced in the 2006 iteration of the event — a 400-mile course that took my team nine days to complete — and adventure for me in the outdoors has not been the same since. It put a lot of things in perspective, and showed me how amazing the capacity of the human body can be when pressed.

This year, Primal Quest is based in South Dakota. (Official name: “Primal Quest Badlands 2009, presented by SPOT) May sound strange, but the western part of the state is rugged and remote. Not to mention peaks above 7,000 feet in elevation, which is higher than any mountain in the East.

Racers in Primal Quest Utah, 2006

Beginning today, 38 teams set off for “The World’s Most Challenging Human Endurance Competition,” as the organizers like to call it. Indeed, from today (August 14) through August 23, 2009, the four-person squads who started the course will be challenged with an unsupported race for 600 miles of wilderness in South Dakota’s Black Hills and Badlands.

The weird desert that is the South Dakota Badlands

It is a 10-day, non-stop expedition-style adventure race. The means of motion will be feet, mountain bike, kayak, and climbing rope. There’s a spelunking section. All throughout, the co-ed teams will navigate from checkpoint to checkpoint, many teams unstopping for 48 hours or longer at a stretch before collapsing into a couple fast hours of sleep.

You can monitor all 38 teams this year live via a web interface linked to a SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger each team will carry. It sends location-based signals via communications satellite for real-time viewing on enhanced Google Maps, MyTopo Maps, and a race leaderboard at www.ecoprimalquest.com that shows team position and race course updates.


I wish all the teams luck. It is a huge commitment. A great physical feat, but even more a mental and emotional feat (not to mention a caloric and hydration challenge of epic proportions). A special shout-out to my hometown team: My cheer is loudest this year for WEDALI (“We Eat Dust And Like It “), a Minnesota team — with two Iowans racing this time — who I have competed against and trained with for years. Justin and Scott are friends of mine, great guys who represent the core of Primal Quest’s race pack. That core being the (fairly) normal men and women who have worked hard, trained, planned, and made their way to South Dakota to step outside the bounds of normal living for 10 days and do some pretty extraordinary things.

Watch the action at www.ecoprimalquest.com.

—Stephen Regenold

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