Mind of an Adventure Racer

Mind of an Adventure Racer

Filed under: Adventure Racing 

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The Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race, a nonstop weeklong endurance event I raced in earlier this year in Chile, was one of those life-changing and life-affirming experiences you can really only get from an extreme adventure in the outdoors. Five days into the race, late at night during a mandatory “dark zone” stop at a checkpoint, a media director with the race tape recorded my thoughts on the day and the race so far.

This particular day — late February in Chile, our fifth straight day of racing as the four-person Team GearJunkie.com — was likely the most crazy day of the entire event. We’d traveled about 50 kilometers on foot that day. We awoke in a blizzard in the Darwin Mountains, and we stopped after hours and hours of movement at the ocean, on the shore of the Beagle Channel. While this was being recorded, I was a bit off my rocker, super exhausted, super caffeinated, and just amazingly psyched to be alive and existing at that current place and time. This text below is my full stream-of-consciousness talk, unedited and raw — just like I was at that time.

Regenold, exhausted, during the race; photo by T.C. Worley

“We woke up in a snowstorm and ended on the beach — it’s been a long journey today! It’s going really well. We’ve been sleeping more than we anticipated, more than other teams. We had seven hours the other day, which is crazy for a race like this but it seems to be working because we’re doing ok. We’re speedy during the day and we kind of realize we can’t navigate at night in this terrain with this kind of map, so we’ve just been going to bed an hour or two after the sun sets and getting up around sunrise. It’s been going well. Today we went 45km to 50km, we ran probably 25km of that and trekked and bush-wacked the other portion. We slept at PC12 last night, we made it there around 10pm and slept near the lake. We woke up to two inches of snow and big winds. My feet have been wet now for three or four days straight. Hiking out of there into the snow, up the pass through a blizzard and then into semi-frozen turba, with an ice crust and soft turba underneath, where we trekked along through a blizzard in a swamp — so that was a low point, it was really a low point. I was actually really afraid of frostbite this morning and hyperthermia last night. We thought we had almost run out of food so we didn’t eat a lot and it was hard to keep going without a lot of calories. It ended up I still had food in my pack and the last section went better than we thought it would. We didn’t expect to be here in the daylight. The worst part was the last couple of miles because we kept thinking we were almost here. The best part of the day was CP13, the river, when the guy told us about how quick the rest of the route was and planned our strategy and knew we could be here tonight. But the mountain trek was insane — we saw every type of terrain you could imagine — it looked like New Zealand, the Alps, Colorado, there were jungly sections, the turba was crazy, it looked like the set from the movie Avatar, not to mention walking on it, just a strange pallet of colors and a weird experience. Patagonia has extremely diverse terrain, every valley looks different, and it’s just very remote. We didn’t see any sign of humans, we didn’t even see other teams for days sometimes, so it felt like we were racing by ourselves.”

—This article is an excerpt from a story by Stephen Regenold on VentureThere.com.

Stephen Regenold
Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.