Patagonia: Race Report #1

This is the first in a series of columns reporting on my experience in the Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race, a weeklong adventure race last month, February 9 – 17, in the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego in Chile’s Patagonia region.


My head is still spinning. The experience has not yet sunk in. Last month, after almost seven straight days of racing — and hundreds of miles traveled on bike, foot, and kayak — Team completed the Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race in Tierra del Fuego, Chile, and managed to grab a fourth place finish. The team, which included myself and three teammates, a woman and three men who traveled together the entire race, traded jokes and encouragement. We shared food and drafted in line on the bikes. We huddled together for warmth at night.

Team (Jason Magness, Chelsey Gribbon, Daniel Staudigel and Stephen Regenold) on a trekking section in lowlands of the Darwin Mountains, on day five of the race. Photo by T.C. Worley

In adventure racing, the clock never stops. You set out from the start line geared up and ready for long days — and even longer nights — of perpetual motion. During events like the Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race, an annual competition that is one of the longest races on the planet, some teams might go 48 hours between sleep.

This year in Patagonia, we luxuriated and slept one hour the first night of the race, surrendering at 3a.m. on the floor of an abandoned farm shack after a hard day of trekking and mountain biking. The alarm on my wristwatch pierced the dark air before dawn, a shrill beep that got us up and hiking again toward a checkpoint still miles south over arid terrain.

We ate “breakfast” on the move, Clif Bars and cashews washed down with electrolyte drink — the first sustenance on a typical 6,000 or 7,000 calorie day. When done, we ran in a line as the sun rose, jumping cracks in the dirt, the expanse of Tierra del Fuego falling forever ahead.

Stephen Regenold begins the first biking section of the race in the arid terrain of northern Tierra del Fuego.
Photo by T.C. Worley

You go on like this for days. Your mind shifts, your focus narrows. In an adventure race, things get basic and primal. It’s you and the land and the task ahead. Eat. Drink. Bike. Trek. Paddle. Navigate. And repeat.

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Stephen Regenold is Founder and Editor-In-Chief 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 nearly two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of four small kids, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.


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