A team of non-professional athletes from Alberta is preparing for The Last Wild Race — an extreme adventure competition through Chile's mountainous Patagonia region where only about a third of the teams cross the finish line.
This year's race includes 21 teams of four from across the globe. They have just 10 days to hike, kayak or cycle across mountains, forests, grasslands and rivers all through extreme terrain in the backcountry.
There are just two teams from Canada and one trains in Alberta's backcountry near Canmore.
Sandra Baribeau, François Charest, David Lebrun and Michael Dorocicz make up the team called Mind Over Body.
None of them has done this kind of adventure race before.
They have been training non-stop for the dangerous race since last March, in which all competitors must have a range of skills that include, swimming, kayaking, crossing rivers and rappelling down mountains.
"I train about seven times a week," said Lebrun, originally from Quebec, but who now calls Canmore home.
"Often twice daily, in the morning at 5 a.m. before leaving for work. Then, after dinner and taking care of my family, I sometimes trained again in the evening."
Each of the participants say they train nearly every day of the week. Some days, Charest says he works out up to three times.
"It is not always easy because we are not professional athletes. We have a full-time job and have to train," said Charest, who owns a construction company.
The training can be gruelling. Baribeau — a nurse and the only woman on the team — gave this breakdown of her weekly training schedule:
- Monday: two-hour spin class.
- Tuesday: kayak for more than two hours against the current on the Bow River.
- Wednesday: run 10 to 20 kilometres.
- Thursday: 1.5 hour spin class.
- Friday: run 10 kilometres.
- Saturday: 1.5 hour spin class (plus another run, if there's time).
- Sunday: hike in the mountains.
Comfort? What comfort?
Competitors will likely experience a range of emotions during the Patagonian Expedition Race. They must be prepared to expect everything, but must learn to go without one key thing: comfort.
"We expect to sleep up to four hours a night, said Lebrun.
Teams are responsible for carrying their own equipment during the race, so they need to pack as little as possible.
Evening meals will consist of dehydrated food made with boiling water, given them each about 1,500 calories.
Aside from that, they'll eat eat granola bars, nuts and energy gel packets on the go throughout the day.
"We're not going to come back very fat from there, that's for sure," said Lebrun.
The team says they are more excited than scared to conquer Patagonia, because being outdoors is already such a huge part of their lives.
"I'm into all kinds of suffering," jokes Dorocicz. "If some things feel too easy, you don't feel like you need to train."
Baribeau says the race is most likely to challenge her mentally, based on her experiences on multi-day treks through Canada.
"I was really happy every time I pushed my limit, even though I wanted to cry and I suffered. But then at the end, you just forget everything, you forget that pain."
They all say that living in Canmore has likely been an advantage for them, given the landscape is comparable to Patagonia.
"There's no question about it why Olympic athletes train in Canmore," said Lebrun.
The race begins Feb.16.