On a typical day, McMaster University students pass by carpenter Paul Trebilcock as he hangs drywall or installs steel studs on campus without a second thought. What these students don't realize is that in his spare time, Trebilcock likes to run extreme races. Really extreme. Think a multi-day, 125-km marathon that passes over three mountains or a course across the Sahara Desert where temperatures can reach 50 C.
"We are definitely crazy," Trebilcock laughs, referring to his friend and racing partner, Simon Donato. This past fall, he and Donato filmed a new reality show tracking them across 18 weeks and eight "adventure races."
The show, Boundless, was the brain child of Donato — a McMaster graduate with a PhD in geology. He was inspired to pitch the idea for the show after he made a documentary about the pair's participation in the Canadian Death Race, a 125-km marathon across the Rockies.
Two months after they pitched the idea, the pair were off on a round-the-world trip to test their bodies and their taste for adverture. After months of running, biking and paddleboarding everywhere from the Icelandic Highlands to the Sahara Desert, the duo got what they asked for.
"It was epic," Trebilcock, 47, says. "There were many points when I thought that I was not going to get through it."
Both Donato and Trebilcock met unbelievable physical stresses from the extreme climate and athletic challenge.
"Think of the worst, hottest day we have here in Hamilton, and it's like that every day and you're running a marathon," Trebilcock says.
"But the body is an amazing thing. The body gets used to it. It seems like it's so hard but the body adapts; the mind is what stops you."
For Donato, adventure sports allow him to combine all of his life's greatest passions: science, adventure and athleticism.
"I get to feed both passions by pushing myself to go to hard-to-reach places and pushing my body to finish the race," he says, adding he draws on science whenever he can by exploring his surroundings. In his experience, science and sport benefit greatly from one another.
While doing his PhD research in a lagoon in Oman, being physically fit allowed him to explore the area further, leading to amazing finds like a previously undiscovered archeological site.
"Science is better when you're fit and active and can explore further," he says.
Donato and Trebilcock, who met eight years ago in a Hamilton orienteering training group, explored far and wide, suffered more than one injury and even put their friendship to the test over the 18 weeks.
"It's almost like being married spending 18 weeks together," Trebilcock laughs, adding now that the show is finally coming to air, he's excited to share their adventure with the world.
"I can't wait to see what people think of the show."
Boundless premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on the Travel+Escape network.