N.L. triathlete steps things up with 580-km adventure race. Yes, you read that right

Longtime Newfoundland triathlete Carl Barrett has just overcome his latest challenge, a 580-km adventure race in the B.C. interior.

Corner Brook's Carl Barrett still resting up after 6-day race in which sleep was optional

A man wearing a blue jacket, a bicycle helmet and backpack is on a bicycle, pedaling toward the camera.
Carl Barrett of Corner Brook took part in a 580-kilometre endurance race in late May. (Adventure Racing World Series)

A well-known Corner Brook triathlete recently pushed the limits of his endurance even further, in a 580-kilometre adventure race in British Columbia.

Carl Barrett, as part of a four-person team, took part in Expedition Canada's Adventure Racing World Series Qualifier in late May. The event includes trail running, mountain biking, paddling, orienteering and rappelling. Participants have up to a week to complete the course.

Barrett, 52, and his Team, Four-ward Motion, placed first out of the three teams in the masters' category, and 10th overall out of 20 teams from all age categories.

"I guess it's the epic nature of it. It's one of these things that is going to take you outside your comfort zone," said Barrett, in explaining why a long-distance adventure race appeals to him.

Three men and one woman wear shirts that say Expedition Canada. They are looking at the camera and smiling.
Team Four-Ward Motion, including Barrett, second from left, is pictured before the start of competition. (Submitted by Andrea Barrett)

No stranger to endurance races

For many years, Barrett has participated in triathlons, which combine swimming, cycling, and running, and he's promoted the sport of triathlon to novice participants.

His first standard-distance triathlon was in 1998 in Corner Brook, the first year the city was on the circuit for the ITU Triathlon World Cup.

In more recent years, he's competed in two World Triathlon Championships — in Chicago in 2015 and in Abu Dhabi in 2022 — as well as five marathons, including the Boston Marathon in 2021.

Two men in racing gear are crouched on a floor, looking at maps.
Racers in Expedition Canada receive maps of the course only a few hours before the event begins. (Submitted by Andrea Barrett)

But a three-sport event that takes place in a single day is quite different from an adventure race that takes place over many days, in which sleep is optional.

"Pacing yourself over six days is a very different experience," said Barrett. "You end up depriving yourself of sleep in order to continue moving."

Barrett estimates he slept about 10 hours total during the entire six-day endurance race.

"You're learning to function and move as fast as you can while being very sleep-deprived," said Barrett.

Four people on mountain bike pedal along a roadway.
Barrett, second from left, races along with his teammates in a cycling leg of the Expedition Canada adventure race. (Adventure Racing World Series)

Finding their way

The other thing that sets the Expedition Canada event apart is that racers don't know the starting point or the route of the course until a few hours before the race begins.

"You can't plan for these events the same way that you would for an Ironman race, because there's so much unknown there," said Barrett.

Two men in a yellow inflatable raft hold paddles, as they encounter some whitewater on a river.
The Expedition Canada endurance race course has sections that require paddling, mountain biking, trail running and even rappelling. (Adventure Racing World Series)

There's also an orienteering component to the event in that racers are given checkpoints but they decide how best to link them together by biking or running or paddling.

"So there's this kind of treasure hunt element," said Barrett. "It's like being a real kid again, only it takes six days to do it instead of an afternoon."

The other members of Barrett's team were Chris Ford, Jeremy Green, and Pavla Lounova, all of British Columbia.

Three men and a woman wearing racing shirts that say Expedition Canada stand with their arms around each others' shoulders, smiling at the camera.
Barrett and his teammates smile in spite of their exhaustion, after completing the Expedition Canada endurance race (Submitted by Andrea Barrett)

Plans to do it again

Barrett said his lowest point came about halfway through an 85-kilometre leg of the course, during which his team had already done about 4,000 metres of climbing, with no end in sight.

"That brought about some, I guess, darker moments, mentally, for me that I managed to push through," said Barrett, who admitted several days after the end of the race that he was still tired and looking forward to catching up on his rest.

Three men and a woman sit or crouch on green grass, eating a sandwich. They each wear medals around their necks.
Racers enjoy a bite to eat after completing their six-day trek. (Submitted by Andrea Barrett)

Still, Barrett is fairly certain he'll be taking on the challenge again before too long — he's just not sure where or when.

"I would love to do another race like this again," he said.

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Bernice Hillier is a host of CBC Newfoundland Morning, which airs weekday mornings across western and central Newfoundland, as well as southern Labrador.