Steamboat Springs Todd Wilkinson was expecting to hike, bike, horseback ride and kayak his way through the Four Winds 2001 Supreme Adventure Race. What he was not expecting was the level of technical difficulty that came with it.
Part of a four-person team, Wilkinson raced almost 400 miles in seven days throughout the Teton Valley region in Idaho.
Wilkinson and his teammates had planned to finish the grueling race within six days, but unmarked hiking trials, difficult climbs and rappelling down screens left them with a time of seven days and 11 hours.
"We expected to do fairly well," Wilkinson said. "The thing we didn't expect was the technical difficulty."
The 16 to 18 teams that entered the race were not given the race's course until the start on Aug. 4. From there, teams navigated from checkpoint to checkpoint making nine transitions along the way.
Although Wilkinson's team finished with a third-place time, it was disqualified because one of the members of Team Blade Runners had to leave before finishing the race.
Teammate Heather Currier of Texas was given a seven day leave of absence from her station at the Brooke Medical Center in San Antonio. On the sixth day, Currier dropped out of the race to catch a flight out of Idaho Falls.
"Unfortunately, she would have physically been able to complete the race," Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson's other teammates were his brother-in-law Jim Ficke, a former resident of Steamboat who now lives in San Antonio, and Lois Fiala, also of San Antonio.
The hardest part of the course was the 70-mile hike with an elevation gain of 25,000 to 30,000 feet, Wilkinson said. For 36 hours, the team traversed along ridges carrying 65- to 75-pound backpacks, which carried their two-day water supply.
Mount Bair was in the middle of the hike and required class three to four scrambles. At that point, Wilkinson said, some of his team members suffered altitude sickness.
"The transition back to the hike was a hard 70-miles," he said. "Basically, it was the length and elevation."
The race started with a 50-mile bike ride, then moved to a 30- to 40-mile hike. The team then spent 20 miles guiding horses through unmarked backwoods in the middle of the night, Wilkinson said.
The next phase was the 70-mile hike and a transition into 20 miles of white-water paddling, which was followed by a 30- to 40-mile hike.
Wilkinson said one of the reasons the race took seven days was the terrain.
"A large portion of the course was boulder hopping. We were going a mile per hour. We were training at a much faster pace," he said.
The final leg of the course was a 50-mile white-water run down the Snake River, then a 40-mile hike, which ended with a 50-mile bike ride. Despite the physical stamina the race required, Wilkinson said it was the mental focus of overcoming sleep depravation that was one of the hardest challenges.
"We didn't sleep. Some days we absolutely had to have two hours a day. Some days we slept for three to four," he said. "You're so sleep deprived that you're fuzzy mentally. It's hard to stay on course."