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Primal quest offers Tahoe team free crack and $100,000

Think you have what it takes to go 400 miles in the backcountry, caving, mountain biking, hiking, white water and flat water paddling?

Those are just some of the things you might be asked to do in the Subaru Primal Quest, a 24-hour-a-day adventure race that traverses some of the more challenging terrain in the Lake Tahoe backcountry.

If you’re up for the challenge, you have a shot at taking home $100,000 for first place, or a smaller denomination of a $250,000 total purse.



The Primal Quest is one of the more popular adventure races taking hold in the United States and abroad. Generally, they include top athletes with recreational skills in an “ultra” challenge, one in which the race takes place over several days without sleep and over physically and emotionally challenging terrain.

One Lake Tahoe team will automatically secure a berth in the competition, and the $6,500 registration fee will be waived.




“We haven’t sat down with the powers that be to determine how exactly that will be doled out,” said Dan Barger, race director and Subaru Primal Quest CEO. Subaru Primal Quest waives a fee for a select local team to ensure that the community is represented, and since teams such as Nokia, Pearl-Izumi, Red Bull and Aussie Spirit have hefty corporate backing.

Last year, local participants were selected from a preliminary qualifying event in Moab, Utah, that was shorter. That’s a likely avenue for selection in 2003, but only one of the factors that will contribute in the selection process.

“We’re looking for (participants) that get the whole idea,” said Gordon Wright, spokesperson for the Primal Quest. Other factors such as ecological awareness and non-profit experience will also be considered.

The 2003 event, which moves to Lake Tahoe Sept. 5-14, will be aired on national television, although an official broadcasting station has not yet been announced.

The race pits 100 coed teams in groups of four against the elements to accomplish predetermined backcountry challenges. The nine categories of backcountry travel are caving, mountain biking, hiking, rappelling, white water and flat water paddling, night navigation, orienteering and road biking.

Teams often spend very little of their time sleeping, which adds to the challenge, although some activities, such as white water rafting, cannot be completed during the night.

In its first year, 42 out of 70 teams completed the 300-mile course near Telluride, Colo. Some teams took as long as 10 days.

In Fiji’s eco-challenge, which is a similar event, Barger said 10 teams out of 81 finished. That’s a little tougher than how the Subaru Adventure Quest is likely to go, but it won’t be far off the mark either.

“Lots of people come from backgrounds in ultra running, paddling or mountain biking or participated in marathons,” Barger said, although he added that there is no athletic criteria to qualify. But the participants are often talented endurance athletes that are looking for something new.

“Ninety-five percent of these guys have jobs. They’re doing it just for fun,” he said.

The event is no walk in the park, just ask local Telluride participant Jenny McCargo.

“I would recommend it definitely, with caveats, but I would recommend it for sure,” McCargo said.

McCargo, who has two children, became sick during the first 24 hours of the adventure race and was forced to withdraw. In doing so, her team was forced to withdraw from the competition.

“If you haven’t done a race like this, you don’t know how your body’s going to react without sleeping. I know a lot of people give it their best and it just doesn’t work out. You have to be willing not to finish, I guess,” McCargo said.

Her three teammates went on to finish the event in four days.

McCargo said the event required a tremendous amount of dedication, but that it was one “of the coolest things I have ever done.”

The one-hour registration period, which begins at noon Feb. 5, takes place online.

In the first 2 1/2 minutes of the registration period last year, 70 teams registered with 30 more on a waiting list, indicating just how popular adventure races have become.

The application process mostly requires general information. It isn’t meant to be difficult, but simply to obtain the necessary information. At a later date, each member of the selected team must submit certificates of ability for a variety of tasks and first-aid procedures.

Teams will be selected entirely by lottery. It doesn’t matter whether you register in the first five minutes or first 50. The teams are randomly selected and notified via the Web.

The details of the course are withheld from participants until the day before the course to ensure that competitors from outside the region or country have an equitable chance.

Support crews are allowed at specific locations along the course. The progress of each team will tracked using global positioning system technology and up-to-the-minute information on the event will be available online.

For more information about registering for the event or information about last year’s event, see http://www.ecoprimalquest.com.


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