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Adventure racer on podium

Jen Segger looks to World Championships in September

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Of the almost 40 teams to take part in the Full Moon in June adventure race in Sundre, Alberta two weeks ago, only 18 managed to complete the race without losing a member along the way.

One of those groups was Team Go Big! which is comprised of three Vancouver athletes, Don Barthel, Rick St. Pierre and Toim Jarecki, and Whistler’s own Jen Segger. Together they trekked, paddled and cycled 180 kilometres 27 hours to finish the race ranked third overall.

"I’ve been training with this group for about the past six months and this was our first race together as a team," said Segger, who at 23 is one of the youngest women in the sport. "It was in the foothills of the Rockies, which we learned were actually huge, not hills at all really. It was up and down the whole time and a lot harder than we thought."

The race began at midnight under a full moon with a brisk 28 km trail run and trek.

Team Go Big was strong from the start, and were in first place by more than 10 minutes at the end of the first stage.

"We were there hours before our support crew expected us. They were still sleeping when we rolled in," recalled Segger.

The top-five teams then had to wait for the sun to come up before they could get into their boats and tackle a 33 km section of the Red Deer River with mixed class two class three rapids. Go Big was in second place after this section, but had the leaders in their sights at the transition.

Following the raft section the teams embarked on an 80 km mountain bike leg, which was extremely steep and technical. For several sections the riders had to put their bikes over their shoulders and haul themselves up cliff faces.

That’s when the team got into trouble, Segger says.

"One of our teammates got heatstroke out there, which slowed us down a little bit, and navigation was pretty tough," she said. "(Our teammate) was great about it and didn’t want to give up, but we did have to take it easy for a while until he could recover enough to keep going. That’s where we lost most of our time and a lot of other groups caught up to us."

Go Big dropped from second into fifth place, and was more than three hours behind the lead team when they hit the zip line over the Red Deer River. The group had practiced its rope techniques, and actually made up two spots before losing them again as they biked to the next transition.

The final leg of the competition was a trek of more than 30 km. With a burst of energy and some shrewd navigation they passed two teams in the woods, and headed to the finish line solidly in third place.

Team Go Big!’s final time was 27 hours and six minutes, 2:14 back of second place and 3:11 back of the leaders.

"When we were in first our goal was to be behind one of the teams we knew was good, and we did that," said Segger. "It was pretty incredible to be in third against all of those teams and to stay with the leaders the whole time. That’s a good experience to have as we head into the worlds in Newfoundland in August."

The world championships this year are the Raid the North Extreme race, which runs from Aug. 1 to 8. The race covers 500 km over six days and includes trail running, trekking, rope work, orienteering, mountain biking, river kayaking, sea kayaking and canoeing.

Segger had hoped to qualify for the worlds last fall when she raced in the New Zealand Southern Traverse, but missed out when one of the racers on that team suffered a knee injury.

At last she made it in through the wildcard draw, and has been focusing her training for the race ever since.

"I think our goal will be to be one of the top Canadian teams there," said Segger. "It’s going to be a really highlight for me. I know the course is going to be challenging, but I’ve wanted this for almost a year now and I can see by our results in Sundre that we’re ready."

Her other goals for the summer include the 67 km Test of Metal this weekend, the 24 Hours of Adrenaline in Whistler as a solo racer and, in the fall, the seven day Marathon de Sable across the Sahara desert.

Chloe Lanthier, a fitness trainer and endurance athlete, has completed the Marathon de Sable twice and is helping Segger train for the trek across the desert.

Her age is a plus in adventure racing and distance races, says Segger, who is still relatively new to the sport.

"I’m generally the youngest at these comps, which I think gives me an edge because I’m at their level and they’re in their 30s, which is their prime for endurance racing," said Segger.

For more information on the World Championships, visit www.raidthenorth.com. For more information on Team Go Big, visit www.teamgobig.org.