In the middle of the day in the Sahara Desert, the temperature can rise to about 120 degrees Farenheit, 49 degrees Celsius. Throw in strong winds, the threat of sandstorms, and terrain that varies from rock to dunes, and thereÕs no question that the 20 th annual Marathon des Sables, or Marathon of Sand, is one of the toughest races on the planet.
WhistlerÕs Jen Segger, an up and coming adventure racer who recently signed on with one of the top U.S. teams, is taking the challenge. She leaves this Sunday, April 3, and will only have a few days to get used to the hot Moroccan weather before embarking on the first of six stages on April 10.
The race will cost her about $6,000 and Segger has been working three jobs since the fall to cover her expenses. She also recently signed some new sponsors, including Salomon, Ryder Eyewear, Kinesis suntan lotion, Yaktrax, and local businesses like Whistler Superior Property Management and Lululemon.
At 24, she will be the youngest woman and the second youngest competitor in the race. The race typically has a field of about 500 racers, but because itÕs the 20 th anniversary the field was opened up to allow 800 athletes.
Pique caught up to Jen as she was making her last minute preparations.
AM: YouÕve been training for this since the fall, working three jobs to pay for it, and now itÕs just weeks away. How does it feel, are you excited, nervous?
JS: ItÕs become reality now, itÕs so close. IÕm excited to be in another culture, running through these remote villages on the edge of the desert with all of these athletes from around the world in there.
I feel ready, my body feels good, I have no injuries. This week I started to do some heat training, and I got some funny looks in the gym when I was running on the spot in the sauna, and running on the treadmills in the cardio room wearing a puffy jacket and a toque. Underneath I had three layers of polypro fleece.
It was not fun. The worst part of this whole thing was the heat training.
IÕve talked to so many people about (the race) that IÕm feeling pretty confident. When I get there IÕll have about four days to get used to the heat, and go for a few short jogs.
AM: So youÕre not worried about injuries, getting lost, anything like that?
JS: IÕve tried to be as prepared as I can, but itÕs going to be a tricky thing. After the race I only have about two weeks then I have a world qualifier for adventure racing in Sunday River, Maine, so on top of training for this IÕve been on my bike, IÕve been out paddling, trying to get ready for the race season.