Next to Primal Quest, the Sole Baja Travesia is one of the toughest adventure races in North America, covering more than 400 km of desert in Mexico’s Baja Peninsula in up to seven days of paddling, trekking, cycling, canyoneering, and rally car driving.
Squamish’s Jen Segger-Gigg once again raced with Team DART Nuun, the defending champions for the past two years. They were the first team once again this year, although it was a tie after they elected to cross the finish with members of Team DART Northwest Kayaks after just under 70 hours of solid racing.
Although Segger-Gigg’s team started out in first, they found themselves in second to the other DART team after a navigation error on a trekking section.
“I don’t think that this was the hardest course, but we made a big navigation error out there,” she said. “That’s always the problem when you’re dealing with maps, trails show up, roads disappear and in the end maps can be inaccurate, and what got us into trouble was looking for an alternate route that didn’t exist.”
Her team, with Cyril Jay-Rayon and Aaron Rinn of Seattle, caught up to the other DART team in a canyon section, where they decided to finish as a group.
“They hadn’t slept, while we banked an hour previously. We caught them in this canyon section, and they were a mess,” said Segger-Gigg. “They hadn’t slept, they were disoriented, they were freezing cold and out of food. We could have dropped them there, but we decided to help them out of the canyon and cross the finish line together, although we decided at the time who would get the entry to the world championships in Brazil.”
The opening kayak stage was less dangerous than last year, when several boats were wrecked on the shore because of high waves and the coast guard had to intervene. However, the last kayak stage was called because of high waves and a strong tide that threatened to swamp the boats.
“The rip tide was huge and pretty scary, but otherwise it was a fantastic course,” said Segger-Gigg.
Finishing that event has freed up Segger-Gigg to start training for her next challenge — the 135-mile (217 km) Badwater Ultramarathon in July. Only 80 out of 2,000 applicants are selected to run this annual event that starts in California’s Death Valley and finishes at Mt. Whitney. It’s among the hardest ultra runs in the world, with extreme heat and a total elevation gain of close to 4,000 metres over three mountain ranges. Segger-Gigg, 27, will be the youngest woman ever to race Badwater.
Segger-Gigg qualified after winning her category in a 100-mile race last year, and on the basis of her adventure race experience.
To prepare, Segger-Gigg plans to enter a few shorter ultra runs, including the 100 km Miwok trail run in San Francisco. She also has to train for the heat, but has already proven that she can handle intense temperatures by finishing the six-day Marathon des Sables across the Sahara Desert in Morocco.
“When the heat picks up I’m going to Penticton to get into the heat and run the roads as the summer approaches,” she said. “I’m not too worried about the heat — I can’t underestimate it, but fortunately I do handle the heat well. The hardest thing for me is handling the pavement, and now I’m mixing up my training with a bit more road.”
Segger-Gigg has put together a six-person support team for Badwater, with four pacers, a driver, and Ray Zahab — an ultra runner who has raced badwater, and made the record books by crossing the entire Sahara Desert on foot over 111 days while averaging 70 km a day.
“The logistics are huge,” said Segger-Gigg. “We have to sort out how to get ice, water and food along the way, which is tough because there’s nothing out there.”
Zahab will be giving Segger-Gigg advice through the race, and keep a chart of the fluid she has taken in to guard against dehydration.
Segger-Gigg is also using the run to raise funds for Right To Play, a charity that provides sporting equipment and facilities to impoverished nations around the world.
On top of Badwater, Segger-Gigg is also planning the course for the MOMAR adventure race in Squamish on May 10, and training for two adventure races — the Bull of Africa race in South Africa, and the world championships in Brazil.
Jen Segger-Gigg’s website is www.challengebychoice.ca.