From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 8, Number 49 - February 26, 2009
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Ultimate battle: human vs. nature

by Trey Wilkinson

“Please don’t tell my parents this, but I actually feared for my life three different times.”

It’s over; she’s done it. Pinedale native Sara Percy finished the Wenger Patagonia Expedition Race in Chile, South America, last Friday food-deprived, cold and exhausted.

“It’s very humbling,” the 31-year-old Percy said four days after the race was completed. “It makes you appreciate the little things in life like food and water.”

Percy and her three American teammates (team Calleva) set out on an adventure of a lifetime Feb. 10. The Wenger Patagonia Expedition Race is a grueling 375-mile, 10-day expedition race through Patagonia at “the end of the earth” in extreme southern Chile.

“Patagonia is more about survival,” Percy said. “You’re not only pushing yourself to the max, but pushing beyond. It’s really not a race against other competitors, instead you’re trying to beat Mother Nature.”

The challenge brings teams from around the world to compete in some of the world’s most rugged terrain and most remote lands of the earth. The race involves the disciplines of orienteering, trekking, kayaking, biking and rock climbing while battling the harsh unpredictable forces of Mother Nature – so harsh and unpredictable, in fact, that five of the nine teams participating weren’t able to finish the race.

But Sara’s team did finish – in fourth place.

“We were given a final standing of fourth place even though two of our teammates weren’t able to finish,” Percy said.

During the final two and a half days of the race Sara and her three male teammates found themselves just one kilometer from the finish line; however, one kilometer had never seemed like such an unreachable distance.

“Every direction we went we were cliffed out,” she said. “Two of our teammates were suffering from hypothermia.”

Lacking proper nourishment (the team ran out of food with three days remaining in the race) Percy and one other teammate knew what had to be done.

“We tried to use our satellite phone, but it didn’t work. We tried flares,” she said. “Finally, we decided to leave them behind and get to the finish line.”

The two healthiest healthiest members of team Calleva, cold and hungry, crossed the finish line and immediately informed race coordinators about their teammates.

“They sent rescuers via helicopter to get them out,” Percy said.

Despite only half of the team crossing the finish line, Percy couldn’t have been more proud of her team.

“We were a great team,” she said. “They were like the three older brothers I never had. Everybody was understanding and encouraging. We all had our low points at times, but if one person had some extra strength that day they’d pick the rest of us up. We were definitely united.”

Looking back over the course of the 10-day battle for survival Percy reflected on the hardest parts of the race.

“It definitely isn’t just one thing (that is the hardest),” she said. “At every point you thought that was the hardest part. You just had to have perseverance.”

And when Percy was asked about the most rewarding parts she said, “For me they almost go hand in hand with the hard parts.”

“I never enjoy going down the hill until I experience the grueling part of going up the hill. My greatest pleasure comes at the expense of the hardest challenges.”

Just five days after one of the most exhausting challenges known to man (and woman) Percy is back to work. Wednesday the 31-year-old departed for Florida where she will attend a five-day training camp as the trainer for the Women’s USA Rugby Team.

It seems as though this young lady doesn’t understand the definition of exhaustion.

But when asked if she would ever participate in the Wenger Patagonia Expedition Race again Percy humbly said, “Get back to me in a couple of weeks when I can walk again.”

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