Peck tackles 'challenge' of a lifetime

"Trekking through dark and mysterious jungles, swimming in raging rivers, racing through caverns, and scaling treacherous canyons would be a dream sports event for Tarzan.Actually these activities are part of the Eco-Challenge, a multi-skills event that attracts hundreds of modern day Tarzans and Janes each year. Marc Peck has dreamt of competing in a Eco-Challenge for five years and this summer he will get his wish.Peck, who grew up in Oak Harbor, is captain of Team Cascade, a four-member team that will compete on the island of Borneo in Eco-Challenge 2000.The 1985 Oak Harbor High graduate and Team Cascade will compete against 79 other teams in a daring 300-mile race across one of the most primitive areas of the world. Teams will battle the elements and overcome numerous hardships as they cross the island in August.This is something I've always wanted to do, said Peck, who admittingly has always had a sense for adventure, a love for nature, and an enjoyment for many sports. He will fulfill all these desires in this year's Eco-Challenge.Part of the Eco-Challenge race will follow an ancient headhunter trail. There will be mountain biking, something Tarzan never did, over rugged landscapes. Teams will also do jungle trekking, caving, climbing, paddling in Murut canoes, sailing in Perahu outrigger canoes, swimming, and scuba diving.Peck saw his first Eco-Challenge in 1996 when the event was held in British Columbia and was infatuated. Two years later, he saved up enough money to fly to Morocco and watch the Eco-Challenge.When I got home from Morocco, I knew I wanted to enter one, he said. They (Eco-Challenge) don't take just anyone though. They take resumes seriously. You have to show them that you have knowledge of different events. It's also first come, first serve.Peck, 33, sent a resume, and last summer he received an acceptance card in the mail.I finally got picked, he said. I showed them that I had ability to do different events and the knowledge.Since last summer Peck has been practicing, organizing a team, and seeking sponsors.I've put in a lot of time and done a lot of paperwork, Peck said.Finding a sponsor has been one of his challenges because funding for the team is essential. The entry fee is $12,500 per team, not counting expenses for airline tickets and supplies.Peck, who works as an exercise specialist in Mountlake Terrace, has had better success finding a team. In putting together a team, he looked for people who had essential skills as well as a well-rounded knowledge of kayaking, cycling, climbing, orienteering, and diving. According to Eco-Challenge rules, each team must have a female member. Team Cascade's woman teammate is Sarah Bruce, who lives in California, but grew up in Issaquah, WA. Bruce's expertise is mountain biking.She used to work at REI. She has a great knowledge about mountain biking and how to repair bikes. She will be a great asset because you need someone who can fix bikes quickly, Peck said. Dan Winder, a fireman and paramedic from Arizona, and Victor Chang, a child family therapist from Arizona, are the other members of the team. Both are whitewater rescue technicians.Dan and Victor know how to read rivers, which will be important during the canoeing part of the race, Peck said.As with any team, whether it's baseball, football, or Eco-Challenge, teamwork is essential. You have to work together, Peck said, I think we have a pretty good team. Everyone seems to coincide with everyone elses' thoughts.Peck learned about the importance of teamwork when he was in high school.My father (George) was a coach, Peck said. I learned a lot from him about teamwork.Peck played tennis and basketball at Oak Harbor. In 1985, he was Oak Harbor's Athlete of the Year. He also earned a tennis scholarship from Washington State University.Often during his high school days, Peck thought about seeing the world one day. In recent years, he has seen a lot of the globe, but not as the conventional tourist.Growing up in Oak Harbor, I always loved the outdoors. I decided that was the way I wanted to see the world, he said. Since college, it seems like I will work a couple of years, save up some money and then travel. Then work a couple of years, save up some money, and travel.In 1993 he went to New Zealand equipped with camping gear and a bike. Peck was in New Zealand for eight months. It was during that time that he watched the Southern Traverse, an event similar to Eco-Challenge.I saw these guys racing along on their bikes, then suddenly jumping off and jumping into their kayaks, Peck said. It looked like fun.When he returned to the United States, Peck searched for an event that was like the Southern Traverse. He discovered there was nothing like it at the time. Two years later the first Eco-Challenge was held in Utah.Because Eco-Challenge is a multi-sport endurance race, competitors need to stay in top physical shape to avoid injuries. In the Eco-Challenge, any team that loses a member because of injury is disqualified. In preparation for the Eco-Challenge, Peck does biking daily and has done some kayaking. He also competed in two team endurance events earlier this year, taking part in a two-day race in Colorado, and a 36-hour non-stop event in Arizona.In June, Team Cascade will compete in an endurance event in British Columbia as a tuneup for Eco-Challenge.Peck, who once traveled through Thailand, knows the weather conditions in Borneo can be brutal.It's going to be humid, real humid, he said. The temperature is 75 degrees at night, 95 during the day with 100 percent humidity, there will be rainstorms.Peck said contestants are advised to stay on Eco-Challenge trails and not venture into the jungles alone, especially at night. There are 2,000 species of animals on the Malaysian island.There are a lot of nasty creatures in the jungle, Peck said. The Eco-Challenge people are actually very safety conscious.When Peck returns from Borneo, he will get a short rest before embarking for New Zealand. He has already signed up for the Southern Traverse, which will be held in November. One of the events in that competition is traveling across a glacier. Peck plans to prepare for that event by hiking up Mount Rainier.Basically, I'm the kid of person who always has to do something, Peck said. I can't stand to sit still.And neither could Tarzan.You can learn more about Peck and Team Cascade at www.teamcascade.comSometimes teams are required to ride camels across hot, scorching deserts. Sometimes they must cross ice fields, or navigate around an environment that has poisonous snakes and spiders.The uniqueness of the Eco-Challenge is that the endurance race provides a sense of adventure in a non-stop journey over a unpredictable countryside.Eco-Challenge is the creation of Mark Burnett, who based the multi-sport race on New Zealand's Southern Traverse.The teams race 300 miles non-stop, 24 hours a day, to a finish line via a series of checkpoints. They utilize only non-motorized transportation such as canoes, kayaks, mountain bikes, white water rafts, horses, and climbing ropes. It usually takes 6 to 10 days to complete the course. The first team to cross the finish line together, in full complement, is the winner. If a team loses a member due to illness, fatigue, injury or a team disagreement, they are disqualified.The first Eco-Challenge attracted 50 teams for six countries and was held in April of 1995 in southeastern Utah. Teams were burned by the hot desert during the day, and froze at night when temperatures plummeted. Just 21 teams finished the race. A team from France finished first in seven days, 16 hours, and 12 minutes.Later in 1995, another Eco-Challenge was held in Maine and Rhode Island where an Australian team took first in four days, nine hours, and 17 minutes. The next year teams competed in Squamish, British Columbia, which was then the toughest race. Of the 70 teams entered, only 13 finished. The winning team crossed the finish line in six days, 17 hours, and 44 minutes.In 1997, the Eco-Challenge moved to Australia where 48 teams were challenged by the Outback, a rainforest, and the Great Barrier Reef.The 1998 Eco-Challenge was held in Morocco and included two new disciplined: coasteering, where competitors scrambled along the Atlantic coastline, climbing over boulders and negotiating cliff edges in a rush to beat the incoming tide; and camel riding.Last year's Eco-Challenge was in Argentina where teams navigated deep fjords in sea kayaks, paddled whitewater rivers, crossed the expansive pampas on horseback, and ascended a glacier to the summit of a 12,000 foot peak.This year's Eco-Challenge, which will be filmed by USA Network, will be held in Borneo in August.At stake for the winner this year is a check for $55,000."

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