The first-year Endeavor Team Challenge, a 30-hour, 40-mile test of fitness that pits participants against the Sierra Nevada terrains of the Stanislaus National Forest, consists of four challenges including a bonus event programmed by 2007 CrossFit Games Champion and founder of Optimum Performance Training, Inc., James “OPT” Fitzgerald.
“There’s a lot of people in the millions who do these sort of day adventures,” co-founder of Always Endeavor, LLC Kent Keirsey said. “There’s a lot of them looking for a tough competition, to know how they stack up and test themselves.”
The Endeavor Team Challenge, designed by West Point graduates and former U.S. Army Rangers Keirsey, 32, and co-founder Greg Hastings, 29, will kickoff Saturday morning Sept. 7. Bear Valley will act as home base during the two-day challenge.
“It was the perfect spot,” Keirsey said. “The people of Bear Valley were very accomodating. The general enthusiasm in the area for getting out, and taking advantage of the beauty of the national forest is great here. They’re so excited. They get that it’s a really cool event.”
Challenge 1: the Crucible Footmarch, a 15-20-mile hike uphill will test if participants are up to the challenge right away. They will have to carry their own survival gear on their backs until they reach their destination.
“It’s just the physicality aspect to just keep going,” Edney said of what drew him to the challenge. “You get tired. You’ve been climbing a hill and you want to stop, but you just have to keep going.”
Challenge 2: Competitor Field will test competitors in military-style obstacle courses, problem solving, rock climbing, strength and swimming.
“I’m looking forward to the rock climbing portion of it,” Edney said. “And the paddling.”
Challenge 3: Night Orienteering will put participant’s navigation skills to the test at night. The team of two will be given a map and compass, and the goal is to locate as many points as they can in a six-hour timeframe.
“The way it’s broken down, I’m most worried about the night-time orienteering,” Edney said. “It’s physical. You have to be able to stay awake and move around.”
The final challenge is The Lone Survivors Run, a 10-mile course that will test the competitors to use the skills that they picked up earlier in the challenge. They will have to paddle and swim across Alpine Lake, rappel down a cliff and sprint towards the finish line.
“It really pushes you to be the best that you can be,” Hastings said.
But there is a curve ball — the Battle Drill, OPT Challenge.
“Competitors will not know when or where it will take place,” Keirsey said. “The idea with the OPT challenge is that it’s a really tough workout because people go out and practice it, and kind of know what to expect. Knowing what to expect about the OPT challenge is kind of actually worst however. Like in the military, you’re trained for it, but never know when it will happen.”
To prepare for the two-day event, the former 10-year U.S. Coast Guard officer Edney has been training more than 10 hours a week. He works out daily at his home gym in Arnold and a few days with Murphys CrossFit when he’s not in charge of building maintenance at Bear Valley Lodge.
“I’ve been doing the same type of training for Tough Mudders,” Edney said. “Circuit set ups in my yard. It’s a lot of CrossFit training system. This summer, I started going to the CrossFit in Murphys. It’s an entirely cross-training type of workout.
“Other than that, I’ve been running more; been running with a backpack trying to get my total body in shape,” he added. “And climbing ropes, pull-ups and push-ups, 20 to 30 minutes at a time.”
An avid hiker and outdoorsman, Edney has been challenging himself constantly. Just this past year, he has competed in three Tough Mudders events, including one with his children, Nathan, 30, and Audrey, 29. He said that participating in those courses will benefit him mentally in next month’s challenge.
“I’ve been able to do the last couple of Tough Mudders in two hours,” he said. “It’s a mental thing. If you can walk a mile, you can walk two. If you can walk two, you can walk all day. It’s a matter of accepting it mentally. It’s being comfortable being uncomfortable.”
Edney will compete in another Tough Mudders at the end of September.
Edney has also participated in 100-mile mountain bike races in the past. The 6-foot-1-inch, 190 pounder has raced in the Tahoe-Sierra 100 in northern California, the Leadville Trail 100 in the Colorado Rockies and the High Cascades 100 in Bend, Oregon.
“I’m in as a good a shape as I’ve been in a long, long time,” Edney said. “Probably in better overall shape in the last 10 to 15 years.”
For Edney, his approach to this endurance challenge is the same.
“I’m not going out to win,” he said. “I’m going out to challenge myself and not embarass myself. I’m really much looking forward to this. Kind of excited about it.”
Co-founders Hastings and Keirsey expect to have 100 people compete in the inaugural Team Endeavor Challenge. There are a few slots still open, but with the event less than a month away, they said they might cap it near the 100-person mark.
“We have a few spots remaining before we have to close registration,” Keirsey said.
Challengers can register online at www.endeavorteamchallenge.com for $479. Discounts are available for all active and military reserves, including first responders and law enforcement. Family teams are also eligible for a $25 discount.
A percentage of the profits from the Endeavor Team Challenge will support Team Red, White and Blue, a national nonprofit organization that helps connect veterans to their communities.
“We’re really excited about this,” Keirsey said. “They have a great approach of veterans — to get them out and moving again. This is a cause that we really believe in.”
If everything goes according to plan, Hastings and Keirsey hope to make the challenge an annual event at Bear Valley and then will expand beyond that.
“We like to take this around the country,” Hastings said. “We’re planning around doing four or five events in the country next year. Putting about 10,000 competitors in team challenges.”