Forget sleep; Local woman to focus on survival in Fiji ultimate adventure race

Published 12:15 am Sunday, August 25, 2019


NATCHEZ — One month from now when Natchez residents are tucked comfortably in their beds, one local woman will likely be fighting for sleep and survival in the “World’s Toughest Race.”

Local outdoor enthusiast and Natchez-Adams County Humane Society animal shelter director Lena McKnight will be part of Team Canyoneros. She joins four other adventure racers and video game makers from Orlando to tackle “Eco-Challenge Fiji.” The race is touted as the world’s ultimate expedition race.

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Their crew will be one of more than 60 teams from 30 countries that will be racing non-stop, 24 hours a day across the mountains, jungles and oceans of the South Pacific island.

The entire competition will be filmed for later broadcast on the Internet streaming service Amazon Prime Video. The 10-episode series is being produced by Emmy Award-Winning producer Mark Burnett, who also produced “Survivor,” “The Voice” and “Shark Tank.”

The race will be filmed in September and is set to premiere on Amazon Prime Video in 2020, a news release said.

The entire course is 417 miles long. More than 30 cameras crews along with drones and handheld state-of-the-art gyro cameras will document the race, the news release said.

Teams will have to pass tests in a variety of challenges including mountain biking, rappelling, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, paddle boarding and canyoneering. Between challenges, they will be navigating across the island using a map and compass to guide their way.

“We are going to be tired and sore, and we are going to be sleep-deprived,” McKnight said.

Teams are made up of four racers and one member who will be helping their team from base camp, the news release said. At least one member of the competitors must be of the opposite sex.

No stranger to adventure racing, McKnight started the extreme sports in 2002. Since then, she has traveled across the globe — to places like Alaska and Australia — to test her limits and get out of her comfort zone.

In Australia in 2017, McKnight and her teammates finished the 10-day course in eight days, placing 32nd out of 100 teams, McKnight said.

In each race, McKnight said she has learned so much about herself and what she is capable of under extreme stress.

“I love the push you give yourself and the things you learn about yourself when you are scared and are forced to get out of your comfort zone,” McKnight said. “On the race, you don’t have friends to comfort you; you don’t have 911 to call.”

“You have to depend on yourself and your skills.”

As an adventure racing veteran, McKnight said she expects one of the biggest challenges to be sleep deprivation.

“It’s a 24-hour-a-day race,” McKnight said. “The race doesn’t stop.”

A lack of sleep, McKnight said, could affect the team’s alertness and decision making along the race.

McKnight said her team has decided that to clear the course, they will try not to push sleep deprivation to the limits. “When we feel like we need some sleep, we will.”

Burnett said in the news release that the drama and the challenges are what make the race so compelling.

“It’s the ultimate test of the human spirit, teamwork and honoring our planet,” Burnett said. “I can’t wait to see the drama unfold as these teams test themselves beyond what they ever thought possible.”

McKnight said her biggest concern of the race, will be some of the challenges with which she is less familiar, such as sailing and whitewater rafting.

“We may be sailing boats from Fiji and paddling outrigger canoes,” McKnight.

But Team Canyoneros and the other teams in the race have no idea what is in-store, McKnight said.

The teams will be handed maps and other necessary information along the race, keeping players guessing about what they will do next, McKnight said.

And if a team member has to drop out, the whole team is disqualified from the race, McKnight said. Disqualified teams will not be allowed to leave the island.

“I hope I am exhausted when I get back, or I might be sitting around Fiji for a while,” McKnight said.