Shane Sigle will sit down on his couch and relive one of the most grueling races of his life from the comfort of his home in Durango. Millions more across the world will get a glimpse, too.
Sigle was one of 330 adventure race athletes from representing 30 different countries to compete in the 2019 Eco-Challenge. There were 66 co-ed teams with five members each in the grueling test that was filmed for a new 10-episode show titled “World’s Toughest Race Eco-Challenge Fiji” now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video in more than 200 countries.
“In a race like that with a camera person around you, most of the time you don’t even realize it or take them into account,” Sigle said. “The cameras are an unknown third wheel. I am honored now to get to see footage from the race while I am at home, comfortable, have taken a shower and had a warm meal. To see pictures of yourself and your team at your absolute wits end, literally surviving mentally and physically, it is kind of fun to see where you are now comfortable on the couch versus where you were during the race.”
Sigle, 46, has lived in Durango for roughly 20 years. He has been a professional adventure racer for most of that time. The Eco-Challenge is regarded as the “World’s Toughest Race,” and Sigle said it is a well-earned moniker.
The Eco-Challenge Fiji was an 11-day race with athletes competing 24 hours a day to cover a total of 417 miles. It combined the sports of whitewater rafting, stand-up paddling, ocean sailing, ocean outrigger paddling, canyoneering, mountain biking, trail running, swimming, jungle travel and rope rappelling, ascending and traversing.
“The Eco-Challenge is the hardest adventure race on the planet,” Sigle said. “The races are long, very well designed, very complex as far as navigation goes and requires people’s ability to excel at multiple sports.”
The Eco-Challenge was featured on television from 1995 to 2002 with the first edition held in Utah. It is credited for sparking a boom in reality television.
Executive producer Mark Burnett brought the first Eco-Challenge events to TV before launching “Survivor,” “The Apprentice,” “Shark Tank,” “The Voice” and many more. Burnett is back as the executive producer of the latest Eco-Challenge, which is also produced and hosted by outdoor adventure TV personality Bear Grylls.
“It’s really an amazing event,” Sigle said. “I’ve been a pro adventure racer for almost 15 years and done a lot of them around the globe. I was at the last Eco-Challenge put on in Fiji 17 years ago, so this was the second time I had done it. I was on a professional team at that time. We were in one of the leading teams for a big portion of the race. This time, it was completely different. We took a whole different spin.”
Sigle was part of Team Endure with Travis Macy, Mark Macy, Danelle Ballengee and Andrew Spears. Mark Macy has raced at every Eco-Challenge except 2002 and is an icon of adventure racing. Before the race, Mark was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, leading him to switch teams and compete with his son. Sigle and Team Endure went to work to help make Mark Macy’s final Eco-Challenge a success.
“This was his last chance to compete. Our team has a special story that is about to come out,” Sigle said.
Sigle works at Riverwise Engineering. He built the whitewater park on the Animas River and has completed several other big river projects. He first came to Durango for the Animas River to train for the U.S. whitewater canoe and kayak teams, and he has continued to call Durango home after he fell in love with the abundant resources of trails and water on which to train.
With his background in whitewater paddling, Team Endure relied heavily on Sigle for the Class II and III rafting portions of the race on the Navua River.
“I always feel better once on the river and on a raft,” Sigle said. “For me, it’s a real advantage. Other people can be terrified of the rafting portions, and that really highlights the team aspects of this race. They can rely on me to get them down the river, but on other sections, I may not be as comfortable in something that is a teammate’s strong point.”
Sigle said navigating the 330 islands of Fiji was one of the most difficult aspects of this Eco-Challenge. At times, the team would paddle for hours before finally seeing their destination on the horizon.
Sigle hopes the new television series will have success with the potential for the next Eco-Challenge to be held in the Patagonia region of Argentina and Chile. With 15 adventure races under his belt, he is eager for more.
“It’s a really small community of special, crazy people that do this sort of thing,” Sigle said. “Not too many people think it’s exciting to throw themselves in the jungle halfway around the world and travel over 20 hours a day and deal with the extreme sleep deprivation and lack of food and water and the dehydration. You push yourself to your furthest capabilities. You deal with hallucinations and all kinds of issues. It’s surreal.
“I can’t wait to watch the episodes now and relive all of it.”