The moment sticks out for Bart Jarmula. After spending hours bushwhacking around one lake and through a drainage in the southern Selkirks, he and his three companions in team Wild Rose came up to another small lake surrounded by cliffs and waterfalls.
There was no one else around and no sign any of their competitors in the Raid the North Extreme (RNE) race they were competing in had passed through.
“I thought to myself, ‘Are we even in the right spot?’,” he said. “You have this thought that you’re in the middle of nowhere and I’m not even sure if we’re in the right spot.”
They were up to 20 hours away from civilization.
“It’s such an overwhelming feeling of ‘Oh my God. This is full-on.”
After some exploring, Jarmula and teammates Mike Brown, Veronica Jarlehag and James Heilman found a route up the cliffs above the lake and beyond. The moved from fifth place into second in that section and they would hold onto the position for the rest of the challenging adventure race that saw them travel from Meadow Creek, near Kaslo, over 400 kilometres of mountains and lakes to Trail, B.C.
It took them five days. They finished nine hours behind the winners but they were ecstatic about the result.
“To finish second was a great achievement,” he said.
Jarmula, 33, has been engaged in adventure racing for more than a decade. His first serious competition was the RNE near Revelstoke in 2000.
As a kid growing up he was into sports. “If there’s a sport out there I’ve played it, probably decently,” he said.
At university he found he wasn’t quite good enough for the school’s varsity teams so instead he took up triathlon.
He got into adventure racing when watching Eco-Challenge, the Mark Burnett-produced show of the challenging expedition race.
“That’s what got me into it. I watched Eco-challenge and went, ‘Wow! That’s cool. How do I get into that,” he said.
His first RNE took him through Caribou and Groundhog Basins north of Revelstoke, across the lake, through to Eagle Pass Mountain and back to Revelstoke. His team finished sixth out of 13.
The next year, he joined up with some friends from Calgary to form Team Wild Rose. They have been together in various incarnations ever since.
This year’s RNE saw the team’s battle their way through Valhalla Provincial Park, down the Lower Arrow Lake, over some epic mountain bike trails before finally finishing 400 kilometres later in Trail, B.C.
They slept 1.5 hours a day, with another 1.5 hours spent stopping to eat. Other than that, they travelled non-stop for five days over peaks and through heavy brush that left Jarmula with lots of scraps on his arms and legs.
“They look better now,” said his wife Courtney Rennie. “You should have seem them last week.”
“My first thought when I think of it is ‘hard,’” said Jarmula. “It was a lot of really slow bushwhacking but at the same time we went through some really cool spots.”
The second place result was the best ever for Wild Rose in RNE. For much of the race they had little idea of where the other teams were and would only receive updates when they passed by a checkpoint along the way. The team’s carried spot trackers so they could be monitored online.
At one point, they were battling freezing cold temperatures and howling winds – having a break wasn’t possible. What keeps him motivated?
“You either have to get enjoyment out of the accomplishment of completing it or the accomplishment of competing. Something has to drive you,” he said. “For me, it’s a bit of both.”
Jarmula does numerous adventure races. He’s regularly finishes near the top of the Mind Over Mountain Adventure Races and this year competed in the B.C. Bike Race. He said the latter, a seven day, 350 kilometre long mountain bike race, was like a vacation compared to RNE.
“Which is so rude because I’m still recovering,” said Rennie, who also competed in it.
Said Jarmula: “Obviously my definition of what’s a vacation is obviously very different than most people’s.”
Up next for Jarmula and Team Wild Rose is the Adventure Racing World Championships in Tasmania, Australia. Their goal is a top-15 finish.