Team EarthLink

Two Seasoned Adventure Racers

Two of the most experienced competitors in last year's Eco-Challenge were on Team EarthLink. Jason Middleton, captain of the team, and part-time actor and former Army Ranger Mike Trisler have entered a combined seven Eco-Challenges.

Team EarthLink didn't enter Eco-Challenge just to finish the race, they went all out to win it. "Jason and I are here to win," said Trisler before the race. "If I was in Vegas, my money would be on us."

They were joined by newcomers Dianette and Brian Strange, a married couple from Malibu, Calif. The Stranges agreed to pay all entry fees and expenses - $70,000 - for the chance to run the Eco-Challenge.

Before the race began, Dianette Strange suspected her enthusiasm was greater than that of her husband. "He's doing it because he thought if we didn't do this together our marriage would be over," she said.

After months of training, Team EarthLink was ready to begin the 300-mile race.

For the first leg, teams had to paddle native canoes through the open ocean. But EarthLink employed a secret weapon. With a giant kite attached to their canoe they flew past the competition and into first place.

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But their lead wouldn't last long. The next leg of the race required two teammates to hike 10 miles through dense jungle. When Trisler and Dianette Strange emerged from the forest, they had dropped to third place.

After another 45-mile canoe ride and more than 60 miles of mountainbiking they were still within reach of first place.

Exhausted and working with precious little sleep, the team started the 25-mile trek though a forest even the locals refuse to enter.

When Team EarthLink finally stumbled out of the jungle, they were well behind schedule, their feet blistered and bloody.

Ahead was a three and a half-mile river swim and another 72 miles of canoeing. They hoped time off their feet would allow them to heal.

But when the river run ended a day and a half later, it was clear their condition was little improved.

With another seven hours of hiking ahead, reality set in. The finger pointing started just before their race was over. "He didn't take care of himself, he was totally out of it for wo or three days and kind of doubled our walking time. You know he couldn't carry his own weight," said Dianette Strange. "I don't know what's gonna happen to us after this."

After walking nearly three miles on heavily blistered feet, EarthLink's race ended at the medical tent.

The race put an added strain on the Strange's marriage but after the tension died down, the couple quickly made amends. They are both going to compete in the next Eco-Challenge, but not surprisingly, they'll be on separate teams.

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