ALBUQUERQUE -- In eight days, two police officers and an FBI agent each slept a total of 15 hours, much of that along faint mountain trails. They trekked overnight, cut and bruised, and slogged through heaps of fresh snow.
This wasn't a mission. This was fun.
The three recently competed in the Primal Quest ecochallenge - a trek through mountains, rivers and avalanche country.
"I try to challenge myself every six months or so with something that I can train for, that pushes me, that makes me feel alive," said Justin Shook, search-and-rescue coordinator for the Albuquerque Police Department. "I just don't want to ever get static in my life."
Primal Quest, which was in Montana this year, is one of the most rigorous adventure races in North America. Racers compete in coed teams of four to navigate a course that covers about 500 miles and a total elevation gain of about 10,000 feet. The race includes mountain biking, trail running, river sports and rock climbing.
Shook joined forces with Sgt. Steve Hall of the APD bomb squad and Ben Allen, a local FBI agent. Jacqueline Eastridge of Pennsylvania was added to the roster after seeking a team through Primal Quest. The men admit you have to be a bit crazy to do what they did, but they insist it was fun.
"I was ready for constant agony," Hall said.
Instead, he remembers laughing.
"The banter back and forth was just great," Hall said. "At one point, my stomach was hurting so bad because I was laughing hysterically."
The course took the team through some of the most difficult terrain Montana has to offer, including trails that were sometimes hard to find. The group once went off course in the dark and lost eight hours backtracking. Trails that are hard to navigate under the best circumstances were buried under 10 feet of snow that fell the week before the race.
Snow and avalanche conditions were so bad at this year's race that participants were allowed to take a GPS device with them. The devices were kept in bags sealed by race officials, to be taken out only in emergencies.
Allen said he knows it sounds crazy, but he enjoys the primal nature of adventure racing and likes getting away from the stresses of work and modern life.
"I like to push the body. Why not? That's how it used to be in gladiator days," Allen said. "There's no cell phone, no e-mail, just no worries."
Although they were among the last teams to finish, Hall said they hope to be far more competitive in their next race.
"We were rookies; we had so many rookie mistakes," he said. "We still have a little fire in our bellies to really compete."
The three men are now training for a September adventure race in the desert around Moab, Utah. This time, the woman on the team will be Stella Candelaria, an APD officer who will round out a team of all Albuquerque law enforcement.