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Maria's 30th will be a real adventure; Athlete is primed and ready for a gruelling world race.

Byline: Wendy Horton

ADVENTUROUS athlete Maria Leijerstam will be celebrating her 30th birthday in a less than usual fashion next week.

She'll be marking the milestone as she prepares to set off as the only Welsh competitor in one of the world's most gruelling races - the World Series Adventure Race.

Twenty-five mixed teams of four will race non-stop for 90 hours, day and night, over a 400-mile course, spanning the five peninsulas of Kerry and West Cork, in Ireland, to compete for pounds 80,000 in prize money.

The race, between June 16 until June 21, involves 10 disciplines - trail running, mountain biking, horse-riding, rafting, rope courses, rowing and kayaking on sea, lake and river.

The culmination of the race is the longest zip-line ever in adventure racing, spanning a glaciered valley in the Mc- Gillycuddy Reeks, known as the death slide, 300 metres above the Gap of Dunloe.

Former Cowbridge Comprehensive pupil Maria, who was born in Aberdare and now lives in Bonvilston, said: "The difficulty is going to be sleep deprivation and to be able to keep going.

"In training I have actually managed to do better at sleep deprivation and don't need as much food as the men so I am hoping to go longer."

Maria has donemuch of her training in the Brecon Beacons and the coastal waters of South Wales in preparation for a gruelling contest which relies on the strength and stamina of competitors.

She said: "My last training session in the Brecon Beacons was really tough, lasting 48 hours.

"We mountain biked throughout the night on unfamiliar and rugged steep terrain which resulted in a couple of nasty falls and a lot of exhaustion - but this is exactly the training we need.

"We rested under a survival sheet huddled together to get warm and dry and close our eyes for a few minutes.

"During the race team leader Russ will only allow us 20 minutes' sleep at anyone time as the aim is to keep knocking off the miles."

Maria, who is a business improvement director, claims yoga and meditation play a vital role in her training.

"It's not enough to just be physically fit," she said.

"I must ensure that even when I am at my lowest I can make myself continue."

Maria is hoping to boost the popularity of adventure racing in Wales by bringing together an all-Welsh team for the next challenge.

Last year Maria competed in the Marathon Des Sables across the Sahara Desert, and The Three Peaks Yacht Race finished off with a 90-kilometre cross-country ski across northern Sweden.


BIG CHALLENGE: Maria Leijerstam takes a break before spending her 30th birthday taking part in the World Series Adventure Race
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 7, 2008
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