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From Survivor to Madagascar

Having survived the television show Survivor: The Amazon as a runner-up, one could argue that Matthew Von Ertfelda came to Madagascar with valuable survival skills at hand. When we met the man, once voted as People Magazine’s Top 50 Bachelors, we asked him to compare his experiences here with that famed television show.

He points out that both require mental and physical fortitude and a level of adaptation to things that happen unexpectedly. “There is a lot more camaraderie here,” he says. “The reward is also a lot more of a personal one. These kinds of races are more predictable and there’s more control over the elements; Survivor has an entertainment sheen, and you have to worry about how you’re represented. Obviously, there’s nothing of that nature here.”

Having finished in 24th overall position, Von Ertfelda has shown his racing credentials are strong. Prior to his first RacingThePlanet experience, he competed in the Antarctic Ice Marathon and Marathon des Sables 2013.

“Someone told me to have ‘good admin’ because it’s critical in a race like this to take care of your nutrition, sleep and hydration,” he explains of his strategy in this race. “One thing I forgot to account for was the snoring. Even if you don’t have someone in your own tent snoring, you can hear the tents beside you!”

“The course was scenic,” he continues. “But with the long road parts felt monotonous. I liked the canyons and mountains. The river crossings were good to submerge in to cool down. Any opportunity I have to submerge or drench myself in water I did, because I tend to overheat. I asked to be drenched at every at all the checkpoints to help control the heat.”

He says he’s impressed by how well run and managed this race has been. “I like that there are facilities to eat, congregate and commune. It creates a sense of community. This sense of community gives you a mental boost.”

“There’s great camaraderie here and a nice vibe because there’s a good amount of people here that have done this before, and they’re helping each other out, and giving advice… All the facilities are great and there’s a tighter social fabric here for this race as compared to other races I’ve done.”

He believes that races like this have a huge impact on life back home—and for Von Ertfelda that home is currently in Washington, D.C. where he works for Marriot (although he was born in Hong Kong and has lived all over the globe).

“It’s about garnering personal insights and introspective that builds a foundation of real confidence, overcomes fear and self-doubt and self-limitations,” he says. “Which helps you become stronger, agile and adaptive and therefore more successful in life.”

He stresses that this adaptability during the race itself is also part of the key to success. “There’s something I call The Serendipity Factor,” he says. “You could have everything prepared but so many unexpected things can happen and you learn a lot about yourself. You need to always stay in a constant state of learning. You can never come in too confident or with much hubris.”

By Clare Morin

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