Valley couple readying for race in the Alps

Windermere locals Max Fanderl and Penny Powers are training three to five hours a day for X-Alps

(l-r) Mik Broschart

(l-r) Mik Broschart

Red Bull doesn’t sponsor softshell sports, and valley athlete Max Fanderl doesn’t compete in mild match ups.

Those coinciding factors will see Max in Europe this July competing in the Red Bull X-Alps 2013 — “the world’s toughest adventure race,” according to the website.

While any organized competition can make such a bold claim, the X-Alps defends the statement with a simple course description: athletes must race from Salzburg, Austria to Peille, Monaco, a 1,031-kilometre route that can only be travelled by foot or glider.

Because the adventure race is such an exhausting challenge, competitors are allowed to bring one or two supporters for logistical and mental support; no racing assistance is allowed.

In what will be his forth attempt in the X-Alps, Max will be racing with the support of his wife, Penny Powers. This will be her third time offering assistance.

“Without her, I would never ever go there,” Max said. “Doing it with her is the most rewarding thing for me.”

Penny’s greatest attribute is the coaching support she provides, he said, also touting her as one of the most fit supporters in the entire event. Additionally, in the 2013 X-Alps, for the first time a team is allowed two supporters, and Max and Penny have recruited their long-time friend Mik Broschart as second supporter/coach.

Thirty-two athletes will gather from 21 different countries to compete in the prestigious challenge.

“It’s a selection process, it’s invite-only,” said Max. “You can’t just raise your hand and get into it.”

Born in Germany, Max has been living in Canada for the past 20 years, trading his knowledge of the Alps mountain range for that of the Rockies.

“When it comes to flying, the European competitors have the advantage; they can fly the areas all year long,” he admitted. “I don’t have that — I have to scout that as an out-of-towner.”

As he studies and prepares for the foreign terrain as best he can, Max believes he’ll enter the race with  greater athletic ability and more wisdom.

“I am very strong, and I try to go straight. My competitors spiral the mountain to get up, but not me — I go straight up,” he said. “I just go straight up, and just throw myself off any cliff I can launch.”

Sixty per cent flying conditions to 35 to 40 per cent walking conditions would be ideal, Max said. And this year he plans to take the race half a step slower.

“The younger guys will outrun themselves within the first ten days,” he predicted.

The only competitors to claim victory in the bi-annual event since its debut in 2003 are all from Switzerland, which is home to the highest point in the Alps.

“It’s in their blood,” Max said.

To best combat the hometown talent, Penny plans to keep in mind the big picture while supporting Max en route.

“It’s about strategizing over a few weeks, not just day by day,” she said.

Penny said preparing is the most difficult part. Along with the intense three- to five-hour workouts every day, the pair are putting their effort into balancing planning for the event with the needs of their business and family.

The race begins on Sunday, July 7th and will conclude 48 hours after the first contestant crosses the finish line, or on Sunday, July 28th if no victory is declared.

Spectators can go online and track the pair’s progress in real time, as Max and his competition will be wired into a virtual map with GPS devices. During the race, check on their progress by visiting

To make the venture financially possible, friends of Max and Penny will be supporting them with a fundraising party on Sunday, June 2nd. Anyone with an interest in the Red Bull X-Alps competition is welcome.

The fundraiser will start at 2 p.m. at 907 Osprey Point in Lakeview Meadows and go until 10 p.m. In addition to a family barbecue ($10 for burgers and salad), there will be face painting, a bouncy castle, a flight simulator and music, as well as a presentation about the X-Alps that will include videos of the event.