In the intense wilderness survival competition “Race to Survive: New Zealand,” nine teams of two compete for a $500,000 prize. The grueling 150-mile race tests participants both physically and mentally, pushing them to their limits.

Ryan Stewart and Bronsen Iverson, one of three teams from Utah competing this year, were consistently among the top contenders. However, the father and son-in-law duo had to withdraw in Episode 8 due to a knee injury Stewart battled throughout the competition.

Stewart, a hunting guide, relies on being in top physical condition for his livelihood and chose not to risk further injury by continuing.

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Deciding to compete

In an interview with Deseret News, Stewart described how, when invited to join the competition, he chose Iverson, his daughter’s fiancé at the time, as his partner. By the time the race began, Iverson had become his son-in-law.

“We thought how fun would that be to go on an adventure, especially with my at-the-time future son-in-law,” Stewart said. “I thought it’d be such a cool experience.”

Stewart praised Iverson, describing him as “a strong, tough dude, kind of more of a cowboy type of a guy.”

The pair had a close bond even before the competition due to their shared interests in camping, hunting and bull riding.

Despite neither having experience in high-endurance races like many of the other competitors, Stewart and Iverson were accustomed to physical strain.

Stewart’s background includes military and police service and he works as a hunting guide and landscaper, while Iverson grew up working on a ranch.

Unfortunately, they were not able to make up for their lack of experience with as much training as they would have liked due to their work commitments. Instead, they relied on their “grit” and “natural strength.”

“It’s really hard when you’ve got to support for your family,” Stewart said. “But I think we actually did really well. We would have done amazing if we didn’t get that injury. We’d have taken first or second.”

Overcoming challenges

The biggest hurdle for them to overcome was Stewart’s injured knee, which he sustained in Episode 2 and hindered him for the rest of the competition.

“I kept pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing until that last stinking race,” Stewart said. “The sand, it just jobbled it up and it didn’t want to go anymore.”

Stewart revealed that he had an LCL tear, which was about 90% torn. The doctor who treated him after the show said that continuing would have likely resulted in a complete tear.

Since returning to Utah, Stewart has had surgery and is almost fully recovered, though he still experiences some lingering pain.

“I feel it sometimes,” he said. “But I think it’s going to be golden here in another couple of months.”

Another challenge was the scarcity of food. On top of having to push themselves past their limits, contestants have to do so while hungry.

“You’re pushing your body so hard with minimal protein, and so your body’s never really recovering,” Stewart said. “I lost so much weight out there. I think I went from like 194 to 169, something like that.”

For Iverson, the greatest challenge was being away from his family and new wife.

“Only been married four months to my wife and I’ve been with her basically every day since we were married,” Iverson said. “That’s probably one of my biggest challenges out there was missing home.”

Motivation to win

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With the race being such a challenge, competitors need to stay motivated. For Stewart and Iverson, it was a matter of pride that they completed the race.

“I wanted to be at the end,” Stewart said. “It almost got to the point where it didn’t even matter if we got first, second, whatever, I just wanted to get to the end.”

However, “Race to Survive” often defies plans, and contestants must recognize their limits. For Stewart, his injury marked that limit. Despite his best efforts, his leg kept locking up, forcing him to stop.

Despite the hardships, Stewart stated, “I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

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