Minden resident Mike LaBarge, 38, isn’t one to shy away from a challenge.
Fighting in a war and surviving cancer would tend to do that to you.
He’s spent most of his adult life working as a bomb disposal technician or training bomb disposal technicians in the Marine Corps.
At one point, after a grade 4 cancerous tumor was discovered wedged between his skull and his brain, he received a life-expectancy prognosis of as little as two weeks.
That was 10 years ago.
Earlier this month, LaBarge commemorated suriving that 10 years by undertaking his latest challenge — swimming for 10 hours at the Carson Valley Swim Center.
“It was a long day,” said LaBarge, who jumped in the water shortly after 6 a.m. on May 1 and called it a day around 4 p.m. “I looked like a raisin when I got out.”
A family friend made a poster about LaBarge’s plight and posted it at the pool’s front desk.
“People could read about it, about what I was trying to do, and they’d find me in the water and talk to me.
“There were people I met who had lost family members to cancer. We’d talk for a few minutes. It was a neat thing.”
His goal was to raise $1,000 to donate to the American Cancer Society.
He raised more than $1,500.
As his day drew to a close, the Douglas High School swim team lined up along the edges of the pool and cheered him on during his final three laps.
For his last length of the pool, LaBarge said four boys from the team jumped in and helped carry him toward the finish.
“That was pretty cool,” LaBarge said. “I joked with them and said ‘where were you guys three hours ago?’ But that was cool.”
By the end, he’d covered just over 9.5 miles in the water. The entire toll of the feat didn’t settle in until several days afterward.
“Honestly, I felt really good the whole time I was there,” LaBarge said. “I was tired, but that was to be expected. I was OK the next day too. But three days later, all of my joints started to hurt.”
Before he’d even finished training for the endurance swim, LaBarge had already set his sights on his next challenge — The Norseman Xtreme Triathlon.
The Norseman is conducted annually in Norway, beginning with a swim from the loading bay of a car ferry in the Hardangerfjord fjord 2.4 miles out from the shore of Eidfjord.
From there, competitors cycle 112 miles through the mountains, the first 24 of which are uphill, peaking at 4,000 feet above sea level.
The race finishes with a marathon distance run, 26.2 mile, with a flat first 15 miles followed by a climb up the mountain Gaustatoppen, which peaks at 6,200 feet above sea level.
“It’s like an Ironman Triathlon on steroids,” LaBarge said. “The big drawback is that there are no aid stations and you have to bring your own support crew.
“I’m going to do it and my wife wants to do it, so basically we’re going to have to find people willing to sit in a car for 20 hours and follow us. In Norway.”
LaBarge said he is aiming for the 2015 Norseman to allow time to organize and to train for the event.
“It’s a pretty unique race,” he said. “We’ll take some time to get ready. I’d really like to go for it.”
LaBarge said he was overwhelmed by the support he received from his swimming endeavor and wanted to thank the community and everyone who donated.
“Especially the people at the pool,” he said. “They gave me more help than I ever could have expected.”