Age: 44 Specs: 6 feet, 172 pounds
Home: Christchurch, New Zealand
THE CASE: This bushy-bearded window-washer who lives in a 30-foot bus on a 10-acre sheep farm doesn't look like your typical adventure racer. (More like Ted Kaczynski, really.) Though the sport attracts the most sinewy of athletes, it's Howard who's won more races than anybody, leading various teams over hill, dale, and scuzzy swamp to victory in three Eco-Challenges (1996, 1997, 1999), three Raids Gauloises (1989, 1994, 1998), and many others. His secret? He trains 365 days a year—rock climbing, kayaking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and running barefoot through the woods. It doesn't hurt that His Eccentricness has a habit of freaking out his opponents: In one shocking display of orneriness, at the 1998 Raid Gauloises, he startled racers and locals outside a church in the Ecuadorian countryside by ranting, "Buenos días God, ya bastard!"
SECOND OPINION: "No one has come close to his enviable record," says former teammate Ian Adamson. "And anyone who pretends to be in his league inevitably fails miserably."
MOST HARROWING MOMENT: The 1997 X-Games adventure race in Baja, when temperatures rose to nearly 150 degrees. Participants' shoes melted, and racers collapsed all over the course. "It felt like we were inside a big ball of fire," says Howard.
WHAT'S NEXT: Getting into course design. "I think I could make the races more exciting," he says. Now the other competitors may really freak out.