100 miles. 24 hours. A team of three: Two Men and a Babe. “Babe” being short for “baby”, I think I was the youngest racer and certainly much younger than my two amazing teammates. It’s been far too long to remember each and every detail of this race, I probably should have written this a month ago have been far too busy with other adventures and excitement. That and I’m lazy and uninspired lately. So in leau of not remembering everything I’m going to write about the emotion behind The Adventure Race.
Doug is the race director behind American Adventure Sports—I’ve volunteered for him many times, hung out with his awesome staff and talked endlessly about what this endurance sport does, not only for your body, but for your soul. Doug knows what’s up when it comes to this sport, he understands it’s not about the end result it’s about the team work and the journey and the anticipation of getting there.
I’ve gone into these races telling myself three things: I’m not going to cry, I’m going to smile through it all, and I’m going to finish. These three things are all really, really hard.
I didn’t cry this time. I did, however, jump into Ross’s arms at 3:30am at a crack of the loudest thunder I’ve ever heard in my life. (I’m still going to claim that it WAS 20 hours into the race, zero sleep and nothing but Honey Stinger Waffles in my system.) Or maybe I just wanted to be held, but can you blame me?
Smiling is tough when you’re sitting in a duckie in 100 degree heat, your water is nasty luke warm and all you want is iced coffee. Maybe and iced mocha. With extra mocha. At this point I probably wasn’t smiling. I was smiling at the thought of being off the river. My inner smile translated to an outer smile. That, or I was drunk on dehydration and Clif Bars—both are equally possible.
Mountain biking down a single track switch back with only the light from your headlamp and Mike’s voice behind, Ross’s ahead with words of encouragement and tips were helpful but not what I wanted—it’s hard to smile when you’re feeling inadequate and slow. I tried, but it was dark, so no one saw me scowling when we made four wrong turns. I did smile when we passed a team of four men, I felt a bit faster and like a legit racer at that point.
We just need a success. One right turn and a check-point and my spirits will lift. I see Doug and Julia’s campfire at the CP, they ask how we are and at that point I’m happy to see anyone, seeing check-point 11 was an added bonus. We warm by the fire, talk, relax and then I convince the team to be on our way. I needed that accomplishment; Doug and Julia’s smiles helped me keep a smile on.
The storm was looming at this point. It’s 2:45am and we’re walking in what we thought was the right direction, (notice this allusion here, thought,) miles of elevation gain and loss we reached an intersection—not the intersection we wanted to see. In fact, the exact intersection we did not want to see. Rain is falling harder than I’ve ever stood in, thunder rumbles, lightening flashes, and we turn around to retrace our tired steps. We use an emergency life-line phone call and Mike is picked up because his knee can’t take the stress. The stress put on his body is equal to the emotional stress of having gone the wrong direction for hours, this race is tough physically but Mike beat himself up mentally too. Ross and I hitch a ride back to the check-point, we’re not smiling but we’re determined to finish.
The check-point is manned by friendly faces, John, my medic friend huddles with me under a tent, everyone is wet and cold. Ross and I eat and hydrate and get back on our bikes. Bomb the hill, I say hill now—it was a mountain at that moment. The last leg of our journey was a time of much needed reflection.
Ross has done a few of these, this was my second; as we rode our bikes on flat ground to the last check-point we rehashed some of the race. The rain, the wrong turns, the flat tires, the broken lights, the stomach upsets… but also the team work, the encouragement, the bits of tips we gave one another, the laughs, the general smelliness and dirtiness of team Two Men and a Babe.
We worked well together, I wish we would have finished together, but hey, shit happens!
Adventure Racing is more than a sport. It’s a group of amazing people going out into the woods and doing something absolutely incredible and then talking about it after, sharing war stories over a hot breakfast and supporting each other through the next race. I’ve met some incredible people this summer and have been given some incredible things; both words of wisdom and gifts of support and gear.
I have to keep reminding myself to use my adventure racing philosophy in other parts of my life: I’m not going to cry (though it’s okay to,) I’m going to smile through it all (however being true to how you feel is important) and I’m going to finish (what I start.) Just one small success makes such a difference, one success can mean the difference between accomplishing one goal, or accomplishing many goals on this path. I choose to take it one step at a time, one success no matter how big or small and using it to push me to my next victory!