Wanted: Unicorns and Puppy Dogs

I, like so many twenty-somethings (heck, probably most people,) often wonder what am I doing? I’m currently asking myself this question from a little town in Central Thailand. I do many of the same things here as I did in my little valley town of Ashland only the back drop here is just slightly different. I sit in coffee shops and sip on americanos while writing in my journal, I Facebook, I read, I people watch, I wander the streets in hopes of finding someone I know or in hopes of meeting a new friend (however unlikely that is here).

I enjoy the small things here in SE Asia as well as in America, and I stress about them all the same—Thailand is no different, for some reason I thought I wouldn’t bring my normal stress here. I thought I’d be able to leave it behind, figure it out and breeze through this whole experience with Unicorns, rainbows and puppy dogs frolicking around me the entire time. Not the case.

 

I cried the other day. I stupidly cried. And I admitted to myself [and my director] that this is hard. Really hard. I found myself saying that this is a challenge. Which is fine [more than fine]. I heard myself tell her that because this is a challenge I can succeed. I will succeed. [I hadn’t realized that before the words popped out of my mouth.] This is what I signed up for. This challenge.

 

Looking back through my history I remember what successes I’ve had. Moments that were struggles, reasons that I cried, and steps I had to take to over come my fears. I’ve trained and run long races, I’ve had hard jobs, I’ve taken classes with tough professors. I can do this.

 

 

My mother has always said I’m stubborn (see number 3). Damn straight I’m stubborn.

 

Puppies are on the way

Puppies are on the way

Goal + miniSuccess + miniSuccess=VICTORY

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!

Buckets of Sweat

My sweat glands always decide to release all at once. I don’t sweat much during the day, even when I go for a run, unless I’m doing sprints I don’t really sweat a lot. But when I do other sports, sports that I don’t think I can do well and then I succeed, well, I sweat. I sweat the success. I think my body hits a button, the adrenaline, holy shit I just climbed that rock, button. And I start to sweat, and because of my smile I taste it and the saltiness tastes good.

This past weekend I spent in Ashland, Oregon visiting my awesome big brother, Zane. In the past few weeks he’s gotten super into rock climbing and decided to spread the love when we rented shoes and hit the trail at Rattlesnake to climb some rocks. I’m not very good. I’m not horrible, but I’m not very good. I sat around the majority of the day lacking the confidence to try many routes, watched the boys climb, and enjoyed the Oregon sunshine. Finally, Zane found me a 5.8 to top rope. It was a short little thing, but it was a challenge for a novice like me.

 “On belay?”

 “Belay on,”

 “Climbing,”

“Climb on, sistah!!” and off I went. Falling, slipping, getting my fingers stuck in holds I thought I could use. Never once did my brother stop the encouragement, never once did I believe him when he said he knew I could do it! He was a voice of power from below. A voice I needed to get me a few inches higher off the ground.

Finally, what seemed like hours later, the sweat came. The sweat that felt like it could fill buckets, the sweat that got me up the rest of the rock, the last few hold, I touched the anchor and looked down at my brother—his smile was as big as mine, his effort was just as needed as my effort. His encouragement got me up the rock; along with my muscles!

This was just one moment, of many, that I had over the weekend where accomplishment seemed so far away. By doing, pushing and finding out what I am capable I’ve brought it back with me to the east coast. I CAN step up my work outs, I CAN power through and succeed, I CAN beat this damn stress fracture and bounce back even stronger!

Go out and do something you don’t think you can. Take an encouraging person with you and use each other, feed off each other’s support and positive words. You CAN do it, put your head down and power through—I know you can finish!