All those years ago, as I watched the Eco Challenge Adventure Race, I never imagined I would be running a race myself. Yet after last weekend I am able to say that I am one of those who has experienced one! It wasn't a 10 day, 700 mile race like the Eco Challenge (more like 11 miles and 4 hours); but for me it was just as big and important as any other race out there. It was a great experience and I'll say this right now... I'M HOOKED!!!
I headed down to Albuquerque early Saturday morning, and arrived around 1pm at Linda and Jerry's house, my team mates who live in Albuquerque. After a nice lunch (fresh spinach from their garden - what a treat!) we headed out to the area that the race was taking place to see what we might expect during the race. This ended up being a good thing, although I wasn't so sure while we were riding - let's just say that I had thoughts of throwing my mountain bike into the trash after the day was done. Yes, I know, irrational thoughts, but that's what can happen when you have hundreds of cactus pricklies stuck in your butt. (I'll get to that story in just a minute).
The area was mostly single track, which I have NEVER done before. Just imagine me, who is still learning to ride in a straight line, trying to stay on a narrow trail with rocks and trees as obstacles. I was actually doing fairly well for most of the trail, although there were spots I had to walk through. That was until I got to a very narrow, sandy portion of the trail. I lost control, fell and landed right on a cactus plant. We spent the next 30 minutes pulling cactus out of me (I also spent it cursing all desert vegetation, mountain bikes, single track, and anything else I could think of that I was mad about). Once I was pretty well cleaned up, we got back on the trail but I was still a bit ticked and hesitant to get back on the bike. I was also trying to talk myself out of running the race the next day - if the trails were going to be like this I wanted no part of it!
I snapped out of my mood (as I usually do) and got back on the bike to finish the rest of the ride. Our time on that trail ended up being a good thing - the trail we actually had to race on was much easier than we expected and our experience the day before was VERY helpful during the race.
Before I tell you about the actual race, let me first give you all a brief description of what an Adventure Race is (since that is the most common question I get from everyone)
ADVENTURE RACING 101 Adventure racing is kind of like a triathlon but with different disciplines like navigation/orienteering, mountain biking, trail running, rock climbing and rappelling, kayaking and lots of other inventive stuff (I've heard of everything from riding a camel to inline skating to puzzle solving are involved - always interesting!)
The race is all about teamwork and navigation, not so much speed (although you are going fast the whole time!). At the beginning of the race you are given a topo map of the area and coordinates of where checkpoints will be - you map the checkpoints then figure out how to get to those places to get what they call a passport stamped. You are given points for each of these check points so it's pretty important to map it all correctly.
Once you figure out the checkpoints you have to figure out the best route to get to those places while doing the required discipline - for my race we had to start with trail running for the first 6 checkpoints and end with mountain biking for the final 5 checkpoints. We did a total of about 11 miles for this race, but many races can go for as long as 10 days and over 700 miles! I don't think I am quite ready for those races yet (but maybe someday).
Tutorial Finished... on to the race report!
We had 4 hours to finish the race and it included trail running/trekking and mountain biking. The race was mostly about navigation - there were 11 checkpoints for us to find and some were not that easy. A key problem we had was due to a lack of listening on our part - at the preliminary meeting they mentioned that all of the checkpoints were only 10 meters from the trail; what we failed to hear was "and dry creek beds." Every single one that we had a problem with was in a creek bed - we just kept thinking there is no way it would be that far from the trail. Lesson learned - always listen carefully at the pre-race meeting!
We finished that race in 3 hours and 50 minutes. That was our goal, to make it back before the cut off and we did! We actually went pretty fast but our problems finding a couple of the checkpoints killed our time. But we had fun and made our goal, so it was all good in the long run. And we weren't even last - there were two other teams that beat us back to the finish but they didn't find many of the checkpoints so we ended up being 9th out of 11 - pretty good!
What I loved the most was the amazing comraderie among racers and an honor code that you have to help another team if they are having any difficulties or are in trouble. Lots of teams will race together to pool resources and support each other, despite also competing with the other team. It's just a great sport and one that I am growing to love. I can't wait to do more races!
It's always amazing to me to be around people who don't know what my life use to be like and the weight that was such a burden to me. But what I have found in talking with other racers is that they have also overcome things in their lives to be there - I'm just one of the many who has come through some sort of crazy journey and somehow survived. Through the entire race I just kept thinking about that, how much has changed, how much I have changed and how amazing it was that I was able to do all the things in the race with no problem. I can't imagine going back to what my life was before - this life is just too much fun!
Life has been a little wacky lately - I've been trying to get caught up after a couple of long weekend trips and have been feeling a little overwhelmed and tired. I did run my first adventure race last weekend (what fun! But more on that later, I promise), and I am trying to finish out this semester by actually studying (such a novel idea), so life is getting in the way of my blogging.
One little glitch that happened this week - I was diagnosed with asthma. Not a super severe case but enough that it does slow me down considerably when I workout. I have been noticing problems with my breathing for a year now but in the past few months it has progressed quite a bit. Then during my race this weekend I was having lots of problems breathing and continued to have problems after the race. That's when I decided to get it checked - the doctor said "yes, it's asthma" then sent me home with over $300 (after insurance) worth of prescriptions that I need to take daily. I can already see a difference and hope I can get this under better control for my next race. Asthma kind of runs in the family so it isn't a surprise but I wish I had been the one family member that wasn't affected.
I promise I will write an update this weekend on my race (pics and all!). It was a great experience and now I can honestly say that I fulfilled my big goal, to run an Adventure Race!!
I'm giving my mom credit for the title today - those were her exact words as we traveled to Amarillo to pick up my mountain bike. We endured icy, snow packed roads for the majority of the trip and were relieved to finally reach my brothers house. So the big question would be... was it worth it?? You bet!!!
Despite a big height difference between me and my brother, the bike was a perfect fit. We spent some time putting on a new seat and peddles then headed out to test it out. Due to my later than expected arrival, we opted to stick close to home and hit some of the dirt roads around his house. We spent an hour tooling around, helping me get use to the gears (which are a little different than most bikes) and adjusting the seat a few times so it was at the perfect height. I also got a mini bike maintenance lesson on how to change a tube, how to lube the chain and a couple of little things like that. My brother is truly a saint and I am so blessed to have him - I do believe he is almost as excited as I am to start riding and I love him for that. THANKS STEVE!!!
I'm still not entirely comfortable on a bike - but the more I ride, the more comfortable I become. I plan on riding all week - to school, to work, etc... basically, a lot! "Become one with the bike" is the mantra this week.
I chatted with my team members about the race next weekend and we officially have a team name - "Wandering Soles" it is! Quite appropriate, I think. They live in Albuquerque and had the opportunity to do a mini trial race with the same group that is putting on the race next weekend, so they were regaling me with stories of the day. Their experience is going to help a lot because at this point, I feel a bit in the dark on what to expect. I suppose that is part of the excitement, the unknown of it all.
When I first said "I want to do an Adventure Race" I don't think I ever imagined what I was getting into and how it would affect me. The idea that I can do this, actually complete one of these races, is still beyond the scope of my imagination. Yet I catch myself planning for future, more ambitious races. Not only that, but I want to do well in them. I do believe that I am a bit more competitive and ambitious than I ever imagined, which is all pretty new to me - it's hard to shift the perception you have of yourself to something entirely different. But I suppose that is part of the journey, isn't it?
It’s been unbelievably busy lately – my move has added about 2 hours to my commute and trying to prepare for this upcoming adventure race has been a challenge. I’m pretty motivated, but when that alarm goes off at 4am, that motivation can go right out the window! Forcing myself to head to bed at a much earlier hour than most people is the big challenge - my social life is seriously hurting but at this point I kind of prefer the whole 'staying awake while I drive' aspect more than my need for social engagement. Who needs a date anyway.
I've been ramping up my workouts to get ready for the race and one of the things I've added is a spinning class 3 times a week - love, love, love it! The fellow who leads the class has a unique approach to his instruction - he likes to do visualization and throws in lots of inspirational sayings to get us going. The funny thing is he is a bit like Sean Penn in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" - I catch myself laughing at some of the things he says, with that ting of a surfer dude accent. But what he does works - I truly HATED riding on stationary bikes before but no more, he knows how to get me in 'the zone.' Now we'll just see if it translates to the open road - I pick up my bike this weekend and Steve and I plan on doing a ride Saturday in Palo Duro Canyon State Park. I don't know what kind of trail he's taking me on, but I have a feeling he's going to want to push me a bit - I'm all for a good push now and then and now seems as good a time as any.
My first race is just 10 days, 11 hours away! It will be in Albuquerque on April 20 and I'll be racing with a couple I met at camp. It includes mountain biking for about 10-15 miles and trail running/trekking for about 5-10 miles - we won't know exactly until the day of the race. I'm nervous yet excited all at the same time. On top of that, it's another item I can check off of my 'dream list.' It's funny, I keep checking things off of this list yet it keeps getting longer - at this rate I'll be 80 before I finish the darn thing. (hey, that was one of my goals... to be doing stuff like this when I am 80. Let's hope I don't finish the list before then!)
The other night I decided to lay out a schedule of all the races I plan on doing this summer - it was then that I realized that this is going to be a crazy summer... and a lot of fun! I'm going to post it on my blog with the thought that this will keep me accountable to all of you and that I might actually RUN these races. :-)
May 3: Take 5 in the Garden- a 5 mile, very hilly run in the Garden of the Gods. I actually enjoy running hills - it's probably because I get the reward of a fun, downhill run after the climb. :-)
May 10: Gravity Play Buena Vista Adventure Race - I'll be working as a volunteer for this race. This is the same group that put on the camp I attended, it will be a great introduction to what a longer race involves and what to expect when I run one of their races.
May 26: Bolder Boulder 10K - this race was one of my first goals when I began to lose weight. I'll be running this with a group from work. I keep hearing how much fun it is, can't wait to experience it myself!
June 21 - July 2: Primal Quest - I might be on the support team for a team running this amazing race (it's a huge race, kind of the ultimate challenge of all the adventure races) It would probably be just a few days, but what a great way to spend those days!
October 19: Denver Half Marathon - this is REALLY tentative, not sure I want to take on a half marathon. A lot depends on how the summer goes.
November 16: San Antonio Rock n Roll Marathon - I'm more likely to run this half marathon. I would get to visit my Aunt and Uncle and run at a beautiful location (that just happens to be at a much lower altitude than Colorado - you would be amazed how much of a difference that makes!)
Did I mention I also have a goal of climbing 10 14ers? And who knows what else might come up - I like having a schedule but I also want to be flexible and open to trying something/anything new. I might as well add more to my dream list - I don't want to get bored, do I?