An Adventure Race – Part I, can be found under the category The Things I’ve Done
About four kilometres into the trek now and we have been drifting between residential roads and friendly walking paths. Tim and I have both been able to cope with our leg cramps and the team as a whole is looking the best it has in hours. It’s hot, but by at point it feels normal. We’re tired, and we should be. We’re beat up, but we can still function. All in all, things are looking pretty good at the moment.
We’ve found a decent running pace, one that is swift enough so that we are still pushing and making solid ground, but not so much that we will be worn out or overly uncomfortable anytime soon. After some contemplation we decide that we are probably still holding the lead quite strongly since we should be faster on foot than The Iron Woman and no one else was even close coming down that mountain. We had a few setbacks thus far in the trek but surely no other team was going to come screaming down the mountain and just run full bore into first place. Such a feat is just not possible in our minds, so we pace on knowing that if we stay smart and strong a first place ribbon could be ours.
It’s just the little things that are causing grief at this moment. For instance, I tore a hole the size of a dinner plate in my shorts, just right of the crotch, leaving the inside of my right thigh exposed. This is no big deal really. Any other day I wouldn’t even think about it. However, today, with every stride I take on this cross-country run, the seam from the opposite side of my shorts rubs against my the rarely exposed and fair skin of my thigh. At first there is a scratchy feeling, then an irritating feeling, then a raw uncomfortable pain. In order to curb this sensation I grab the tattered leg and pull it upwards so that there is smooth fabric against my skin and the rubbing can no longer subsist. Now while I run I have to grip this material the entire time. These kinds of things happen during a race this demanding and I’ve learned that I must deal with them on the fly. However, the reason this particular occurrence really gets to me is because on one of the days leading up to the race I noticed a very small hole forming in this crotch area of my shorts and thought that maybe I should swallow my pride and buy a pair of athletic spandex shorts similar to the ones Kramer’s buttocks is proudly modelling just a few feet in front of me. I made the executive decision that my shorts had gotten me through hours of training this summer and they could surely last one more day. Because of this stubborn and ultimately boneheaded conclusion I jog along annoyed, daydreaming about how comfortable those form fitting spandex shorts probably are.
By this point we have pestered and greeted a few dog walkers, weekend warriors, and yard workers about the direction we are heading. They are all cooperative and intrigued by our motley crew of a team and partly thanks to them we are now only a few kilometres from checkpoint #5. There are a few detours, such as a slope that drops about 200 feet in elevation in about 60 feet of forward ground, but actually it’s a nice change of pace.
We reach a road sign that reads only 2 more kilometres until Bear Creek Provincial Park, our coveted destination. This invigorates us. We assume a line, running shoulder to shoulder at a fairly rapid jaunt. As we come close to the park we spot the cameraman filming our Michael Bay inspired entrance. We get close and stop, trying to figure out where exactly our canoe will be located. The cameraman lets his thoughts be known, saying that he doesn’t believe the race organizers have even got to checkpoint #5 yet and that we are so far ahead we may actually have to wait for the boats to show up. They may as well hand me the microphone right now so I can practice the first place acceptance speech.
So we head through the family park with the notion of maybe stopping for a Klondike bar. We agree that the concession girl could surely spare a cold tasty treat for a few guys out here killing themselves in the heat. The cameraman accompanies us to the beach soaking in our suddenly relaxed banter and we take a not so thorough look for the boat launch. We hum and haw about where the boats may be, then an idea materializes, why not radio the organizers and get the low down. The cameraman relays to us that such a plan would be fruitless because the batteries for their walkie talkies had died. That is unfortunate considering that we have been toting along extra batteries all day because it was one of the items required on the mandatory gear list. Guess the race organizers didn’t get the memo. So the cameraman tells us that he will head back to his car, phone the race organizers and find out what is going on with the mysterious boats.
Important Note: the cameraman is a Kelowna native who sports long hair, a hippie demeanour and clothes that smell less like Tide and more like the local illegal agricultural crops. He’s a gem of an individual and is probably great at his job, but probably not the best guy that the first place team should be listening to when trying to maintain the lead.
A swim at one of the best beaches in Canada is warranted while we wait. Seems like a smart idea in the middle of an adventure race, no? Unfortunately we didn’t pack swimsuits so we all strip down to the least amount of clothing we can legally wear, and for two of us that means not so white tighty whiteys. We rib one another with barbs while parading through the sand, and in no time we are floating neck deep expressing the unbridled galore of basking in this miraculous water. No shoes, no shirt, no sweat, no pushing ourselves to the limit, just a cool bath. It’s as if we aren’t even in a race at this moment.
We emerge from the glorious water, commencing the impromptu victory celebration, and make our way back to our belongings. Tim looks out into the water and then quickly takes a second look before he had barely even turned away. There is a single person in a kayak skimming by and they have on a race jersey identical to the ones we are pulling back over our heads. Just as Tim exclaims “It’s Sarah!”, the cameraman is running towards us and from about thirty yards yells and points “the boats are over there!” Aaaand panic.
We run less than a 100metre dash in the direction the cameraman is pointing to find a couple dozen canoes, paddles and hockey bags all lying out in perfect order, ready for racers to sail away in. As much as we would like to believe it, these boats did not arrive during our swim. We ask the boat keepers how many racers left shore before us. They tell us only two, Sarah (never underestimate the Iron Woman) and Newman. Newman!
No worries, the three of us have strong, fresh, broad upper bodies which will undoubtedly paddle our way back into first. No surprise, we didn’t train much for the canoe leg of the race. We figured ‘hey, we have all been in canoes before and it seemed easy. Sure we put hours and hours of hard work and preparation in for the biking and running but why even bother with the canoe. A few J strokes and we’ll be there in no time. Again, no worries.
So we hop in the boat and I am already excited to whip by Newman while singing “I’m on a boat motherfucker!” Okay boys let’s cruise.
There are huge logs running parallel to the shore forming a canal that is about 50 feet in width. The idea is that a boater would smoothly steer their unit equally between the shore and these logs before sailing out into the huge Okanagan Lake. On cue we smash the front end our canoe directly into a log. We don’t skim the log, but drive straight into it. An absolute T-bone. This happens three times, each less than a canoe length from the last. Our paddles are changing sides quickly, aimlessly and without purpose. There are shouts and commands of J strokes and steering. No one really knows who exactly steers and how exactly we are supposed to manage the alignment and coordination of our paddles but you can be sure the footage the cameraman is getting from the shore will one day be on a how-to video for canoeing and we will be on the “do not do this” segment of the lesson.
We finally reach the open water and spot in the distance the marina we are destined for, as well as the first and second place racers whom we desire to overtake. There is some significant ground, or more appropriately water, to make up. However, the jagged zigzag we are slicing through the waves is definitely not the fastest line of travel to take. Problem is we are unsure about to how to right this ship. There are moments when we will head nice and straight for about six or seven strokes, which will cause a brief stir of excitement, only to be squashed quickly when our nose ends up facing the wrong direction once more. All the speedboats on the water today are not helping matters either. There are a number of them occupied by tanned, loud, partially inebriated, young beach goers ripping by, and they quickly realize what a thrill it is to speed by us as fast as possible in order to find out if our sea prowess will be enough to prevent a capsizing. We are on a comical little lifesaving device in their eyes and they seem determined to find out if the device can live up to its name.
As we get rocked by waves and try our best to maintain an efficient line of travel, my upper body does begin to feel slightly fatigued. My seat happens to be the middle one in a two man boat which means I’m actually sitting on the floor of the canoe. Due to the low riding I am forced to reach up over the sides of the boat and paddle, which takes a significant toll on my traps. Quite honestly though, despite the team lacking the necessary canoe competence to simply blow past the other competitors, we really are enjoying the open water on this gorgeous afternoon.
There is ample time to chit chat as we move along, a luxury that has not been afforded to us all day. We have time to stop for water breaks without them seeming like an insufferable chore. Eating an apple while paddling along is not an impossible task either. We crack jokes about Newman, discuss how we all consciously predicted that we would blow our lead and laugh about how we didn’t have the foresight to know that we should go for at least one canoe ride to prepare. There is even an open water sing-along featuring a spot on rendition of Sir Mixalot’s “Baby Got Back” a few classic Sublime tunes, and a personal creation from Tim called “Alligator Soup” which he had sung one night after a few drinks. I coax him into singing it but gets only a few nervous bars out before retiring his voice, saying that the waves impeded his creative juices. It was a noble attempt considering I knew he didn’t want me to make the request, but what are friends for? The boat ride has definitely been the most pleasurable part of our day.
The ride, however, is taking much longer than expected. We can start to see fellow competitors moving closer behind us. Suddenly the top three finish we had anticipated and possible shot at first are in serious danger. No worries though we figure. There are another eight to ten kilometres of flat land biking left to conclude the race and we kicked ass on the bikes earlier so there is no reason we cannot repeat that feat once more.
We come under the bridge before the marina, have a close call with one of the enormous concrete pillars propping it up, then make the biggest and most inefficient u-turn in the history of u-turns. Finally we reach the checkpoint, the last one before the finish line.
Our bikes are there waiting along with any supplies we might need. We don’t worry about food and water this time though. Stamina, fun, and sportsmanship are all done for the day. Now it is time for the very last sprint. We see the Iron Woman and Newman riding up the hill directly in front of us. The race organizers say if we hurry first place could still be ours. He also tells us that no trailers are even close to us.
All geared up for the last push, we begin to head out. But Ryan realizes that his tire is low and that he might have a flat. He decides to just add some air, hoping the temporary remedy will suffice. He pumps it up and while he’s doing so, two other teams storm up in their canoes, smelling blood and rushing through the transition stage. We ride halfway up the hill and Ryan comes to the realization that the tube must be changed. We stop. It takes less than five minutes to switch the tube but both of the teams that storm the beaches of West Bank pass us. Adrenaline is pumping with full force now.
We head off as fast as we can, the only problem is that they have changed the racecourse again and yelled some impossible to understand directions at us as we were riding away from the last checkpoint. Now we are looking for a dirt trail in a winery somewhere but we have plenty of questions. How far? Uphill or down? What exactly does a winery look like? There’s some berry bushes there, do you think that is? Should we just say ‘screw it let’s go get drunk?
We are really clueless now and for the first time all day frustrated and getting short with one another, blaming the race organizers and ourselves. Not only are we in danger of finishing much worse than we are capable of, but we may not clock a time at all. It is 5:30pm and 6:00pm is the cut-off. Yes it has been seven and a half hours since we darted off on our adventure, and by this time patience, guidance and energy are all on empty. So with no real clue about where we are supposed to be headed we decide to stick as close to the shore as possible and just make our way south. The resort that the finish line is found at is planted on the shore so our tired and questionable logic tells us this is the best idea.
We ride hard now, not thinking twice about the route, just staying close to the water. We find a bike trail. This is our path. We keep pushing with everything we have left. After about five minutes we come across another team. They are spent. Their bodies are limp and it is obvious they are just trying their darndest to finish. We pass them as if they are standing still, not wasting a moment to discuss the race or route or pain. There is still another team ahead that we stalk. Finally, way down the shore we come to a winery, the winery that was supposed to be “just around the corner.” We fly through it without a word.
We get onto the road and we know this road. This is very last leg. We push, hard. The finish line is getting closer but the team we are chasing is nowhere in sight. We keep pushing as hard and as fast as we can. Our legs extending with maximum force with every stroke, looking as we‘re rested and strong. We’re not, we’re desperate, and this is our last gasp, our last chance to grab the victory and catch the team ahead of us.
It’s not enough. The resort is too close now. We must accept that we have lost.
We cross the finish line.
There we are, excited and relieved, but also bitter. We blew it. “Whatever” we say, at least we did it. Seven hours and fifty minutes of pain and suffering.
A small social is held for the competitors as everyone filters in. There a few free beers handed out to each racer, fruit platters to pick at, and some SWAG to claim. There is also a barbeque loaded with mounds of chicken legs. For the past six weeks Tim has been eating vegan. No consumption of an animal product whatsoever for over a month. He devours four massive chicken legs.
After a cool and necessary shower at the resort we head out to watch the awards ceremony.
There are now quite a few participants milling around and everyone shares their greatest exploits and wildest tales. One team of two guys and girl explain how the girl’s bike busted apart on top of the mountain so she had to double down the mountain on one teammate’s bike while the other teammate carried the bike with him. Another racer that looked more suited for the The Biggest Loser rather than Fear Factor recounted how he was just going to rent a bike for the day but caved and bought one a few weeks before. He went on to say that his legs seized up so bad halfway up the mountain that he couldn’t get off his bike.
The race chairman takes the mic, kicking off the ceremony.
He starts off by thanking everyone and also letting us know that there are still racers yet to return. It is 8:30pm by this point. It is dark, getting cold quickly, and they have been out sweating and grunting for nearly eleven hours and counting.
Then he gets to the announcement of the winners from each category.
The Iron Woman takes first. Congrats Sarah you earned it.
Wade gets second. He bested us, as Newman often did. We give him the appropriate congratulations. Credit where credit is due.
That’s it for solo racers, now first place team.
“Finishing first in the team category, Two Guys and an NWG.”
“What! That’s our team! But another team finished before us.”
Apparently not we are told. “Some teams were given the option to be shuttled ahead for portions of the race because they could have never finished in time. You were the only team to finish the entire race within the allotted eight hours.”
We are astonished and rejuvenated. We did it. No we didn’t beat Newman, or The Iron Woman, but we as a team, which is what we came here as and will leave her as, won. We won our ‘Adventure.’ And that it was.
* * *
On the 10 hour car ride home Tim and I sat on beaten bodies with exhausted minds. We needed something to pass the time. We played the alphabet game, using each letter of the alphabet to come up with a word that described our adventure race.
‘Agonizing’, ‘brutal’, ‘gongshow’, and ‘questionable’ were all proclaimed.
Then V came and I said ‘voluntary’. We both laughed quizzically and truly wondered why did we do such a thing? Why did we spend all this time, money and energy to travel so far in order to feel pain we had never felt before?
Well, for F we said ‘fun’. ‘Friends’ could have easily been the coined term as well. It was an experience that could never be recreated and the three of us could talk about it generations later when we’ll have a tough enough time climbing out of bed in the morning.
Friends and fun made it enjoyable.
Still, that was only half the equation. There was another element that we had not yet given notice to.
Then W came. ‘Winners’.
Kris Kantrud is a freelance writer. If you have questions, comments, or complaints please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org