Monday, May 22, 2006


Shane and I headed down to the 3rd in the series of the adventure races ready to vindicate ourselves for the missed opportunity in the last race. He stayed at our place the night before and getting to bed a little after midnight, we got just under 3 hours sleep before getting up at 3 to make the 4 hour drive to the race. Allison and I had JUST arrived back home that evening from El Paso from partying with a friend of mine after he graduated from Seargents Major Academy so we were already exhausted and a little dehydrated if you know what I mean.

The drive down to Camp Horizon was just under 4 hours from Kansas City, but several teams made the worthwhile trek. Camp Horizon is a Methodist owned and operated Church camp with some great trails and fantastic scenery. They were also very accommodating in allowing us to use their bathrooms and showers. This is a very clean and well kempt camp and next year, we’ll probably stay down there in the cabins the day before the race instead of driving down the morning of.

This time, we had several new faces among the racers so Clay pleaded with everyone to pay attention to the directions in the pre-race meeting. Some did, some didn’t. Due to past mistakes, Shane and I made sure that we listened for his guidance as to whether or not we needed to take our running shoes with us during the bike leg. No mention of it. WHEW!

Everyone started off running from the start. The beginning run was short but immediately difficult as it made use of the fairly dramatic terrain. There were sections of the trail that had us bouldering down rock ledge drop-offs that had ladders bolted to them for our use if necessary. Shane and I threw caution to the wind in our frenzy to stay on top that we went off the rock drop-offs and saved some time. The footing was very tricky sometimes, but being the avid trail runners that we are, our training ensured us sure footedness. Once down in a river canyon, we hit a double-wide gravel trail for about a half-mile leading us to some waiting race staff with kayaks.

The kayak leg should be considered more of a special test rather than a paddling event because the river was so low that paddling in it was impossible in most places. This had everyone portaging the boats, paddles, and PFDs UPriver to the next two checkpoints. The sandbars were full of the coarse, gritty sand that filled everyone’s shoes and socks and made for an uncomfortable run/walk/jog experience for many. After hitting the second checkpoint with the boats, we were able to get in the water to paddle back downstream somewhat for about 10 minutes until the low water forced everyone to finish portaging back to the start of the kayak section where we GLADLY turned in our rubber duckies and paddles.

Once done with that, we proceeded back up the canyon walls to the transition area (TA1). Going down was much easier than up for obvious reasons, but also because the trail markings were easier to follow when descending. Heading back up, it was difficult at times to see which way the trail led and a couple of teams went slightly astray here.

Once back in the TA, Shane and I were in about 7th or 8th place. NOT where we wanted to be, but we were still feeling good and knew that pacing ourselves and using our experience would eventually pay off. Upon entering the TA, we were told to read the instructions that Clay was handing out. A circuit drill type of course was set up and getting to each, we had to alternate doing the human wheelbarrow and then complete each task detailed at the stations. The first had us doing 25 pushups each. On to the next station, we completed 25 sit-ups. Then we had to alternate the wheelbarrow to the next station where we were to complete 25 squat-thrusts. And finally, we finished up with 30 jumping jacks before doing the wheelbarrow back to the start point.

Although each of these tasks was in itself not too hard, altogether, it was very tiring to do while adrenaline was already going and trying to stay competitive. Nothing like having an intense little workout DURING a race!

After completing our circuit drills, we were handed a card in which we were to write a minimum of a 30 word thank you to one of the race sponsors. Shane and I had the privilege of writing to World Multisport for their involvement in helping these races take place. Unfortunately, I don’t think my handwriting was very legible at the time, but hopefully, they’ll get the sincerity that Shane and I both felt while writing these thank you cards.

Once the cards were completed and verified by a wonderful volunteer race official (my wife), we headed out to complete the running course. The run had us in a maze of trails cris-crossing each other in ways that could’ve been frustrating if you didn’t follow the markers. During the run, our instructions were to find four poker chips of different colors. There were red, blue, green, and white ones and if the trail was followed as marked, you eventually came to each. If you tried to take a short cut, the resulting time loss and frustration ruined some pretty athletic teams’ chances of finishing higher than they did.

The maze of a run eventually led us back to the TA where we were given directions with maps and were on our bikes. Since there was again no mention of needing the running shoes during the bike section, I didn’t take them. Shane did, but I opted not to. Luckily, we DIDN’T need them so this time, we were on track. Almost… As soon as we got to the trailhead which was only about a half mile from the TA, Shane realized that he’d left our punch card at the TA and headed back to get it. At this point, we were still in about 5th or 6th place and the other teams had been in the trails ahead of us for several minutes. We knew we’d really have to hammer hard on the bike if we were to have a chance of making the top 3 or 4. The map we had just had the trail marked on it with no scale to help identify how long it would be. Shane and I hit it pretty hard and it was here that we’d hunt down the rest of the field. I love the rough stuff and my bike shows it. It usually takes most of the punishment, but I ride hard in training so I know what it can take. The trail was very technical in some parts and hilly. So much so that many teams (including us) had to walk some of them. The combination of hills and technical rock gardens on the trail made for slow going for some of the teams. Due to varying levels of technical ability in the teams, we were able to fairly quickly catch up to, and overtake most of the teams before the halfway mark. Some strong riders had some unfortunate mechanical difficulties which took them out of contention. The trails took a toll on everyone in one way or another. At one point the trails doubled back on itself 3 or 4 times for long sections between checkpoints and Clay made it very clear before the race that we had to get the punch cards punched IN ORDER for this part to ensure that nobody had an unfair advantage in case they knew the course. This worked in our favor because we did NOT know the course, but the hours of hard technical running and riding paid off for us in a big way. For this race, our dominant technical skills on the mountain bike is what enabled us to take control of the race. Once out of the treacherous rock gardens, the trail led us up a BIG lung busting hill on a gravel road then put us back into the trail maze we had previously run on. Once again, following the markers made it easier to navigate and after punching the last two checkpoints, it led us out and back to the TA for the finish.

During this race, I think several lessons were learned by many teams. I saw one team lose their punch card in the river during the kayak leg. I yelled it out to them and they recovered it, but had everyone else kept silent, their race would have been over too soon. Several other teams learned the importance of following the course AS MARKED and hopefully, will listen carefully to the helpful pre-race meeting instructions. WE learned from now (purely by accident) to always keep the person with the punch card in the front. That way, if he or she drops it, the following teammate has a chance to see it and recover it. Hope this tip helps someone out in the future.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Straining training

Ever since the race on Sunday, I've had a little soreness in the back of my right knee. Did a short 3.5 mile recovery run on Monday night and then went out on Tuesday night with the Trail Nerds in some muddy conditions. During the slippery run, I had a couple of mis-steps that I think may have torqued the knee slightly, but didn't feel any immediate pain and we were in a pretty decent groove at the time, so I didn't think anything about it. Once I got home, it started tightening up and hurting pretty bad and by Wednesday morning I had a hard time moving around. I could put weight on it, but it hurt to bend the leg (curl it upwards) and stairs were tough. Thursday morning, I went to see my Dr. and she said that she didn't think anything was torn, but she did think I have a pretty good strain of something. She said to rest and ice it for a few days and take it easy once I started back with the activity. TAKE IT EASY??? I have another adventure race coming up and need to train harder to get stronger. This is frustrating, but necessary for the long run I guess.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Live and Learn (or keep making the same mistakes - your choice) stupidstupidstupidstupidstupidstupid...

Shane and I had another Adventure Race on Sunday and it was a pretty exciting race day. It had been raining most of the week prior to the race and was drizzling lightly the morning of, but the precip stopped by start time. We knew it would be muddy and were hoping it would work in our favor being that our workout runs with the Trail Nerds are often muddy.
The pre-race meeting included most of the usual safety stuff and the thanking of the sponsors etc. but also included ANOTHER warning to carry our running shoes with us during the biking leg of the race. I'm not sure what's wrong with me that would lead me to dismiss such advice with so cavalier an attitude. We made this mistake in the last race and paid the price. Didn't hurt us TOO much (still finished 2nd) but we definitely could've benefitted from having our running shoes during the bike leg last time. So did we learn our lesson THIS time! Well, I refer you back to the title of this blog...
After everyone lined up at the starting line, the race director, Clay, gave some last minute directions. One teammember from each team had to grab a kayak paddle which we would carry with us for the duration of the race. We were instructed NOT to disassemble it and if it was returned broken or damaged, we'd be assessed a BIG time penalty. Hmmmm.... oh well. Not too bad I guess. The paddle was light and only a little cumbersome. Then, instead of starting us off with a gunshot, he said GO into a radio and without giving us any instructions as to where to go, we were to follow the sound of a distant air horn. We all ran in the direction we had heard it which led us to a nearby picnic area of the park and all the teams received a sudoku puzzle. My teammate Shane had never done one of these and had no idea what it was about. I had limited exposure to them, but understood the basics of it so we got started right away. It took us about 7 or 8 minutes to complete it and we then had it checked by the race staff before proceeding on to the kayak leg. If we didn't do the puzzle or did it wrong, the teams were assessed a standing 15 minute penalty. Some of the strongest teams were still standing on the shore by their boats due to this penalty when we started out on our paddle. At this point there were 5 other teams ahead of us. No biggie.
We made good time on the kayak and put ourselves into second place coming out of that event. The next special test made us peel and eat a banana without using our hands. It's tougher than it sounds and makes for some interesting pictures.
We then had to change into our bike gear and head out on the bike course (kayak paddle in hand) to get the next few checkpoints. THIS is where we should've carried our trail shoes with us. Brain fart #1!
We quickly passed the lead team while on the bikes and when heading back towards another checkpoint, we misread the directions and headed back to the transition area. Made a left instead of a right taking us out towards a dam and our next event. Brain Fart #2. We quickly realized our mistake and only went about a mile off course, but this lost us about 5 minutes of our lead. When we got back to the original point where we made the wrong turn, we could see the second and third place teams on our heels.
Getting to the dam and the next event (trail run) we were all back together again. The top three teams entered the trail run at the same time except Shane and I had to run it in our bike shoes. (Consequence of Brain fart #1) We had no idea how far it would be and it was very muddy and hilly. The 5 miles seemed like much farther, but eventually, when we made it out, we were well in 3rd place. Biking back to the Transition area/finish line, we hammered as hard as we could on the bike making up a little ground, but the damage had already been done. We finished up 1 minute behind the second place team and 7 minutes behind the winners to take the third spot in a race we SHOULD HAVE WON!
These little mental errors may happen again in the future, but it won't be the SAME ones again. This I promise you. For the next race, I have renewed determination to vindicate our team!

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Over the last few days, I've wanted to blog about several things, but haven't. I want to be clear when I write about something, and I want it to be meaningful, so I struggle with what to blog and what not to. So I guess I'll just lay out what's been on my mind lately.
Dealing with the loss of our baby has been another hardship that many have to endure in life. It hurts, and strangely enough, it brings out other insecurities that we have, but it isn't insurmountable. We all have to learn how to deal with disappointments in life, but some are harder to swallow than others. Of course most of us come to the realization that we'll not be rich beyond our wildest dreams and our jobs may not even be what we'd like, but we find a way to move on anyway. We also may wonder "what if..." about many things in our past, but most normal functional adults find happiness in other things and try not to dwell on the disappointments in life. Lately, I've been wondering about some of my priorities in life and why I do what I do. Exercising is a smart thing to do because it's a stress reliever and the elevated heartrates are good for my heart and metabolism, etc... Then there's the competitive aspect of what I do. To really be competitive, I have to put in more hours of training and train harder I do for "maintenance" workouts and this takes away time from other things in my life. As I get older, it becomes more of a problem as other things move up on the priority list. This is frustrating because I don't feel I'm satisfied with my performance(s) in competitions. I don't know if I'll ever be completely satisfied and that scares me. It's easier to resolve myself to things I know I'll never have, but the things that ARE attainable, but are just out of reach (or seem to be) are starting to wear on my patience and tranquility. Once, I heard happiness defined as "Being content with what you have while working towards what you want." But what if you never achieve what you want? Then what?
Settling for mediocrity makes me so ill to my core that I find it intolerable. Especially for myself, but I find myself compromising all the time. Yeah everyone has to deal with this in life, but I HATE knowing that I've wasted potential.