Adventure Racing. I look back now, and I am not exactly sure how I and adventure racing came to be. One minute I was out running trails lost in my blissful world, my familiar backyard with the edges of my comfort zone safely surrounding me and the next a door labeled adventure racing swung wide open in front of me, exciting and beckoning. Like other doors in the past, I was off through it before fully comprehending what was involved. Along with the joy and excitement of my new adventure, also come the familiar seeds of self-doubt, making themselves known, like they always do when I test my limits. Was I good enough? Fast enough to keep up? Skilled enough compared to my teammates? Can I actually do this?
Fortunately, just as suddenly I found myself at the start line of my first Adventure Race – X-Marathon 2018, a race over 220km in 48 hours, and there was nothing for me to do but harness this nervous energy and channel it into something bigger to propel me forward, one step at a time. And almost before I knew it, it was over, my gear packed away, and I am left trying to find the words, to sum up, a race that was so extreme on so many levels.
How do I compress 220km of steep terrain, extreme temperatures, exposed rock, caves, dry Australian bush, big black spiders, snakes, long grinding fire roads, long kilometers of steep uphill, steep technical downhills, river crossings where we were swimming your bikes across and walking around in an oven? While also pushing yourself to the limit for 42 hours, into one short paragraph of mere words. It is just not possible to take you on this journey with my words alone.
How do I share those moments with you that I would bottle to feel again and again? Moments like these.
Suffering heat stroke in the first hours of the race, and vomiting, but pushing through it to realise that feeling on the other side of it is euphoric, and quite simply, you almost feel invincible.
Or when you are down to your last packraft leg, and the other packraft has an irreparable puncture, and hysterically you try to fit four in it until the little one says-roll over.
The long technical mountain bike descents when you realise it’s your turn to be team leader with the wind screaming through your hair. Swimming in a swampy, mosquito-ridden, stagnant rock pool and thinking it was heaven on earth.
Night time paddling on the snowy river and a French voice says behind you “stop paddling, turn your lights off and look up” . In the dead calm of the night, I saw the most magnificent night sky, full of stars, that lit up above me – that moment was pure perfection.
The lessons I have learned are hard and fast.
I need to back myself more.
Some people will underestimate you and put you down -prove them wrong.
When it is the middle of the night, and you are convinced you are lost, trust your navigator and work together to make decisions.
These races present logistical challenges and are designed to test your limits. I say what limits?Combine your strengths and work together as a team to cross the line, because you are, quite literally, in the same boat together.
At the end of my days, I want to look back at my life and say I gave you the best of me. My advice if you are seriously thinking about doing an AR event, you need to do it, or you will carry with you a lifetime of regret taunting you softly as you contemplate if you actually have what it takes.
When you do finally ‘commit’ all those life lessons and the determination you have carried around with you for your entire life, will ultimately get you there. You may drop a teammate, or two in our case, you may suffer illness or injury, mechanicals to your bike or punctures to your packraft – but this is the real drawcard of Adventure Racing for enthusiasts.
Adventure Racing is a lot like life – there will be numerous challenges that seem insurmountable to climb your way back from. But when you cross that finish line at 4 am, in the dark, against the odds, wet, cold, tired with no audience to cheer for you or wrap you up as you re-enter the limits of your comfort zone, you will realise, that the little switch inside of you just got flicked, and you now know the only limit in this life is the limit you place on yourself.
Author Kym Child