It's 10 am at the Corbin,
KY Wal-Mart. As we wait in the vestibule amidst the
flashing lights of the pinball machine and slow drawl
of the greeter's "welcome to Wal-Mart", I
spot them...Buddha Power Beads, promising strength and
happiness to all who wear them. Buddha Power Beads have
suddenly become mandatory race equipment. Two quarters
and a crank of the knob on the gumball machine and they're
Gautama founded Buddhism while sitting under a Bodhi
tree. While meditating, he found enlightenment and became
The Buddha, also known as The Enlightened One. He then
dedicated his life to teaching The Four Noble Truths:
All existence is full of suffering;
Suffering arises from the constant effort to find comfort
and stability in an uncertain world;
Suffering can be relieved; and
Relief from suffering (Nirvana) can be achieved by following
Gautama must have known about Adventure Racing.
race began for us on Wednesday evening. As we arrived
at Cindy's house, she was in the middle of an epic phone
call with REI in Nashville, trying to find out why the
headlamp she had ordered several days ago had not arrived.
After much threatening, REI agreed to ship the headlamp
to our hotel in Kentucky and we were off to load the
car. Amazingly enough, we were able to load everything
in the car, strap the bikes to the back of the van,
a long drive through much of the night and a very brief
stay at the Day's Inn-Louisville, we arrived at the
race headquarters. Our plan: Check in, get to the hotel,
unload, eat, and sleep. All is well so far. No suffering...yet.
the pre-race meeting, we learned our fate. We would
start at 4 am with a bushwhack/swim section through
Laurel Lake. We would then pick up the bikes for a 45
mile ride through dirt and paved roads along with what
would prove to be a tough singletrack section. On to
the inflatable kayaks for an 8 1/2 mile paddle down
the Cumberland River and then, for the first time, we
would see our support crew. Next up would be a monster
trekking section mixed with several rope segments. Expected
trekking time: 13 hours minimum. Another 50 miles of
biking would lead us to the boats for a final 10 mile
push to the finish. All existence is full of suffering.
swim/bushwhack section was exciting. Cindy had the idea
before the race to bring swim fins and it paid off huge!
We were able to jump in the water, float on our backs
holding our packs, and motor along. It was cruel fun
to create a wake while passing struggling competitors.
We choose to do a little bit of bushwhacking after the
first swim instead of just jumping back into the water
and that cost us some time. Despite that error, we still
improved our position steadily through this section
of the race moving from 28th at the first checkpoint
to 22nd at the bike pick up.
The bike ride began innocently enough with 8 miles
of roads. We're thinking to ourselves, this is easy!
Once we hit the singletrack, things changed. The scenery
along the Sheltowee Trail was great, passing by towering
200 foot rock faces and walking beneath small waterfalls.
But tough was not the most appropriate word for this
stretch of trail. The trail was littered with downed
trees and sharp rock gardens turning a good ride into
an agonizing 10 mile hike-a-bike. At one point, we were
hiking with another team who asked when we were expecting
to arrive at Checkpoint 4. I stopped and stared. "Checkpoint
4"? I asked. "We passed it about an hour ago.
The look of fear on their faces as they realized the
mistake is unforgettable. More suffering, but this time
it's not us. We were thankful to finally reach the road
after five hours of singletrack hiking. The first hill
on the road was long and brutally hot. I thought we
were going to touch the sun. Once on the road, we had
only two hours to go 27 miles to reach the boats by
the cutoff time. Smart decision making and map reading
helped us as we made it with not a second to spare.
Sitting in 22nd place, we were the last team to officially
get in the boats. We thought that getting
to the boats was our saving grace. Suffering arises
from the constant effort to find comfort and stability
in an uncertain world.
I truly believe that "Sevylor" stands for
"Yellow Boat from Hell". Ray and I took one
boat and Cindy and Randy the other. Ray and I couldn't
get the boat to go in a straight line to save our lives.
We tried everything...Short strokes, long strokes, synchronized
paddling, un-synchronized paddling, switching positions,
sitting on the floor, sitting on our knees, using the
rear paddle as a rudder and allowing the front person
to paddle, towing. We even took the paddles apart and
tried to use them like a canoe paddle. Nothing worked!
If we hadn't dumped our fins with the bikes, we'd have
gotten out and swam. We were able to get about three
paddles strokes and the boat would turn. We tried correcting
strokes and they made it worse. We tried to correct
from the front using a sweep, from the rear using a
j-stroke, back paddling. Again, no luck. Instead, we
turned in circles for four painful hours. We got to
the boat landing at 11 pm and finally sat down with
We only had a few minutes to debate the rest of the
race and felt the
pressure from the race organizers to make a decision.
In our minds at that time, we felt the best decision
was to stop. Suffering can be relieved. Many factors
led to this decision, which I still struggle with for
many reasons. However, the mental aspect of the upcoming
challenge, the physical aspect, the frustration of being
in the boat, etc. all built up to our decision to stop.
I've thought about this choice ever since that moment,
knowing that up to now I've never voluntarily quit any
race, of any type. I took it very hard and in part still
feel responsible. At one point during the debate, I
was asked by the team to make a decision, to judge the
team's readiness to continue and
chose to stop based on everything I saw at that point.
Looking back, I feel that I let the team down by giving
them the answer they wanted to hear at that point in
time, but not the answer that they needed to hear and
would be happiest with in the long run. Even though
we had no chance of finishing the complete event based
on the remaining time, I would much rather have stopped
due to the race organizers sweeping us off instead of
As it turns out, only two out of the thirty-five starting
teams actually finished the race as ranked teams and
the entire second paddling section was eliminated for
that to happen. The fastest team through the trekking
section, originally expected to be 23 hours, took 18
hours. Congratulations to Team Mid-America Xtreme/Rajalta
Rajalle and Team Celebrex on your performance! Kip Richards
and the Pathfinder Crew, great job setting a tough course.
Thanks for your work!
Despite our setbacks, we had a great time as a team.
We laughed a lot and we're stronger for our next event.
Adventure Racing is about learning. It's learning about
yourself, your abilities, both mental and physical.
Your personal limits and those of the others around
you. I've learned much from this race.
Relief from suffering (Nirvana) can be achieved by following
"Right" thought. Open your mind
to the big picture. Don't consider what's happening
now. Instead, think about your goal.
Actions. Your decisions affect more than yourself.
Be aware of the consequence of your actions.
Understanding. Listen to your team and put yourself
in their shoes. Not everyone feels the same at all times
and you need to be there to support them during the
good and bad times.
Speech. Make sure everyone's voice is heard.
Livelihood. Don't make Adventure Racing work. It's
fun. Enjoy yourself above all.
Effort. Never give up.
Mindfulness. Learn from mistakes.
Concentration. Stay in the game. Everyone else
is having trouble too.
The Buddha Power Beads are tucked away safely and will
make their return at the next race!