A few weeks ago I did an adventure race called Race the Rockies with my friend Sierra.
We did the Edmonton race, which was mostly through trails and parks in the south side of the city. Early in the morning we picked up our map, marked with check points worth different numbers of points (and which would take different amounts of skill/effort). We were given an hour and a half to make a race plan, and then the race began! We had 6 hours to bike, canoe, and trek around, collecting as many check points as possible. We had to be back in by 4pm… every minute in early was worth one extra point, but every minute in late cost you 10 points! There was also a food drive for points- every pound of food donated was worth an additional point.
Our initial route was, shall we say, stunningly optimistic. The race was hard! Though we intentionally bypassed some of the most challenging check points, we still managed go up and down several staircases with our bikes (Edmonton has a very steep river valley) and at one point found ourselves carrying our bikes down the steepest hill in town (surely) as we made our way to a canoe check point.
This! With a bike!
We had to canoe with the bikes as well, which added for some balance challenges. “Nobody has fallen in yet today,” said the volunteers. “Let’s not be first!” I replied.
We kept our cool, called it a refreshing rinse, and continued on our way!
Later in the race, we dropped off our bikes at ventured into a trekking section of the course. We expected this to involve trail running, but instead found ourselves lost in a park many, many times. Luckily, a river helped us orient ourselves and we were able to spot a few check points. At the start, we merrily and nimbly did things like inchworm scoot across a log while crossing the river. On the way back, covered in scratches and nettles, we just splashed right on through.
The trekking was by far the most difficult part of the race (not the four hours of biking that came before). It was so hard to make decisions, knowing a bad choice would cost not only me, but Sierra as well. We took turns trying to trail-blaze. There were times when the path would just vanish, and we were left whacking back tree branches that clawed at our faces like that scene in Snow White.
I felt responsible for tipping the boat, so every time I also picked a bad path (“I feel so confident in this shortcut!”) I felt doubly guilty. But Sierra was a great teammate and we never got too down on ourselves. We reminded ourselves that our goal was to have fun and do our best! One time we spent about 20 minutes looking for a checkpoint that just didn’t want to be found. It was so frustrating, but we strategized and communicated really well and just decided to put it behind us, not focus on the lost time, and keep racing. Zero fights the whole time! Zero disagreements, even!
Also, we got to see some great views:
At the end of the race, we had a little awards ceremony and pizza party. Sierra and I somehow came in 3rd in the women’s division! We chatted with some of the other teams that we had run into at different places on the course. Many people have been doing this for years and years. They talked about races that were freezing cold, that involved carrying bikes through neck-high water, and that were 36 hours long. Most of them did all these races with the same parter. What a true test of friendship!
It got me thinking about how important sports can be in a friendship. My best friends growing up were soccer team friends. In university, I ran and biked with friends. Now most of my best friends are ones I met through Crossfit (or whom I gently encouraged to join Crossfit with me). I doubt I would make it to lifting 5 times a week without knowing my friends would be there!
At the after party, racers’ spouses, kids, parents, etc. showed up and we all said goodbye and the day ended. But the fact that we had all just spent 8 hours racing with our teammates, time that was physically and mentally gruelling, is pretty cool. Most people raced with a friend, some people raced with a girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse, but nobody raced alone. And I just think that’s great.