I'm a newbie to adventure racing having discovered and fallen in love with the essence of the sport just over a mere year ago after participating in two of the shorter races: the Flying Frog in Greensboro and the 9-1-1 race at Umstead. I've since taken part in five sport adventure races, a couple of runs, and a 24-hour team MTB race. My goal for promoting AR is to bring more women into the sport, so I wanted to provide a little background into how I discovered AR and what draws me to the sport.
I've always been something of an outdoorsy adrenaline junkie, whether it's bunji jumping over Victoria Falls, body boarding down the Zambezi, scuba diving with sharks in the Red Sea, canyoning and traversing wash-outs with wire ropes courses in Slovenia (long story), white water rafting in Zimbabwe and Nantahala, sky diving here in North Cackylacky, snowboarding in Austria, or mountain biking in Guatemala (p.s. I also like to travel). I'll pretty much try anything at least once to see if I like it and/or to be able to say why I don't ever want to try it again.
My recent entry into the sport of adventure racing can be attributed to multiple amazing people who helped me develop some basic skills and feel confident I could participate. Last year (2005) during the summer, I purchased my first and most beloved mountain bike from Cycling Spoken Here (CSH) in Cary (highly recommended to anyone who wants knowledgeable people who ride to advise them on their purchase). CSH have a vision for mountain biking somewhat akin to the vision Don and the rest of us have for adventure racing: to introduce as many people as possible to a sport we love and provide a supportive network that will help us all build skills and advance the sport. Steve, the owner of CSH, and Carl hold regular Thursday and Sunday rides for beginners upwards (http://cyclingspokenh...) and helped me learn some skills and develop some confidence in my biking abilities.
Simultaneously, I was also playing rugby with the Raleigh Venom (http://www.raleighrug...) and thanks to encouragement and a focus on fitness from our coach, another Steve, a number of our team signed up for the Flying Frog in 2005. Not much of a runner, I was a little daunted by the amount of running (9+ miles), but liked the shortness of the race (around 4 hours). We had a blast, learned that running after paddling for an hour or so is a freaky feeling, and made a mental note of the importance of staying hydrated (it stops you seeing spots), and carrying electrolyte tablets (wow, they work quickly on muscle cramps).
The next week, we did what any sensible people would do armed with confidence after a 4 hour race and took part in the 8-hour 9-1-1 race in Raleigh. Calley (fellow Venomite), Steve, myself, and Bill-expert navigator extraordinaire-made up team Shakti and laughed the whole day through. Ernie and the other volunteers from Triangle AR team made the race so much fun. Who'd have thought that swimming across Lake Crabtree then running five miles in wet shoes would have provoked such hilarity? Thanks to Bill's O-skills, we ended up coming second in the co-ed section. That was never a goal, the emphasis was on fun, but it was a great end to a wonderful day filled with accomplishment, and I've been hooked on AR ever since.
Since then, I have run more co-ed races, a female-only race, and a solo race. While the solo race was a good challenge, I really missed having people to share the fun and adventure with, it's just no fun falling over when there's no one to laugh and/or pick you up afterwards! I do foresee myself becoming more competitive as my skills develop and I participate in longer races, but I never want to lose that sense of fun and ability to retain a positive attitude when things get tough. AR to me is about pushing oneself a little harder than the average bear and realizing how much you can accomplish, but more importantly, about having a good time with kindred spirits who generally shy away from the mainstream and are drawn to unique experiences that test them mentally and physically.
A few things about AR to encourage you to take that first step and come and join us. AR is a sport for everyone who likes to get outside and have fun. Racers come in all shapes, sizes, skill levels, competitive tendencies, and levels of fitness. While you're not going to run a 3-day race off the bat, there are plenty of short races to participate in, develop skills, meet great people, and have fun. If you're worried about your fitness level, don't be! The only way to improve is to get out and meet people involved in the sport, train, and participate in races. Especially for women, it can be fairly daunting to step out into a male-dominated sport and memories of being excluded from various activities growing up contribute to this. All I can say is that the guys I have encountered in the sport have, on the whole, been incredibly supportive and really want to see more women in the sport (there's a strategy here, the Eco-Challenge and advanced races are generally co-ed) . Sure there are some wankers with more testosterone than a vision to see the wider implications for the sport beyond the race they're competing in, but hey, what's new? ;) I really think this group provides a great entryway into the sport and I hope to see an increasing number of women (and men) joining us in the future.
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