Week 13 – The Practice

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    I almost didn’t make this happen this week. In my head I kept hearing, ‘Screw it. Don’t post. What’s the big deal anyway?’

    But my heart piped up to say, ‘But wait… you committed to this weekly endeavour and you haven’t missed a week yet. And it’s good for you because it promotes stability, regularity and routine. Plus, you made a COMMITMENT, and you know how crappy it feels when you quit and fall short of what you set out to do. So you have too.’

    So here I am. Writing. Struggling to find something to write about.

    So I took a breath and gazed out the rain drenched window to reflect.

    About a decade ago, my adventure race team and I decided to quit midway through a 24 hrs adventure race. 

    It sucked.

    The race had started on Saturday morning after a rented rumple town bus dropped us off about an hour from nowhere. with an hour drive from Campbellton NB to the middle of nowhere. Us, and about a dozen other teams, set out on foot with map, compass and gear to find our way through thick brush, rugged terrain, swamp lands and so much more. On these races, the objective is to make it to as many checkpoints as possible in the time permitted. The teams who finish the quickest with the most checkpoints found, win. So we take little rest. Only brief ones when we have to pee, or adjust our gear, or to come together as a team to strategize our next move. 

    This race in particular, there were six of us, two teams of three, working and navigating together. We had already come through numerous races together and had a pretty good gauge on each others ebbs and flows as far as energy and depletion levels. And, we knew each others unique strengths and how to draw upon them when necessary. My part on the team was counting and map reading. My map reading skills was mainly due to the fact that I was the only one with good enough eye sight to distinguish between the various colours and lines. A small blue line depicting a stream or brook, as compared to a small brown contour lines or the small black trail lines. 

    Topographic map of our race terrain.

    Counting was for measuring our distance travelled. When on bikes, we’d use simple bike computers to clock our kilometres however on foot, I had it pretty bang when counting my paces to know our exact distance, even when accounting for the various grades when climb or descend.  So yes, once we started on foot, I’d start counting steps. Every 100 paces, I’d shout ‘100’ and my teammates and I would keep track of how many sets of 100 we’d travel. Ever 10 100s was equal to 1 kilometer.

    After a good number of hard trekking kilometers, and a number of checkpoints found, we made it to the Restigouche River where the next leg of our adventure had us canoeing down stream. Laughing giddily to each other, we gloated at how easy this portion of the race was going to be. So we nonchalantly laughed with each other as we refilled and repacked our packs and loaded the canoe, smugly smiling at the sun shine over head. After all, it was a beautiful afternoon, the scenery was spectacular, and the company made was the best ever.

    For a few kilometres, we gently sailed down the river, paddling here and there, enjoying the much needed activity break and letting Mother Nature float us along. We were moving a pretty good clip too which is why when the rapids came into view, there was little we could do to avoid the inevitable. In seconds we went from smooth sailing to swamped as our canoe turned sideways in the rapids, flipping us and all our untied gear out. As our knees and legs bashed along the river bed and the rushing brisk water repeatedly pulled us under, I thrashed around chasing and collect as much of our gear as I could while my two team mates struggled to save and right our submersed canoe. The other threesome had made it safely through the rapids and did what they could to help us. But to turn and paddle up stream in the rushing waters was impossible.

    Eventually we managed to beach ourselves on shore half laughing and half scared shitless at our demise. We took stock of our losses : broken sunglasses, lost compass, soggy map, and drenched backpacks with our food, clothes and other gear inside them. It was devastating. And we were pissed. Loaded back in the canoe, we continued down stream to our transition point. We did our best to keep our spirits up, but the energy of our team was heavy and neither of us wanted to continue on.

    Race selfie

    Pausing for a quick selfie during an adventure race.

    At our transition point we were back on foot again. We trekked more gruelling kilometers to checkpoints and the next transition to our bikes. We contemplated quitting, but kept going. But not for long. Eventually fatigue, exhaustion but mostly our gloomy grumpy attitudes got the better of us and we pulled ourselves out of the race. 

    It was the shittiest feeling ever. Quitting.

    To this day that feeling still lives in me and it’s times like today that I pull

    it from my memory bank and put it back into my body. It was a hard but great lesson and because of that lesson, I push myself to overcome challenges like this one today. I know this is just a silly little blog, but for me, it’s more than that. This is me showing up. Showing up to the commitments I have made and seeing them through to the end. Week after week I secretly surprise myself because its little things that add up to make the biggest and most meaningful impacts in our lives.

    How are you showing up? What are you committing to? And how do you overcome the gloom, fatigue and uninspired challenges that show up in your life?