Endurance more valuable than skill in BC adventure
Now what kind of a guru are you, anyway?Frank Zappa, Cosmik DebrisThere are more than a few good reasons why I’ll never make it as an adventure racer.If I had to settle on one, I’d go with “overqualified.” If I had to be honest, I’d probably go with “too damned hard.”But that’d be a copout. See, anyone can look at the standard 100-or-so-mile adventure race course combining trekking, cycling, paddling, rappelling, maybe some swimming and a couple days of sleep deprivation (also known as more trekking) and sum it up as too damned hard. It goes without saying. Kind of like the Hawaii Ironman. Or the Leadville 100.And, of course, that isn’t really true. Otherwise there wouldn’t be any competitors. Yet somehow there’s never any shortage of them. Kind of like the bass masters. Or those golfing masters, for that matter.The point is, just as anyone who is proficient enough at both golf and fishing (and say, bowling or darts or maybe curling) to be considered a “professional” has way too much leisure in his time, anyone who gets his kicks in an off-road triathlon of swimming the Upper Colorado with a kickboard, biking across a sea of dirt, then stumbling around Beaver Creek mountain for 24 hours could use a genuine hobby. Something demanding more skill than slurping enough Goo to keep your feet moving from Kremmling to Avon.Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of adventure racing. Except maybe for the racing part. But since I understand that a lot of people really get off by getting their race on, I’ll concede the timing thing. Mostly, it’s where the races occur that I like so much. Like this weekend’s Ford Adventure Sports Challenge “the nation’s premier adventure sports festival” at Beaver Creek. Love Beaver Creek.And as I understand it, the marquee event at the Ford Adventure Sports Challenge the season’s first BALANCE BAR 24-Hour Adventure covers some of the most spectacular terrain Colorado has to offer. The race, taking place July 19-20, is composed of trekking, mountain biking, canyoneering (or trekking through a canyon), ducky racing through flat water and class II whitewater, kick-boarding and land navigation (also known as more trekking).”Our goal with designing each race is that it will be an adventure first and a race second,” said Jonathan Denison, Race Director for the BALANCE BAR 24-Hour Adventure. “As a result we look for out-of-the-way and remote locations where teams will feel ‘out there’ and truly have a sense of being on a journey.”Other than the Ford SUV shuttles between various legs, Denison did a pretty good job of accomplishing his “out there” objective.But, seriously, who among us considers flat-water ducky paddling an adventure? Or mountain biking the Trough Road? That’s just plain drudgery. And while the concept is cool, the skill involved is negligible. I know 12-year-olds who do that stuff around here.I keep waiting for one of these things to really live up to its adventure billing. Not just by enlisting expert advice on suffering from the likes of local legends Billy Mattison, Ellen Miller and Dan Neilsen, but by actually employing some of their skills. Mattison, the local race director, is not only a former Eco-Challenge champion, but he pioneered many of the valley’s most challenging raft and kayak runs. Trekking co-director Miller is the first woman in North America to summit Everest from both the north and south routes. Neilsen, the other trekking director, was the first (and I’d wager only) person to cross the country on a kick-bike. Let these whackos brainstorm a few hours with the local adventure brain trust and the result would be a race worthy of the $100,000 prize.My guess is it would look something like this:Stuff your climbing gear into a genuine kayak at Homestake Creek above Red Cliff, where class V whitewater cascades down to the Eagle River below Lover’s Leap. Paddle Homestake down into Gilman Gorge and top out on a 5.11 bolt route before paddling the rest of the way to Minturn and swapping your boat for a bike. Pedal Tigiwan Road up to Halfmoon Campground, climb the Mount of the Holy Cross (up the Cross with an ice axe after swimming the Bowl of Tears), take the Halo Traverse around the cirque and trek to Camp Hale with a fly rod. Catch a trout on a nymph and a dry fly, then trek over Vail Mountain to the village. First one to finish a shot of whiskey and a Bud longneck at Vendetta’s wins.To keep it real, everyone must forget at least one piece of critical equipment for each task. And true pros like Charlie Ebel have to shoot an elk with a bow and arrow somewhere along the way. Now we’re talking skill.But the reality of adventure racing is that it’s the essential equivalent to Ultra-Off Road Star Search, where the skinniest people this side of Somalia demonstrate how to run for days on end and look good in tight clothes for television. Then they pick up a check from a sponsor, along with next season’s wardrobe. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.But it’s hardly surprising that Mark Burnett is the same guy responsible for bringing us both the Eco-Challenge and America’s favorite reality TV show, Survivor.In my own limited experience with adventure racing competing in another Ford event called the Explorer Sport Trac Challenge we were all asked to sign waivers stating that we allowed our image to be used to sell trucks and whatnot. Apparently we were making a commercial television show, which I hear is still floating around the airwaves somewhere, although I’ve never seen it.I signed the waiver though, and even took home a few new wardrobe items. But, like my man Frank, I still can’t help wondering: Is that a real poncho or is that a Sears poncho?Between adventures, local freelance writer Scott Willoughby is still looking for work. If you have something to offer, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 827-9390.
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