Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Adventure Racing as Life, and Other Analogies

Starting with last year's SAVAGE I've now done three adventure races in the past year. It's practically enough to make one think about actually purchasing a yearly membership in the US Adventure Racing Association.

That is, unless your next race is in Canada. Today marked the more or less official christening of our team for the "Raid International Éco Endurance Aventure 2008." Held in the tiny town of Blanc-Sablon on the Lower North Shore of Labrador in northeastern Canada, the International Endurance Adventure Race (in English) entails trekking, orienteering, mountain biking, climbing, rappelling, cliff jumping, canoeing, kayaking, and something called "adventure swimming."

As if that weren't enough, there are many "surprises" promised along the way. Teams of two and four compete over four days and 180 miles of some of the roughest terrain that Canada has to offer. If it's any indication, I couldn't even find a major city close enough to Blanc-Sablon that had weather data available online so we know what we might be in for.

I'm not sure what possessed me to finally commit to doing such a race. I've obviously become mildly obsessed with adventure racing over the last year - so I'm going to try to articulate some of the reasons here.

The first is that adventure racing is a team sport. You are inherently reliant on your teammates to have good judgment (especially if they are navigating), to pull you along if you're behind, and to keep their own cool during what can be a truly stressful event, in all senses of that word.

The second is that while adventure races are long, they don't require nearly as much training as a single-discipline race of the same timeframe. The SAVAGE took us five and a half hours to complete, but the training was minimal. Doing a six-hour running race or even a bike race without doing extensive training for months beforehand is a good way to wind up in the medical tent, not to mention permanently damage some joints.

I've found many parallels between a team of adventure racers working to get to the finish and a team of people working toward a goal in the "real world" or just life in general. The team size in an adventure race is pretty reflective of what I would deem as an ideal team size to work with on a regular basis. The roles that people play on a team of racers also mimics the roles that develop on a goal-oriented team in real life.

I've been thinking about what life lessons can be taken from these races, since I think there are many. This past race taught me a lot about the kind of role that I tend to take in such situations and on such teams. I've noticed that I want to try to do everything myself - but I'm getting better at delegating. I still like to be the one that's in the know about as much as possible, and involved in every decision. I like to think of myself as a field general, though I'll be the first to admit that I'm far from that ideal. However, picturing yourself as one is the best way to start to become one.

I'm sure I'll have more thoughts on the matter in the months to come - many will likely be posted at our team's newly-minted blog.

Up next, in the "other analogies" department: how deck reconstruction resembles a software engineering project, and why the whole thing makes me want to study design.


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