After spending much of the years from 1998 to 2007 ridiculously devoted to adventure racing, I’ve slacked off. Part of it was natural burnout; part of it was my bout with double pneumonia in January/February ’07. I still have a patch of dead lung in my lower left lobe from that awful experience, and the diminishment in my fitness is something I haven’t really overcome since.
And I’ve had fun farting around with other stuff. My first ultra was amazing, and to place 35th in the North Face 50K far exceeded my expectations. The Ride & Tie World Championships were the most fun I’ve ever had competing in anything, and though our finish was mediocre, I still got a check. My first competitive open water swim? Awesomely fun, and a better time than I deserve in swimming from Angel Island to Tiburon in under 40 minutes.
But all of these fun events share a theme: I wasn’t really, really competitive in them. Not close to top-tier. And while I don’t consider myself a great endurance athlete, it chafed just a bit; not enough for me to really train hard and get in serious shape, but I kind of missed racing hard.
So when Adam Chase, a Boulder tax attorney and SERIOUS endurance athlete (he’s the Trail Running Team Manager for Salomon) asked me to race in the Urban Oyster adventure race, I didn’t hesitate. I was just masochistic enough to want to race with Adam. I didn’t train for it, but at least I knew that I’d be flying.
Adam kept calling with insider tips on how we could win; on how this team or that was recruiting this and such athlete and how some checkpoint clues might be divined by really studying the websites of the race’s sponsors. I kept telling him the truth: he’d have to haul my ass around the course to even stay remotely competitive. Our teammate was equally scary: Tamara Lave was an All-American runner in college and represented the United States at the 1993 IAAF World Championships in marathon. I was going to get my ass kicked not once, but twice.
But sometimes you just have a performance you didn’t expect. Maybe it was the return to a competitive environment with which I’m comfortable. Maybe it was this particular course, with its short legs, an emphasis on speed over endurance and local knowledge being paramount. Or maybe it was the fact that Tamara doesn’t really know how to ride a bike (“Adam! How do you make it easier to pedal?”), which gave me time to recover from our blistering run segments.
But we flat stomped this thing. Third place in our division, fourth overall. 105 teams and we got the cowbell to show for it. It’s really, really fun to go fast.
Three thumbs up to the Merrill/Urban Oyster Crew. I’d poo-pooed urban races — this was my first one, such was my disdain — but it was wall-to-wall fun. Especially the beer tasting.
Watch for an upcoming issue of Competitor Magazine for more in-depth reporting.