We had graduated from adventure racing school and done some
shorter races, your Hi-Tecs and 24-hour events. We had purchased
hiking poles. Then my buddy Gordon Wright and I decided that we
were ready for a grown-up race, like the ones we'd seen on TV.
We wondered how we'd look with four-day beards, backlit by the
rising sun while cresting a 4,000-foot peak.
So we signed up for the Appalachian Extreme Adventure Race
(AEAR), to be held over Memorial Day weekend in western Maine.
Gordon persuaded another friend of his, Teri Snyder, an ultrafit
34-year-old racer from Oregon, to be the third member of our
team. The AEAR is run by Norm Greenberg and Tracyn Thayer, a
cool, fun and frighteningly competent adventure racing couple
from Bethel, Maine, and it seemed like a nice fit for us. As
expedition-length races go, it's on the brief side: 3 1/2 to
As I type, the race is eight days away. It's time for Gordon and
me to confirm airline reservations, to take inventory of our
gear, to taper. But most of all it's time to lock myself in a
small room and succumb to that panic attack I've been meaning to
have. Because this course is going to kick our fortysomething
asses all the way back to San Anselmo, Calif., where we live, on
the same street, three houses apart, with our gorgeous wives and
They are the lights of our lives, and the reasons we will endure
some very dark moments in Maine. I'm sure some people can hold
down a job, fulfill their responsibilities as a husband and
parent and train for a long adventure race. The G-man and I just
never figured out how, as these sorry excerpts from my training
May 26, 2002
March 31: The plan: rise at 4 a.m. to do the Pine Mountain
loop--a nasty, three-hour ride--then run/bushwhack a six-mile
course through the surrounding hills. The reality: rode the loop
but scratched the run rather than risk the wrath of Laura, my
wife, who told me that if I wasn't back by the time the children
woke up and ransacked the house for their Easter baskets, I
needn't come home at all.
April 22: Scheduled a five-hour night hike/navigational
exercise, then took this call from Gordon: "Dude, I forgot.
We've got parent-teacher conferences tonight." Scratch night
May 15: Having rescheduled night hike, placed this call to
Gordon: "Sorry, bro. I've just been informed that we've got
Spike's first puppy training session at the Humane Society
tonight, followed by open house at Brookside elementary."
Rescratch night hike.
It's not that we haven't gotten in some tough workouts. It's
just that they haven't been as long, or intense, as those of the
teams that will be finishing 18 or so hours ahead of us. I mean,
towing my kids in the bike trailer up to Phoenix Lake last week
was fun. My heart rate was elevated. We saw ducks. I just don't
know how much it helped prepare me for the rigors of a 250-mile
"You don't need a training week," says our friend Eddie Freyer,
who has done multiple Ecos. "All you really need is a 36-hour
Earth to Eddie: Have you met my wife? Having long ago concluded
that adventure racing is a selfish, family-unfriendly avocation,
Laura informed me over a recent dinner that future races would
Cost me what?
"Three thousand dollars," she said, serious as a kidney stone.
"I want a massage every two weeks for a year, which will run you
What about the rest?
"I'm not getting any younger," she said. "I need to be proactive
about my face. I've been reading up on microderm abrasion."
I've been reading up on AEAR course conditions on
racingahead.com. A recent snowstorm dumped tons of the white
stuff on the mountains of western Maine. "Last weekend we were
up to our waists in some places," wrote Tracyn. Super! The
black-fly bites won't hurt if our flesh is frostbitten.
I have no idea how we're going to make it around this course,
just as I have no idea how I'm going to scrape up three grand to
do it again next year. All I know is that I'm going to try.
The next SI Adventure will appear in the July 1 issue.
It's time to lock myself in a small room and succumb to that
panic attack I've been meaning to have.