by Rebecca Rusch, Team Captain
This is a question that should always enter your mind in any sport (actually in everyday life). Being prepared
for whatever is thrown at you and being able to deal with it takes a lot of patience and training. With adventure
racing, you are not only relying on yourself, but also on your teammates being prepared for a race. So, how
do you do this as a team? Well, our team has been both over prepared and under prepared for races in the past.
Obviously, the earlier races in my career are ones I felt less ready for than races we’ve done recently. There is A LOT to be said for just having experience. Just getting out there and getting your feet wet teaches the proper skills and mindset. That’s the beauty of adventure racing: it’s unpredictable! It’s often not the most physically prepared or the fittest teams that win. Instead, it is the
teams who race smart and are able to adapt to whatever the race course and their teammates throw at them who dominate. Maintaining flexibility and patience is the key. The only way to develop those qualities is to get out and race or do long training trips with your teammates and friends.
Adventure races are also such a HUGE undertaking that someone
entering one might think, “Am I ready? Did I train enough? Did I forget something?” I remember one race in particular, my very first Eco Challenge and only my second race ever. It was probably the most unprepared and frightened I have felt in my whole life. A 24-hour race seemed like an eternity to me. My background was cross country running in high school and college where the two and three mile races seemed long. Most of my fear was due to lack of experience and knowledge. I really had no idea what I was getting in to. I had done one 24 hour race that happened to be an Eco Challenge qualifier. I was like a deer caught in the headlights the whole way. We won the race, nonetheless, and were invited to Australia.
In preparation for that Eco Challenge in Australia, I tried to approach my training in a methodical
way. Looking back, my preparation was anything but methodical. My approach consisted of simply trying to run, bike,
and paddle as much and as hard as I could. I was also working at the time. Realistically, I was training
a couple hours a day at most. There were probably four different weekend days when our team would do a bike
for perhaps two hours, then paddle for two hours. This was the extent of my preparation. The rest of the time I spent worrying about how slow and unprepared I was.
So, we went to Australia and sprinted out of the starting gate like a bunch of stallions. I had that deer in the headlights look on my face again and was just trying to hang on with the pace the guys, who had more experience than I did, were setting. I kept my mouth shut and stumbled along. It was a furious 36 hours. We arrived at a few of the check points in first place
and were rolling along among the top five. I knew we didn’t belong there. To make a long story short, two guys on the team pooped out just a day and a half into the race. One of my teammates was suffering hallucinations, vomiting and was worn ragged. The other one had worn severe holes in his feet.
We had been going so fast that he felt uncomfortable asking us to stop so he could take care of his blisters. The other two of us, feeling fresh still, had to drop
out with the rest of our team. Four days later, watching the winners cross the finish line was bitter
sweet. I knew that our team had not been prepared or realistic about the pace we could keep. Not finishing
that race was the most valuable lesson I could have learned. I vowed then to come back to one
day finish an expedition race. That was seven years (and thousands of race miles) ago.
Team Montrail is made up of badasses Rebecca Rusch, Patrick Harper, John Jacoby, Novak Thompson, and Justin Wadsworth. Together, their resume includes Olympic Skiing, whitewater raft guiding, guiding rock climbing, teaching adventure racing, carpentry, business banking and parenting. Which just goes to show that adventure racers truly are human like the rest of us. After winning the Raid Gauloises in Kyrgyzstan this past June, though, they appeared to be super heroes. After all, only 12 teams out of 36 were even able to finish the course of the race that many consider to be the toughest in the world.
They are currently sponsored by Revo, Red Bull, Sugoi, Suunto, Petzl, Leki, CamelBak, NRS, Gregory and Aloksak, Emergen-C and Giro, among others.
To find out more about Team Montrail and learn a few of their winning secrets, visit their web page at www.teammontrail.com