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Let's Talk Motivation

Expedition Oregon 2022 Commentary


Let’s talk motivation. Why, why, why?!?

Every adventure racer has been asked why? Why do you do it? Why do you put yourself through so much pain and suffering for so long? On the ATR website, long before this race even started, Lars Bukkehave (Bend Racing Canada) is quoted saying, “At some point, everyone in this event will seriously regret their decision to race.” (So glad he's doing well after his hypothermia scare last night!) So, why even race?

On the surface, the answers are probably somewhat predictable. Yes, AR athletes do it for the ultimate challenge, both physical and mental. They do it because they love the outdoors. They do it because they love having a goal and love working towards it, especially with a team of like-minded friends. It makes at least a little bit of sense… until you add in the hours that turn into days of grueling hardship… the bitter cold, the extreme exhaustion, the risk of injury and even death… Yes, I said it… death… These athletes are pushing the limits to the extreme and in some cases, they have been in life-or-death situations. This race in particular is a whole other level!

I think the harder the race, the deeper you need to dig to be connected to your ‘why’. We’ve all heard the phrase “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”, but I think that when the going gets tough, we all do some reconciling that becomes deeply personal. We reflect on our goals, not just that of the team, but our own personal goals… and not only our race goals, but also the goals we have for our journey through life itself. It all needs to be worth it.

Besides the obvious pain and suffering in the moment, expedition races require a huge commitment. We are away from our families, using vacation days from work and investing significant resources to fund our efforts, not to mention putting in a lot of training. Our own personal ‘why’ must be strong enough to overcome the doubts, the fears, the risks, and so much more.

During this reconciliation, teams might need to adjust their goals and their expectations… If one goal becomes unattainable, it's time to shift gears. Easier said than done, but mid-pack teams like ours have quite a bit of experience with this. We usually start off trying to clear a course and try to push hard enough to keep up with the leaders. Sometimes we can keep that up and sometimes... well… not so much. Serious injury or damaged relationships is just not worth placing a little bit higher in the rankings for us. Besides, for big ARWS races, we know better than to make the podium our goal. Even so, just finishing any long race relies on a very strong ‘why’.

I race for all the reasons I’ve already mentioned, but the deeper reasons that help get me through are many and complicated. Here’s a few:

I want to soak up life... When you are racing, you feel SO alive! We’re all getting older every darn day… I probably now have fewer years ahead of me than behind me. I’m turning 50 this summer. There is just no time to waste. I want to do as much as I can while I can…

AND, I want to have experiences that I can learn from that I won’t forget… experiences that are unique and teach me things I can’t learn in the comfort of my regular, ritualistic lifestyle where days and weeks blend together. (Perhaps I can thank having a child with Down syndrome which has taught me that “normal” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.)

AND, I want to be the best version of myself, not only for myself, but for my kids who I hope will find something in what I’ve accomplished to emulate. I want them to see me stepping up to the plate and getting out of my comfort zone so that they will see that it’s worth it.

I could go on, but there’s a race to follow! I don’t know what is motivating these ATR teams to keep trudging through this bitter cold course, but I do know they will come out with unforgettable memories and plenty of life lessons learned even if they don’t attain their initial goals.

I’ll be signing off now. Another race is calling! Team thisABILITY will be racing in NYARA’s 24 hour race, the Longest Day tomorrow. While it’s not America’s Toughest Race, I expect to have at least a few moments when I need to answer to my own ‘why’. And, this time I have some added motivation to get to that finish line to see how the final hours of ATR play out. Can’t wait!

Why do you adventure race?


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