Whether you are a top team, a chase-pack team, a short course team or a team that didn’t quite make it to the finish this year, you can bet that no team had a flawless race. Every team dealt with mistakes. Every team dealt with uncertainty. Every team dealt with harsh conditions. Every team dealt with their own demons. In fact, nearly perfectly timed to prove my point, I just read that John Karlsson on the winning team was quoted saying, “To be honest, I’ve had a terrible race.” Wow! Serious props to winning the World Championship while having a terrible race. It must have been brutal! Despite the adversity, it’s guaranteed, that all teams will come out stronger on the other side!
This generally applies to an Adventure Race of any length, but the World Championship is touted as the toughest event of the year and certainly the longest… so it’s guaranteed to have the most at stake and the most opportunity for both disappointment and reward. It’s also likely the biggest challenge that many teams have ever or will ever attempt. Remember, this was a 600 km behemoth suffer-fest all while doing it as a team using just a map and compass to guide the way. In other words, it’s nothing to sneeze at!
With that much distance and time and all that you are asking your body and your teammates to do, I would venture to say that all teams and every single racer must have felt broken at one point or another during the course... It’s just inevitable. Maybe you’re the navigator and you took a wrong turn. Maybe your team made a push for the cutoff, but you know you’re the reason you couldn’t make it in time. And worse, maybe your body wasn’t able to meet the demands of the race and you had to drop out. It happens... There’s just so many ways Adventure Racing can break you, big and small. We come to expect it and it hurts.
BUT… the more you break, the more opportunities you have to grow, to become stronger, to face that same challenge again and handle it better than before. You can guarantee that the top teams have been broken time and time again. In fact, in every race I’ve done, the conversation of how you will do things differently and better next time almost always starts before the race is even over. After all, you don’t get to the podium by dodging failure. You get to the podium by getting “stronger in the broken places”.
So, knowing they will be broken, most teams try to set their expectations ahead of time. They set a shared goal and discuss the possible outcomes and how they will handle each. This helps to make sure all teammates are on the same page. They know that AR is very humbling and almost anything can happen, so unlike many sports, it’s not ALL about rankings.
The way many teams rate their success is by how well they “raced their own race”. It generally means they will do THEIR best. They will tackle each obstacle as it comes their way. They will push as hard as they can and support each other in whatever way they can, but it also means they will adjust as they go. They will try to block out the decisions of other teams and their standings. They will try to keep in touch with what they know to be true… their pace, their strengths, their weaknesses, their team dynamic. They do not let the race override their core values. They especially try not to let their ranking, in the end, dictate their feelings of success. Yes, they’d like to place well, but if they don’t, as long as they “raced their own race”, they are satisfied with their attempt. And, they should be!
Apply all of these lessons to “real life” and we can all become the best version of ourselves! So, cheers, to every team out there from SAFAT, first across the finish line, to all the teams still out there and even those who won’t be crossing the line, but can take pride in the attempt! We admire you all!
Andrea Anderson Sleepmonsters.com ARWC 2021 Guest Commentator Team thisABILITY Adventure Racing