Saturday, October 15, 2011

Adventure Race

In my first semester after joining my fraternity, I participated in one of the three times I’ve attempted a sport.  For the record, I am not an athlete.  I go for runs.  Those do not require more coordination than a fast paced walk.  I didn’t volunteer to play, but as a SigEp new member, I was obligated to play at least one intramural sport at some point in the semester.  So one day, my roommate, Ben turns to me:

Ben: “Hey Rob, you know you have to do an intramural, right?”
Me: (sigh) “Yea, I know, I’m dreading it.”
Ben: “Well there’s this thing called Adventure Race that I’ve always wanted to try.  They need teams of two.”
Rob: “Adventure?!  Race?!  A race that’s an adventure?!  Tell me more!”
Ben: “I’m not exactly sure, bitch.  I think it’s like a mini-triathlon.”
Rob: “Oh… well I can swim and run pretty fast, but I don’t own a bike.  I haven’t ridden in years.”
Ben: “Well, they say you never forget, bitch.”
Rob: “I break a lot of traditional rules, Ben.”

We sign our names up on the list, and decide to start training for the race.  Training is the operative word; because all that happened was Ben joined me on my daily run and fell down about halfway through. 

We looked up the actual rules to the race and it was like a triathlon, except much shorter, and no swimming.  Instead, we were to canoe one mile, bike three miles, and run one mile.  Not too bad, considering.

The morning of the race, Ben was still complaining of the soreness caused by training.  I had recently started an annoying habit of creating stupid songs about what I was about to do that day.  This one started off with, “Adveeeeeeeennnntureee Raaaaaace, AaAAAaaadventure Race!  We’re on an adventuuuuuuureeeeee………………………RACE!” 

It didn’t get better.  My closest example can be heard here.

We finally got warmed up and ready, so we loaded the bikes into our truck and drove to our race site, in Peterson Pits.  We aren’t exactly sure where it is, but we see a bright yellow sandwich sign that pointed us to the start line. 

We were ushered to our parking spot by a shy looking girl with neon blue hair.  She told us to stack our bikes next to all the others and stand by the lake to wait for the start of the race.  We stacked our bikes in a very strategic way, so we would be able to hop right on and go down the trail.  I nervously glanced back at the bike and mentally steeled myself with the prospect that I will have to be riding it soon.

We arrive at the start of the race, and it was quite clear that our 2 mile run was nowhere near enough training.  The race was split up into genders, and even the girls looked like American Gladiators.  We stood with the mammoth men and both of us knew to quit talking immediately, as even the slightest sound will set off a gorilla on steroids.

“Well,” I whispered to Ben, “at least we showed up.”
“You’re going to lose this for us on purpose aren’t you?” Ben criticized.
“No!  Fuck you!  There’s no way we can beat these Olympians!  But I’m going to do my best!”
“You say that a lot, Rob.  Your best is like a normal person’s 60%.” Ben countered.  He was really started to get under my skin.
“Listen asshole, I never claimed to be things like ‘athletic’, ‘manly’, or ‘straight’.  This was your idea, and I am here willingly and without a new running injury, so be grateful and let’s go do something really athletic.”
“Whatever, bitch.  If we lose this it’ll be your fault.”
“Just for that, I am going to kill this race, and you will be finishing behind me, guaranteed.”
“Rob, this isn’t an individual race, it doesn’t matter which one of us finishes first.”

I guess this was our way of warming up because everyone was finishing up their stretching and lining up in front of a long shallow hole someone had carved into the beach.  Ben and I took our place on the far right, about 10 feet away from everyone who were aggressively elbowing their way to the middle, the closest point to the canoes.  Hell, maybe Ben would be doing it too if it wasn’t for my damn non-elbowing attitude and me.

Suddenly, we heard the gun, and we all sprinted towards the canoes.  As a safety precaution, we needed to put on the life vests, all of which were untied, except for mine, and the latches were tied with the knottiest, most vice-like grips I have ever seen.  Who last used this?!  I wouldn’t even tie these things this tight if my 2 year-old infant swallowed a bunch of weights and decided to jump in the deep end of a pool.  My fingers started working violently at the ties, eventually ripping the top tie wide enough for me to fit my head through.  By then, Ben and I were the only ones left on the beach, and he was staring at me with cold eyes.

We pull into the water, and luckily, I am very verbal and know how to canoe.  I start shouting commands to Ben, and he is listening.  That was new.  We surprisingly started to catch up with the Goliaths.  Apparently, they couldn’t do a lot of canoe training in between their abundant shots of Sterizone and Testosterone.  Ben and I pass the first canoe and I am feeling so great that I start singing the “Adventure Race” song again.  The other racers, overcome by the sound of my voice, start furiously rowing and are wooed into a sense of accomplished canoeing.  My singing sabotaged our slight gain, and they pass us with a crazed glow in their eye.  So… you’re welcome everyone else in Adventure Race.

Halfway across the lake, the same blue haired girl was sitting in a kayak, telling the rowers that they need to go around her and back to the beach, where our bikes were waiting.  Ben and I were in last place, though we were getting a pretty good sync in our rowing, so I found no reason not to have a small chat with blue haired girl.

“Hi there, I’m Rob!  What’s your name?”
“I’m Jess.  You guys are losing pretty badly.  Maybe you should pay attention to the race.”
“Nah, that’s okay Jess.  I like your hair!”
“So.. um… do you wanna date sometime?”
Ben interjects, “SHUT UP ROB.”
I reply, “YOU shut up Ben, I’m trying to make the best of a crappy situation, and if that means taking a girl with blue hair out on a date, then that’s what I’m going to do.  So Jess, whattaya say?!”
“No,” she answered.

Dejected enough to not jump into another chorus of adventure race, Ben and I paddle our way to the shore in silence.  We beach our canoe and sprint towards our bikes.  This was my own moment of truth.  The giant yellow monster with wheels seemed to glare at me as I approached

I kept thinking to myself, “please remember how to ride this thing. Try not to think.  Muscle Memory!  That’s a thing right?  Muscles will remember how to do this.”  I mounted the bike, kicked off the ground, stabbed my calve muscle with the spokes of the bike and fell to the ground, my leg bleeding heavily.1  Ben passive aggressively sighed.  I cursed.

I grabbed some leaves from the ground and slapped them onto my wound.  Then I got back on the bike, and started pedaling, eventually getting a good momentum going.  Ben and I follow the signs which lead us onto a path in the woods.  I was a little worried, what with just learning how to ride a bike, that the woods might be a little treacherous, but I figured that ISU wouldn’t have us mountain biking without warning.  Plus there is a surprising lack of mountains in Iowa.

After falling in the mud a few times, I started to really get the hang of woods biking.  Then the hills came.  And the bike path we were riding on completely disappeared apart from the leader’s old bike tracks.  Soon, Ben and I were pedaling through a legitimate mountain biking experience.  We came perilously close to a cliff’s edge and I seriously considered getting off my bike and walking it.

About 2 miles into our bike ride, Ben calls for me to stop.  I immediately feel thankful that he has finally fallen too, but when I turn and look, he’s standing perfectly.  But he’s clutching his chest.  “Bitch, we have to stop for awhile.  I could be having a heart attack.  I have this medical condition called tachachardia.2”  I oblige and stop, but I grumpily reply, “Well I was born with terrible balance, but it didn’t stop you from being an ass every time I’ve fallen.”

As we were waiting, 2 girls’ teams passed us.  They had incredulous looks on their faces and I glared at them as they went by, saying absurd things, trying to sabotage their efforts.  It didn’t work.  Whores.

Eventually, Ben’s heart slowed to a semi-normal pace, and we continued our hellish trek through the woods.  We came to the end of the bike trail, and stiffly removed our bodies from the banana seats.  It was time for our run, and Ben and I were shot to hell.  I had lost all humor of the situation.  I just wanted to be at the end of the race where Jess would smugly stare at me and know that she had made the best decision when denying my date proposal.

I looked at Ben and asked if he was ready for the run.  He just called me bitch again and came to stand next to me.  We started at an easy pace.  Then I remembered my obligation to beat the crap outta him.  So I kicked up my pace.  Both of us knew I was the better runner.  But then I remembered Ben’s tyrannosaurus heart condition, so I slowed until I could hear his breathing behind me.  By the end, we were both so tired of ADVENTURERACE that we sprinted across the finish line.

Sure enough, blue haired girl was there with a smug smile on her face.  Bitch.

I had had enough.  This was one of the most ill-conceived attempts at a sport I had ever tried, and for once, my body was flowing with testosterone and adrenaline.  I was pissed.  I turned to her.  “You know what blue hair tells me about a person?  Low self-esteem and a deep-seated need for attention.  I asked you out because I felt bad that you needed to drastically alter your appearance to be noticed.  I asked you out on a date, for what is probably the first time in your life, and you said no out of what I can only assume was a reflex reaction to anyone asking you anything.  Just do your job, record our time and let us go home.”  This is one of the few times Ben has ever laughed at any of the things I have said. 

Afterwards, Ben and I grabbed our bikes, got in the car and drove home.  But on the way, we stopped at the park entrance and stole the bright yellow sandwich sign. 

Because fuck Adventure Race.

1 Yea, I still have scars on my leg from adventure race.  Super proud of my outdoorsy manliness.

2 When I was fact checking for this story, Ben made it clear that I was to say that the only reason he had to stop was because of his tachachardia, and NOT because he was out of shape.  Poor guy was scared I would embarrass him.