Shower Thoughts After My First Expedition AR

I just finished my first ever expedition-length adventure race, Expedition Oregon. About 80 hours and ~350 kilometers (give or take, not really sure. Let’s just agree it felt like 350 kilometers) and many thousands of feet of elevation gain and loss.

pics or it didn’t happen. Thank goodness a teammate brought his camera!

Rather than the standard race report (we went here, then we went there…) I’m presenting an unfiltered list of “shower thoughts” I had during the race and in the days following. Some of these are inside jokes, others are gems of wisdom. Have more to add? Throw them into the comments below!

  • Poop. Lots of talk about poop. Lots of pooping. Being a parent of a 3 and 5-year-old prepared me well for this part of the race.
  • You and your teammates will get close to each other. Uncomfortably close. Better get used to it.
  • The rumors about JD Eskelson’s rampant nudism have not been overstated.
  • Typical race food SUCKs after a couple days. By the end of the 3rd day my stomach said “no more, we’re done” and refused to digest anything further. This led to a bonk a few hours later, as my body, now dependant on a steady flow of sugars and simple carbs, no longer got its fix. It’s been said before in various forums and posts, but preplanning real food at the TAs and packable food items is a critically important part of a race
  • A bag of Ruffles potato chips and string cheese bar saved me from the bonk when I couldn’t eat anything else. After that, I could get back to eating something a bit more “performance” like.
  • Next time, I’m making more of my own food vs. buying bars and stuff. Check out the book for some great recipes.
  • Fitness wise, I was okay. Not great, there was some big hill climbs that I was the weak member of the team, which I believe was the result of me not shiting my endurance training blocks to be bike focused earlier in the year. But I’m convinced there’s a path to being a good adventure racer despite only having about an hour of training time in the day. Read more about my efforts here: Better Adventure Racing, Part 1 – There Is A Way
  • We focus so much of our training on the sports that happen during the race – kayak, mountain bike, trail run. But there are other disciplines that require training too – TA transition and sleep.
  • Sleep is its own sport. When to sleep, where to sleep, how to sleep. These are all tactical decisions that have just an important impact on the outcome of a race as having the right shoes, being ready to ride downhill single track, etc.
  • The podium at Expedition Oregon was largely shaped by the decisions of the top teams when and where to sleep. because they were neck and neck to the end, they were too worried about giving up position to sleep and ended up making big errors. Ironically, had any of them passed out for an hour, they would have regained the “cognitive advantage” and probably swept past the competition. Seriously, sleep is a sport.
  • It’s impressive what can be done with just an hour of sleep. You can squeeze a full day of high-intensity activity out of your body in exchange for just a tiny amount of sleep. It’s got more to do with whether or not you’re keeping your body and mind busy and engaged than it is about how much rest you’ve gotten.
  • TA transition is much like it is in Triathlon – the 4th sport. The siren song of the TA box with its goodies, warm clothes, and excuse to loiter can easily suck the most aggressive team into spending hours bumbling around at the TA.
  • The way to combat the TA monster is smart preplanning like pre-packaging your food for each leg of the race and making team objectives prior to arriving at the TA (we’re leaving in 30 minutes, priority of work is (1) reassembling bike, (2) filtering water, (3) changing shoes, etc.)
  • Having the opening lines of the song “One Step” from the Disney film Aladdin stuck in your head for four days is a form of torture I wouldn’t wish on any person. Oh, that Aladdin, he’s a problem! He’s become a one man…. OMG, KILL ME
  • At the end of the race, we got to do some killer downhill singletrack. I’d never done anything like that before and it was incredibly thrilling. Forget this days-long XC bullshit, I’m a downhill guy now!
  • Thank goodness we got to do it during the day
  • Speaking of things better done in daylight, going whitewater packrafting at 2am with just a headlamp lighting your way is a harrowing experience.
  • Makes for a great story afterward though!
  • For some reason, throughout the entire whitewater leg, I never flipped once, despite being relatively new to packrafting and especially whitewater packrafting.
  • I credit this to my mindset and dryland training. I did a bunch of kayak-inspired training in the gym to make sure I had the muscular endurance in my upper body
  • For my mindset, I found myself repeating a line I heard from the great Seattle Seahawks running back, Marshawn Lynch – “I know I’m gunna get got, but I’m gunna get mine before they get me”.
  • During the Class 3 rapids, I found myself cursing out each wave I made it past. Somehow telling the water to “get F’ed” made me externalize the challenge of getting through the rapids and helped keep me sharp and aggressive.
  • It really is all about staying aggressive in the water. I decide where I go, not the raft and not the water.
  • There was a trek CP in the first leg (between 2 and 3) that I’m pretty sure was straight out of a scene from the Lord of the Rings. Sweeping mist and clouds, sharp, rocky ridges, and tons of tiny alpine lakes got a lot of teams lost. We’d pop up on one ridge, see another team on the ridge next to us, both of us shrugging our shoulders as we were totally lost.
  • There was also a camera drone nearly gave me and my team a heart attack when it suddenly spun up beside us, as we thought we had just ran into a swarm of killer death wasps
  • Two words – Ass Callous
  • Ass callous is created by spending an ungodly amount of time on a bike seat, way past what any human should
  • Ass callous is prevented by the liberal and frequent application of anti-friction lube and having a good bike seat. Never again will I question the $60 investment of upgrading my seat. Nor should you
  • If the above two actions aren’t taken, prepare for serious butt check bleeding. Welcome to AR!
  • A week later and I still have weird tingly nerve pain in my feet. This goes away, right?
  • Speaking of going away, 4 dead toenails and counting.
  • It was nice to be around other people who also have horrible, damaged feet.
  • It was great to finally meet in person a number of my internet friends, but it stinks that we didn’t get much time to actually chat. So to Mark, Shane, Michelle, Chip, Ryan, and others, my apologies for not getting to spend more time in person.
  • Note to race organizers – big group dinners before and after the race would be a great way to alleviate this issue
  • The day prior to race start is exhausting! So many layouts, running around and getting gear, doing skills testing, meetings, etc. Basically just tack on another day to the race.
  • It’s crazy that you can essentially high five some folks at the start and end of the race, knowing you’ll see them in another 6 months or year at some distant place, all because you both love doing this sport.
  • Having an all-you-can-eat taco bar at the finish line is f’ing brilliant. I ate 12, plus beans and rice.
  • See the first bullet on this list for the results of 12 tacos.
  • I still can’t get over the soaring, breath-taking views we saw. Expedition Oregon found some absolute jewels in the Cascades and shared them with us.
  • That being said, I may never do another expedition AR. I know, I know, blasphemy. The race cost too much. Not in $$ (in fact, they charged way too little, IMHO). The cost was in the stress getting to the race. The constant worry about logistics, the never-ending list of equipment that I needed to buy, and the perpetual worry that I wasn’t fit enough and would be a drag on my team all contributed to the lead up to the race being very stressful for me. I wasn’t the best dad or husband in the month prior to the race, as the pre-occupation with the race dominated my free time from work. Furthermore, it was time I took off that wasn’t shared with the family.
  • My wife kicks ass
  • Don’t get me wrong. I loved the race. It was incredible. I’m just not sure it’s worth the cost in terms of money (I easily spent thousands between a new packraft, bike upgrades, random race equipment, etc.) and the opportunity cost. No doubt any future expedition race will be easier, as I now know what I need to do, but it’s still a massive commitment. For a guy with a young family and a busy corporate job, it may not be the best fit.
  • Then again…. the mountains are calling!

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