Last year we committed to participating to the Spirited Women Adventure Race in Alexandra, NZ. I must admit that as race day approached, I wasn’t feeling very confident in my ability to complete the event given the massive health set back and the marginal progress that's been made in the last 6-8 months. But participating in this type of event is impregnated into my core, so although I contemplated pulling out, I told myself let’s prove this encephalitis “e” wrong one more time. Actually, let’s make “e” part of our team. Let this race be an opportunity to raise awareness... and we did just that by wearing proudly The Encephalitis Society running vests.
This year’s adventure race
The terrain and the format of the race was very different from last year. Without divulging too much, The Spirited Women Adventure Race organising team sure loves to keep us on our toes. The overall race was MUCH harder, MUCH longer and MORE technical. On top of that, team mate Kirstie (aka "the energizer bunny" of our team) fell sick with a tummy bug the afternoon before the race. Hours prior to the race starting, we weren’t even sure whether she’d make it to the start line. We let her rest hoping for the best outcome while continuing with prepping our race. The morning came and our "energizer bunny" found enough will and motivation to face this beast of a race. We were all so happy and relieved!
It's fair to say that in the morning we all had butterflies, some more than others given the previous day illness. At pre-race picture time, we asked a lovely lady if she’d be happy to take a picture of the four of us wearing our encephalitis running vest. Call it fate or coincidence, it turned out that this lady’s mother also had been struck by "e". I saw this as a good sign, this race was definitely meant to be. We eventually made it to the start line all smiles (ignorance really is the best isn't it), and we couldn’t wait for the race to start.
Without narrating the whole 6 hours 22 minutes of this race, I’ll just say that I am incredibly proud of all our team members. We all have our own individual fears and challenges, our own strengths and desires and when you participate in an adventure race like The Spirited Women Adventure Race, you have to accept to be vulnerable, expose some of your fears, slow down if/when you need to, reassess, take in the scenery, rely on your teammates to take the lead when necessary, be taken out of your comfort zone and most importantly not give up. No one breaks at the same time. It’s a team event for a reason and you get to cross the finish line by supporting one another through the good parts and the bad.
When I started writing this blog about our latest participation to the 2020 Spirited Women
Adventure Race, I couldn’t help drawing the analogy between life and adventure racing. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that life is very much like an adventure race. You have to orientate your way through it and sometimes that means that you may have to back track to find your way again. You may take a wrong turn or get slightly off path but the most important thing is to eventually find your way to the next check point. You have to challenge yourself but also accept that not all challenges come easy. You have to overcome your fears and this is often only achieved by stepping out of your comfort zone. You may have to take the lead and remember that there are many ways in which one can lead the way. You may have to tag with a team member when you need to in order recharge. You have to support one another and don’t forget that support takes many shapes. Most importantly, you have to accept that not everything goes according to plan and you just have to make peace with that...the mountain always looks steepest when you are standing at the bottom, but little by little, step by step, if you put your mind into it, you will soon reach the top and the view from the top is such a reward. Pause, breathe in, take in all its beauty and commit this to your memories.
The day after the race also proved an adventure of its own...
Payback came hard and fast. The following day I had my "nana" nap and I woke up feeling sicker than before my nap. I was completely disoriented, my vision was atrociously blurry and full of black dots, I severely needed my ear plugs as I just couldn’t process any background noise, I felt absolutely nauseous, the fatigue was pretty intense as you can imagine, my trigeminal nerve started playing up, sending electric like shocks down my right side of my jaw, everything was just way too fast for me and all the reminders of my weird wonderful brain confronted me once again. I had a quiet cry alone in my room. All I wanted was to go back home to the comfort of my cocoon with Greg and the boys. I needed their cuddles desperately but they were miles away. At that point, I questioned the benefits of participating in such a race. I questioned what it was that I had to prove to myself that warranted feeling so so sick. I took a deep breathe, I then looked outside and took in all the beauty that the surrounding mountains presented and decided to pull myself together.
I couldn’t let this payback get the best of me. Paybacks are always hard, but I reminded myself that they never last forever either. I had to keep my eyes on the reward and remind myself of what the experience had brought me. Experience like this is what the "old me" used to thrive on and the "new me" still absolutely adores. Encephalitis or not, challenging myself is part of my DNA, I can't escape it and that's what keeps me going on a daily basis. Now wasn’t the time to throw away all the joy that I experienced the day before. So I went outside and ventured out into the world once more with a plan that was manageable. I wasn’t out for long at all, nor did I do what I would have really liked to do, but I went out long enough to realise that I survived and that panicking wasn’t going to get me anywhere. Soon after I came back to the room, one of the team had sent me the link to the event pictures...there it was once again, proof that we, mere human beings, are capable of great things. Pictures which brought back found memories. Even though they were only a day old, they were a timely reminder that there is yet so much more to see, to be lived and achieved.
What have I learnt from our latest adventure race?
The where to next is pretty much like my vision today, i.e. pretty blurry, and that’s always scary. But one step at the time, one decision at the time, I have to trust that the fog will lift. The most recent adventure race was full of unknowns and we strived through it. Perhaps this is the time where I need to start being better at embracing the unknown? Perhaps I need to welcome the fear of the unknown with open arms and stop giving it so much power...Perhaps I need to carry on living my life the same way I get into an adventure race, which is with a head full of excitement and believing that I’ll step up to whatever challenge that will be put in front of me...food for thoughts anyway.
To my teammates
Dear Colette, Kirstie and Kathi, thank you so much for being such great teammates, friends and for standing right besides me in this weird wonderful journey. Lots of tears of joy were shared at the finish line and that's when you know you've been fortunate enough to share something pretty special with a great bunch of ladies. I have to mention that we should all be SO proud of team "Girls Still Got It" for nailing our second 11th overall position on the short course two years in a row (double YAY). The adventures aren’t over yet and from this latest one I’ve shed some more light on the path that I need to follow. Forever grateful ladies. All that’s now left to say is: “until next time”!!
Read my previous blog on our first participation to the Spirited Women Adventure Race held in Gisborne in 2018
Find out more about Spirited Women
Find out more about The Encephalitis Society