Tag Archives: paybacks

Here’s to being Adventuresome…and all that comes with it.

Recently, I convinced my personal trainer to be my partner in a local Adventure Race.

It may seem like it should be the other way around since my race partner, Payton, is a health and fitness professional, was a Big 10 collegiate athlete and just happens to be 19 years my junior.

You may remember Payton as the personal trainer I spoke of previously. He helped me become a national finalist in the Life Time 60 Day Body Transformation Challenge.

In other words, I paid this young man to kick my ass and basically torture me – and it was worth every penny, ache and pain!

The text conversation went something like this:

Me: I REALLY want you to be my adventure racing partner on Sunday. 2 mile canoe. 4 mile trail run. 11 mile bike.

Payton: I haven’t ran a mile in months. I would legit die.

Me: Paybacks.

So with less than a week’s notice, he agreed with this statement:

Excited for The Des Moines Adventure Race this Sunday. My client REALLY gave me no choice after these words (above). I inflict so much sweat, tears and pain on her. It’s time she gets to see me struggle. Here’s to being Adventuresome!

He may be able to hold grown women up in the air with one hand, do a back flip from a standing position and “walk around” on his hands with the greatest of ease, but what this race was about to ask of him would be something he had not yet experienced.

I was in my element – years of boating, biking, running, adventure racing and triathlons under my belt. But I was quickly reminded of how each and every race presents you with trials and tests that change you – offering up life lessons that apply well after the race.


Here are some of the lessons I was reminded of during the constant physical and mental demands of  this 3-part, non-stop, 2-hour race:


CANOE (2 miles) – Sometimes you intend to go one direction and the current of life takes you another.

With Payton’s upper-body strength, my kayaking experience and the fact that it was the first leg of the race, I thought the canoeing portion would be the least of our worries.

Although we managed to not tip over or find ourselves paddling in circles, the canoeing portion proved to be more of a challenge than I had thought it would be.

Unlike navigating solo – which I am used to in a kayak – we had to work together to keep the boat propelling forward while staying on course. Payton (the strength) in the front and me (the experienced paddler) steering from the back.

The more you can keep your canoe in a straight line, the less work it is – path of least resistance.

Sounds simple enough, right? Easier said than done.

The combination of our uneven strength, our inexperience with co-piloting a canoe, and the inability to read the wind direction and water current quickly became apparent – and quite humbling. We continually had to correct our position as the boat started veering in unintended directions.

There was nothing to do but repeatedly make adjustments, keep our cool, continue communicating and work together.

No amount of frustration could justify giving up. The only thing that would get us where we needed to go (the run transition area) was to keep paddling.


RUN (4 miles) – Slow and steady may not “win” the race, but it will get you to the finish line.

Running has always been “my thing.” I’ve loved it for as long as I can remember. Combine running with winding trails through nature – and I’ve pretty much found my happy place.

Payton, however, not so much. Prior to this race, he had never run more than 2 miles at one time.

I was asking him to run farther than he ever had, through fields and trails of uneven terrain, after just paddling in a canoe for 30 minutes (you use more of your legs and core muscles than you might imagine). All while making sure to leave enough energy and ability to bike 11 miles after the fact.

I wouldn’t define myself as a fast runner, but I have had a close relationship with endurance over the years. I kind of go into my own world, fall into a manageable pace and keep on trucking.

Side note: In Adventure racing, teammates must stay within 100 feet of each other at all times.

But today it would be Payton’s world.

I knew from past Adventure racing experience that if Payton was forced to attempt to “keep up” for 4 miles straight, it would take a toll on him – both physically and mentally.

So I encouraged him to set the pace. My theory worked. Every time I would follow his lead, his pace would quicken.

If I had pushed Payton to run faster than his comfort level and current ability – we may not have finished the run – let alone the 11 miles of biking that was awaiting us.


BIKE (11 miles) – Keep your eye on the squirrel – or whatever it takes to finish what you started!

The bike portion of the race required us to bike around an hourglass-shaped road 3 ¼ times. Payton had ZERO experience on a bike. I was actually pleasantly surprised by his comfort level and agility on the bike despite this fact – must be the gymnast in him.

A friend had loaned him a bike and helmet to use for the day. Very kind. But after just one lap sitting on that bike seat, Payton was not feeling the kindness.

It was clear that the bike was not fitted correctly for Payton’s body. We had adjusted the seat for his height. But there are many other factors that go into properly setting up a bike.

About halfway through our second lap, we had to stop and stretch. Payton’s right quad was seizing up on him. If you have ever had this happen – you know that this can be a race ender. No choice in the matter. Done.

As Payton stretched, I looked him in the eye and said, “If we need to end it here, I support you. We did what we could. But if you want to finish this thing, I’ll get you to the finish line. But it’s going to hurt.”

Payton didn’t even hesitate. He jumped back on his bike and said, “Let’s finish it.”

About every few minutes, in no particular order, he would mutter with a clenched jaw, teeth gritted. “Damn hands. Oh, my back! My neck hurts. My quads are burning.”

I continually offered words of encouragement to motivate him, mental images to distract him, and physical tips to try and ease his pain.

As we were coming around the back loop on our 3rd lap, I thought I heard Payton say, “Where’s that f***ing squirrel?” I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. I thought he had officially lost it!

But as we came around the final bend – the last quarter lap of the race into the finish line – I saw a dead squirrel laying in the middle of the road. I hadn’t even noticed it before in our previous laps. But Payton had. And it had become his dangling carrot.

In the end, that damn squirrel would be what got him to the finish line!


Taking it all in after the fact – Phew! What an Adventure! We really have nothing to lose from trying new things, challenging our own perceived limitations (you are always stronger and more capable than you think you are) and sharing in the experience of it all with others.

In a nutshell – pun intended – I was reminded:

  • Life doesn’t always go as planned, but your only real option is to “keep paddling” and make adjustments as needed.


  • Work with your “team members” – whoever they may be. Keep communicating. And when one of you needs a little extra help – make a choice that benefits all parties involved the most overall.


  • Decide what you want, and then use whatever it takes – even if it’s a squirrel – to help you get there.


Now it’s your turn! Join me November 5th & 6th for The Inaugural Adventuresome Life Experiential Workshop at Wesley Woods in Indianola, Iowa.

You’ll face fears and address self-imposed limitations. Develop a more Adventuresome attitude and approach to life. Experience fun, joy, passion and purpose.

After all, what is life but one GRAND ADVENTURE!