Born to Suffer: Adventure Racing

Born to Suffer: Adventure Racing

Born to Suffer
By Coach Erik Cagnina
I’m nervous. I’m tired. I guess I’m even kind of excited. I’m a few short hours from meeting a teammate to start the drive down South to the North Georgia Adventure Race. This will be my first adventure (I hesitate to use the word “race” to describe three triathletes wandering around the woods) and I guess the four months I had between signing up and departure wasn’t enough time to prepare since I finished packing around midnight last night. Plastic tubs, duffel bags, and backpacks – all bulging with gear that I’ve been begging, borrowing, scrounging and buying for the last month. The whole process of accumulating the mandatory gear for this adventure “race” has got to be the most difficult scavenger hunt known to man. Sure, it would have been easy enough to visit an on-line retailer and click my way down the page, but to be honest I didn’t want to spend any more money than necessary buying equipment for something I’m not even sure I’ll like. So I asked around, checked with friends and somehow ended up with all the mandatory gear (though some of it has several degrees of separation between the owner and the end-user – mucho gracias to my virtual sponsors across the country).

A few other quick thoughts for right now. I have to admit I’ve always found the people who decide they want to try this triathlon thing and why not start with a half-Ironman or Ironman pretty funny (not to mention interesting). This time around, I suppose I’m the one receiving the knowing grins and offers for psychological testing as I try out this adventure racing thing with a nice 24-hour affair in the dead of winter. Maybe not the smartest approach, but I figure if I’m going to try something once, I might as well make it worth it. As you might guess from the title of this now regular column (please keep groans to a minimum), I consider myself to be pretty well versed in the art of suffering. However, I’m thinking the suffering during a triathlon or running race is a little bit different. There, you keep your head down, follow the course and eventually – maybe not as quickly as you’d like – but eventually, you hit the finish. Try that in an adventure race with an emphasis on orienteering and you’re likely to end up several states away from your destination. Being directionally challenged, I’m very glad this is a team thing. Hopefully I won’t have to pull my Donald Duck compass out and my teammates can keep us pointed in the right direction.

Finally, let me state that bonking is not a concern for me. It’s January and like every January, I’m fat. Like the days getting shorter and the weather getting colder, my bulking up is an unavoidable aspect of winter. But physiologically, I think those extra pounds could work out well. Follow me here. I’m fat and therefore I’m carrying a healthy supply of stored energy. Furthermore, since I’m fat and incapable of moving very quickly, my primary source of energy will be that lump of fat that sits just above my belt. So the fat that fuels me slows me down forcing me to use the fat for fuel. Nature’s perfect cycle!!

Next month, provided I have fingers left to type with, a quick report on the NGAR (incidentally, the race director was quoted in an Atlanta newspaper today as hoping for a 30-40% finish rate – great).

“Born to Suffer” is a monthly affair in which to share my tales of suffering. Feel free to contact me at and share your tales of suffering. I might even use your story if I’ve been unlucky enough to have not suffered recently. The purpose is nothing more than to generate a smile. It’s good to train hard, but it’s better to smile while training hard.


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