Sunday, May 31, 2015

Be Adventurous: Pursue your Passions

Sally told me a while back that she had me booked in to talk to our communities about my Godzone experience - my story of adventure and resilience.  I put it, and blogging about it on the back burner – to tell my story of a 7 day Epic, but brutal adventure, shared with my team mates, seemed overwhelming.  But the date crept closer and Sally, despite my protests, didn’t let me escape!  The catalyst for getting my story out there, was that Sal also had me signed up to run some pursuing passion workshops with our kids.  Here was the perfect opportunity to not just ramble on (quite passionately I might add) about what it means to pursue your passions, but attach my passionate ramblings to a context – my context. 

My message to our students was:

We often ask you what your passion is, tell you to follow your passions, but what does this mean?  Exploring passions is more than finding out what you are interested in, but more about the Why?  

When faced with the question, what are you passionate about? It’s okay to not have an answer.  We don’t know what we don’t know.  It’s through experiences, opportunities and the building of our aptitude to try new things and to venture into the unknown that we discover what we enjoy.  

It’s okay not to have an answer, but don’t be afraid to explore.

My favorite explanation of passion is by Simon Sinek  - he says that Passion is not an actionable word. Passion is a result, an energy, the feeling you have when you’re engaged in something you love. Passion is making sacrifices, experiencing hurt and loss, being part of something that makes you feel extraordinary.  

Passion is who you are.  

The goal is to make everything you do, at home and at school something that you are excited to do by asking yourself:   What do you love and why?  What would you do for free and how can you recreate that or those feelings.

 So, what am I passionate about, and what might that mean for me?

 I love Adventure Racing.  I didn’t discover a love for this sport until later on in life and through pursuing triathlons and multi sports.    I wasn’t the most athletic kid …. My dad used to pay me to bike to school!  But I had a love for adventure, the outdoors, heading out on treks with my family.  You don’t have to be an expert at what you enjoy - that’s part of the adventure.

 Up until this year I had competed in 6 hour, 12 hour and 24 hour races.  Adventure Racing involves teams navigating their way to checkpoints, trekking, kayaking, mountain biking, running, etc ... in a set time frame.  Last year I joined my team mates: Steve, Hedley and Dean, with the goal of doing GODzone - a multi-day adventure race like no other - headlined as:

"The Most Intense, Nearly Impossible Adventure Race on the Planet"

Because, another thing about pursuing your passions, is that you never want to settle for doing the same old same old.  If you have something you love doing, explore why and keep finding ways to push yourself further.  For me, this was GODzone.  

This year, the setting was Wanaka / Queenstown. Just the enormity of preparing for a 7 day race was challenging enough.  Before race day we are told what each stage is and have to pack our race boxes - 5 boxes per team and bike boxes - with a 25kg weight limit.    Everything we need for each stage of the race needs to be in the right box!

Then came race day: Saturday morning.

I was up at 3am to get a hot shower - there weren’t going to be any luxuries for the next 6 days (I have still to decide whether the pie from BP in Queenstown as we passed through on mountain bikes was a luxury or a necessity).

4am we piled onto the bus and started heading off to our mystery location. At the Hawea Hall we received the maps for the first section of the course. We had a couple of hours to mark up our maps before heading to the race start.  Leg 1 was the Haast Pass and up the Brewster Glacier. The start of the race was crazy with a single track straight up and a 2000m climb to the glacier.  The high winds and freezing rain kept us moving and we made it down to the transition in 7 and a half hours. 

Then it was getting the rafts pumped up and onto the Makarora River.  In the wet and the cold we were pleased to make it into transition in 3 hours. We were in pretty high spirits when we headed off in warm, dry clothes - knowing we had a tough 56km trek ahead of us. 

Our goal was to make it to the Albert Burn Hut for a couple of hours sleep.  The comfort of warm, dry clothes was short lived, as we quickly had to tackle some full on river crossings. The climb was steep and tough in the wet and the dark, but navigated well by the guys.  We’d been going for 25 hours when we got to the hut and I was struggling to keep my eyes open - thinking I could close them for a bit as I walked - but that never really works for me!  I was taking painkillers for an injury that I’d done before the race and they caused me to be sick and pass out (not ideal on a remote mountain range!)  This also meant a rough couple of hours for me and a worry for the team.   This is when the benefits of racing with team mates who know each other well kicks in and with plenty of moral support from the guys we were able to keep the pace going. I had to find a way to manage my injury, but the reality was that everything starts hurting after a while and you just suck it up and get on with it.   The trek in total took us 31 hours.  The heights we climbed to and the scenery we trekked through were magnificent and despite the pain and fatigue it was hard not to be blown away by what was around us.

42 hours into the race we made it into Transition. Up until this point Mum and Dad had been at all our transitions to cheer us on.  Their presence for the entire race was motivating and kept us smiling.  They had waited around until midnight before heading back to their campsite, but just knowing they’d been there was good enough.  We grabbed a couple of hours sleep before getting on the river at 5am in the canoes.  Feeling energized we had a great paddle down the Matukituki River, lots of laughs and enjoying a freeze dried meal (thanks Back Country Cuisine).   I was pleased to be in my wetsuit as the second part of this leg was swimming across lake Wanaka with all our gear.  

I was looking forward to getting on my Mountain Bike and we had a quick ride into Wanaka to race HQ to pick up and mark up our maps for the second half of the race.  Trying to plan our maps after 50 plus hours of racing and very little sleep was demanding.  

We got onto our bikes, spending the rest of the night climbing over two thousand metres up onto the Pisa Range. This stage over the Criffel Range was tough - actually it nearly broke me, as we were met with gale force winds, heavy rain and plenty of bike pushing.  A decision to drop and sleep for 20 minutes didn’t pay off as the southerly came through and Hedley became incoherent with hypothermia.  Dean was also shivering uncontrollably and as much as we would have liked to make it off the mountain we were left with no choice to hunker down in survival bags and ‘tiny tent’.  A couple of hours sleep the guys warmed up and we got to enjoy some amazing downhill in the daylight.  But from then it was back country riding towards
Queenstown.  I thought the hills would never end and if I had to name a low point, this was it. I was struggling to eat, I was dehydrated.  My ankles were a pussy mess from an infection caused by Spear grass.  I even declared that “this is worse than child birth" (and I had big babies!).  Every inch of my body hurt.  And all I could think of was our Hobsonville Habits - Resilience - keeping going when you think you have nothing left.  

After 37 hours on the Mountain Bike we made it to transition and decided to hold off sleeping until after the kayak leg.  It was dark, stormy and rough (good fun), but not so great when you can’t stay awake.  Luckily I was sleepy the first half and Hedley for the second.  At Kingston we were met with a pie and a hot chocolate. If there is one thing that adventure racing gives you, it is the appreciation for the simple comforts. After hallucinating our way through the night, a few of hours sleep was well received.

Then it was back on the Mountain Bike for another 25 hours.  After the last MTB leg and severe chaffing (like you wouldn’t believe), I was dreading this leg, but it was an incredible climb up into the 'Old Person Ranges'.  I was struggling on the hills and once again the power of the team kicked in:  Steve put me on the tow (life-line) and dragged me up the hills / mountains.  All the climbing paid off and we rode the downhill into Cromwell like demons on a mission.  Once again it was into the night and staying awake on a MTB is a challenge.  After a few close calls, Steve, decided on an hours sleep in a hay barn before the last stretch to transition.

The kayak leg to the Finish line ended with a tail wind  - what a great way to end.  It never ceases to amaze me what the body is capable of when the finish line is near!

We did it:  127 hours / 6 days / a little bit of sleep / surviving on energy bars and freeze dried food.  It was a tough course with equally challenging weather and conditions delivering highs, lows, hours of suffering, and being stripped bare to our rawest form.  

But I do it because I love it - love what exactly?  Because there is not much love to be found when your are pushing your body both physically and mentally to it’s limits.  Or when your body is hurting so much you want to lie down and not get up, or when your are being towed or your  gear is being carried because you can’t keep up - why do I consider this my passion?

I love the teamwork and the relationships that build and develop.
I love the challenge of the unknown and of problem solving under pressure.
I love the sense of achievement.
I love the humbling experiences of having weaknesses and strengths exposed side by side.
I love being a role model to my kids.
I love being part of something extraordinary.  
What it means: Passion for me is to have a career / a life where teamwork, relationships, venturing into the unknown, discovering, achieving, being challenged, solving problems, being part of extraordinary things are part of who I am and what I do.
Being passionate isn’t just the action of doing something, but finding out the Why we love to do it?

So, my challenge to you is to not just identify what you love to do, but explore why and build your capacity to apply these characteristics to everything you do so it become part of who you are.  

And, once you’ve explored your passions, your interests, what you love and the WHY – BE ADVENTUROUS.  
I don’t mean to go off and do an Adventure race (unless that's your thing), but to take what you love doing and find ways to keep challenging yourself - don’t settle for the same.  

I’m signing up with my team for GODzone 2016 and my new challenge is to not just survive this time, but to help navigate and be stronger and fitter, so I can look after my teammates as much as they look after me.

Steve said to me starting out on this Adventure, "you won't know how to truly prepare for a race like this until you've done one" - I get it!

Also a recent quote by Adventure Racing legend, Nathan Fa avae, sums up racing with the right people: "I'm very careful about the people I race with, most of them have huge thresholds of suffering and discomfort, as well as incredible levels of perseverance and commitment."  

Watch this space.  

Your passion isn’t just what you do, it’s who you are.

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