The current dearth of cattle drives and Cannonball Run films has
profoundly reduced the list of activities in which men travel
great distances while risking mortality. Fortunately, in the
last dozen or so years adventure racing has partially filled
that void. April is the zenith of the adventure-racing season.
The 15th annual Marathon des Sables, a six-stage, seven-day,
140-mile footrace across the dunes of Morocco, began on Sunday.
The second Elf Authentic, a 497-mile trek in Brazil that
features seven-person teams and combines orienteering, sailing,
mountain biking, horseback riding, sea kayaking, swimming and
climbing, will start on Friday and continue for approximately 11
days. The 10th Raid Gauloises, a forerunner of the Elf that
involves a similar format, commences on April 29 in Tibet. Here
are three Web sites for those who want to participate vicariously.
Now that Quokka Sports has acquired MountainZone.com, it seems
poised to become the premier adventure-racing site. To get to
the information for the Marathon des Sables, go to quokka.com
and click on the "Marathon des Sables" link. Last week appetites
were whetted by a second-by-second countdown, a Dunesday Clock
if you will, to the start of the Marathon of the Sands. Each day
quokka.com is posting results, photos and a diary of this
grueling race in which runners must tote their supplies (with
the exception of water and the laptop computers used by
competitors also covering the race; the liquid and laptops are
carried by race officials). A history of this caravan of
blisters and a photo gallery acquaint first-time visitors with
the desert odyssey that Quokka justifiably calls "anything but a
day at the beach."
ARZone strives to be the most thorough of the adventure-racing
sites. By dispatching correspondent-racers to Africa, Asia and
South America, it will provide daily updates and journals from
all three of this month's races--as long, that is, as those
intrepid field reporters hold out. If monitoring gives you the
urge to enter a future trek, an "Events" link lets you forage
for other races, listing them by length, location and month. The
"Gear" link addresses equipment and logistics concerns of
prospective adventure racers.
Of the three sites, this is certainly the most ethereal, with
its home-page photo of the Himalayas breaking through a thick
cloud bank, and perhaps the best. It will provide the only live
reports, video coverage and audio interviews from the two-week
race. All 69 teams, gathered from 14 countries, are profiled.
Two of the cooler links include "Around the Campfire"--which
serves as a chat room of sorts--and "The Legend," which
furnishes video highlights of past races. (You'll need to
install a Shockwave plug-in for viewing, and the narration is en
francais.) These are some of the best French films we've seen
since Brigitte Bardot vanished from the cinema scene.
THE NEAR MISS
With her Final Four pool performance, a Georgia woman won Web
wooers, if not loot
Shortly before embarking on a two-week European vacation last
month, Kristin Helgeson, a 29-year-old Atlanta graphics
designer, was pestered by coworkers to enter ESPN.com's NCAA
Tournament Challenge. Helgeson, a casual college basketball fan,
hastily submitted an entry with a Final Four of Florida (her
alma mater), Michigan State, North Carolina and Wisconsin (her
dad's alma mater).
"The day after the regional finals I returned from Europe," says
Helgeson, "and things started getting weird." Of the 590,000
contestants, she was the only one with the correct Final Four.
ESPN.com posted a profile of her. Then USA Today ran her photo.
Suddenly thousands of sports-addled males began contacting her
by E-mail or phone. "I've gotten about 25 marriage proposals,"
Helgeson, who is single, said last Friday, when her profile had
received nearly 15,000 hits. "I've had everything from 'I'm
6'1", very fit and I live in Seattle' to a college coach who
asked me to go to his school's Web site to see a photo of him."
Helgeson's pick of the Gators to go all the way cost her first
place. (Bill Madden of Rockland County, N.Y., who had three of
the Final Four and picked Michigan State as champion, received a
$1,000 Final Four party and 64 pizzas.) "I won $50 in my office
pool," Helgeson says, "but as for ESPN.com, I'm like the
game-show contestant who goes home with the Water-Pik." --J.W.
PICKS TO CLICK
The "Salary Cruncher" on FoxSports.com
This gimmick allows you to compare your salary--in myriad
ways--with the pay of selected high, low and average earners in
each of the four major sports. Example: If you make $50,000 per
year, it would take you 4.709 years to earn what the Penguins'
Jaromir Jagr (whose salary is $10,359,852) earned for each of
his 44 goals last season ($235,451). It's fast, fun--and