Here's hoping you enjoyed this year of adventure half as much as
I did. After 18 years as a sportswriter I find that any gig that
gets me out of a press box or does not put me in close proximity
to naked offensive linemen is a good assignment. Allow me to
upend my backpack and see what adventure-related highlights fall
February 13: Seeking an adrenaline rush to start my year on the
adventure beat, I took too much speed into a descent on the
Slickrock trail in Moab, Utah. I went over the front wheel of my
bike even as I clung to the handlebars, a contortion briefly
affording me the opportunity to kiss my ass goodbye.
April 11: The scabs from that endo healed in time for me to
cover the Beast of the East, a notoriously tough adventure race
in Virginia. On the first morning, SI photographers Bob Rosato
and Simon Bruty prepared to shoot competitors as they canoed a
section of rapids on the New River. When the leaders came into
view, Rosato and Bruty raised their cameras...and lowered them,
as the racers decided to portage their canoes around the
whitewater. "We're from the desert," said the team from New
Mexico. "We don't do rapids."
I also remember the pride of Beast founder Don (the Sweet Satan)
Mann upon hearing that veteran adventure racer Bob O'Donnell of
team Audacity was projectile vomiting 24 hours into the multiday
race. "It took the Eco-Challenge three days to get Bob to throw
up," said Mann, "and it only took us one."
April 19: I was ready to ralph at the end of a two-hour ride
with Ned (the Lung) Overend, a former world cross-country
mountain biking champ. My buddy Gordon Wright and I took Ned
down Repack, the most famous mountain biking trail in Marin
County, Calif. (where the sport, allegedly, was born). He'd
never been on it. It was the mountain biking equivalent of
giving Babe Ruth his first tour of Yankee Stadium. By the end of
the ride Gordon and I were gasping and sweat-drenched--we'd each
gone through a quart of water--but feeling pleased. We'd hung
with the Lung. Then we noticed he'd gone through less than half
of his 12-ounce water bottle. He had literally not broken a sweat.
June 22: Surfing guru Bernie Baker certainly didn't sweat it
when I went over the falls at Telescope. The weeklong OP-Pro
Mentawai Islands surfing competition having just ended, the
media boat dropped anchor at a reef break called Telescope,
which on that day was cranking out flawless barrels with 10-foot
faces. I'd surfed six times in my life. I had no business going
out. I went out, and got what I deserved--a two-wave hold-down.
During the second wave the leash tethering a borrowed board to
my ankle snapped, and a friend watching from the boat asked
Baker, the contest director, "Should we do something?"
Replied Baker, "Nah, he'll wash up on shore."
As usual, Bernie was right.
July 25: Adventure, I learned, is where you find it. Fellow
writer Martin Dugard and I found it on a tow truck near
Castelsarrasin, a city in the south of France. We were covering
the Tour de France, a job I had rendered vastly more difficult
by filling our rental car with gasoline, despite a warning on
the windshield that said DIESEL. Stalled on the side of the
road, we missed the end of that day's stage, but we did make the
acquaintance of the tow-truck driver Robert (pronounced
ro-BARE). Mustachioed and dapper in his navy coveralls, Robert
conveyed not so much contempt, upon learning of my idiocy, as
Dugard and I loved Robert because, rather than have us crowd
into the front seat of the flatbed with him, he let us sit in
the wounded car. Once you got over the embarrassment of French
people staring at you, it was kind of cool, riding so high,
watching the countryside go by. It beat the hell out of being in
a press box.
November 11: Veteran's Day. Sadistic and spectacular, the
Presidio Trails 10K took me and 362 other runners through San
Francisco's National Cemetery, where a lone trumpeter played the
Marines' Hymn, and our suffering was beggared. The 35,000
veterans interred here would be amused, I thought, by our idea
COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO
Adventure, I learned, is where you find it. I found it on a tow
truck. It beat the hell out of being in a press box.