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Friday, April 12, 2019

What’s Next?

The question I am most often asked is not “How do you train for running in the desert?” nor “How do you stay motivated during those long runs?”, but rather two simple words, “What’s next?” And from those who know the type of races I prefer to run, they ask the question, waiting with bated breath, hoping that I will dazzle them with something off the charts. No pressure there.

Bu honestly, I don’t choose races for the ‘Wow’-factor, I keep my eyes and ears open as to what is out there, waiting patiently until I hear of a race that sends a chill down my spine, and then I know it is the next one. Choosing races of such magnitude with any other motivation I think would make it impossible to invest in the amount of training, planning and preparation necessary to pull it off.

During my down-time this past winter I created an Excel spreadsheet with all the race options that interest me including all of my standard short-distance races in and around Regensburg that I run with my team. But for 2019 I was having trouble finding that A-Race. I missed out on the lotteries in several big-name races in Chamonix and let those go, knowing that something else would pop up. And as always, it did.

At the end of January I got a two-sentence SMS message from an acquaintance asking if I’d be interested in joining his team for an adventure race in Croatia in September.

And there it was immediately.
The Chill Factor. 
I’d found my next race.

What’s an ‘Adventure Race’, you ask? No, it’s not an obstacle-course race nor a mud run, it’s more similar to a triathlon, in that it is a multi-disciplinary event, but it could include a number of different types of sports, not limited to the standard three. This race in particular will include running, mountain biking, kayaking, climbing, rappelling and navigation. Adventure races can be found in multiple distances, as short as a few miles or up to a few hundred miles, which is appropriately called ‘expedition’ length. And I knew, without a doubt, that the SMS was referring to that longer version, the expedition length. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been interested.

The Adventure Race Croatia will take place in the beautiful Zadar region along the coast of the Adriatic Sea. The course will be approximately 500 km long (300 miles) and, did I mention it is non-stop? No day stages, no hot meals, no overnight camps. We won’t even have a tent with us. If we do need to sleep, which at some point over the course of four days it will be inevitable, we will simply find a cozy place in the grass to lay down and sleep for a few minutes before continuing. The clock is ticking. There is a 96-hour time limit.

Those tiny things are kayaks waiting below
Teams are comprised of four people, one of which must be a woman, and the race is limited to forty teams from around the world. Our team, OMM Germany, will be the only one representing Germany.

When I first looked at the webpage for the race and watched a video from the previous year, I was mesmerized by the amazing scenery, the single-track trails, the turquoise-blue sea, and the rocky outcroppings, until the image of a woman dangling off a bridge by a rope appeared. A very high bridge. During the night. She was rappelling down to a kayak waiting in the water below.

Then came the reality check. What have I gotten myself into? The 500-km distance did not scare me, but rappelling off a 100-meter high bridge was definitely pushing my limits. I mentioned this to one of my team-mates, and thankfully, he reassured me by saying that only two of the team members needed to rappel, while the other two have to hold the kayaks very steady in the water below. So… guess what I’ll be doing in the coming months? Yes, spending ump-teen training hours to becoming an expert kayaker and steady-boat-holder.

Spring has arrived here in Bavaria, with sun and mild temps, which make it tempting to spend considerable time outside. I’m eager to train my upper body with paddling, excited about learning to climb and rappel, thrilled about devoting hours to my mountain bike as a focused discipline rather than cross-training and, of course, long-distance running is my utmost passion.

Those emotions are exactly what it takes to not only get me prepared for the next great adventure, but also to give me the freedom to enjoy it.

All photos are the property of Adventure Race Croatia.

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