Friday, August 12, 2011

Never GIve Up...

I guess we all hear that growing up...

“Come on Son...Don’t give up....Keep pushing.”

And I have clearly had to use this phrase as a mantra MANY, MANY times during some of my more miserable and lengthy climbs over the years.

But never has that phrase ever played out so clearly than during last night’s Episode 8.

The last episode had us in the hospital dealing with Ike’s sprained ankle and receiving the news that they were going to require that he be placed in a cast for the rest of the race. I assumed this would be a death blow for our chances to continue as there would be no way we could keep up the established frenetic pace of the remaining 6 teams. But hey, we would at least go out proud and holding our heads high with the way we performed.

Then we got the gear list for the first day of the stage and on it was pfds...this meant that we would encounter water at some point during the day...which translated to time OFF of Ike’s ankle. Our host/pal Dave Salmoni took me to the side and said “Listen, this stage will suit you. Don’t give up. Trust me on this...just hammer at it and you can stay alive”. Good advice Dave. We took it to heart.

After a very cool rappel down the ancient walls of a weathered kasbah, we hobbled down to the shore of Lake Bin el Ouidane where we saw the inflatable rafts and I immediately realized that this would be our daily salvation....water = ankle rest.

By the way...2 dudes (one of them blind) in a ‘duckie’ is not easy to paddle in a straight line. Even though it looked the Football Players where the only ones spinning in circles, in fact all of the 2 person ‘duckies’ were struggling to hold a straight line.

About an hour later we arrived at the island and found the fixings to build this supposed catamaran. I love Akbars comment “First....what IS a catamaran?” Seriously. I have done a lot of adventurous things in my day, but sailing is not one of them. And to really emphasize that point, all of the directions where written in sailing terms...”Booms”, Jibs”, “Masts”, etc. Huh?

I just looked at the pictures and Ike, Erik and I seemed to get it together pretty quickly.

Our maiden voyage was not pretty...our sitting configuration was awkward and inefficient. And I distinctly remember Ike having a HUGE rip down the back of his shorts so that his ass cheek was right in my face. I immediately suggested we make a strategy change. Erik moved to the left and paddled. Ike moved to the right and manned the sail. I moved to the back and used the paddle as a prop. This made all the difference in the world. We actually started sailing. Pretty cool. Another bonus...I didn’t have to look at Ike’s ass cheek anymore.

Approaching the next island a couple miles away we were neck and neck with the Cops, as the Gypsies uncharacteristically drifted off in the wrong direction. Rob, Danni and Jim from the Cops were straight up gamers. Even though this was just an overnight camp we all wanted that win somethin fierce. They would not be denied.

Both teams hit the beach simultaneously and the race up the bank was on. Ike took off. Erik grabbed my pack and we ran. I looked to my left in time to see Rob trip and stumble sprinting up the hill and suddenly the absurdity of this scene struck me and I started laughing hysterically in the midst of a heated race. We were all going for it with all we up a scrabbly hill to win a mere 3 minute head start the next day. Now in reality we all know it had nothing to do with that puny lead out the following morning. It was all about being a hard charging winner... putting everything out there in the spirit of competition. As we pulled in and Danni drew very close to Erik and I, I’m embarrassed to say I actually elbowed her right in the nose. Uncalled dirty redneck! Sorry Danni. She graciously accepted my apologies, understanding that in the heat of battle...shit goes down. Plus, she is a tough as nails Boston cop. That helps.

So there it was...we won a “stage”...albeit an overnight camp stage. We were psyched. Blind dude....busted ankle with a cast on...and we come in 1st. Awesome!

Off camera....that night we experienced a fairly significant storm filled with high winds (around 70mph) and violent lightening. It lasted for a solid hour and there was actually talk of evacuating us off the island...which seemed a bit over the top. But just as quickly as it started, the storm passed. Many of the teams had not constructed their Berber tents in a bomb proof fashion that afternoon and the wind toppled them down like toothpicks...with our sweet Cali Girls being one of the homeless groups. We offered them some tent space and they took us up on it. Was nice having someone other than stinky dudes in our tent for once. They are a class act those gals...each one of them. All destined for greatness.

The next day’s stage proved to be a hard one to swallow as we watched the excitement from the previous days win get washed away within 20 mins of the starting line. Every team passed us with ease as we were limited to Ike’s hobbled cast. Although we were not “giving up”, we knew that we would be unable to keep up with the pace that we watched fly by us. Erik and I tried to comfort Ike in the fact that later that day we would be drinkin beers and showering our stinky bodies. Ike would have nothing of it. “we are not giving up”, he kept saying....surrounded by hours of silence. It left Erik and I to listen, feel and taste the hills of Morocco like we had not yet experienced up to that point. Everything slowed down for the first time. It was beautiful and bitter sweet at the same time.

Hours later as we were rounding a corner towards what we knew would be close to the finish line we walked right next to the lake. I remember Erik saying, “Hey, since we’ve lost, why don’t we take a dip and just enjoy this last hour”. I replied, “let’s just round this corner and see if there is anyone at the challenge area”. Sure enough we rounded the corner and there were 3 pink figures in the far distance. Holy shit are you kidding! How could that be? They had to have been there for over an hour. Well surely they will figure it out any minute and be on their way. Let’s go have a look.

Once we arrived at the challenge point we read over the instructions and they just made sense to me...unlike the Moroccan rope lock...unlike counting the cobras. I just got this one. Give me a map and a compass and I am generally gonna be OK.

Much to the chagrin of our recent tent mates, we rolled in and just nailed it...ran up the hill and came in 5th for the day to send them home.


It was ridiculously exciting for Erik and I to watch the finish last night with our friends here in Boulder. We were there and knew what happened, but I couldn’t sit down, it was so tense.

We know the idea of Never Give Up is something that should exist in all of us. We know that you are never really out of it if you just give yourself a chance. Well....last night proved that to me in a way that I never thought possible.