Sunday, August 28, 2011
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Friday, August 12, 2011
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 had...racing 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 for...you 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.
NEVER GIVE UP!!!!
Friday, August 5, 2011
Episode 7 was a tough one to watch.
I knew this was where we would see Ike go down and I remember the anxiety we all had for him as, in spite of his injury, we continued to put dozens of rugged miles behind us....potentially exacerbating a previous injury and causing Ike life long repercussions.
It started out simple enough...run to the other side of the Kasbah (foreshadowing!) and locate a symbol “hidden in plain view” somewhere in the chaotic yet beautiful city landscape. After about 10 minutes of looking around with the binoculars I finally catch a glimpse of it on the side of an ancient looking stone structure and we are off to the trucks and down into the hustle and bustle of the city.
Arriving at the souk (Arabic for market) we hop out and begin to navigate through the sweet sounds and smells of an enchanting Moroccan flea market...the kind of place I would have loved to have spent a morning strolling and perusing. Instead we are at a half trot, trying hard not to bang into the Moroccans and their wares. This was one of the many times during the Expedition where I desperately wish we could have just called a “time out”. Let’s all just put the race on hold for an hour and enjoy this magical place....see it... smell it....taste it. Although we had been charging through the dynamic northern African countryside for weeks at this point, we had not had much of an opportunity to really “feel” Moroccan culture from the inside and I know from many years of travel to far away places that a flea market...a place of trade and barter... is exactly the kind of place where you can see how a culture truly engages with itself.
But alas...this is a competition and we have to keep the pace at a high level if we expect to stay alive. So we weave and bob...cutting around piles of herbs and antique metal features trying to be as respectful as a bunch of Americans charging through a market can possibly be.
“Sorry....excuse me...whoops...Shukran (Arabic for thank you)”.
I have to say, it’s not exactly easy to guide Erik through such chaos without occasionally bumping or stepping on something or someone. Throughout the market jog we were met with a variety of smiles, looks of curiosity as well as a few Moroccan phrases which were clearly along the lines of “Quit stepping on my shit!”
Check point cleared, one-way “airline” ticket secured and we were back through it again and over to the waiting Explorers... and here is where the game changed...in a big way.
As I got in the backseat of the SUV I saw Ike disappear from view as he was getting in the passenger side door and I thought nothing of it. Once we rolled out I could see that Ike was grimacing and clearly in pain. We had been charging through countless miles of super rocky and bumbly terrain for weeks now...where an ankle or knee injury was a high possibility as evidenced by Gypsy John’s twister 2 episodes ago as well as several others. But in the most unlikeliest of places, Ike rolls his ankle getting into the car. And it’s the same ankle that he fractured while serving in Afghanistan a few years previous. Well....this sucks. Ike’s a tough guy and he seemed to be in a lot of pain. Erik and I probed Ike with questions and I took a look with the eyes of an ER physician assistant and it sure didn’t look good. He seemed to have laxity in the joint with lots of swelling and tenderness throughout. Game changer.
The timing was good however as the next challenge was to put me up in an airplane and get saddled up to my good friend Rashid and spill out the door and fall to the ground. Ike had about an hour to rest and be evaluated by the medical staff.
one of my favorite lines of the show so far, “I’m skydiving in Morocco. Sick!!”
Back to Ike... once I’m on the ground I am informed by the medical staff (who are all quite aware of my Emergency Medicine experience) that his ankle stability is questionable and he will need to be pulled from the race to obtain an Xray. I have recently discovered that Executive Producer Lisa Hennessy trumped the med staff decision and allowed Ike to make the call himself.
At this point we all know what kind of man Ike is. He is a man that has structured his professional life around “doing it all for his team”. This is the kind of guy that you want on your team. He will not let you down. He has served in combat zones that would make a brave man retreat in a hole. He has committed himself to always being there for the men and women around him. He surely wasn’t going to let some ankle injury keep him from staying up with his boys. At one point I’m quoted “You would have to literally cut Ike’s leg off to stop this guy”. Once Lisa gave him the go (thanks Lisa!), there was no question we were gonna fire and see how it played out.
Miles of rocky terrain, cliff faces and one perplexing challenge later (another Kasbah), we rolled into camp in 2nd place. Amazing effort on Ike’s part. Erik became the 2nd most inspiring person on Team No Limits that day. I was surrounded by 2 men that are as tough as they come. A true honor. Ike is the perfect embodiment of a soldier...brave, committed and tough as nails. We are lucky to have men like him protecting our country.
We all stood nervously near the finish line waiting to see who was going to by taking the flight out that afternoon. I’m not gonna lie to you, I was so hoping to see my Country Boys round that corner. All 3 of these men are stand up, strong, considerate southern gentlemen that I will call friends for the rest of my life. Good ole boys that are a great example of considerate, mature and genuine young men. I was very sad to see them go. That being said...there will be other Country Boys appearances in the world of MountainVision at some point in the future.
Next week will push us beyond what we thought was possible. We are hanging on for dear life at this point. Join us for the rest of the journey.