Shannon wrote me a note on my Second Wind Facebook page telling me that my book had encouraged her in her first race. But when I heard about what she’d done for her FIRST RACE EVER, I was shocked, awed and double inspired. I asked her to share her race report here because it’s such a great story. Sometimes we are unwitting participants in becoming our own heroines. Here’s Shannon’s story in her own words:
Frontier Adventure – 30 April 2011
By Shannon Cook
April 1, 2011, I am walking around Mountain Equipment Co-op looking for some upgraded running pants that I thought I deserved for committing myself to a half marathon in Niagara Falls in October. I check my email on my phone and read an email saying “congratulations, you’ve won a spot in the Frontier Adventure Race, please confirm your attendance.”
I honestly thought it was a joke (being April 1st) but soon realized, I did half-heartedly enter this contest awhile back and this was a real adventure race. Time to start shopping for more than just running pants! This was going to be my first race ever and although I had been doing some 5K training, I was not at all training for a 40K-plus adventure race.
I didn’t sleep much the night before the race because I was so anxious about what the day was going to bring. Standing at the start line, a calmness came over me. In hindsight, this was the calm before the storm!
There were 12 checkpoints and, as we dashed out to checkpoint one with a light jog, I was feeling good. Then I saw the hill we needed to climb. Words my sister (who was my supporter that day) said popped into my head, “Do you know what you’ve gotten yourself into?” But we made it to the top, and with the first CP down, the joy of running downhill made me smile.
The canoe portion consisted of approximately10 Ks total. The gorgeous day allowed for smooth waters, I struggled at the front trying to stay on track and kept hitting the sides of the canoe. Our all-female team consisted of Sally Heath (experienced racer) and another contest winner, Meredyth Spence. It took a little to get the rhythm going, but we made the next checkpoint in good time. We could have even opted for the advance CP’s if we wanted to!
The mountain biking was my biggest struggle. From what I understood, it consisted of over 32kms (apparently the 40km advertised for the entire race is just an estimate!). The ride was on paved road, hills (lots of them) and muddy trails. I worried that my little CCM Walmart bike wouldn’t make it! Some CP’s on the bike portion consisted of dropping off the bikes and trekking. I remember at one point, when we had left a trail and I was getting beat up by branches, twigs, logs, or losing my footing on a muddy hill, my favourite quote came into my head (Ralph Waldo Emerson): “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”We came to a water crossing and decided to go ahead and cross the marshy swamp. The first step was okay, however, the next step brought us up to our chests. I screamed in shock from the cold and tried to run across as fast as I could, this definitely woke me up! After more trekking through the woods, it was back on our bikes for a ride that I thought would never end. Many times I had to get off and push uphill because my legs just wouldn’t go, and many times I thought I was just going to keel over and die! Sally and Meredythe were so strong and made the hills look easy, and many times Sally had to hop of her bike and run downhill to help me with mine. But the farther ahead they were from me, the more it pushed me to push myself. Every time I thought I couldn’t give anything else, I would push a little more.
There was so much support from other teams as they passed us saying “good job” or “keep it up.” I remember one lady, while we ran along the highway. She came up beside me, put her arm around me and asked me how I was doing and told me to keep up the good work. This was a boost I needed while I struggled to push myself.
There were three more CP’s remaining and about an hour and a half to the cut off time. I started thinking, “I will just be happy have finished it, never mind the 8 hours, I mean this is my first race.” But that was just nonsense talk, the adrenaline that Sally spoke of while we ran our last kilometer to the finish line and the exhilarating feeling as we actually crossed the finish line was like no other.
I will never forget my first race ever or my wonderful teammates. The anxiety, anticipation, exhilaration, pain, sweat and acknowledging my ability to push myself beyond what I thought was possible are absolutely priceless. Halfway through the race, I was thinking, “I am never going to do this again.” Today, I am researching where I want to do my next race! The confidence that this race has instilled in myself, will only push me to do more!