As I looked around at my fellow classmates it seemed to me everyone had an answer to the one question that would be the start of a summer I would never forget.
It was May 20, 2006; the day fate stepped into my life. My sister Jenny and I were riding in her car on our way to her house when the topic of discussion changed from my schoolwork to what I was planning to do the upcoming summer. That summer I was planning on hanging out with my friends, going on vacation with my family and of course laying around the house like any normal 14-year-old teenager.
Unfortunately, Jenny has never considered me, as I call it "a normal 14-year-old teenager", but for good reason.
You see, there is this organization I have been volunteering for with my brother-in-law Michael since I was seven. The name of the organization in discussion is Odyssey Adventure Racing. Odyssey runs adventure races all up and down the east coast. These races are very hard and include a variety of extreme sports such as rock climbing, white water paddling/swimming, mountain biking, orienteering, running, and trekking (more like making your own path with a knife). These races are fun and exciting to volunteer for. I am a member of the Dirty Dozen Climbing Crew that sets up and works all the rock climbing courses for Odyssey. My fellow members and I work day and night to get all the racers through safely.
Odyssey Races can go from a six hour race to a week long race. Fifty to four hundred miles can be covered during any race Odyssey offers. They are not for the weak. Fortunately, weakness has never kept me from what I want.
Now my sister told me about a certain race called "The Odyssey One-Day" coming up in July. This race was said to be a beginner's race 80 miles in 24hrs. I know what you're thinking "80 miles that's a beginner's race?" my thoughts exactly, but I was not surprised. The idea of doing a beginner's race intrigued me. There was only one problem, convincing Michael to be my teammate.
Jenny and I talked to Michael and with a lot of thinking and persuasion the race was on. The next two months would be nothing but long evenings, short tempers, big sacrifices, throbbing muscles, and blistered feet. In those two months of hard training I was somehow transformed into an adventure racer.
While these two months past, Jenny had been doing some research concerning young adventure racers in the world. I soon found out that if I finished this race I would be known as the youngest female adventure racer to ever compete and finish an Adventure Race. Jenny did not just tell me this but also informed everyone at Odyssey.
Before I could say "What was I thinking?" the race was only a few days away. This was what Michael and I had been training four days a week, four hours a day for. July 21st the day before the race, we arrived early, so we could get in and out of gear check as soon as possible.
That night I didn't sleep a wink, thoughts of the next day loomed in my head.
July 22, 2006 the day the adventure of a lifetime would begin. The race was to start at one p.m. and finish at one p.m. the next day or so we thought.
The race started with a two mile run which wasn't bad but not exactly a stroll in the park either. Next it was onto the bikes for about twenty to twenty-five miles. Two months before I would have been asking "Is it over yet?" but not anymore. It was then that I first realized something in me was changing but what? The paddle went smoothly for the first six miles then poured rain for the next three. After a drenching wet paddle, the sun was just sinking below the mountains that loomed overhead.
As we moved on to the orienteering, it was just starting to get dark. With expert orienteering skills (yeah right, more like following footprints up a mountain for two miles), we found the first orienteering point. At that point it was pitch black, the only light coming from our head lamps and the stars. As Michael and I walked, we met up with two of our good friends and decided to all carry on together.
As hours passed and no other points to be found, all four of us traveled the difficult road to the climb site. Finally after departing from our two friends, Michael and I reached the climb site. At four o'clock in the morning with still 30 miles to go we started the rope assist. Now a rope assist is a course lined with ropes that you clip in and out of with a climbing devise called a carabineer. The carabineer helps to move around challenging obstacles in your path. An obstacle I wasn't expecting was cold water that went over my head. So picture this me a five foot nothing girl over her head in cold water at four in the morning. How would you feel?
After the very cold and extremely wet rope assist two very soaked teammates headed out. What we were heading into was, well I'll let you think of some "creative" words. Let's just say my 24 hours were not over yet, not even close. For the next four hours I was on my mountain bike lost in the middle of God knows where! At that point I thought, "How could life get any worse?" well, it could, and it did. We finally got on the right trail to the section called a "Hike-a-Bike". I've got some other names I could call it, but they aren't school appropriate.
Our seven hour "Hike-a-Bike" which in our language means pushing your 30 pound bike up a mountain with 15 minutes of sleep under your belt, one very sore back, and bike pedals hitting the back of your legs every 10 seconds. You don't even want to get me started. I thought I was going to die! Well, I'm still here but just barely.
Now the finish was only ten miles away, ten miles until I would gain my title, ten miles before I could sleep, ten miles that made me push myself to my breaking point. Yet there I was crossing the finish line with my brother, teammate, and most of all, my friend. I had beaten the odds, gained my title, and discovered myself.
You might ask, "How could one event in my life change me so much?" well, I have a question for you " Have you ever done an adventure race?" This summer I realized who I am. My name is Laura Phelps, and I am the youngest female adventure racer in the world!
Copyright © 2006 Laura Phelps
A note from Laura's brother-in-law:
Laura (AKA - Lou) made Honorable Mention in this year's Blue Ridge Outdoors, Blue Ridge All-Stars. Now this is quite an accomplishment within itself but we all know she should have been ranked higher, just check out the chumps that were ahead of her.... :-)
Jeremiah Bishop (8th at the Mountain Bike World Championships)
Ed Wiley (Walked 450 Mi. to protest the location of his kids school near a dangerous coal mine)
Brett Heyl (National Slalom White Water Champion - 2nd straigt year)
Ann Lundblad (National Champion and World Record Holder in an Ultra)
George Hincapie (Yellow Jersey in the Tour de France and a 32nd place overall finish)
Kate Reese (Bouldering Triple Crown Champion)
Joe Driscoll (4th US 20K Championship)