It’s hard to believe it’s already been almost two weeks since we crossed the finish line of the Patagonian Expedition Race in first place. Ever since we did the race back in 2010, it has been an event and place that has shaped my soul, my relationships and my connection to nature. In 2010, Jason got down on one knee on the podium and proposed. In 2011, we raced as an engaged couple, in 2013 we raced as a married couple, and in 2016 we decided to start a family and get Jason a new hip. This year we were racing as parents excited to connect with our Spirit boy, and hopefully (by example) inspiring Max to follow his dreams.
Every time I go, I test myself and go further past my known limits than I ever thought possible. However, usually this all starts to happen once the start gun goes off and it is usually a mix of physical and mental tests. This year my test started from the very minute I said good bye to Max and got in the car to head to the airport.
I had been dreading the moment all week. The night before we left, I went into his room while he was sleeping and just stared at him telling myself “It’s only time, in a matter of moments, you will be right back in this place.” And then just as I was about to close the door to his room, the words “enjoy your time Mama” popped into my head and kept on repeating itself.
“Yes, Spirt B, I got it – thank you” I said. I took it as a sign to not fret and worry about Max as he would be more than fine. If anything, I had to get myself in the present moment and enjoy every minute of my time away.
When we said good bye, I was balling, and Max was saying “bye bye” and giving me kisses like it was just another day. Once we got to Punta Arenas and the excitement of the race started to really kick in everything got much better. We face-timed with him everyday and he looked so happy. On the night before the race start, we said our final “online” good bye to Max. He seemed to know exactly what we were there to do.
That night we boarded a bus, and while my nerves were so high you could almost strum them with your finger, there was also a deep calm that blanketed it all. Eventually the calm (and the melatonin) quieted my mind enough to fall asleep. In my dream, Spirit B came to me and reminded me to “Be present with every step”. And so, that became my mantra for the entire race. For 6 days 4 hours and 23 minutes, any time I found myself thinking about the future, or being with Max, I paused, took a deep breath in, looked around and took it all in. It worked, every single time. Through intense moments on the top of snowy, icy passes, in the middle of the endless miles of “turbal” (which is another word for peat bog), and while fighting a headwind for hours and hours on our bikes. The whole time, I was telling myself how lucky I was to be there, having an amazing life experience with my team, my husband and Spirit B that would in turn make me into a better human, and a better mother.
Through out the race, Spirit B came to me many times. On the second trek, he came in the form of the brightest, biggest rainbow I had ever seen. It followed us for an hour or two, guiding us to the transition area. He told me some secrets that day, but I will have to wait and tell those at a later time. On top of a pass in the middle of the night, he came to us in the winds and blew us into the face of the mountain, keeping us from sliding down. When I was almost beside myself with fear about traversing a steep gully, he came to me and reminded me that we had been through much scarier before. “Trust the process” and “lean on your teammates”. At that moment I spoke up and told them how scared I was. And then my team all came together and helped me across.
On the final bike, he came in the form of two bunnies, running and bouncing just up ahead of us for miles and miles. And then on the final trek, just before the sunset on our final night, he came in another rainbow that was placed right over the finish line.
Jason and I spread his ashes underneath the rainbow and at the top of one of the passes in ferocious 80 mile per hour winds. It was an amazing experience connecting with him again on such a deep, beautiful level. I hope to one day bring Max back to some of these places.
On the last day, as we were running down the final mountain to the finish line, the magnitude of what we just did and were about to do hit me like a ton of bricks. As we crossed the finish line, I was speechless and in awe of it all. We had finally (after 6 attempts over 9 years) completed our goal of winning the Patagonian Expedition Race. After we doused each other with champagne and cider, the race director and volunteers ushered us into the huge iconic Patagonia dome tent, there was a lot of silence and giggles as we all stuffed ourselves with pizza and more cider. Then, one of our media guys, Darren gave me his phone, it was full of pictures of Max. I couldn’t help the tears from streaming down my cheeks. We had done it. It was real. And Max, was just fine and happy as can be.
Picture by Tyler Brower: http://www.omni-living.com
Since I began racing again at this level, many mothers have inquired and asked “How can you leave your baby for so long!?” and now, after winning the Patagonian Expedition Race, I have already heard: “So, now that you have won, are you done? Are you satisfied?”
To these questions a respond:
Training and racing is my passion and having kids does not change that. Instead it has inspired me to further explore and expand my potential. Leaving Max is crazy hard, but we are very lucky in that we have an amazing support network of family and friends who love him dearly. It takes more than just a Mama and a Daddy to raise a child. And doing things that feed my soul makes me the best Mother that I can be. I hope to keep inspiring mothers to live their passions!
And to the next question, I say no, I am not even close to done. I hope to be racing and exploring for a long, long time.