With constant reminders to, “be careful,” “take it easy,” and “watch out you don’t get hurt,” my father raised me to be the world’s largest chicken. I creep down descents on mountain bike rides, walking over rocky and rooted sections; I permanently streaked a pair of Vuarnet sunglasses by crying hysterically on a black diamond ski run. I have panic attacks on amusement park rides.
Thus it’s shocking to me how much I loved the final bike portion of the 2008 San Francisco Merrell Oyster Race. A Merrell Oyster race is a multi-sport event that is equal parts scavenger hunt, endurance event, and team-building activity. The sports are typically running, biking, and paddling, but a race can also include swimming, rock climbing, or, hey, even bowling. In the multi-stage race, each portion of the race is kept secret until the team is ready to tackle the challenge. At the start of a typically 3- to 5-hour race, each team (which consist of 3 to 6 people) gets a passport with a challenge on it. Once they accomplish that task, they find out the next one. In addition to doing physical pursuits, participants’ minds are put to the test searching for clues or solving riddles.
In San Francisco, I was part of a 6-woman team who always had three people on the course. My teammates and I had biked, run, in-line skated, and lay on our bellies and paddled a surfboard on the choppy bay. (Which, I was amazed, I adored, never once fearing sharks or rogue waves.) Now the only thing separating us from a win in the “6-pack” division was the final biking challenge. Dana, Andrea, and I headed out, searching for clues that would lead us to a spot where we had to ride to take a team photo. Dana quickly solved the puzzle, and we set out for a mural outside a bar in the city’s North Beach district.
Impunity ruled us. Fueled by adrenaline, Andrea and I urged Dana to cut through red lights. We cut through the dark, dank Broadway Tunnel to save precious time; the harrowing ride through it reminded me of the psychedelic boat trip down the chocolate river in the original “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” movie. Barreling down the streets of North Beach toward Marina Green and the finish line near Crissy Field, we rode three abreast in a lane of traffic. Looking at Dana and Andrea and I threw back my head with laughter: Instead of being scared, I felt exhilarated and alive.
Ready to pluck your sports chicken? This week two winners can choose their prize: Either two entries to a Merrell Oyster race of your choice for you and a brazen buddy, or a $100 Merrell gift certificate good for use on merrell.com. There are five remaining Merrell Oysters to choose from in 2011, starting with Seattle one this Saturday, then Portland on August 20; Denver Aug. 27; San Francisco Sept. 24; and Nashville Oct. 8. (Note: All travel expenses are on you--this prize is for two entries only.) To enter, tell us what audacious or courageous thing you’ve done lately. It doesn’t have to be big and bold like sky diving or spelunking; it can be signing up for your first half marathon, donating blood for the first time, or calling your bank to reverse some bogus ATM fees. Lay it on us: What have you done recently that pushed you out of your comfort zone?