By Race Directors Eldar and Erin Spahic
The Search and Rescue Adventure Race hosted by The Lost Tribe Expeditions simulates a scene from a real disaster. As race directors, we strive to create an event that is realistic and uniquely challenging: athletes must scramble up mountains, cross deep waters, climb waterfalls, bushwalk and run endurance distances, all while self-supported. Three words capture the spirit of the event: “Adapt and Overcome.”
Many teams did not know what they had signed up for when they arrived onsite at the Mohonk Preserve early one Saturday morning for our third annual race. They knew that parts of the race would be orienteering; but they did not know how big the course was, where it would run or what obstacles lay ahead.
Fear of the unknown is what brought this race to another level for even our most seasoned obstacle and adventure racers. The race began with a physical fitness test, where local drill sergeant and boot camp instructor Gary Gall lined up athletes and started them with intense drills. In the meantime, the captains of each team were hijacked and taken to another area from where they would need to be rescued by their teams. By the time the teams were released to save their captains from the disaster, thick smoke engulfed the area; a helicopter circled and hovered just feet above their heads, creating an intense rescue scene.
Captains were carried, pulled and dragged from the disaster to the extraction point; each team that completed the rescue challenge received points toward their total score. After the rescue extraction, teams were immediately rushed to buses and driven miles away to the opposite side of the course. (The course was approximately 25-30 miles long, by way of trails and carriage roads.) The participants were given punch cards and just minutes to orient themselves before the starting gun went off.
Athletes crossed deep rivers and climbed steep waterfalls to navigate from point to point. It didn’t matter how hard we tried to challenge them – they kept smiling and pushing forward.
The race turned a bit emotional toward the end – people were hugging each other, giving high-fives, recapping the race, and most of all just laughing and smiling; all sweaty and out of breath, but still loudly proclaiming, “This was the craziest and most amazing thing I have ever done!” “I didn’t know I could run 30 miles and search for all these points!” The competitors were truly all winners – they are not your ordinary people. These are people with high potential and a never-quit attitude. These are people companies should hire.
Every year we try to raise the bar from the previous year. Despite how hard it
was last year, this year we stepped it up.
Last year the course was completed by the REV3 team, who collected all 30 checkpoints in under 5 hours. This year the course was undefeated, but some teams came very close to collecting all the points – which was very impressive.
This race isn’t only about physical fitness, but also intelligence. It requires strategy, critical thinking, strong team dynamics, leadership and effective communication to strongly complete the race. If communication is ineffective or breaks down, teams can lose team members; in which case, the race turns into a real-life search and rescue. (Thankfully, all have been safely reunited.) This greatly affects the team dynamics and adds to the time lost on the course, thus causing pressure among the team members.
Some teams who struggled last year and came back this year and did extremely well; they learned from the previous experience and were able to apply it in this race – and that is exactly what this race is all about. This year’s course was more spread-out, and the points were kept in clusters; this was to push the athletes more mentally. It is easier to compete when one knows what lies ahead and is being cheered on; not so easy when one must travel to a totally different area to collect points.
This year’s race was a huge success; the participants doubled this year, and we are anticipating even more next year. It’s great to see how this race has exploded overnight, and has left a “wow” effect on those who have participated. Despite its growth, the quality of this race will never diminish; every year we will create a more challenging and exciting adventure. We worked extremely hard to make sure all the points were placed at the right spots; I ran the course seven times myself. Not many race directors would be crazy enough to do that – but I truly enjoyed the course, and wish I could have competed!
The goal of this event is to create one huge, solid network of powerful people; The Lost Tribe has surpassed that. This race took true teamwork; teams were even helping other teams through the hard times. “Let’s work together, not against each other” is the motto of this race. Here, people give each other real high-fives, not electronic “likes”; here people give true hugs and remain real-world friends.
These athletes are inspiring people and serve as a role models and true leaders. It is not about the destination; it is about the journey. For those who would like to find out what they are truly made out of and try to dig deep down and find their Lost Tribe, come and join us on one of our next expeditions. Our doors are always open to anyone who has a never-quit attitude.
This race would not be possible without the volunteers who tirelessly worked on making the event spectacular. We would like to thank Honest Tea, Zico Coconut Water, Coca-Cola, Wine World Wide, Inc., Valued Naturals, Lisa Glick, Emir Hadziabdic, Lenny Erlanger, Karen Tavarro, America’s Best Value Inn at New Paltz, N.Y., Peet Dryer, Jenkins – Lueken Orchard, and Tiger Balm. The race benefited the Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park. We look forward to next year’s event.
Remember: “Adapt and Overcome.”