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Jun 12

The Endeavor Experience – Angel Slavik

If I had one way to describe my Endeavor Team Challenge experience, it would be overcoming fear. I will never forget the moment I was told I should do the Endeavor Team Challenge. I spoke the exact words I was thinking in my mind, “HELL NO!” However, a month later I found myself registering for the challenge because the person inside me who always had to prove herself to the world around her wouldn’t rest.

My partner and I were part of a small group comprised of both trainers and members from Omni Fight Club group who would participate in Endeavor.  We trained hard, harder than I had ever trained before. We lifted heavy, hiked long, and and hiked far. In return, I grew stronger than I have ever been. And although my body was bruised, busted and exhausted, I was prepared. I was ready.

The morning of race day was cold, dark and my belly swarmed with anxious butterflies. My teeth chattered and my body shook overtaken by the chill in the air and the unsettling of my nerves. Even still, I was confident in my training and confident in my partner. Finishing the race was the only option. I felt that our stubbornness and determination would get us across that finish line even if we had to crawl.

The first challenge in our path stood about a half mile from the start line along and turned out to be a very humbling experience. I knew swimming would be involved although I did not train for such a thing, partially from my fear of swimming in deep water and partially because I was hoping adrenaline would kick in and get me through it. When the small lake came into view my heart sank. With my eyes transfixed on the body of water, I waterproofed my gear and put on my life vest. Stubbornness was the only force propelling me forward. I moved into the water and started swimming across. My breathing quickly grew rapid as my legs kicked at a fervent pace, but my body seemingly refused to move. I closed my eyes as I tried to compose myself and focus on reaching shore on the other side of the lake. As I closed my eyes the panic subsided, my breathing relaxed and for the first time since entering the water, I felt hope and determination pulsating through my veins. Using this renewed energy I made it to shore. The swim left me both mentally and physically drained, but I kept fighting. I refused to let fear win.

From there, we hiked through ice covered hillsides; we challenged our muscular strength; we covered over 20 miles carrying a 20+ pound pack and kayaked across a lake; we conquered all types of terrain and dealt with unimaginable exhaustion. We navigated the wilderness with only a map and compass and constructed both a stretcher and a raft with a simple tarp. Through all of this, we stayed the course with fierce determination fueling each step and razor sharp focus preventing regrets.

However, when the sun retired and darkness fell, our journey would come to an unfortunate end. Although we had practiced nighttime orienteering at home and felt prepared but found ourselves struggling with the darkness of Bear Valley. Fear crept into our minds. When my partner, the team navigator, grew disorientated and discouraged from walking in circles, I was unable to take over and secure our journey. The long day had us exhausted and our nerves were frayed. We  found herself dangerously afraid – afraid of getting lost in such an unknown place, afraid of what our eyes couldn’t make out in the dead of night, afraid of what could be hiding behind the enormous boulders and monumental trees. With disappointment, the time had come to wave the white flag and admit defeat. We headed back to base camp with broken hearts, bruised egos and crushed souls.

What we had learned were important lessons

  1. Practice swimming – This first challenge set the tone for the rest of the event for us. Had we been better prepared, we would have left the water more confident and with more energy to carry us through the other challenges.
  2. Practice orienteering – This skill is crucial and was the difference between us finishing the event and dropping out.
  3. Remember to have fun – During the event, we were very focused on the immediate present. Where do we go? What’s our challenge? What do we need to find? Looking back, this event was an incredible experience and got my partner and me to do more than we ever thought possible. From training with a great team to taking on a challenge that months before I had screamed “Hell No!” at, the journey was worth it.

The sting of not being good enough was almost too painful to endure, but it was our burden to bare and to eventually overcome. The decision to return was never up for discussion. We would be back to conquer the terrain of Bear Valley and to challenge our physical strength and mental capacity, but this time we’d refuse to be be a prisoner to fear. This time I would stare my fears straight in the face and say, “Not this time!”

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