The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.
It’s my favorite Alaska race of the year — the Gold Nugget Triathlon. And that’s despite not really liking triathlon all that much.
So what makes this women-only race of almost 1,500 people, all of which have to swim in the same pool on the same day, so special?
It’s the humans, of course.
Races are typically competitive events. You train for them. You work hard. You think a lot about your stuff, and your set-up, and how you’re going to transition between swimming, biking and running. You practice those sports and the distances. You buy or borrow a lot of equipment. It’s an investment of time and energy. And you want to do well.
But the Gold Nugget? While it’s definitely a race and people are there to do their best, the Gdld Nugget is less like a competitive triathlon and more like a hug from the female fitness community. Everyone is out there doing their best while also cheering each other on and pushing each other forward. There are smiles. There are on-course actual hugs. There are high fives, and cheers and a glorious forward movement together.
It’s a complicated race. Over the course of eight hours, 1,500 women snake through an indoor pool, cycle out to a bike drop, run 3 miles to a finish line and then are bused back to the start line where they find their bike waiting for them back at their station and, unless they are in the very last group, woman after woman still just starting her race. Hundreds of volunteers, many of them females and also racers, make this happen. They, too, are cheering everyone along.
I see humans at their best outside when they are doing something hard in nature together. When we test our limits and we walk along someone else who is doing the same, we find strength within ourselves to help and be help, to lift and be lifted. Doing tough stuff outside strips away the safety net of indoor comforts and tests our limits while showing us what we’re really made of.
The Gold Nugget Triathlon is the most robust, large example of this I’ve witnessed, and I love it.
So I tackled it this weekend once again. My time was nothing spectacular, but I had fun. And the grace, humility, care and heart I saw on every face and in every racer is enough to keep me coming back next year, even if the snake swim through pool where you swim up and down lanes from one side to another staggered behind other racers was so bottlenecked that I literally walked almost three lengths. Yes, walked. There were six women stacked in front of me and passing down the middle as other racers were coming wasn’t really a great option.
But that’s completely fine — because I was there for the warm triathlon hug, not to win anything except a good time. And that’s what I had.
So that was one adventure this week where I deeply understood the value and importance of being with other humans outside. But it wasn’t the only one. The others looked like a very windy hike with a friend who needed both a human to hike with as she works through some hard things and the mountain to help her feel OK. We stood at the top in a wind storm and felt the awe and power that comes from standing strong in a gale as it rushed at you and you stand unmoveable.
Then there was the friends I ran with on Sunday — one who just needed space to be and talk and move through a colossal loss. The outdoors is great for that. We heard her, and shared and held space with the trail on her behalf. It was what she needed. It was what I needed.
And then there was meeting my podcast friend Sarah Histand for the first time ever as I walked to an outdoor even Saturday. We have recorded three podcasts together and have never met in person. We recognized each other instantly and it was like meeting a long lost friend. The outdoors is great for that, too.
This was a big week for me with my last day at my job of 13 years. I’m looking forward to a summer of a few projects and enjoying getting outside. Those projects are going to take me on a few adventures that I’m really excited about. I hope you’ll follow along for those adventures.
You can see photos – so many photos – of all of my outdoor adventures on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram. I want to see your photos, too. Share them with #humansoutside365. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.