Steamboat Springs When you and I think of the perfect summer vacation, we daydream of a clambake on Cape Cod, or maybe frolicking in the California surf. We look forward to water skiing behind a big Evinrude at the cottage by the lake in Northern Minnesota, or saddling a paint horse at a Rocky Mountain guest ranch.
Not Russ Garrity.
Garrity, who lives just outside Oak Creek, dreams of going someplace where he has a small chance of being gored by the yellowed tusks of a 400-pound wild boar.
He envisions himself paddling through nine foot swells on the frigid waters of Lake Superior, and cheerfully coping with mosquitoes big enough to cast shadows.
Garrity would be disappointed if a can of bear repellent weren't on his packing list. His idea of a swell vacation doesn't involve catching up on his sleep. He'd rather ride his mountain bike down a forest trail throughout the darkest night, hoping against hope that he's headed in the right direction.
Before I go any further, I should point out that on first meting, Garrity seems like a perfectly normal fellow.
He's tall, has wavy hair and a firm handshake. He is married to an understanding wife and has one of those enviable jobs working for a "large consulting firm."
Despite everything he has to be thankful for, Garrity intends to spend his summer vacation dashing through the untracked wilds of Northern Ontario with three other adventure seekers in an attempt to cover 250 miles in about six days.
Garrity is a member of Team Summit, which is entered in the Eco challenge North American Championships July 18-27 in Sault St. Marie, Ontario.
So what makes Russ Garrity want to spend his vacation testing the limits of his ability to endure pain and other discomforts?
"Pain is temporary. Pride is forever," Garrity said. "The pain of dropping out of the race would be devastating."
You can be certain there are no quitters on Team Summit. If there are, they'll probably get fed to the wild boars in the woods of Ontario. The other members of the team include Captain Michael "Patch" Doyle, a software consultant from Breckenridge; Rebecca Burnett, of Broomfield, a project leader for a biotech firm, and Steven Daniel, who is with a Denver real estate investment firm.
Daniel was just added to the team two weeks ago when another man had to drop out. It's pretty easy to figure out that all four are high achievers, and they'll get the chance to test those traits later this month in a six-day, round-the-clock race that includes trekking, sea kayaking in Lake Superior, whitewater canoeing, rock climbing and mountain biking. Burnett is a small, but intense looking woman who grew up climbing Colorado's tallest mountains with her father.
She graduated to triathlons, but now she wants to experience what it's like to compete in a team endurance race.
Burnett said she gets through the long hours of ultra endurance events by counting to herself, and dreaming of oatmeal cookies and Diet Coke. She's frank in admitting she expects to test her emotional strength as well as her physical limits during the race.
"There will be some crying along the way," she said. "There will be plenty of crying."
Daniel will be entrusted with the role of using map and compass to navigate the team's path to each of the checkpoints and transition areas in the race.
Captain Patch Doyle knows how important Daniel's role is. "You're not going fast if you're going fast in the wrong direction," he says with a solemn look.
Then he busts out a grin and says, "I look forward to what's looming around the next corner. You never know what to expect. It might be an overhead river crossing. It's a blast." Daniel is a veteran of the Texas Water Safari, a grueling 260-mile solo paddle in an aluminum canoe down the Guadeloupe River in Texas.
During the ECNAC, as this month's race is known affectionately, Daniel fully expects to reach the point where his body wants to shut down.
"You'll bonk in a race like this," Daniel said matter-of-factly. "You'll probably get dehydrated. You'll get sick. You have to find a way to get through that."
The members of Team Summit are different from most of us. There's something inside them that drives them to continually test their limits.
I have to say I admire them greatly.
But I pray that I never find myself on vacation with Russ, Steve, Rebecca or Patch.
Tom Ross is a longtime Steamboat resident. His column is published every Monday
in the Steamboat Today.