Career Lessons Learned on the World's Most Grueling Bike Race
A torrent of sweat is running off your nose, the humidity and triple digit temperatures make it a struggle to just take in a breath. As you get off your mud-caked mountain bike to fill up your water bottle for the 10th time today you notice a cute, very brightly colored little frog on the ground. Curiosity gets the best of you so you bend over to look closer. The little monster torpedoes a poisonous dart that pierces your neck, tapping right into your jugular and the next thing you see is a pure bright light and Saint Peter.
Poisonous dart frogs, dengue fever, rabid howler monkeys, miles of mud and the icing on the cake: a 6.6 magnitude earthquake.
These are a few of the dangers awaiting five successful CEOs who are about to embark upon an epic mountain bike race.
These five (chose your adjective: studly, crazy, overcompensating, exemplary, suicidal, introspective) CEO/Entrepreneurs have been training all of 2012 for this race.
Five guys who are part of a team racing across Central America. The race is La Ruta de Los Conquistadors and it is widely known as the world's toughest mountain bike race. 250 people will start it and no one knows how many will finish, or live to tell about it. Our team is CoreCo/dwinQ.
Meet the Team
I'm one of the CEOs.
Over the course of the next ten days I'll tell the story of why we are doing it, give an update midway through the race, and then share the lessons we learned in and how it affected us.
First meet the team:
Patrick Sweeney (Me): I run dwinQ, one of the hottest social media companies in the world. We are the first company to build brand champions at events and venues by capturing and posting precious social memories to social media without guests lifting a finger.
Sami Inkinen: An entrepreneur who co-founded Trulia which just went public. Its real estate analysis and recommendations helps consumers make better home buying and selling decisions.
Will Mueke: He was a top performer at Goldman Sachs. He left to start CoreCo Holdings, a private equity fund focused on helping Central American companies grow (especially in the "green" sector) and bring investment into the region.
John Stimpson: A former college tennis player who is running an international lumber company and logistics provider doing business throughout the Americas.
Nat Grew: The team's inspiration is a native Costa Rican whose business is a land trust and stewardship company creating a watershed scale, mix-use international model for sustainable development and environmental education.
We are five different guys who came together for the same challenge: Survive three days of torture while following the route the brave conquerors blazed in the 1560s.
Why leave the corner office for the tropical jungle?
Our reasons for taking on this formidable contest are as diverse as the group, but the common thread stitching us together is the desire to push ourselves to be better, to learn more about ourselves, to appreciate despair and look for fleeting moments of jubilation.
In the process we will forge new relationships and experience an amazing environment but that's secondary to the effort.
This is Nat's fifth time racing at La Ruta and he suggests that:
"The race is a complete journey and an analogy to life itself. You know where it starts and where it finishes, and everything in-between is filled with continuous adventures and circumstances where one is challenged to the highest level physically and mentally in order to reach your purpose and follow your intention. Sometimes there are moments when you think that things can't get any worse yet you stick with it and persevere. Before you know it your entire internal and external environment has transformed and you are overwhelmed by a sense of inspiration, energy and simple joy for life. And inevitably before you know it the cycle repeats itself, many times during each stage."
The race is way longer than anything I've ever done. I was second in the Olympic trials in 1996 in Rowing - that was a seven minute race - this is my first La Ruta, a three day race, and despite having done Leadville Trail 100 MTB for the past two years, this ranks ten times harder in my mind to any endurance event I've ever done.
For me, the training required painful discipline to squeeze 12 hours of riding into a typical week filled with steering a rocketing start-up, enjoying an active family, flying 150,000 miles, and keeping season tickets to the Red Sox (thankfully they didn't provide a compelling reason to be off the bike - proving yet again everything has a purpose). But if I can do it, I believe anyone reading this blog could as well.
Days One and Two: A Test of Endurance