Adventure or bust

By Jamie Balke Explore Big Sky Columnist

It seems to be happening more and more often in my life: My friends have talked me into a running race. This time, it’s the Headwaters Relay. In case you are unfamiliar with this three-day event and 232-mile team relay race, the website explains:

“The route is 98 percent on dirt and two-track roads revisiting Lewis and Clark’s trek from Three Forks to Beaverhead Rock. The relay ends at Hellroaring Creek, the ultimate source of the Missouri River.”

They lured me in through a bait and switch.

Initially, the plan was to enter our team in the lottory for the 199-mile Hood to Coast relay. At the time we were discussing that option, the farthest I had ever run was 10K, so it took some convincing and watching a compelling documentary to get my buy-in.

In the end, we didn’t get our paperwork together in time, and it wasn’t long before our fearless leader brought up the Headwaters Relay. I explained to her the thought of the Hood to Coast relay had been a tremendous stretch for me, and that I was straight-up terrified of the Headwaters Relay.

Unfortunately for me, the team leader delivers quite the inspirational speech about how being terrified of something is exactly why one should do it. Also, I am a little bit obsessed with Lewis and Clark. I signed up.

I convinced my brother to join, because as we agreed, everyone has to die of something. About two minutes into reviewing the race legs online, we closed the screen and decided that in this case, mystery may be preferable.

We also checked out a few YouTube videos of the race. At first glace, they’re inspiring. They involve lots of nice views and super-fit people moving through dramatic landscapes to carefully chosen music.

It took me a while to realize what was wrong. No one in the videos carried water in what appeared to be scorching July heat. Clearly, we will be racing cyborgs.

We will also be camping with cyborgs. This is a three-day race, and at the end of these long, hot days running into what appears to be the middle of nowhere, I will crawl exhausted, and presumably reeking, into the confines of a tent.

I decided early on that if I cannot contribute great speed to our team, I will endeavor to be the one who supplies a camp shower (I’ve also heard there may be the possibility of staying in a hotel one of the nights, which I have mixed feelings about).

One thing is taking the pressure off, a bit: Our captain has explained that we will almost certainly come in dead last. I was happy to hear this, but at the same time I dream of being fast. I dream of being one of the fitness cyborgs on next year’s video.

Mostly, however, I dream of adventure, and running through mountains and wildflowers.

Jamie Balke holds out hope that she will be speedier by the time July comes crashing down upon her.