Michael Davis has been an adventure-seeker for the better part of his life. And these days, the 54 years young Washoe Valley resident keeps active with a new challenge - adventure racing - in which athletes test their endurance, orienteering, navigation and back country skills, and more.
"You know, it's just what you want out of life, and I want to grab a little bit of everything. Don't we all?" Davis said. "In my life I've raced cars, I've done boats, water ski racing, motorcycles and I used to fence competitively. You try and do everything in life. Life's too short."
Davis and "Quandary" teammate Kathy Santori of Carson City were among the 170 athletes from as far away as North Carolina who turned out this past Saturday to compete in the Silver Sage Adventure Race in Reno. The race, the first of four in the Big Blue Adventure Series, started from Wingfield Park on the Truckee River near downtown Reno and offered such challenges as approximately eight miles of running, "riverteering" on the Truckee River, a 20-mile mountain bike course and a ride through downtown Reno to find specified "checkpoints." Participants navigated from place to place on land and water using maps and a compass.
"You get a password and a map and you have to find a series of checkpoints throughout the entire the course," Davis said. "And every checkpoint you miss, they add time to your finishing time, so you have to actually locate each one of the checkpoints. And each checkpoint, it could be as much as a green stake stuck in the ground this high (showing a couple of inches between his fingers), has a code word written on it, you have to write down that code work for that checkpoint. You have to find every one of those checkpoints throughout the course, even on the bicycle, and then navigate yourself back."
All of which is easier said than done, as Davis and Santori found out Saturday because they were unable to finish the race.
"We did not do as well as we wanted," Davis said. "We spent about 9 1/2 hours out there and got through about two-thirds of the course."
It seemed to be one of those days governed by Murphy's Law.
"We missed about an hour and a half looking for one checkpoint," Davis said. "After that, we started missing cutoffs among other things. But it was a tough day for a lot of people out there. We weren't alone in that."
A missed checkpoint early in the race cost them approximately another hour, and that was before they took a 50-minute inner tube ride down the Truckee River.
"The river was really low, and you had all the rocks," Davis said. "I think my back found every rock in the river."
Sound tough? You bet! Discouraged? No way.
"We're definitely going to try it again," Davis said, adding that he is looking for the Big Blue Series finale at Lake Tahoe on Sept. 11.
So, why would anyone want to spend their day preparing for and participating in a race like this?
"That's a long story," Davis said, flashing a smile. "To make it short, I was 40 pounds heavier when I turned 50 years old and I said, 'This isn't right.' So I changed my life and then about two years after that, I decided I was going to get in shape.
"I heard about this race at Lake Tahoe and I tried to sign up for it, but thank God the entries were closed at the time because I would have killed myself. I wasn't nearly good enough shape enough to do it."
Davis, who moved to Northern Nevada 15 years ago from Southern California and is active with Carson City Search & Rescue, spent the next year training for his shot at the Tahoe Big Blue Adventure Race.
"I started the race with food poisoning, so I hadn't had anything to eat or drink for 24 hours," he said. "I lasted four hours of the race and I was done. My wife almost took me to the hospital."
The race, which includes kayaking on Lake Tahoe and a climb up Northstar-at-Tahoe, obviously requires a great deal of fitness. Even that isn't enough sometimes.
"I'm told they had seven kayaks capsize and the crews were rescued by other teammates last year," Davis said. "I know of one guy who twisted his ankle in the first mile, they patched it up and he limped through the entire race. That's a tough guy."
The bad experience hardly discouraged Davis.
"That just makes you want to do it more. When you fail something once, even if it isn't your fault, like with food poisoning, you still have to keep trying until you succeed," he said. "Everything in life is a competition isn't it? And the people who do this, they're very competitive, but they're also generous. Even on the race when I got sick up at Lake Tahoe, there were other competitors who were concerned about my health and they were taking time from their race to make sure I was OK."
The Big Blue Adventure Series attracts some high caliber athletes, he pointed out.
"It amazes me, but there are some people there who are in unbelievable shape and they're really focused," Davis said. "The last one I did up at Tahoe, they had people who had actually done the Eco-Challenge, so you're talking about a high caliber of professional athletes."
Davis doesn't expect to set any world records. He's merely out to have some fun, fitness and for a good challenge.
"Fit? I hope I am. I'm not 20 years old, but for 54, I think I'm in good shape," he said. "You're not going to be competitive with someone who's 20 or 30 years old, but you can go out there and try to enjoy what you're doing."
Notes ... Winners of the Silver Sage Adventure Race, which offered $2,500 in prize money, included Brook Nunn, Jason Quinn, John Moss and Rick Baraff in the four-person coed division; Mike Erbe, Katrin Tobin and Tim Johnson in the three-person coed; Beverly Anderson-Adds and Allan Adds in the two-person coed; and Gerell Elliott in the solo male. ... The "Ming Warriors," a Gardnerville team of Clay Peterson, Bo Jackson and Dylan Thomas placed third in their three-person male division and finished 23rd overall out of 60 teams in a time of 8 hours. Peterson and Jackson formerly played football at Douglas High and Thomas played at Whittell High. ... Carson City had one other entrant in the race, 28-year-old Jeff Dickey. ... for more information about the series, log onto www.bigblueadventure.com.
Dave Price can be reached at 881-1220 or at firstname.lastname@example.org