Conquering the Anaconda Adventure Race: A Tale of Pain, Gratitude & Self-Discovery

The “Anaconda”. The Largest Adventure Race in the world. A crazy challenge combining running, swimming, kayaking, and mountain biking- all in an absolutely breath-taking scenery.

I first heard about it 3 months ago, while talking with my roommate Claire. As she described the event, my eyes grew bigger and my pulse quickened.

This race, which takes place in Augusta, Western Australia, consists of:

  • 13.5km of “extreme” running (running on boulders, in sand, through water, along ledges)
  • 2km of ocean swimming
  • 13.5km of ocean kayaking
  • 32km of mountain biking
  • 2.5km of beach running

You can do in teams of 4, 2, or for the bravest do the whole thing alone.

That same night, I went on their website. As I looked around a bit, I started getting excited, but also a bit scared. Deep down I knew I wanted to give it a shot. But this was a beast of a race, and I had never competed in any type of endurance event. Hmm maybe this was too much, maybe I couldn’t handle it… I closed the browser, promising to myself I’d think about it and decide later.

“No no no!” I thought. I knew this wasn’t how I want to live my life. I want to ATTACK my fears, not run away from them. I want to do epic shit, not think about epic shit and then never do it.

5 minutes later I clicked “Submit”, and I was officially signed up for the race. Boom, no turning back now.


***

Over the next 4 months, magic unfolded. My motivation to train hard, develop my Jedi Mind Tricks, try crazy experiments, and work hard on becoming the best Phil Drolet reached unprecedented heights. I really started living it up, in all senses of the word.

This blog, which I stared around that time, is a testament to this. Without my commitment to the Anaconda, the content on this website would be a lot more plain, and certainly less entertaining and inspiring. 

It was a great training camp, and I’m proud of myself. I didn’t skip single workout, I pushed myself hard without getting injured, and most importantly, I enjoyed the whole process.

The plan all along was to create superb fitness while having fun, and that’s what happened.

***

2 days ago, I successfully completed the Anaconda Race. As you can see, I’m still alive, and doing very well thank you. :)

It was an incredible experience, one I’ll never forget. As with any great challenge, I’ve emerged from the experiences with a greater clarity about myself, my life, my strengths & my weakness.

Going through race like that is a true journey, there are ups & downs, crazy moments, boring moments, times when you feel on top of the world, and moments when you went to say f*ck it and give up.

But you push through, stay tough & focused, and you achieve something great. Kinda like anything worthwhile on this journey called life.

The Start

The race started under the Lejeuwin lighthouse, right where the Indian & Southern Oceans cross- a truly unique and mesmerizing setting. At 7:45am, the marshall blasted the gun, and we were off. I can’t believe how fast some of those guys started, considering we were in for the long haul. I started out very slow on the run, leaving all the crazy people go out in front.

But when the 4th song on my iPod came on (Gareth Emery – Arrival), I was feeling nice & loose, so I turned on the jets. I was roughly in 100th place at that point, but I started hunting down one guy after the other, and finished the run in 13th place, in a time of 1 hour 4inutes. It felt great and almost effortless, especially considering I didn’t run more than 1 hour once in my whole training camp (to prevent injuries).

I do have to confess I made a very amateurish mistake in that part of the race though. Through the first half hour, I was wholeheartedly enjoying listening to my iPod… until I saw that the course was taking us INTO the ocean. But not like ankle deep, friggin chest deep! I  ended up doing the doggiepaddle with with one arm in the air, awkwardly progressing towards the shore. Not my finest moment, but at least my iPod survived the crossing!

The 2km ocean swim

Aahhh the swim, now that is something I’m proud of. First off, I showcased the Canadian toughness by being the only competitor to brave the cold water without a wetsuit (What up Cold Shower Challenge!). This saved me a couple minutes in the transition, as others guys struggled to put on their wetsuit, , while I stripped down to my trusty Speedo and dove straight into the water.

The cold water to invigorated me, I started pushing right from the beginning, totally loving it and enjoying the sights provided by the fishes and other marine wildlife passing under me. I passed 7 guys over the next 30 minutes, including a member of Australia’s National team (I kicked extra hard as I passed him to show him who was the Boss) and came out of the water in 6th place overall. So far so good!

 

 

The 13.5km Ocean Kayak

And then…. shit went wrong. As soon as I jumped into my kayak and started paddling, 3 guys passed me. But like, blasted past me. Even though I was paddling hard and using decent technique, I couldn’t keep up at all. Then another guy passed me, and another one. WTF was this?

Then I realized what was up.  All these guys were rocking full-race Fiberglass kayaks, while I was struggling in an amateur plastic kayak. The combination of hydrodynamics, lower weights, and less friction totally kicked my ass. The next 1 hour and 27 minutes was one of the most testing time of my entire life. I had to use just about every Jedi Mind Trick in the book to stay focused and avoid totally freaking out. But DAMN that was frustrating.

I can’t deny that I didn’t lose it once or twice, and even yelled out a few French Canadian swears out in the middle of the ocean. I managed to keep it together reasonably well, and when I got out of the water in 31th place, I was pissed off but sure glad to be done with that treacherous part of the race.


The 32km of Mountain Biking

I started pedaling with a vengeance, but quickly realized that this wasn’t going to be a ride in the park. Not only were my legs way more tired than I expected, I was also really thirsty and I’d only brought 1L of liquid with me on the bike. Uh oh.

As the course took us through long dirt roads, through sandy patches (riding a bike in the sand is MESSED UP, but somehow the Aussies can do it. I still can’t figure that one out). There were also some furious downhills, which is when I realised that Mountain Biking is a whole different ball game than riding my bike around Perth.

Eventually, I reached a ridiculous hill where stepping off the bike and walking was pretty much required. It was a hell of  hill, and I remember sweating like crazy, while take the last sip of my Powerade. With 20km still to go. Damnnn.

The next 45 minutes were very hard, and I found it increasingly hard to keep pushing myself. Physically, I was ok, but mentally… I just felt like I’d been gone for a really long time. And realistically, I had. It had been 4 hours so we started running, and that kind of long effort is just something I’d never done before.  I pulled through but it was a long & pretty painful ride.

The 2.5km of Beach Running

Fortunately, I had one last trick in the bag.  Over the last 2 months of training, I had been rehearsing this part of the race so many times, visualising myself finishing strong and passing guys on the way to the finish line. When I started running along 2 other dudes, they didn’t have a chance. I upped the tempo right away, and left them in the dust.

From there, I started hunting down the guy in from of me, who was about 100m ahead. Then 90, 80… 20, 10m.. and finally I was right behind him. I stayed there for a few seconds, catching my breath, and before long I said out loud “keep it up man!” cheer, before leaving him in the dust. See you at the finish line.

It was the next guy’s turn, the guy in the red 50m ahead. Target locked & loaded. I had momentum now, and it took no time until i overtook him, about 500m from the end. Adios, amigo.

The Finish

I pushed hard all the way to the end, enjoying the last few moments and giving high fives to the little kids in the crowed, before crossing the line in a respectable time of 4 hours 55 minutes, good for 25th place out of 126 guys. But most importantly, I had done it. 4 months ago, I had dreamed all this up in my head, I had taken the appropriate steps, and I had achieved what I set out to do. And that, my friends, is one of the best feelings in the world.

I later found out that I had the fastest split of any competitor in the final run! Not too bad for a guy who was about 30 lbs heavier than most of the other guys :)

***

The Anaconda is without a doubt one of coolest things I’ve ever done. Every 20-30 minutes in the race I would take an instant to appreciate the fact that I was doing exactly what I love doing, in one of the most beautiful places in the world, halfway around the world from where I was born. I was living my dream.

I’m already thinking I might have to give the Anaconda another crack when I come back to Perth 5-10 years down the road (to show my kids & wife my old stumping grounds). But in the meantime I’ll keep training… and next big event on the calendar is already set. Escape from Alcatraz 2012, it’s on!!!

If there’s one thing I’d like you remember from this, it’s that committing to a big challenge in the near-future is not only a way to create a great story, but it will also supercharge your focus, motivation, and determination in the months leading to the event.

It’ll help you get up in the morning with a bounce in your step, and go to bed at night exhausted, but satisfied. And that’s what life’s all about.

Cheers!

Phil

If you enjoyed this post, check out the 2nd part, The 7 Life Lessons I Learned In My First Adventure Race

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"PS. Ever feel overwhelmed when trying to reach your goals? Watch my TEDx talk to learn how to stop slowly killing yourself while accomplishing more. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-M9i3-QhWzg&t=565s"
Posted on : 9, Nov 2011

28 Comments

  • Huge congrats to you sir. Well done!

    • Thanks Matt! You got any crazy challenges lined up for the upcoming months?

  • Bravo pour ton courage et ta détermination! Quelle expérience hors du commun! Je suis très fière de toi! Maman xx

    • Merci Maman! Avec Papa qui fait du vélo en Italie, toi qui conquière le grand canyon.. On est pas pire de ces temps ci :)

  • […] Today, I want to share the 7 Life Lessons I gained in the 4 hours 55 minutes it took me to Conquer the Anaconda Race (you can read the full story here). […]

  • Great read Phil yes anaconda Augusta was a Adventure of a life time, I am a 53 year old grandmother, last year I won a cheap MTB in a raffle so I joined a women’s team and took on the bike leg of Anaconda Augusta a slow time of 2 hrs 34mins but a true adventure loved every minute of it and now going to buy a better bike I’m going back next year to try for a time of 2 hrs, life is about adventure no matter how old you are :)

    • Hey Ann,

      Great job for stepping up last year, and setting a goal for next year.

      You are absolutely right.. it's about adventuring and making the most of each day.. age is really only a number.

      I'm blessed to have 2 parents who are still incredible vibrant and active in their 50's and I'm really inspired to follow their path.

      Cheers!
      Phil

  • […] the largest adventure race in the world, after doing IF for 25 days in the lead-up to the race. Conquering the Anaconda Adventure Race: A Tale of Pain, Gratitude & Self-Discovery | The Feel Go… Reply With Quote   + Reply to […]

  • Yee boi! Way to step up. Would’ve loved to have done it with you. Definitely can relate to how you must’ve felt during a 5 hour race and all the ups and downs. A little different than a 2 minute swim race!
    Oh, and gook luck at escape from alcatraz… I remember watching that on tv when i was little.. should be dooooope, just get yourself a good bike haha!

    • Thanks buddy!! Looking forward to doing some epic shit in Indo !!

      PS Your half-ironman story was definitely a huge inspiration to sign up for the Anaconda.. I guess you could say it planted the seed :)

      • Dude, positive feed back loops – i love feeding off other ppls stoke. Reading your original australian dream blog is part of what inspired me to make my own australian dream come true! haha

      • Dude, positive feed back loops – i love feeding off other ppls stoke. Reading your original australian dream blog is part of what inspired me to make my own australian dream come true! haha

        • Love it! Inspire & be inspired :)

  • […] moved to other side of the world, created a short-movie even though I had no idea what I was doing, competed in the world’s largest adventure race, and built this website from […]

  • You have certainly inspired me Phil!! Way to go!!

    • Cheers Todd! You got any race/event/crazy challenge coming up yourself?

      • Just got married. So far that’s the craziest race/event/challenge I have had yet! ;)

        Nuttin else in the hopper yet.

        • Haha congrats! Your wife looks stunning btw, well done :)

          • Thank you! She is the love of my life! We actually both read your intermittent fasting article and are thinking about giving it a go! :)

            The one concern I had is that it’s similar to how Sumo wrestlers train. The reason is because it slows the metabolism down. Then they eat one meal a day late a night just before they go to bed that consits of several thousand calories so the body stores it as fat. I want to research it a bit more….

  • […] of Business Administration (MBA), started my Master’s of Optimal Living, built this blog, competed in an epic race, and made some life-changing […]

  • […] a challenge you’ve been thinking of doing? Maybe the Cold Shower Challenge? Training for an epic race? Meditating every day for 30 […]

  • Awesome stuff Phil!

  • When I originally commented I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on each time a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the same comment. Is there a way you are able to remove me from that service? Many thanks!

  • Have you thought about including some social bookmarking buttons to these blog posts. At least for google.

  • The subsequent time I learn a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as a lot as this one. I imply, I know it was my choice to read, however I truly thought youd have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about one thing that you may fix should you werent too busy on the lookout for attention.

  • […] personal experiments in becoming smarter and pushing his physical limits inspired me to start taking responsibility for my life. I started devouring books on positive […]

  • […] personal experiments in becoming smarter and pushing his physical limits inspired me to start taking responsibility for my life. I started devouring books on positive […]

  • […] Today, I want to share the 7 Life Lessons I gained in the 4 hours 55 minutes it took me to Conquer the Anaconda Race (you can read the full story here). […]

So, what do you think?