It appears as though crazy bike stunts and dangerous urban bike courses just aren’t enough of an adrenaline rush anymore. In Saas-Fee, Switzerland, bikers push riding to the extreme as they pedal down a glacier in a death-defying race. A handful of the 142 riders mounted cameras to their bikes and helmets so us less adventurous (and perhaps more sane) types can get a feel for the crazy race. Riders reached speeds over the 80 mph mark as they dashed over ice and snow from a starting height of 3,500 meters to 1,700 meters. This year’s winner, Charlie Di Pasquale, completed the race in 7:31. Anyone out there up for giving it a try next year?
This past weekend, more than 600 cyclists turned out at dawn for the annual Angkor Wat Bike Race and Ride at the temple complex outside Siem Reap, Cambodia. As the sun rose behind the main temple, cyclists shot off to tackle a 100 kilometer course, a 30 kilometer course, and a breezier 17 kilometer course.
I’m hard pressed to think of a more magical way to experience the temples of Angkor Wat than on a bicycle at sunrise. Throw in a group of passionate cycling companions and a great cause, and you’ve got the makings of a life-changing experience.<
Now in its sixth year, the Angkor Wat Bike Race is organized and hosted by Village Focus International, a non-profit organization that empowers local leaders to serve vulnerable communities in Cambodia and Laos. This year, the event raised more than $50,000 to support four Cambodian slum schools and a shelter for survivors of sex trafficking.
Participants included a mix of Cambodian cycling clubs, local ex-pats, and a small group of international regulars who return to Siem Reap each year just to participate in the race. From the photos in our gallery, it’s not difficult to see why they keep coming back.
Held in Westport, Ireland, the Westport Sea2Summit adventure race will take place on Saturday, November 12, 2011. The race incorporates some of the biggest thrills in Westport, including Croagh Patrick, Clew Bay, the Sheaffry Mountains, and the new greenway.
Two separate races, each with three categories, will include road running, cycling, mountain hiking, obstacle courses, and a sea run across a shore line (the maximum height of the water will be 2 feet deep). The first race is the Sea2Summit Spirit, which caters to participants who have never done an adventure race before, while the Sea2Summit Supreme gives athletes an extra challenge. The three categories for each race include Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced.
For more information or to sign up for the race yourself, click here.
Living in Spain, I get a lot of questions about the United States. One of the most common, and certainly the most disturbing, is if it’s OK to use the N-word.
Let me just say from the outset that I think the term “N-word” is silly. By using it you immediately think of the word I’m trying not to say so, in a sense, I’ve actually said it. On the other hand, if I actually used the word n—–, Gadling would fire my ass, and they’d be right to.
N—– is getting more and more common on American TV shows that get broadcast here. The Wire uses it in almost every scene. Most Spaniards realize it’s a bad word, but are confused to hear it used on TV by whites and blacks alike. I’ve had to explain on more than one occasion that it hasn’t become OK. At least it isn’t OK with this white boy. I don’t think it’s OK for black people to use either, but they’re probably not interested in my opinion.
Now anybody with two brain cells to rub together knows TV isn’t reality, but if you’ve never been to a country before, TV is probably the main way you know about it. The average European has spent far more time watching American TV than talking to actual Americans. Like the guy I met in a bar who was about to go to the U.S. for the first time and used n—— during our conversation. He wasn’t a racist, he just thought the word was OK now. I’m glad I got to talk to him before he got his butt kicked.
I had a similar experience when I spent two months living in Harar, Ethiopia. I was researching a book on Ethiopian history and kept coming across a name for a tribe called the G—-. This word appears in many English-language books about Ethiopia, including many modern ones. One day I was chewing qat with my friend Mohammed Jami Guleid (harartourguide @gmail.com) a local guide and historian, in a small village near Harar. Casually I asked him, “Who are the G—-?”
Mohammed gave me a look like I had just farted in a mosque.”Where did you hear that word?” he asked in a low voice.
“It’s in a lot of books. Some mentioned that the G—- live around Harar.”
“We’re in an Oromo village!” he said, eyes wide.
“So?” I said, confused.
Mohammed shook his head and explained, “It’s an old term for Oromo given to them by the Emperor Menelik. Don’t use it. It’s very insulting. It’s the most insulting thing you can say.”
So insulting, in fact, that I’m not writing it here. Of course, Gadling wouldn’t fire me for using the G-word because the Oromo don’t have any political power in the United States, but respect is respect.
Menelik conquered Harar in 1887 and proceeded to starve the surrounding Oromo clans into submission. About half the population died. Needless to say, the Oromo don’t think very highly of Menelik, even though he’s a hero to many other Ethiopians because he smashed the Italian army at the Battle of Adowa in 1896. Different people see history differently because they experienced it differently. Something to remember the next time Black History Month rolls by.
So when preparing for a trip, it’s important to do your homework and understand the different ethnic groups in that country, otherwise you may inadvertently cause offense by saying something you heard on television, or in my case read in a bunch of history books written by people who should have known better!
If you’re going to Ethiopia and are worried about the G-word, drop me a line privately and I’ll fill you in on the word you can’t say. And if you write out the full word for n—– or G—- in the comments section, I’ll delete it as soon as I see it.
[Photo of Ice-T, who uses the n-word waaaaay too much, is courtesy Steve Rapport]
Would you be tempted to enter a race that covers 100 miles, has no set trail, and only nine people have completed? How about if you add a cumulative elevation of over 59,000 feet – that’s twice that of Mount Everest, natural obstacles of all varieties including thorns and rats, and no aid or resting stations along the way? Hundreds have entered and attempted the Barkley Marathons in Tennessee each spring, known as one of the world’s most challenging races. Even if you “only” complete the 60-mile “fun run,” chances are you’ll come out bleeding, sleep-deprived, and a little insane (though perhaps no more so that when you agreed to enter this run) and if you give up, you still have a few hours’ walk back to camp.
This month, Believer Magazine has a fascinating account of the people behind this insane race and the culture that has developed along with it. Gary Cantrell – known as Lazarus Lake or just Laz – started the race 25 years ago, inspired by the prison escape attempt of James Earl Ray, Martin Luther King Junior’s assassin. Ray ran around the same woods for 55 hours during his attempt and made it only 8 miles, prompting Cantrell to imagine he could do at least 100 miles in that time. Now, Cantrell begins the race each year not with a starter pistol or bullhorn, but a lighter and a cigarette. Runners depart from Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee, about 50 miles from Knoxville. There’s no set start time (runners camp out the night before and await the warning via conch shell from Cantrell) and runners have to chart their own course from a map made available the day before the race. Participants have 12 hours to complete each of 5 loops, and have to tear out a page matching their race number of a book on each loop to prove they made it.
You can read another account of the race on Runner’s World, and the author’s post-script is another amazing story: after attempting the Barkley and making a documentary about running across the Sahara Desert, he’s now serving prison time for mortgage fraud.
Still want to enter? Hope you have good Googling and writing skills – there’s no official website or entrance instructions and only 35 will be allowed in each year, after completing an essay called “Why I should be allowed to run Barkleys Marathons.” The race is held in late March or early April each year, giving would-be runners a head start on figuring out how to enter.
Photo courtesy Flickr user Michael Hodge