I can imagine that folks reading about my UFC experience probably think how smart it was for Rod and I to team up. That teaming up with someone is the way to do a Watertribe events. I don’t know if it was because we were both so smart or if it was something God had a hand in. I totally agree that Rod made my UFC experience special in so may ways. On the comment that teaming up with someone is the way to do these Watertribe events? I would say, “CAUTION: YOU ARE ABOUT TO ENTER THE DANGER ZONE.” The idea of having another person with you is a great concept. The challenge is ensuring the person or persons you are teaming up with have the right chemistry and skills. If there is bad team chemistry, or a lack of skills to function as a team, the challenge of the event will multiply tremendously. This is why I feel God had a hand in Rod and I teaming up. We didn’t know each other before we started the race. We had talked on the phone, but I couldn’t have picked him out of crowd if my life depended on it. Yet, even though we were complete strangers, the chemistry between us was perfect in so many ways and we both possessed the necessary skills to function as a team. So why was that?
The UFC is one of those events where, somewhere on the race course, a contestant is going to be experiencing a series of emotions that can range from intense pain, fatigue, various fears, etc. All these create mental challenges for the contestant to deal with. Usually those mental challenges occur at different times for each contestant. How someone deals with their own personal mental challenges can have an impact on their paddling partners. It can be inspirational or it can be irritating. To me, it is their mental toughness that determines how they deal with those mental challenges. That is also something that is very hard to assess without spending time with someone while they are stressed.
Mental toughness is something I think you are part born with, part developed through time living life, and part training. I discussed the training I did to increase my mental toughness in my post dated Nov 23, 2011, Dec 04, 2011, Dec 17,2011, and Jan 07,2011. In my post I highlighted four areas I feel you need to have mental toughness. Rod had mental toughness in all these four areas in a big way. Were we just lucky or was it divine intervention? At the start of the UFC I had no plans of teaming up with anyone primarily because the few people I would even consider teaming up with were not doing the UFC. Rod and I didn’t meet each other until checkpoint one where by chance we were both getting ready to launch for that day’s paddle at the same time. Since we launched at the same time and would be crossing Boca Grande Pass, we decided to do that crossing together. I think we both figured we would cross together and separate once across. In my post dated May 17,2012 I describe that day and how we ended up staying together.
Along with mental toughness the other thing that is a tough characteristic to pickup visually is the team skills of an individual. As with mental toughness, I think you can only get an assessment of the person’s team skills by spending some time with them when they are stressed. Most everyone can put on an act when things are going well. It is when things are not going so well or the person is in pain that you really see what kind of team player they are. I am not going to try and cover all the different aspects of being a good team player but I will touch on a few that I feel are important. The first is respecting the other person for who they are and adapting to accommodate their differences. As I have indicated in other blogs, Ron was a morning person whereas I was more of a night person. Ron was competing to win the event whereas I was competing to complete it. The differences were many yet we didn’t let our differences get under each others skin. The second is having confidence in the other person’s abilities and having the ego to let the other person be the leader when they have a strength in a particular ability. Ron was the river guy and I followed him when we were on the rivers. I was the ocean guy and Rod followed me when we were in big water. We swapped roles on the portage with Rod being the lead first and then me taking the lead in the second half. Rod picked out camp sites and I was the wake up person. The third, and I feel the most important, is communication and listening with an open mind. There were several times that Rod and I would disagree with an approach on how to do something but we were always able to talk it out and come to a decision. I will never forget one night near Jacksonville where Rod was really tired and he wanted to stop and sleep. We had been striking out on finding a campsite. We finally came up on this marsh island. Rod felt we could pull our canoes up on the grass and sleep in them. He was beat. I really didn’t want to sleep in a wet canoe and I was feeling pretty good. So we talked about it and Rod agreed to paddle on even though he was tired and felt that we would not find a better campsites. For the next hour we paddled and found this really nice campsite that wasn’t on the chart. In the morning Rod said, “I’m glad you kept us going because this camp site was a lot better.” In the Everglades is was just the opposite. I wanted to stop, let the wind die down and get back started in the morning. The wind was blowing extremely strong and I was just plain whipped. Rod wanted us to keep going even though it meant spending more time into a strong head wind and ultimately paddling in the Everglades at night. We talked about it and I agreed to keep going. I was glad he pushed us because it was the right decision to keep going. I don’t think we would have made it to checkpoint two if we hadn’t pushed on.
So teaming up with someone can be a great thing but I wouldn’t suggest doing it without first spending some quality paddling time with the other individual first. By quality paddling time I am not talking about an easy day paddle. I am talking about paddling time where each paddler is expereincing some discomfort. Rod and I were lucky and things turned out great. I would not hesitate teaming up with him again. With that said, I am still very hesitant on teaming up with others I don’t know no matter what their adventure resume says.