This summer, a group of women put together an all-mamas team to compete in the epic 24 hour Questival race in Salt Lake City. I mean think about it… who is better at multi-tasking for hours on end with little to no sleep—MOTHERS. The Adventure Mama Llamas, as they called themselves, had a challenging, rewarding, and hilarious experience.

Read on to learn more and if you’re interested in putting together your own Adventure Mamas Questival Team, reach out: hello@adventuremamas.org

What is Questival?

Essentially, it’s an adult adventure-scavenger-hunt-race. For 24 hours, you and your team complete as many challenges possible. Teams range in size from 2 to 6 people. This year there were over 350 challenges. Challenges range in points based on how difficult they are to complete. Cotopaxi sponsors the event and they now hold Questival’s in various cities all over the United States and some outside of the country. While Salt Lake City was our “hub”, there were challenges all over Utah and even some outside of the state. Challenges fall into the following categories: Adventure and Fitness, Camping and Survival, Community and Cultural, Food, Hiking and Travel, Service and Environment, Sport and Fitness, and Surprise. The winning team receives travel vouchers and also a chance to compete in the Questival World Championship. There are also many other prizes for Cotopaxi gear and in-store credit for specific challenges. Not only do points matter, but so does how much your peers “like” your challenges, so creativity is huge!

1.Tell us about your team.

Six super chill, badass women who all got outside of their comfort zone and had an awesome adventure.

Six women, most of whom had not met prior to agreeing to this zany adventure. It tells you everything you need to know that all of us signed on to do this even though we each knew only one or maybe two people involved. Everyone on the team was willing to get out there and have a good time doing something we really knew nothing about, knowing that any other mom willing to jump on board was bound to be pretty cool!

Six mamas, 19 kids between all of us! Most of us only knew only one or two teammates in the to start but the team dynamic couldn’t have been more perfect! We couldn’t have landed a better team even if we had tried to plan it! So many talents and experiences and variety between the six of us that blended so well to help us complete all the challenges.

2.Why an all-mamas team?

Because Mamas rule!! But seriously, I don’t think I could have paid my husband enough money to join in on this with me. It created this crazy cool dynamic that wouldn’t have existed with our husbands there.

I had considered doing this with my husband at one point, but am so glad it was just us moms! We started out with a basic understanding of each other’s lives—we’re all moms after all–and were able to connect and be nuts without any weird couple dynamics or drama. Frankly, it would also be a lot more difficult to pull off an adventure like this with couples—who would take care of the kids? It’s good for women to get out there and do fun stuff and let dads do their part in actually parenting; systemically, it’s much easier for men to take off and do something fun for a weekend because often women are just presumed to be around and willing to shoulder the extra parenting duties. Forming an all-women team is a subtle nod to the idea that there needs to be more parity in moms getting out there and having a good time while their significant others pull their weight at home!

In the beginning, when people were trying to decide whether to sign up, we debated an all female team or a team of a few couples. In the end, more women could join without hubbies than could with their spouses.

I was nervous at first to have an all women’s team. I had some people who had done the race the year before tell me they thought we wouldn’t be able to be nearly as competitive as a team of all women compared to if we had a few guys on the team. Quite honestly, I feel we were just as competitive. In fact, it may have even been to our advantage to have a team of all women. There’s something to how silly and creative we were when our significant others weren’t around. One of the husband’s commented that he couldn’t believe the hilarious things his wife did and came up with. And, none of the challenges seemed to require a “Y” chromosome to be completed.

3.Tell us about a funny/memorable moment during Questival.

There were so many. My personal favorite was when we sang ‘Kiss the Girl” from The Little Mermaid to the couple who, interestingly enough, was celebrating their anniversary! It was hilarious and sweet and I’m pretty sure that couple will remember the six crazy mothers who sang to them for the rest of their lives.

Ah, where to begin. I will obviously never forget Shay eating an insanely huge live beetle off the wall of my house. Hands down the ballsiest move, although Nathalie had some pretty fantastic stranger interactions, including belting out–was it Janis Joplin?–on main street downtown. She was fearless. I personally have rarely laughed as hard as I did while Rachael and I were slogging up the side of Ensign Peak at the hottest point of the day, sleep-deprived and out of our minds, hungry and in full-on loco mode. Or Tanya’s perfect sunrise handstand at Willow Lake. There were also moments that I discovered after, like Kristi’s mad knot-tying skills, which she had been mastering in the back seat of the van while I got us from A to B and tried to avoid falling asleep at the wheel!

One of the challenges was to find a razor scooter and shoot a demo clip as if we were trying to get sponsored. Mariah was driving us back to her house to get some gear we needed and happened to see some kids from her neighborhood out in the cul-de-sac. One had a scooter. She hopped out of the van and asked them if she could borrow their scooter for a minute. I don’t think she even waited for his response. She started doing her best “tricks” and her pitch for why she should be sponsored. She gave no explanation to the boys for why the adult neighbor lady was acting so crazy on their scooter and why a bunch of other moms were videoing her from inside a van. I’m sure they thought she was nuts!

One of the most funny/memorable moments during the questival for me was when Shay saw a beetle on the side of Mariah’s house and decided to eat it!  This was a challenge she was prepared to do.  For me, putting a bug in my mouth is a mind game I don’t think I’ll ever be able to overcome.  But Shay grabbed that juicy beetle the size of a quarter off the wall determined to eat it!  It wiggled out of her hands while hissing but Shay had already committed.  She picked that beetle up, threw it in her mouth, and began chewing like there was no tomorrow!  Her last comment before swallowing was, “Is it dead?!!”  I found out later she was concerned about swallowing it alive…something that hadn’t crossed my mind in the time being but now terrifies me.  LOL!!!  I am forever in awe of her and all of the amazingly awesome women I was able to spend 24 hours of non-stop adventuring with.  Love you guys!

4.How did you prepare for Questival?

We met up Thursday night and went through the challenge list. We chatted with each other in the weeks leading up to it as well.

Shay got us thinking about how to prepare well in advance. She coordinated the cool shirts and we met for dinner one night as well as getting together when the list came out. The list was overwhelming, and honestly, trying to figure out a preparation strategy was one of the toughest things.

We designed shirts and had a bunch of pre-event challenges we could earn points for in the weeks leading up to the race. Also, the challenge list comes out a day before the race. We got together the day before to try and make a plan for what to do, what supplies we would need, and our general route based on the locations of the challenges.

The team met a few weeks in advance to get to know each other and figure out high-level things like who may have a vehicle they can drive. Then we met the night before when the challenge list was announced to get an idea of what types of challenges we wanted to attempt.

 

5. Were there any especially challenging moments or points that you wanted to quit? How did you persevere?

You would think that with five children, I would be used to not sleeping.  But no. I crashed hard mid morning on Saturday.  It was all I could do to keep my eyes open.  I wasn’t at the point of quitting, no way. But it was such a struggle to stay awake.

Going without sleep definitely had its tough moments. After completing an all-nighter we started a hike up to Willow Lake in an attempt to knock out the challenge to do that hike and also get a sunrise picture. About halfway there we realized we had forgotten the damn totem that has to be in every picture. I volunteered to run back down to the car to get it. That trail-run back up the steep path, exhausted and grumpy, I definitely questioned the wisdom the entire undertaking and considered parking it right there on the side of the trail for a nap! But had I quit then, I would have missed Nathalie downing some worms at the top! (-:

I actually got a little nervous the day before the race. But after that there was never a moment I wanted to quit. It was too much fun! Now sleep… that was a different story! We originally planned to sleep. But in the middle of the night we couldn’t decide when the best time to sleep would be. We ended up not sleeping and because of it we met up with another team that was super fun. We fed off of each other’s creativity, got a ton of challenges completed,  and had a crazy, good time. I’m so glad we didn’t sleep!

Going without sleep was pretty tricky around 2 a.m. But once we got up to the mountains and started our camping challenges I got some renewed energy that carried me through the rest of the day.

 

 

6.Why did you decide to sign up?

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  This was so outside of my comfort zone and that’s the main reason I signed up.  I wanted to do something I had never done before.  Also, it sounded crazy fun!

Perhaps the better question is, why not? Why don’t women do all kinds of cool things they could still do even though they have little ones at home? Because it’s harder for women to get out–they have to do a lot more coordination for childcare, making sure all the routines are covered, and shouldering the burden of guilt for leaving kids behind. It’s not fair at all, but it’s often the way it is. I love that this group of women just said sure, why the hell not?!? We had two breastfeeding moms on our team! When women hear about a rad opportunity, they need to just say yes first, and work out the details later! I’ve committed myself to this approach and been able to do a lot more cool stuff because I just have realized if I do the “responsible” thing and stay home with the kids, I’ll just be bitter that I’m not out doing something fun and my husband is. That’s no good for anyone.

I think things like this are a riot! I heard of it last year but didn’t have time to try to put together a team. This year I was sure I wanted to do it but didn’t know if I knew enough of THAT KIND of people. Who would be willing to do something crazy like this? So, I put an event post together on AMI, and just like that, six like-minded, silly-crazy chicks signed up! It was fate!

I signed up because over the course of this past year I have met so many amazing women that want to continue adventuring post kids.  It was an epiphany of sorts!  It sounds funny but I honestly did not know there were so many of us.  I love that these platforms (Adventure Mamas, etc) have come about to bring us together.  Before finding Adventure Mamas and similar organizations striving to empower women I’d feel the major mom guilt of, “Should I be doing this?  Why do I feel the need to have my OWN adventures?”  Now, I have what feels like an endless supply of badass mamas ready to adventure at the drop of a hat, these feelings have disappeared!  I feel strong, I feel brave, I feel ready to join in on an epic 24 hour adventure race with my fellow mamas!

I wanted to do something that was out of my comfort zone while getting the chance to meet some new like-minded mamas.

 

 

7. Through this experience, did you learn anything that translates into everyday life or motherhood?

Moms need to have FUN.  We’re so busy taking care of everyone else, we forget that we need to get out and do some crazy fun stuff ourselves! Also, when put to the task, us mothers can handle it! We knocked out so much stuff in 24 hours. Basically, we rock.

Ditto to Kristi and Shay. There were plenty of things that didn’t go according to plan over the course of 24 hours. Just as in motherhood, you have to just roll with it and have a good time with it even when it’s not the course you may have envisioned. We didn’t all agree all the time about the way to allocate our time, whether to sleep or not, which challenges to focus on, etc. but it all worked out great in the end! Same with motherhood–there’s no perfect way to divide up all the responsibility, just handle what gets thrown at you and move on the next thing without obsessing about the details!

There’s such a fine line between quality vs. quantity. How creative and spiced up does it need to be? Yet, how much time is it going to take? …and racking up the points matters! Just remember that when your kid asks you to do their science project and you’re supposed to make cookies for the PTA meeting and your dog just peed on your mother in-law, who unexpectedly stopped by for an unannounced visit.

8. Is there anything about motherhood that gave you a ‘leg-up’ for this sort of event?

The ability to handle multiple things in a short period of time and be creative in how we handled them.

Anger management. Lol. I’m mostly kidding, but we did all have our tired cranky moments, and I’m sure everyone had to tap into their “patient mom” side to ride out any annoyance or frustration that came up. Moms get plenty of practice doing that!

Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, multi-tasks like a mother… especially on no sleep. We were actually the most productive as the race went on. How does that even make sense?!

9. How did your group dynamic change from beginning to end?

As time went on, the lack of sleep affected us more.  I’ll admit, I was cranky lol.  But we powered through and handled it and at the end, the feeling of accomplishment really made us all proud and brought us together.

We each hit a cranky moment along the way. Surprisingly, I think that’s one of the things that helped bond us as friends!

Not sure that the group dynamic changed as much, however, as the challenge went on and we all got more and more tired, it definitely showed at times with how we all approached the various challenges and interacted with each other.  Overall a fantastic experience!

 

10. What advice do you have for a new mama who is unsure about how to blend motherhood and adventure?

It can be done. Seeking those things that challenge you and are outside your comfort zone are what will grow you as a person. Becoming a mother doesn’t mean the end of your passions and adventures.  You just have to navigate through those and do it.  Have a strong support system and continue to seek out those things that challenge you.  You’ll have some rad stories to tell your kids when you get home.

See No. 6 above. Just do it! Also, don’t smother your own wants and desires for motherhood. Men don’t seem to have much of a problem saying what they want without feeling guilty or beating themselves up. Moms need to work hard sometimes to overcome feeling guilty about getting out there and doing cool stuff. Kids are resilient–I’ve agonized over so many things we’ve left our kids behind to do: hike Kilimanjaro, countless long mountain biking days or weekends, trips abroad, weekend canyoneering trips, etc–but I *hope* what my kids see is that I love them, I always come back, there are other people who love them and can keep them alive while I’m gone, and that moms are epic adventurers too!! I think all of these lessons are at least as important as being the one there to wipe up their spills and shuttle them back and forth to school; you’ll get PLENTY of chances to be there for them in the day-to-day; make time to be there for yourself too!!

Define what motherhood and being a good mother looks like for you. Take a few examples from role models who have meant a lot to you in your life and whom you admire, and throw the rest out the door. There are a bazillion ways to be a good mother, and the only way to determine what a good mother looks like is for you to define that for yourself. The best thing you can do is be a first-rate version of yourself instead of a second-rate version of someone else. If you loved to adventure before you had kids, you will continue to need adventure after having kids to be your best self.

Don’t compare yourself to other mamas. Your life may not allow you to do as much adventure stuff as other moms, and that’s totally fine. When the opportunity presents itself though, take it!

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