Adventure athletes Tracyn Thayer and Norm Greenberg, of Bryson City, North Caolina, have an interesting 24/7 marriage. These wilderness enthusiasts work at the always bustling Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) in western North Carolina, which is literally a stone's throw from the Appalachian Trail. They are adventure racing teammates and co-directors of NOC's adventure racing school. And they are one of the top American husband-wife combos in the sport, with numerous top placing in competition. RailRiders chatted with them.
Question: How does racing and training with Tracyn either help or hinder your marriage?
Norm: I consider it almost completely helpful. Because of it, we spend more time together than most couples. We know more about each other, because we see each other in states of mind and body that few see, and we experience similar extreme emotions at similar moments. Pain, anguish, exhaustion, elation, determination, relief. We hit higher highs and lower lows together.
Q: Any advice to other couples who live and race together?
Norm: Be honest about why you are racing together. Are you just doing it to please your partner? Any unresolved couple issues will come out in a race. Deal with them before, when they arise, and don't let the extra baggage weigh you and your teammates down during a race.
Q: What do you like most about racing and training with Tracyn?
Norm: I like the depth that our relationship has reached as a result, And being able to go on so many adventures together. I was concerned when we got married that the adventurous side of my life would wane. Instead, it's grown incredibly!
Q: So, Tracyn, How did you first get interested in adventure racing?
Tracyn: In January of 1996, a co-worker at Nantahala Outdoor Center tried out for Team US Calvary, a military team from Georgia heading to the Eco-Challenge in British Columbia in August 1996. She made the team and in February '96 she traveled to Vermont for some mountain school training with her team. She met another military team that was in the process of kicking their woman off their team. They asked my friend Julie if she knew anyone that was qualified and might be interested. I made the team, and competed in Eco-Challenge 1996 in British Columbia as my first adventure race. Nothing like diving in. Norm worked on the support crew in 1996, and vowed to join me on the race course. Our first race together was Eco-Challenge 1997, where we placed 11th overall, the 2nd American team.
Q: What is your athletic background?
Tracyn: How far back should I go? I played soccer, basketball, and softball all through high school, along with cross-country and downhill skiing. In college I skied and rock climbed. Now I consider myself a skilled athlete in most of what adventure races throw at competitors: paddling, cycling, hiking and rope skills. But I credit my immense attraction to the sport to my parents who insisted that my childhood be filled with weekend canoe and backpack trips throughout the New Hampshire and Maine woods and rivers. My love and respect for the outdoors is what drives me to the sport and there's an indescribable peace I find within it.
Q: Your job background?
Tracyn: Well, I waited tables all through high school and college â€” it teaches patience and organization.. Once I received my degree in Geophysical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines in 1991, I tried the 'real job' thing for a while. I worked for two years as field engineer an oil well service, then as a seismic engineer for the same company, flying around in helicopters or floating around in big boats out to Oil Rigs. It was great money for a 25-year old, but I had to submit myself to a crappy quality of life. Then, I took a whitewater kayak clinic at NOC. During that clinic, I realized I was compromising the things I really enjoyed for a high paying job. By April 1995 I had quit my job, and took a job for minimum wage as a floor sales staff. By June of 1995 I'd been hired as one of the five store buyers. I have also co-developed, with my husband, NOC's annual adventure race, the endurance race series, and teach over 30 days of adventure racing and mountain biking programs a season.
Q: What are Norm's strengths and weaknesses in adventure racing?
Tracyn: He is a strong navigator, an awesome paddler, and great on the bike and on his feet. For his size, he can hump a big pack! He's very level headed, and often benefits from his Outward Bound days and managing group dynamics in stressful situations. But Norm doesn't always recognize when he is getting tired, and does not do much to admit it either. His pace will slow to a snail's pace before he will admit it.
Q: How did you meet?
Tracyn: Norm was my waiter at a brewery back in Maine. He was also working for Hurricane Island Outward Bound School in Newry, Maine at the time. I was back in Bethel, Maine for Christmas of 1993 â€“ we talked to each other for the first time on the 26th of December. The rest is history. We have been married since October of 1996.
Q: Tracyn, any advice for other couples who live and race together?
Tracyn: It's important not to be competitive with each other. We sometimes have to remind each other that we are training for the same team. Healthy competition is good and productive to progress, but there can be a fine line between being supportive and being overly critical.
Q: What happens during those "puppy pile" times, when racers are forced to sleep together during mandatory night zones? How does he feel about you snuggling with other guys?
Tracyn: It has ever been an issue. There is not much sexual about adventure racing. When it's time to go horizontal, nothing more than sleep is on one' mind. Norm and I often use each other to stay warm and let the other guys work out there own 'nest' Nothing like two big guys jockeying for the top or bottom position! . If he didn't trust me, I'm sure it'd be more of an issue, or, if he wasn't a racer and didn't fully understand the sport.
Q: Have you ever 'fought' during a race? Any incidents?
Tracyn: I don't recall ever fighting during a race. The most stressful times for us are the stress of getting ready, when we always seem to have a discussion about 'is this worth it?' while we're packing up, taking the dog to camp, organizing a housesitter, or figuring out the finances. When we race we get into a minimalist mode of conversation. We share the same focused goal, and once it's over, we have to concentrate on being 'polite' to each other again. I'm all about "please" and "thank you", and it takes about a week after a long race to get those words consistently back into our vocabulary.
Q: Your thoughts on RailRiders, Tracyn?
Tracyn: I've been sold on RailRiders from the first time I tried an Eco-Mesh shirt. The cool thing about the Eco-Mesh shirt is that it is not extremely 'techie' looking and thus also appeals to a less heavy-duty-user customer, yet it's built not to succumb to a burning Brazilian sun, or the stinging nettle of Western North Carolina. From a racer's perspective, as well as my perspective as a buyer for the NOC, RailRiders clothes are incredible products at a reasonable price. I have made them a part of my personal mandatory adventure racing gear list.
Q: And you, Norm?
Norm: "RailRiders' clothes are comfortable, durable and eminently functional. Truly some of the best clothes for adventure racing. We don't leave home without them!"