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The goddesses from Project Athena head to the Grand Canyon

September 28, 2009

Project Athena LDSCN0410OK, now here is something I am truly excited about!  Some of the most inspiring and accomplished people who I have ever come across, who have decided to put their energy towards helping others.

Robyn Benincasa is one of the world’s greatest athletes.  Sorry, folks, but adventure racers can put pretty much any Olympian to shame.  I don’t want to put down Olympians at all – what they do is amazing – but really, most of them are very very good at just one thing.  Adventure racers, on the other hand, have to be good at everything – mountain biking, running, all types of paddling, mountain climbing, rappelling.  Aside from having speed, strength and endurance, they need to have a huge range of highly technical skills in a number of sports, as well as strong skills in field such as navigation and nutrition.  And, because they must stick tight with their team-mates for days on end, in spite of being sleep-deprived and malnourished and exhausted and in pain, and they must get along and make wise decisions together, there is no room for big egos or snotty personalities.  They are highly accomplished and driven, yet easy-going and fun people.  Maybe that’s why I like them so much!

So, even among that group of amazing people, Robyn Benincasa shines.  She is almost the only racer who has been in the sport since its earliest days (e.g. the Eco-Challenges of the 1990s) who is still racing today.  And, she has stood on the podium for a great number of those races.

Well, a couple of years ago, Robyn dealt with her first major injury – one that had the potential to keep her from doing the sports that she loves so much.  Diagnosed with osteoarthritis, she was soon booked in for a hip resurfacing surgery – where much of the bone in her hip joint is replaced with chrome.  Because of the confidence she had from all of the challenges she had faced through her adventure racing career, as well as because of the great support group she had from her adventure racing friends, Robyn knew that, one way or another, she would make it through this.

That whole experience made her wonder, though, how women who are facing medical challenges but who do not have that kind of confidence or support network make it through.  And so Robyn decided to be that for them – along with some of her racing girlfriends, she founded Project Athena.

There is so much that I can say (and have said) about Robyn and her amazing team. I travelled with them for much of my 6-day, 232 km jungle ultramarathon that I ran in Costa Rica this past February (you can read about it in my reports for SleepMonsters) and I can honestly say that without Robyn’s help, which came in so many ways, I doubt that I would have made it across the finish line of that race.

And now I am heading out to hang out with the amazing women of Project Athena again.  I am on my way to the Grand Canyon, to accompany them on a fund-raising and awareness-raising hike of the Grand Canyon – rim to rim to rim in two days (yes, that’s down and back up one day, then all the way back the next day).  There will be about 20 people in our group, including many of Project Athena’s founding members, as well as several fund-raising gods and goddesses, as well as “athenaship” grant recipient, breast cancer survivor and athlete Sandy Kilburg.

Robyn herself is just recovering from a second hip-resurfacing operation – she will be out there but, last I talked to her, she wasn’t sure whether she would be able to be part of the hiking team, or be relegated to support crew for this one.

Keep an eye on www.sleepmonsters.com, where I will be uploading daily reports about the hike and the group.  And be sure to check out the Project Athena website – where you can read about the incredible athletic accomplishments of the founding members, read testimonials of the women that they have supported, and find out what you can do to make a difference in the lives of women who are facing life-altering medical conditions.

Oh – and keep an eye on my VideoBlog page, because my October film will be about this trip!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. chris sylvada permalink
    October 19, 2009 3:56 pm

    You are so right on about adventure racers and even more so about Robyn and all the rest of the PA crew. What a grand trip the rim to rim to rim was!! That was my second opportunity to follow Robyn along on a wild adventure – the first was the Race Across the West where she and Florence Debout kicked the pants off the vasy majority of men and set a new womens record racing from Oceanside CA to Taos New Mexico by bicycle in two days. Watching those two women burn up the road passing very capable and highly trained male road racers (especially on the gnarly hill climbs) was absolutely awesome.

    I now live for the opportunity to crew/assist on ANY event that has Robyn/Project Athena involved.

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