No one ever tried to tell Nelson Snyder he couldn’t do something. Either that or he just chose to defy them.
Like most adventure racers, there is a perpetual voice inside his head that urges him to keep pushing the limits of convention, logic and self discipline.
“It’s a huge mental test just to keep moving,” said the 1989 Hood River Valley High School graduate and current Portland resident. “That’s the real adventure.”
Snyder, 30, has been chasing the pinnacle of physical and mental self-abuse for about three years, and has competed in world-class adventure races such as the Gorge Games, USA Supreme, and EcoChallenge.
His next challenge begins April 21 when he and four teammates travel to Vietnam to attempt the grueling 10- to 14-day, 600-mile Raid Gauloises — one of the world’s original adventure races, scheduled to begin April 27.
“Our goal is to finish the race,” said Snyder, who has competed with various teams in races of all distances and durations. “The Raid is more endurance-oriented than Gorge Games, and we’re going to have to take it more low key.
“The Gorge Games course is pure cardiac arrest. Your heart is going at 110 percent and you know someone is always right behind you. But we’ll have to pace ourselves for this one,” he said.
Snyder will travel to Vietnam with northern California-based Team Karma, which consists of co-founders Joann Grether and Brien Carothers, Charlie Kharsa, Neal Radford and two support team members.
Each of the 100-plus teams will be provided with a van and driver to help transport food, gear and first-aid equipment. But although each team will have field support, the route they choose to find the finish line will be entirely up to them.
“There is no given route, and one of the skills I bring to the group is navigation,” said Snyder, who is also the team’s strongest cyclist. “The support crew is just one aspect of the race. But we all work well together and accept each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
“When you spend up to two weeks together out in the hills and you can still walk away friends, you’ve got something good,” he said.
Snyder said he has witnessed teams break down during a race and considers himself fortunate to have found such a committed group of quality people to compete with at a world-class level.
“In a way, it’s hard to find anyone willing to commit to a race of this distance. But this group is very dedicated. We’re all in it for the sheer adventure of it.”
Snyder first raced with Team Karma last July in the 400-mile USA Supreme in and around Boise, Idaho, and realized immediately that the other group members were in search of the same level of
The synergy was so great that once Grether and Carothers raised the $12,000 Raid Gauloises entry fee, they instantly included Snyder in their plans.
Snyder said he hopes to compete in the Gorge Games adventure race again this year, but wasn’t able to commit yet due to a potential conflict with another race.
“I’ve competed on lots of teams and I usually choose the races that present the biggest challenges,” he said.