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My Brother, the G.O.A.T.

By Terresa Wellborn

My brother is a G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time). He has endured all manner of challenges in his life, most recently a divorce, a divided family, and unimaginable heart rending.

Still, he perseveres. One example? He regularly climbs tall mountains in a day. Or bikes 100 miles. Or makes the best homemade bread you’ve ever tasted. And he participates annually in The Mojave Death Race, a 250 mile relay race of endurance, heat, and insanity.

When you visit the race web site, you’ll see a backdrop of desert stretching past horizon to gray, nameless hills beyond. This race is like that, stretching past all boundaries of reality to no-man’s-land, the very edge of survival.

For a few days each summer, teams from across the country meet to battle it out on foot and wheel to see who’s the fastest. The irony? The race is in early June, a time of year when the temps regularly hit 120 degrees. The race location at the Mojave National Preserve in Nipton, California, isn’t accidental, either. It’s what locals call the high desert, a rattlesnaked moonscape where if the heat doesn’t kill you, the scorpions will. As if in consolation, they commonly shrug, “But it’s a dry heat.” Scant mesquite trees and creosote bushes don’t offer much cover. Sunscreen and water helps. And a strong support team.

This has intrigued me: how my brother perseveres, how he has what it takes. When I’ve asked him, his response is always the same, “It’s all here,” and taps his head. “You decide to do it, and do it.”

Of course it’s more than that. Months and months of training. A solid bike. Knowing your limits, your ghosts, your dreams. But what starts in your head, that decision, relays to every part of you, and becomes (all cheesy cliches aside) reality. And that is something formidable indeed.

Last year a team of strapping, twenty-something Marines raced against my brother’s weekend-warrior-forty-somethings and guess who won? My brother’s team. Experience and years of training bested the Devil Dogs. And not only has his team won one year, but the past three years in a row. How? Part decision, part insanity, part training, all grit.

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With us, it’s mostly a struggle between roots, ciphers, and shades of light.

-Tomas Tranströmer

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How do we seek light despite the dark knocks of life? I struggle with my own interpretations of light and dark, struggle and success. Years of wins, losses, and all shades in between. But the older I get, the more I realize what doesn’t matter. The noise and nuisance, like heat and rattlesnakes, marines and mirages at the periphery of my brother’s race. We can ignore what’s in our periphery, because the race, the real race, is not with them, or with anyone for that matter. The defining race of our lives is with ourselves.

So I’ve made a decision. This is the year. I want to join my brother’s winning team for the The Mojave Death Race. I’ve been training; I’m ready. Not as a runner mind you, but a cheerleader, riding along in my brother’s support van, handing out hydration bottles and granola bars.

 

About Terresa Wellborn

Terresa Wellborn has been published in BYU Studies, Dialogue, and several anthologies including Fire in the Pasture, Monsters and Mormons, and Dove Song: Heavenly Mother in Mormon Poetry. She has a BA degree in English Literature and a MLIS degree in Library and Information Science. Her joys include her four children, books, and chocolate babka. She reads faster than she hikes, runs faster than she writes, and has often been mistaken for Miss Frizzle. When not on a mountaintop, she prefers to dwell in possibility.

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