By Jeanne Sager
DAMASCUS, PA March 12, 2002 Erick Greffrath has finally found his equals in sports. But he had to go all the way to Guam to find them.
Greffrath, the manager of the ski chalet at the Villa Roma in Callicoon, went to the small island in the North Pacific last year to compete in his first adventure race an arduous journey through mountainous terrain.
There he met Allan Morrison and Grant Loveridge, two New Zealanders living on Guam.
The kiwis as Greffrath calls them, were intrigued by the 1980 Honesdale High School graduates competitive drive and ability to master a course.
They asked him to sign on as their third teammate in the National Geographic Action Asia Challenge.
The race, held on January 19, entailed 30 kilometers of swimming, kayaking, mountain biking, rock scrambling, trail running and rappelling for more than six hours straight.
And Greffrath loved every minute of it.
This is something I just love to do, he explained. Its a thrill to do.
Greffrath has always been an athlete. He competed in the decathlon during his college years at Penn State University and built up his strength as a member of a bobsled team.
But this kind of racing is new to him. Only in the last few years has he been turned on to the triathlon, and he has learned to change his bodys focus.
I may not be as muscular anymore, but my endurance has changed, he explained.
And hes learned that the strength of his team lies in their compatibility.
Its really a team effort, Greffrath noted. It helps push you, and you help each other.
And seeing a lot of beautiful countryside (the race was held in Hong Kong) was an added bonus.
It was pretty magnificent countryside, Greffrath said. It was a unique country a lot of fun.
The trio placed fourth in the contest, behind three teams with corporate sponsors.
The team, nicknamed Two Kiwis and a Blonde from Seattle, was supported solely by money from their own pockets.
I thought we had a shot at winning it, but they were more experienced than me and they knew we didnt really, said Greffrath, who is the son of Richard and Victoria Greffrath of Damascus, Pa. But were all pretty competitive.
And we had a legitimate shot at placing in the top three.
The trio had a few bumps along the way, however. They had assembled their bikes in an airport at midnight and by the time they got on the course in Hong Kong, there were a few kinks to work out.
And one of Greffraths teammates was suffering with an injured knee.
Its a tribute to his toughness that he finished, Greffrath said, and that we finished so strongly.
Greffrath is excited to jump back into the game and try again, but he has to wait for his teammates knee to heal and they hope to find sponsors who can help cover the high costs to enter the races.
But hes definitely caught the racing bug, he said, and made fast friends with his teammates.
We go out and have some good times, he said. Theyre both married with children and they invited me over for dinner all the time.
But Im just the single guy, Greffrath added with a laugh. I can devote more time to training.
Hes hopeful that the knee surgery will go well, however, so that the team doesnt fall apart.
Without him, we dont know if we can keep going, he explained. We dont know if we can find someone to replace him.
Our fitness levels and competitiveness are just so well matched, Greffrath noted.
And the team has meshed so well, he hates to see a good thing break up.
In the one Guam race we had a team of four and the other guy did well, so there are people out there, he said.
Regardless of the turnout, Greffrath knows hell be back out on the track soon.
This is just something I love to do, its a thrill to do, he said.
Note: The National Geographic Action Asia Challenge featuring Two Kiwis and A Blonde from Seattle is scheduled to be broadcast today (Tuesday, March 12) on the National Geographic channel.