I know you’re curious. I could tell you that it has a nice alliteration with it’s “p” sounds. I could tell you it has something to do with the nearest NFL team. Maybe it’s just part of the “Don Childrey” touch.
The “Gold Nugget” race name was inspired by the region’s gold mining history. I liked the way it tied in with the idea of finding something really special and unexpected. Hopefully those who raced the first Gold Nugget feel that way about the experience. I know I feel that way about the experience of producing such an adventure race.
This race also needed a name that had some symbolic meaning. Or at least something that sounded cool and could potentially inspire a cool looking tshirt design. I’ll spare you the long list of possibilities that I wrote down over the last few months. I eventually zeroed in on an experience I had when I lived in Montgomery County. The subject of my experience was mysterious enough to be interesting, possessed a strong enough graphic symbolism to represent the toughness and attitude of adventure racers, and I could find a word that alliterized with it well. 🙂
The story starts one sunny summer morning several years ago. I was riding in a truck down a back road with a co-worker. As we rounded a slight curve and headed into a straight-away, something up ahead caught my eye. A dark colored animal came out of the brush on the right side of the road and headed across the pavement. It walked with a purposeful, sinewy grace that immediately registered as feline. The head was held forward and slightly down, below its shoulders, just like a cat. It’s tail extended straight out behind it, not swinging, like a cat. And like a cat’s tail, it was almost as long as it’s torso.
Ok, I thought, I’m looking at a black house cat. I started to think about the superstitions about a black cat crossing one’s path, but then I realized that something was different about what I was seeing. I looked closer. The cat’s nose was just about over the yellow lines in the center of the road. And then it hit me.
The end of the cat’s tail was still over the grass on the side of the road!!
Being a highway engineer with NCDOT at the time, I was fully aware that the lanes on this particular road were 8 feet wide. That means this “house cat” was over 8 feet long from it’s nose to tip of it’s tail. That’s no house cat!
The cat was soon across the road and disappeared into the brush on the other side of the road. We slowed down of course, but could see no sign of it as we passed the spot. It took a while for what we had seen to truly register. Had we really seen a black cat that was 8 feet long? That couldn’t be an overweight house cat. It had to be a black panther, right? But that’s impossible, right?
I have never again seen such an animal in Montgomery County. But I did hear others tell similar stories of seeing large black cats. Some claim to have seen one with kittens in tow. Others claim one came up to their tractor while they were working a field. Others saw one cross the road while they were waiting for the school bus. There were even tales of dogs being killed in odd circumstances in rural areas.
With as many avid hunters as there are in the area, you would think that someone would end up with a animal like this in their sights and then in the bed of their pickup, despite the fact that it’s probably not legal to shoot such an animal that shouldn’t be here in the first place. But I never heard of anyone claiming to have shot one.
My normal reaction to such tales would have been – “that’s impossible”. But having actually seen one of these animals myself, and having had the benefit of someone beside me to confirm that I wasn’t hallucinating, I am now a believer.
The idea that a black panther, or several, could be roaming free in the Uwharries is exciting, mysterious, awe-inspiring and scary all at the same time. Kind of like the idea of setting out with a map and compass and a few friends to spend 4, 8 or 12 hours biking, paddling, and trekking through the forest to find some little orange flags. It doesn’t make sense. Why would you do that? It’s impossible.
But those of you who have done an adventure race before know the awe-inspiring feeling of accomplishment you get when your brain finally registers that it has just completed the course. Despite your doubts. Despite others’ doubts. Despite the impossibility of it. No one else but your teammates may believe you. And certainly no one else but them will know what you saw, and felt, and overcame along the way.
So there you have it, the Impossible Panther. Isn’t that enough inspiration to get you out to glide through the forest with feline grace despite the impossibility of the challenge? Ok, maybe the grace part is a bit too much to expect, but you get the idea.
Are you a believer? Are you ready to sign up for the Impossible Panther AR?
– Don Childrey, May 2007