This Tyrolean Racer Inspired Alex Honnold To Harness Up

Alex Honnold was so inspired by Stephen's performance in the Tyrolean Race at our Breakthrough event on April 11 that he offered to give it a go himself (Alex put on a harness and everything). Here's a hard-hitting conversation with the man who inspired the magic - Stephen Sherman.
Kristina Ciari Kristina Ciari
April 16, 2015

Suspended high above an audience of 450 Breakthrough Event guests on April 11, Stephen Sherman was readying himself for the biggest race of his life: a Tyrolean Traverse to rival the ages. The race was tense and fraught with drama, but he came out triumphant!

To get to the heart of what happened up there, I sat down with Stephen to ask him the hard hitting questions. Let's get right to it.

[KC] Stephen - let's cut to the chase - you were the best racer out there. What did you do to prepare?

  • Kristina, if you've ever trained for a marathon, or know someone who has, you know it not only takes time and effort, but a lot mental preparation to be ready. I spent countless hours (at least two) this past week training for this race. It took a bunch of hard work and dedication... and I ate a little extra Sriracha on my Pho earlier in the evening - that stuff is like rocket fuel for my arms. 

[KC] Walk us through the race from your point of view. You struggled to pull the second flag at the end, and things got tense for a minute. Was there ever a moment you didn't think you'd win?

  • From my point of view the race was a bit of a speed blur - winning takes a lot of concentration. In terms of a lapse in confidence in my ability to bring home gold, I have to admit that learning Rebecca is a semi-Olympic rower and Jake once Tyrolean traversed the Grand Canyon both shook my confidence. Obviously not enough to break me.

[KC] What did it feel like to look over at the other racers and realize you were the winner?

  • When I was a kid I collected baseball cards. Once I bought a deck, opened it, and found Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas, and Carlton Fisk all in the same pack! As an eight year old, this was the best day of my life. I'd say winning the race was just like that feeling, only with a really constricting harness on. 

[KC] Did the fact that you were racing for conservation - for the ENVIRONMENT - give you a natural edge?

  • Naturally.

[KC] Any words for your competitors (other than try harder next time)?

  • Yeah, I guess I'd like to say 'Thank You'. I know they aren't feeling the impact of this race like I am: the constant interviews, TV highlights, sponsorships... heck, I can't even grab a cup of coffee without being asked for an autograph! This race elevated the sport to a new level. Tyrolean is now a household name, and it wouldn't have been possible without the fierce competition of Jake and Rebecca. 

[KC] Your performance inspired a second race between all-star climbers Alex Honnold, Colin Haley, and Mike Gauthier. Alex, who was not originally planning to race, said, "I was so inspired - I just really wanted to get up there and show what I can do." So two questions for you Stephen: Were you upset to not be invited into this "Pro" race? And who do you think would win in a hand-over-hand competition between you and Alex?

  • Are you serious? Have you seen Honnold's arms?! I'm 5'8", 160 lbs. Each of Alex's arms has those stats!

[KC] How will you use this new-found Tyrolean expertise in your every day life?

  • Traffic congestion in Seattle is at an all-time high. I'm considering a tyrolean commute. It's quick, clean transportation at its finest. Oh! And I'm considering working out a deal with Uber to be the first airborne employee. 

[KC] Tyrolean commute! Where do I sign up? Okay, last question: For our readers planning their own Tyrolean race, any words of advice from the Breakthrough champion?

  • Double check your knots and your partner's knots. Safety first! And of course - Sriracha. Always Sriracha.
[KC] Bonus question: What does Adventure mean to you? 

I think Yvon Chouinard had it right when he said, "The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong, that's when adventure starts."  I don't know that we give ourselves the opportunity to have enough real adventure. I know I don't. I urge everyone to get outside and take a chance on an adventure...but don't forget your 10 Essentials

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Michelle Smith
Michelle Smith says:
Fri, Apr 17, 2015 10:54 AM

"Naturally"... I laughed.