DeAnna Aisner’s Ladies Offroad Challenge Experience
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DeAnna Aisner’s Ladies Offroad Challenge Experience

Author: DeAnna Aisner

One day in April, I was scrolling through videos on Facebook and stumbled across a video hosted by Charlene Bower. She was talking about a competition for off-roading and I was instantly intrigued. I listened to the video, then I watched the video again, and then I decided to apply and give it a whirl. What was the worst that could happen? My Ladies Offroad Challenge entry form was completed and sent in with the hopes of only having an opportunity to put myself out there like I have never done before. I was TERRIFIED. I was out of my comfort zone, out of my box, and completely out of my bubble. All the applicants went through the necessary steps to try to obtain a spot in the Top 30. We needed votes of confidence from people we knew and even people that we have never met. The day came for the announcement of the Top 30 and I was super nervous. I will explain my nervousness later. I, me, this girl, the woman that has had no confidence or good self-esteem, made it into the Top 41! I was thrilled that I had even made it that far and felt accomplished for even having my name called out on that live video.

Then came a new set of challenges and requirements to be completed. I got all of those done for the attempt at making it into the Top 10. The women that made it to the Top 10 would be traveling to Arizona for a four day training weekend so that Charlene Bower could narrow it down for the Top 3. The Top 3 spots are for three separate events to be held later in the year: the 15th Achieve Tahoe Rubicon Trail Experience, the 50th Baja 1000 with BFGoodrich Tires media assistant, and the 1st Fury Rode. We were all told that making it to the Top 10 was the win. The Top 10 weekend was the fun, and the three main events for the Top 3 will be work. Needless to say, I was completely shocked that a small town girl with no proper or formal training made it into the Top 10! I was headed to Arizona for an experience of a lifetime and I would also soon find out it would be an experience to learn more about offroading and even more about MYSELF.

I made it to Arizona on June 8, 2017 very early in the morning. Motivated, but scared. Tired, but excited. Happy, but homesick. I was very eager to learn and soak it all in so that I could come back home with more knowledge than I had left with. I met Brenda Nichols first, and then I finally got to meet Charlene Bower. That was an incredible moment for me. I was also greeted by Angela Hinkley. It was a very quick greeting and then we were off! We had places to go and people to see. There was NEVER time to waste.

The number ONE word of advice and the main suggestion given for success was to take care of ourselves. YOU take care of YOU! I heard this being said, but I definitely did not listen. I had no idea how to only worry about ME. Only take care of ME. Figure things out for only ME. This would prove to be my biggest challenge out of the entire 4 days. I spent precious time and energy worried about everyone else and trying to do things for everyone else but myself. There are several challenges that I personally have that nobody knew about because I wanted to prove to only myself that I could do this. I wanted to succeed so badly that I neglected myself on so many occasions. I am shy, I have difficulty learning, I am socially awkward, I have horrible sleep patterns, I embarrass easy, I frustrate easily when I don’t understand something as quick as everyone else, I assume more than I should, and finally, I NEVER give myself enough credit. I have proven to be my own worst enemy. BUT, the Ladies Offroad Challenge Top 10 weekend was about to turn so many of those negative things around into something positive.

Thursday evening, we got all gussied up in our “fancy pants” for our first day of challenges. You wouldn’t think having a professional photo taken of yourself could be difficult, but for some of us, it’s hard. Shoulders back, chest out, and a big smile on my face is not a norm for me, but I did it and it turned out beautiful. We then went to CREATE at the Arizona Science Center and had a challenge to move a ball six inches without touching it using circuits and motors and even Legos and cardboard. It was fun and we were in three different teams. Every group completed the task successfully. The night ended late and we had an early morning coming up. I attempted sleep but I was not very successful. I tossed and turned and was starting to completely overthink everything. Approximately two hours of sleep was achieved.

Friday morning came very quick. Feeling like a zombie was starting to set in but I was very excited to see what was in store for all of us for the day. Shop tours! Nobody would think that touring amazing shops would be scary, but if you throw in the fact that you have to tour the shop, retain a lot of information (always take notes), do live coverage interviews that you have no experience doing, and then write an article about the place you toured in a matter of minutes, then it definitely becomes scary for some people. I feel blessed and honored to have had the chance to tour and learn about Jagged X, Geiser Brothers, UTV Inc., and SDHQ on such a personal level and meet incredible hard working people in this industry. I learned an incredible amount of information that day and also learned one of my first lessons about myself. I began getting frustrated with myself because of what I didn’t know, instead of zeroing in on my strengths and what I DID know. I really want to thank the other ladies who also taught me a lot that day as well. Passing on your knowledge was so kind.

We had a quick dinner, and I also had to give myself a quick pep talk. We then got started on Garage Night. Winches, Hi-Lift Jacks, bead locks, air tools, and some good old fashioned hard work and getting dirty. This was the highlight of my day because I was able to soak in so many techniques and information to help guide me better. I felt good about myself that night and what I was accomplishing. It was so amazing to see the other nine ladies show off their skills and talents and watch them beam with smiles. We ALL learned new things that night. I was exhausted but my head was spinning with so much information from the day and also thoughts of home and family. At this point, I also had not fully grasped the concept of taking care of myself and having better self-confidence. It was a very slow process for me to truly understand what this meant.

Saturday was again, a very early morning where we needed to be packed and out the door in a hurry. We were on our way to Sedona! It was a long drive there and everyone was so excited when we pulled into Barlow Adventures. Having the pleasure and opportunity to meet Nena Barlow created a lot of excitement and amped me up for an incredible day. Again, seeing the amazement and excitement from the other nine ladies was awesome! Sedona is beautiful and being able to wheel in Sedona is a huge plus. We were given maps, four Jeeps and told to hit the trails. There were three women to each Jeep and we switched drivers and co-drivers throughout the entire trail of the Diamondback Gulch. I was challenged here as well because I was not up to speed on my map skills. I couldn’t figure out where we were and again, I got frustrated with myself for not knowing how to do something correctly. When I was frustrated, I ended up hitting my head on the seatbelt holder, which caused our entire group to have to stop. COMPLETE EMBARRASSMENT! But in that moment, I sucked it up, figured out the map in a hurry, and was able to help guide us the entire way. I accomplished something that I didn’t think I could do. Huge success for me!

We then came to a part of the trail that was very steep and quite a challenge for me because I had never went down a trail like this before. I was scared. I will not sugarcoat how I felt in that moment. I was in a Jeep with Jennifer. My turn came to go down the hill and back up and my knees were shaking. My hands were shaking. I was saying repeatedly that I could not do this. But, Jennifer quickly reminded me that I WILL do this. So I took a deep breath and ended up accomplishing something that only moments before I was terrified to do. I DID IT!!! I was smiling so hard that it made my face hurt. I felt good about myself and what I had just done. I was also taught about bumping from Jaime and Charlene. The day ended in Sedona and we headed back toward Phoenix.

Next surprise, Shooter’s World!!! This was my forte. I work with guns, I love guns and I always enjoy shooting. Most of the women had experience with guns. Being able to shoot really topped off the day for me. I had good shot groups and I felt very comfortable with what we were doing because it was something I had knowledge about and felt confident doing. Charlene had some amazing targets made for us that had the Ladies Offroad Network logo on them. It was a great way to end the day. We got home late and off to bed everyone went to prepare for another early morning.

Friday and Saturday flew by, and before I could blink, it was Sunday. I had to quickly drag myself up and out of bed to prepare for the day. Part of me was sad because I knew this was the last day and the other part of me was terrified as to what the final challenge was going to be. This would be the day that I had to realize how much I needed to make the right decisions for myself and take care of me. The final challenge of the weekend was kayaking 14 miles down the Salt River.

After everything was explained by the instructor and I had few moments to realize what was about to happen, I had to make a decision to take care of myself. After having skin cancer several years ago and with my humongous phobia of moving water, I approached Charlene about changing my challenge. I still absolutely wanted to participate in some way that was challenging, but also keep my safety in mind. Sun exposure for many hours is not an option for me and I also did not want to hold the group back in any way. I wanted to help them go forward. So, I had the privilege and honor to be part of the chase truck with Charlene for the ladies. I mapped out the distance and also kept track of the times they would be arriving at their check points so they could have water and sunscreen and check their map direction. We had to always be ahead of the kayakers and get to the check points before they did so we could set up. Being proud of these ladies is an understatement. I am more in amazement of them for what they completed. I am also proud of myself for what I did as well and how I contributed and completed a challenge. Everyone left the river hot, tired, and ready to relax.

When we returned to the house, we were greeted by friends, past challenge winners, Top 41 participants, and amazing people that helped everything for the weekend to be possible. Some were getting emotional, some cooling off in the A/C, some chatting, some eating, but ALL were there for a common reason. To celebrate. To reflect. To enjoy. With every challenge or stop we had, we did live coverage to document the journey and to share what we were doing with the world. So, we capped off the early evening with live coverage introducing and interviewing the great people that had greeted us when we returned from the river and the amazing people that had worked so hard behind scenes to keep everything happening and flowing. I personally want to thank everyone that made this experience possible. THANK YOU!

Finally, I want to personally reflect back on a few things and also let everyone in on a little secret. First, I had many failures, many times of frustration, and many times of not taking care of myself like I should have. But, through those failures came lessons. Through those times of frustration came learning how to handle myself, and through the times of not taking care of myself came reasons to remember that I matter. If I do not take care of me, it affects everyone else around me. It affects me. I truly understand my value now and I do not think I would have ever figured that out without this amazing opportunity that was given to me. Second, it is a process to not be socially awkward and it will take some work. There are times I need to speak up. There are times I need to get in front. There are times I just need to put myself in the spotlight and let it shine. And last, I have also overcome some of my limitations given to me by two medical conditions that I don’t speak about often. Several years ago, I had truly believed my world had become extremely limited and there were things that I just could not do anymore. I wanted to prove myself wrong, that I could go out there, kick butt, take names and master something even through the awful symptoms that I have. And I did. I am still alive, so I need to live.

Charlene Bower and Ladies Offroad Network have given me something that I don’t think even they understand. I feel like I have my life back. It was about offroading and the passion for the adventure, but it also became so much more for me on my personal journey. There are no amount of thank you's I could say to really express how grateful I am for the honor to be chosen as one of the Top 10. My new favorite saying: "I GOT THIS!"

Click here to read more about DeAnna.

Photo Credit:  Lori Palmer, The Adventure Portal

See all the action from the training weekend:
Day 1 - Welcome to the Van:
Day 1 - AZ Science Center:
Day 1 - Photos:
Day 2 - Jagged X Shop Tour:
Day 2 - Geiser Bros Shop Tour:
Day 2 - UTV Inc Tour:
Day 2 - SDHQ Shop Tour:
Day 2 - Recovery Training:
Day 2 - Photos:
Day 3 - Wheeling in Sedona:
Day 3 - Drive-thru:
Day 3 - Shooter's World:
Day 3 - Photos:
Day 4 - Kayaking:
Day 4 - Pool Party 1:
Day 4 - Pool Party 2:
Day 4 - Pool Party 3:
Day 4 - Mannequin Challenge:
Wrap-Up -

Author: DeAnna Aisner