"Actually, I'm pushing Craig," Pat observes, his humor miraculously intact.

"The hardest thing about teamwork isn't helping - everyone wants to help," says Watkins. "It's receiving help that's tough. It was very hard for me to have a woman pull me on a bike. And that's the same problem my senior managers and PhDs can have. But Seagate is stronger, and faster to market, when they call in the help they need." Another handicap in the race to the next tech breakthrough is the fear of taking risks, Watkins says, especially among middle-aged employees who fear injury to their hard-earned reputations. Watkins says his own experience with adventure racing has clarified these problems - and the solutions.

"Take the risk," Watkins urges. "At Seagate, you don't get punished for failure. We've even thought about rewarding people who take big risks and fail."

To write the lessons of risk and teamwork large, in January Watkins met 250 employees on the Hawaiian island of Oahu for an all-Seagate adventure race. The point is not which team wins, he told a crowd that included many smokers and few serious athletes. "It's that you try. It's that you compensate for each other."

Emigrant Gap, Saturday, 8 a.m.
It's daylight when members of Team Seagate push their muddy bikes to the top of the hill. Since midnight, they've cycled more than 25 miles, and climbed more than half a mile in elevation. Head down, Pat brings up the rear.

At the bottom of the hill, the crew waits. The racers peel off wet and shredded clothing, and trade bikes for hiking boots. Carrying rock-climbing gear, winter wear, and emergency sleeping bags, Bill, Craig, and Cary jog toward the trail leading into the mountains. When Pat breaks into a stiff jog to catch up, the crew watches, transfixed: He's bouncing back. The four clip on towropes again as they climb, Cary helping Bill, Craig helping Pat. And by the time they reach the next checkpoint on snow-patched Black Mountain, they've battled back to eighth place.