Adventure Racing is a sport for everyone. YES, you can do it!
If you first discovered adventure racing like most of us, watching the Eco-Challenge on TV, your idea of Adventure Racing is that you have to be a super athlete and take extraordinary risks at ever turn. Well, while there is always risk in any athletic activity, Adventure Racing is not Extreme in the sense that B.A.S.E. jumping or Bunjee jumping is extreme. The fact is, most of those races you saw on TV were won with the team averaging just 4 m.p.h. over the course of the 6-10 days. Not a particularly "Extreme" speed. Because Adventure Racing (AR) includes multiple disciplines: navigating, kayaking, mountain biking, trail running/hiking; most racers are not great at all of them.
I often hear hear experienced mountain bikers say "I can't run". Well, truth is, many AR teams don't really run that often, and are usually hiking at a hurried clip. The mountain biking is more often on dirt roads than on technical singletrack trails. The kayaking is often done on lakes or slow moving water...and their is probably no area where adventure racers could use more work than on their paddling. Navigation is one area that sets it apart from most sports in that you are usually given the opportunity to find your own way from point to point. Because most races don't let you know where you're going until the start, it's as much a mental/strategic competition as it is athletic. If you can read a map and in some cases, use a compass, you can do it.
That's not to say that AR is not challenging. It's always challenging to go from discipline to discipline quickly, maintain focus on your goal of finishing, keep in constant forward motion for hours at a time, strategizing, reading a map, etc.
We hear people exclaim all the time that Adventure Racing is more than they can handle. The truth is, while we wouldn't encourage anyone to go from a sedentary lifestyle to a bunch of activities they're not confident in, most people with average athletic ability can do this. And the best part is, it's always a fun "ADVENTURE"!
Adventure Racing should be above all else FUN, and these races are meant to be exactly that. Unlike other types of races, you'll enjoy it even if you come in last.
Adventure/Fun/Sweat/Discovery/Accomplishment/Camaraderie. When we personally race, we make mistakes, take pictures, get lost, get found, laugh, cry, sweat, finish and have a BLAST!..and that's our philosophy on creating all of our races. Join us!!
What is Adventure Racing?
The description below is one in which navigation is necessary. Some races however, such as our women's race do not require navigation in which you are required to plot points and travel with a compass.
Adventure Racing is one of the few sports where just completing a race is considered a victory. It allows runners, hikers, climbers, bikers, and paddlers to participate and compete in new and challenging events. Large expedition competition races are over 300 miles and can take up to 10 days to complete, while sprint races can take from a couple hours to all day. Adventure Racing not only challenges the body, but the mind as well. Competitors must always travel together as a team, putting an emphasis on teamwork rather than individual achievement.
Adventure Racing is not a pure aerobic sport. It's alot of thinking and strategizing too. In a Triathlon, you know what you have to do. You know that you have to train to swim 1000 meters, bike 25 miles and run a 10K. In Adventure Racing, you might start off with a 1 mile run, then bike for 5, kayak for 2 miles, do a team building event, run for another few miles and then bike 3 more to the finish. You just never know. And add to that, it's largely off road, you have to read a map, and you're constantly trying to find ways to outthink your race director. You also have to do it as a team which makes it that much more fun. About 80% of Adventure Racers are in it for the adventure, and about 20% for the competition. Whatever reason you do it, it should be fun, and it is! Hopefully you'll do some things you've never done, see some places you've never seen, and feel proud of finishing. It's a blast.
Here are how another racer describes it:
Adventure Racing (AR) is an outdoor endurance sport requiring teams
to travel through a series of checkpoints by varying means of
transportation. Most AR events include the following three core
o Mountain biking,
o Running/hiking, and
o Paddling via canoe or kayak
Many races include other sports, including but not limited to
orienteering, caving, inline skating, river swimming, ropes
(climbing, rappelling, traversing), whitewater rafting, archery,
and "special" teambuilding & obstacle tests.
Races vary from 2 hours ("sprint" racing) to 10-days ("expedition"
racing) and anywhere in between. To be considered in the competitive
class, most races require teams to be mixed-gender and travel
together from start to finish.
A typical event does not reveal the actual racecourse until just
before the start of competition. Many times, teams are merely given
blank topographical maps and a list of numerical coordinates that
correspond to each of the checkpoints on the course. Teams must
accurately plot the coordinates provided and determine the best
route to take to each point. A bad navigation decision usually leads
to a team getting lost and may cost them a race.
Teamwork and interpersonal dynamics are also major factors in
determining how well a team performs. Team ingenuity and adaptation
to the elements is key rule and not the exception. Teams are usually
permitted to come up with innovative ways to speed their progress.
For instance, using bungee to tow teammates is a common occurrence
on hiking and biking segments. In the past, some teams have resorted
to using umbrellas as makeshift sails on flat-water paddling legs.
Can I do this? It looks tough! We wouldn't recommend you jump off the couch and into anything that is too far out of the norm. That said, Adventure Racing attracts a vast majority of everyday people who want to ad some adventure to their life. Some use it as a goal to motivate them to work out, others will race in a number of races each year, and relish the constantly changing challenges. Many want to see what they are capable of doing. When we personally race, we can often be found walking when the front runners are sprinting. This is common in adventure racing, and it's what makes it a great sport for almost anyone. You don't have to be a tuned athlete to do an Adventure Race.
Why are you allowing a solo category when AR is a team sport? AR is so very fast growing, we're finding that many racers have only just recently heard of it. Many are crossover athletes or folks who haven't been particularly athletic until discovering AR. We hope that by holding a solo category, solo's will meet other racers and form teams. For those who just want to check it out before building a team, it's a good way to see what the fun is all about.
Are you offering Prize money for racers? While we may at some point in the future, we're finding that the vast majority of racers are racing for fun, personal pride, and as a goal to stay in shape. Some teams are utilizing our weather to stay in training throughout the year instead of slacking off in the "off-season" that the rest of the country goes through. The bottom line is, to offer prize money, we've got to charge higher registration fee's, and we'd just as soon keep it as inexpensive as possible...as if the gear isn't enough already! We do however give away many sponsor provided prizes from Hammer Gel, Buff, REI, Sevylor (kayaks), etc.
I'm a good trail runner, and I paddle occasionally, though I don't ride a Mountain Bike much, can I do it? The majority of our racers are new to at least one of the three core disciplines (Bike, Trail Run, Kayak), and many are new to more than just one, or very average at all three. That's what makes Adventure Racing such a fun sport. You don't have to be an expert at any of the disciplines. Throw in some orienteering, mystery events, etc, and the playing field is leveled even further. For alot of us (including our staff) AR is about having fun. We've come in dead last, mid-pack, and even gotten lucky and stood on the podium a couple times, but above all, we have a blast, and we hope you do to.
How should I train and prepare for my first race? Go hiking, and trail run if you can. Get your hands on a mountain bike and ride it on trails. If you are from Phoenix, you can do both of these in Papago Park, Trail 100 in the North Mountain Preserve or South Mountain. If you're from San Diego, Mission Trails Park is great; LA, check out Bonelli Park; Vegas, Red Rock Canyon. Go rent a kayak for an hour each weekend until raceday at Tempe Town Lake, Lake Mead, or whatever body of water you have nearby. The best training you can do for yourself is getting out there and doing it as regularly as possible. When your ready to take the next step, you can work on improving your technique in all three. You can also get some great training from Butch & Vickie Nelson and Dave Marks at RaceLab. Check out RaceLab.com for more info on their AR training program in Phoenix. Also, come to our REI clinics and ask questions.
How can I practice my Orienteering? While it isn't necessary to know how to Orienteer in all AR's, it's good to know and fun to learn and it is very common in AR. There are many books and a couple of videos on this that can help. Better yet, go to an Orienteering event put on by the Greater Phoenix Orienteering club or the Tucson Orienteering club: http://www.phoenixorienteering.org/ & http://www.tucsonorienteering.org/ It's inexpensive, and they often times offer a beginners clinic before their meets. Once you've figured out how to read a map or use a compass, we offer Land Navigation & Practice guides for many locales. Check out the "Rentals & Services" page of this site for more on that.
How expensive is all the gear? That depends, though we wouldn't recommend buying the expensive stuff until you gain some experience and know what you want. REI has just about everything you could need and their staff can help guide you as well. Buying the lightest and newest gear can break the bank, though you don't need that until your racing in the Primal Quest or the Raid.
Do I need my own kayak paddle and life-vest? While we do have a limited supply of each, you will likely prefer your own personal flotation device (Type III life-vest). We have type II PFD's, while a vest type would be more comfortable for paddling in over a long distance. PFD's must be worn at all time's during racing events or you will be disqualified. After you've registered, shoot us an email and let us know if you need us to provide these.
What do I wear for an adventure race? Most people wear bike or athletic shorts and a sport top. Shy away from cotton as it doesn't wick away the sweat like athletic fabrics. Trail running shoes are a good choice for the hiking sections as there will be rocky sections, though some people will use regular running shoes. If you use clip in pedals, you must change your biking shoes before getting in the inflatable kayaks. A wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen will keep you from getting burnt. Many athletes use Bodyglide in areas that rub together to keep from chafing.
How much water do I need to carry? Food? Many people will wear hydration packs with up to 100 ounces while still some will just carry a couple bike bottles in a waste pack. For our Women's race and our Urban race, we recommend you carry at least a liter on each section and stow extra water in the transition area. For our other races, we require a minimum carrying capacity of 100 ounces. The difference because our Women's and Urban races are held within the Phoenix metropolitan area, while the others are held out of town where water sources are more scarce, it's easier to get lost and distances are longer. Hydration is the key to performance, and that's never more important than in the desert. Stay hydrated! You will also likely want an electrolyte replacement like those provided by Hammer Nutrition or available at REI to add to your water to avoid cramping. Food? Energy bars, gels are the norm. You can take them with or stow them in the transition area.
What do we need for the transition area? The transition area will be a fenced off area where you will stow your bikes and gear. You will enter the transition area multiple times before, during and after the race. It's a good idea to get a plastic storage container like those made by Rubbermaid to stow your stuff in. You may also want to bring a small tarp or beach towel to place your gear on. It keeps your stuff clean and marks your area. Your bikes are also stowed in the transition area. Volunteers will monitor the area to make sure only racers come in and out.
What is "Adventure Tubing" you ask? We will provide you with a car size inner tube that you will need to use to get from place to place on the water. There is strategy involved here in that you may just lay on your back and back paddle, use swim fins, bring a paddle, etc. It's up to you, but you cannot use any mechanized means of propulsion. We've seen this done, and people get very creative. Also, no portaging will be allowed in case you thought you might be able to just run with the tubes...Good Try! You will be required to where your life vest at all times on the water, email us if you need us to bring one for you.