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Adventure Racing Basics

Your First Adventure Race Two-Day Races
One-Day RacesMulti-Day Races

Adventure racing is a relatively new sport that can take you into wild places that you never thought you would be in. Those wild places are inside of you as well as outside. This outdoor sport is the "King of Cross Training" because it involves just about any and every outdoor sport there is. The most common sports are mountain biking, hiking, paddling, and rope skills. There are many sizes and shapes of events ranging from off-road triathlons to month long expeditions. When we race responsibly, and use Leave No Trace Ethics, these adventures can take you beyond your wildest dreams.

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Your First Adventure Race

You CAN successfully complete your first adventure race. Start out small, and as you get better, go for the bigger events. Choose your first race based on the criteria of your conditioning, and experience. Most teams that fail, do so because of lack of experience and conditioning. The information you want to know about an event is what the sports are, and what the distances of each sport is. Look for an event that best matches your abilities. If you have any shortcomings in skills, give yourself enough time to learn them. The events may not always release the distances of each sport. If you have doubts, start with a one day race. Graduate up to a two day race. Once you experience some sleep deprivation you will know whether you are ready to tackle a larger event. A two day race will give you more experience with food and water logistics.

One-Day Race

The one day races are similar in scope and distance to triathlons. They are usually off-road, including mountain bikes rather than road bikes. The swimming is switched with paddling in a canoe or kayak. Some mystery events can be included, ranging from puzzles to drill sergeants. The distances can be trained for by running approximately 12 miles, mountain biking 20 miles, and paddling a mile. These distances are approximate because each event is different in size. You may want to vary these distances based on the event you are competing in. After competing in a few small events, then your conditioning and experience increase. Now is time to graduate to larger events.

Two-Day Race

Two day race range from 20 to 30 hours in time to complete the course. This next level adds in a few needed skills, and increases the distance over one day races. You should increase your training distances in accordance with the event you have chosen. This will probably be 20 to 30 miles for running or hiking, 25 to 50 miles for mountain biking, 5 to 30 miles on the water. The water sections may be flatwater or whitewater. They could use canoes, kayaks, or rafts. Two other skills needed for this level will most likely be navigation, and ropes. Since this is a team sport, you are able to get away with having a navigation specialist on your team. Everyone needs to know all the other skills. When it comes to the ropes, they will probably be fixed lines. You will need to learn how to rappel, and ascend on a rope. Most climbing instructors will be able to teach you this. Occasionally you may find a tyrolean traverse, which is a rope rigged up horizontally. You will hook up to the rope hanging from your harness, and slide across it, going over something that may be a long way down. The only real difficulty in these situations is getting over your fear of heights. Depending on how loose the rope is, you may need some considerable upper body strength to get up the other side, because it will bow down in the middle. You will encounter sleep deprivation. There isn't enough time in these shorter events to bivvy, or get some sleep. You will also need to carry your own food and water. Water is heavy and will slow you down. You may even need to get water from a stream or pond. Food can get heavy too, depending on how much you carry. The key here is to figure out your logistics to have just enough food, and when to refill water.

Multi-Day Race

Now that you have a few two day races under your belt, you are ready to graduate to multi-day races. These events range from 3 days to a month long. Once you have the experience and conditioning, you are ready to hone your skills. The considerations for these longer events are sleep, food and water, equipment, and logistics. In a two day race, it is simple, you just don't sleep. In a five day race, it is a matter of choosing when, where, and how much sleep to get. It is always more comfortable to sleep at a transition area where your support crew can feed you. However, depending on what the rest of the teams are doing, you may need to put more strategy into it. Food, water and logistics are more critical now. You may be out in the middle of nowhere for days, without access to either food or water. You will need to extract your own water from rivers and streams. You will want to calculate your nutritional needs because of weight considerations. In the longer races, the right equipment can shave ounces and even pounds from your pack. Weight is time. Some new skills may be required for these longer events. The whitewater will be more extreme. There may be ocean kayaking. They could put in horseback, or camel riding. Everything will be longer in distance. To train for these do long distances. Run ultras, go for 30 mile hikes, bike 100 miles, and paddle for 20 miles. Again these distances are approximate because of the difference in individuals and events.

Contributed By: Jack Crawford

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