Adventure Racing Skills Tips|
Under the pressure of
competition, we always break at our weakest links. In the team, it will be your
weakest member. In an individual, this can occur at many levels, physically,
emotionally, mentally, or mechanically. If you are competing in a multi-day
event, sleep deprived, fatigued, or low on energy, you will break down at the
weakest points as the pressure mounts. To get tougher, focus your training on
your weakest links. In order to do this you need to know what your weakest
The idea that I want to
illustrate about evaluation is that you need to know what your current
condition is before you can effectively set up your training program. You
should also get to know your body better. Knowledge of things like your water
consumption rates can help you stay hydrated, or plan logistics in an event. A
general guideline is to drink a half liter-to-1 liter of water per
Things like fitness
testing should be done on a person to person basis. Fitness testing includes
run tests and exercise testing. By some standards you are considered in good
fitness condition if you can run a mile in ten minutes. These standards are not
applicable to adventures that can range all the way up to 380 miles.
Weekend training missions
are great to find out what your strengths and weaknesses are. Put together some
hiking, some mountain biking, some paddling with some friends or your team. Do
it continuously, or stage it separately, the main goal is to figure out what
you should put your training emphasis on.
You crawled before you
walked, and walked before you ran. You should run five miles before you try
ten. Gradually increase your distance as you are capable. There are many good
running schedules available, but it all depends on where you are in your
conditioning. Start small and build up. Try adding one long run per week to
your training. If the longest you have run is ten miles, then a long run would
be anything over ten miles. Try to increase your long run each time. Some other
runs to include in your week could be hill repeats, long hikes, track work,
easy day, or strength training. If you are ready to increase your mileage and
run your first 50 miler, check out this website:
Oceans of Energy: How Run
Your First 50 Miler
Most of the trails used in
these races are intermediate single track, logging roads, gravel roads, and
even paved roads. The skill needed to mountain bike in these events could be
classified as intermediate. I have seen the distances vary from as little as 20
miles, up to 100 miles of biking. Be prepared for long distances, and get use
to riding with a pack on. You should be able to go over rocks or other
obstacles at any speed.
- Prepare your tool kit
for flats. Practice changing flat tires. Check out Quick fills vs. small hand
- Try to make your bike
and gear as light weight as possible.
- Try different tires.
Sometimes you can get by with those hybrid tires, and they save you in rolling
resistance. Over a long distance, the rolling resistance of your tires make a
- Look for ways to make
your food and water accesible at all times. This is order to reduce stops.
Constant movement forward is the name of the game.
- The team navigator
should have the map situated on the handle bars. You are travelling faster, and
need to keep an eye on the map. Also try to keep your compass
- Lights are important!
You will be riding at night on trails and roads. Practice this and experiment
with different lighting systems. Some lights are brighter, but won't last the
- Experiment with towing
systems. If you have a weak rider on your team, you can supplement their
progress with the use of a bungee. Careful, this takes practice.
- Make sure your team has
one toolkit that can handle most field repairs. Things like bent wheels or
derailers can happen during a crash. be prepared for it. Know how to straighten
a wheel enough to get by.
The most common questions
that your teammates will ask, if you are the navigator, are "How far to the the
next checkpoint?", "Are we almost there?", or "Which way do we go?". Navigation
and routefinding are the most important skills to have for an adventure race.
It is good to have at least one navigator on your team, but it is even better
to have more. Some events list orienteering as an activity, when they actually
mean navigation and routefinding.
Orienteering is a sport
of the compass and map. The maps used for orienteering are very exact, and
small in detail. This sport is very popular in the Scandinavian countries, and
is doing well in a few place in the US. These events, though shorter in
distance, can greatly improve your navigation skills. I recommend seeking an
orienteering club in your area.
Most adventure races use topographic maps, which don't
have the detail that an orienteering map has. You will use navigation skills to
know your location, and find the location of the next objective. You will then
use your route-finding skills to determine the best route for your teams
ability. Sometimes the best route may be the easiest one,something like
following a ridge line. However you need to compare that with a route that may
be more direct, and possibly saving time. It all depends on you, your skills,
and your team's ability. So you need to practice to know these things.
Practice using a compass
and map whenever you go hiking. The more practice you have converting contour
lines of a map to the topography of the terrain, the better. Know how to
navigate at night, or in low visibility conditions.
The rope sections in most
adventure races only involve ascending, descending, or traversing skills. You
don't need to learn rock climbing, but it would give you a few benefits. Rock
climbing helps develop balance and coordination. It is a great way to develop
visualization, which can aid you in times of difficulty during a race. It can
improve hand strength, which benefits you during paddling and mountain biking.
Indoor climbing gyms offer a great off season, cross training
In most cases you will be
provided a rope that will already be set up. All you have to do is get out your
ascending gear, put on your harness, and start going up. Most races recommend
using Jumars or Petzel ascenders. The gear you will need for a basic ascending
system is; a climbing harness, two ascenders, two daisy chains, two etriers,
locking carabiners, and a prussik loop. There are many variations on these
systems, and there are some that are very light weight. In this basic system,
the etriers attach to an ascender each, with a locking carabiner. The etriers
hang down like rope ladders for you to step up on. The daisy chains each attach
to the same carabiners. The other end of the daisy chain gets attached to your
climbing harness. You will want to adjust the daisy chains so that the
ascenders can not go out of your reach if you happen to let go of them. Mark
the daisy chains where they are adjusted for easy set up the next time. The
prussik loop is just a safety back up.
Here again the rope will
already be set up. All you have to do is put on your harness, get your
descending device, and start going down. The devices vary for descending from
tubers, ATC, figure 8, racks, or mechanical devices. Mechanical devices might
weigh a little too much for these events since weight is a major concern. Some
tubers or ATC might be too small for the ropes that the race is using. I have
been to a race where the rope was thick and stiff, and a tuber or ATC was
cumbersome to use.
The ropes will be set up.
You put your harness on, clip your biners onto the rope, and jump, or slide off
the edge. Sometimes you may be required to use a pulley to attach to the rope.
Pulleys move freely over the rope, where carabiners drag with friction.
Depending on how the rope is setup, it may sag in the middle. This will require
good upper body strength to pull yourself up the side. Consider using a prussik
to keep you from sliding back to the center.
Most events that have rope
sections in the course will have gear and skill checkouts. They will evaluate
your systems, or perhaps require a certain system. I suggest getting your
training from a qualified professional. Prepare your upper body strength for
each of these skills.
You should know the
basics, or the requirements of the event. If an event is taking you down class
4 water on a raft, they will probably have a professional guide in the boat.
The guide will usually cover the basic strokes. For canoeing or kayaking I
suggest learning safety and rescue techniques from a school or outfitter. You
should be able to confidently paddle on class two water, or have river reading
It all depends on where
you are at. Some mountains are ascended by merely hiking to the top. Then there
are others that require ropes, ice climbing skills, crampons, and ice axes. The
book that is the bible for mountaineers is, Mountaineering - The Freedom of the
Hills. In this book you will find how-to information about climbing
fundamentals, gear, survival, route finding, rock climbing, and snow and ice
climbing. In either case, the mountain is never conquered, you are allowed to
join it in its majesty above the clouds. Its primary weapons against vain
challengers are the weather and the altitude. Your only protection,should you
be percieved a threat, against the weather is your gear, and your ability to
take shelter or retreat. There are a few things you can do to save yourself
from the altitude.
It is the mountains over
8,000 ft that seem to have the most power over mortal man. The affliction of
altitude sickness comes upon you like a bear jumping on your back. Your energy
is zapped and magically dissipates. Your stomach gets nausious, and your head
starts pounding. The best way to prevent this to maintain a modest attitude
when at altitude. Honor the mountain with each step. Stay hydrated by drinking
fluids throughout the day. Never wait until you are thirsty. The altitude can
also have the effect of curtailing your appetite. Try to eat a little every so
often, even if you aren't hungry. The bear likes to prey on the weak, so stay
hydrated and fueled.
Some of the aspects that
affect how you will acclimatize to altitude are your conditioning level, the
altitude, and the humidity. It might take 2 to 6 days for your body to adjust
to its new environment. A way to check for your acclimatization is to take your
morning pulse rate for some weeks prior to departure. This is to establish your
baseline. Once you arrive to race location, take your morning pulse rate and
compare. When the pulse rates seem to be equalized, you are ready to race. A
quick caution about acclimatization, tropical areas may require just as much
time to adjust as altitude.
Contributed By: Jack Crawford
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