Welcome to our series “15 First Adventure Races” which interviews veteran adventure racers on how they got started in the sport. If you’d like further resources, check out our New to AR? page on usara.com for additional material!
Who are you and why did you want to do an adventure race?
My name is Kate White and I started adventure racing in 2013 at age 27 as a fun way to explore the city I was living in at the time, Madison, WI. My first race was the USARA-sanctioned Stubborn Fool AR put on by Paula Waite of 180 Adventures. I raced with my husband, father-in-law, and good friend.
How did you find your first race?
My husband, Cliff, had participated in a few ARs previously and always wanted to get into the sport, so when he discovered there was a race so close to home he roped us all into participating.
Did you create your own team or did a team recruit you?
I suppose you could say I was recruited, though I'm not sure Cliff would have taken "no" for an answer - he was quite excited to participate!
Did you need to get any new gear, what did you need, where did you find it?
At the time I was in my final year of graduate school, working crazy hours and writing my dissertation. I had very little time or drive for outdoor adventure and my gear closet reflected that. For the race, I rode my commuter hybrid bike and we went to the local outdoor store the week before to pick up any other missing gear from the beginner-friendly gear list. I do believe we were missing space blankets, which cost us a checkpoint (CP) each on course. At the time we didn't realize what critical pieces of gear they could be! Though I suppose our risk of freezing overnight in downtown Madison was low. Luckily we didn't need too much gear for this first race, though after we got hooked we went on mini-spending sprees before each race!
How did you train for your first race?
With my busy school life at the time I didn't have a particularly well-focused training program. I was running a couple times a week and hiking with friends on the weekends, but that's about it. My fitness level was not very high but I had no problem making it through my first six-hour race.
Did you need to gain any new skills for the first race?
Maybe not new skills, but my teammates know that I lacked any confidence for bike riding when I started. My bike handling skills were not great and I didn't have much power or even enjoyment for the sport. So although I could ride a bike, that first race was the most continuous bike riding I had done in years!
How did the race go?
I don't remember if we finished dead-last, but we were close to it for sure. We had a fantastic time exploring the city and figuring out how to hold the map right-side-up, but we had no strategy to speak of aside from going to the "coolest looking places" on the race course and our navigation was... poor. The final stage was a canoe paddle out-and-back on a small creek and racers brought their own boats. We had two amazing watercraft - a very wide canoe designed for down-river, slow-paddling overnight trips and a canoe with the back end chopped off so it could be fitted for a motor for duck-hunting. Neither boat had much glide to it. We grossly underestimated the time it would take us to paddle to the finish line and arrived late enough to lose many of the few CPs we had obtained in the first place.
What hooked you on AR?
Despite this first race experience, I was immediately hooked on AR. It combined so many things I loved, but didn't necessarily know that I loved. Of course it was the outdoor adventure and time spent with teammates, but I also discovered a love for the AR community, race strategy, navigation, and suffering. The feeling of crossing the finish line after countless hours spent beating myself up in the woods, then having a beer with AR friends before turning in for the deepest sleep of my life, is pretty addictive.
Since your first race, name one or two AR highlights you’ve experienced.
An absolute AR highlight was participating in the World's Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji in 2019 with Team Strong Machine. The sheer scope of the race and production around the race was incredible, and jungle-bashing with Cliff, my father-in-law Starker, and our good friend Mike Garrison was unforgettable. Another highlight closer to home was a road trip I took with Cliff in 2015, where we got to race in both the Gold Rush 30-hour and Teton Ogre 18-hour races. These were fantastic races in gorgeous locations with big-mountain feels.
Stay tuned for more from USARA! Visit www.usara.com for more information on adventure racing in the United States.
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