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!
What's your name? How old were you when you did your first adventure race? Why did you want to participate?
My name is Anna Nummelin. I was twenty when I did my first race. I initially wanted to try adventure racing because it seemed so drastically different from anything else I had ever experienced in my life and I wanted to see how it would challenge me to grow.
How did you find your first adventure race? Which race did you pick and where was it?
I did a google search to see if there were any adventure races in my area, and found the 2004 Driftless Zone 12-hour AR in south western Wisconsin.
Did you create your own team or did a team recruit you?
I raced as a soloist.
Did you need to get any new gear, what did you need, where did you find it?
I already had a cyclocross bike and a kayak. I found most of the other gear I needed (pack, compass, headlamp) in my parents’ garage. My dad was an avid hunter and had quite a bit of outdoor gear already.
How did you train for your first race? Did you need to gain any new skills?
I started running 4-5 months before the race. Prior to that, I wasn’t able to run a mile. I started by jogging 1/4 of the way around a 0.25 mile track, alternating walking and jogging a 1/4 loop at a time. Gradually I worked up to 1/2 loop and then a full. Then eventually up to three miles. I was ecstatic! Some days I went to the track and didn’t have time to run, so I just stretched and did a warm-up, but I kept up the routine. 2-3 months before the race I started to mountain bike and kayak once a week.
Were there any resources (online or in person) that significantly helped you prepare? Please provide links if applicable.
Back then there really weren’t the online resources and communities that there are now. I bought a couple of books:
How did the race go?
Well, let’s just say when I signed up, i was a very naive but enthusiastic college student who couldn’t run a mile, couldn’t read a topographic map, and had no clue what I was getting into.
One hour in, I was completely lost and in last place, having spent the entire time swimming/wading through swamp in the dark, getting my maps wet in the process - and accidentally rubbed the finish line location off with my thumb. Another racer was kind enough to show me the way out of the swamp and on to the coasteering section so I could continue. I raced for 12 hours - kayaking, bushwhacking, rappelling, caving - and had the best time! I completed a fraction of the entire course, but had enough stories to last a lifetime.
Best. Decision. Ever!!!
What hooked you on adventure racing?
The raw, thrilling, wildness of adventure racing is what initially got me hooked. I continued racing with my then boyfriend, now husband, Tim Buchholz and it became a shared passion for us both. After every race, we feverishly reviewed the entire course - start to finish- in the car on the way home. Picking it apart and thinking of what we could do to get faster and more efficient. There was always so much! Beyond just training more and getting faster on foot, bike, and paddle, we attended orienteering club meets, though about how to cut down transition time, and how not to lose time because of mental/emotional hang ups. Over time, we upgraded our nutrition, hydration, supplements, and gear. A few years later we won our first race. Then we started winning more regularly. After a couple more years we were undefeated in our state and then in 2016 ranked the #1 team in the USARA series.
Being competitive and winning is a big hook, but just as much, I love the adventure racing community. Our fiercest competitors have become our fiercest friends - good people that without question would stop and help you in the middle of a race if you were in trouble, even if it cost them. Races now feel like as much of a reunion of friends as they do a competition.
Since your first race, name one or two AR highlights you’ve experienced.
Stay tuned for more from USARA! Visit www.usara.com for more information on adventure racing in the United States.
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