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?
I'm Art Cook, and I started racing at the age of 33. I wanted to adventure race for the first time because I mountain biked and I ran, but I could not swim in a straight line for more than twenty feet.
How did you find your first adventure race? Which race did you pick and where was it?
I was visiting family in the general area of the Muleshoe Bend Sprint Adventure Race put on by Terra Firma Racing. The park is just outside of Austin, Texas on Lake Travis. I had some friends who were volunteering, and I thought I would join them. It was 1999, and I had watched a couple of other races to that point. I had never done a trail run, a mountain bike race or any kind of competitive paddling.
Did you create your own team or did a team recruit you?
Like I said, I showed up to volunteer. The race was teams of two. When I arrived my friends told me there was a woman racer who wanted to find a teammate for the co-ed division. She happened to be the number one women's mountain biker in her class in Texas. I said, why not? If she is willing to race with a newbie like me, her expectations must not be too high.
Did you need to get any new gear, what did you need, where did you find it?
Keep in mind that this was a rather short sprint race with no navigation, so there was little equipment required. Since I was coming from a family event, I brought nothing but a couple of Dasani bottles of water. Luckily my friend loaned me her little pink ladies mountain bike.
How did you train for your first race? Did you need to gain any new skills?
I have always been a jock and I have always done active jobs to stay fit. I think at the time, I might have been playing softball a couple of nights a week. Occasionally I would go for a bike ride or a run. That was it.
Were there any resources (online or in person) that significantly helped you prepare? Please provide links if applicable.
I had friends that were good adventure racers, and they gave me pointers.
How did the race go?
We started with a little 5k run, and because neither of us was a competitive runner, we held our own in the middle of the pack. Next up was the 7-mile mountain bike leg. Holy moly! I was holding on for dear life. My teammate, Claire, rode ahead and yelled out directions. She had a rearview mirror on her helmet, and she continuously looked back to make sure I still there. We passed lots of teams on that leg and made it to the paddle in the top 20 of 90 plus teams. The paddle was about a mile long in inflatable kayaks that were pretty miserable. Keeping a straight line was almost impossible, but we held our own to finish in 16th place. I have no doubt that Claire could have been on the podium with a better partner, but I at least think she had a little fun.
What hooked you on adventure racing?
Although that was a fun first race, what really got me hooked was the navigation and unmarked course racing. I really enjoy that smart racing often trumps fast racing in adventure racing.
Since your first race, name one or two AR highlights you’ve experienced.
I completed Primal Quest Lake Tahoe in 2003. Since then one of my teammates, Robyn Cantor, became my business partner at Too Cool Racing, LLC and we have produced more than 60 adventure races in Texas and New Mexico.
Stay tuned for more from USARA! Visit www.usara.com for more information on adventure racing in the United States.
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