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 am Bill Donohue and I was 22-years-old when I did my first adventure race. Adventure racing contained a lot of the outdoor activities I was already doing.
How did you find your first adventure race? Which race did you pick and where was it?
I am an OEC--an Original Eco-Challenge-inspired racer. Back then, there was a series of sprint races sponsored by a shoe company called Hi-Tec. They were sprint races similar to obstacle course races but with mountain biking, paddling, and running. The central TA would have obstacles such as a wall, balance beam, paint ball, etc..., which were team oriented and spectator friendly. I raced the Pittsburgh stop on the tour. The night before the race, the pros talked about how adventure racing would change your life.
Did you create your own team or did a team recruit you?
My college roommate and I had been adventuring for years together--mountain biking, rock climbing, marathoning, vagabonding (we slept in a Jeep Cherokee on top of climbing ropes while Alex Honnold was still top roping). Plus he lived in Pittsburgh, so we had a place to crash. The two of us teamed up and raced all over the country together.
Did you need to get any new gear, what did you need, where did you find it?
We already had mountain bikes before our first race. As we did more and longer races that first year, we made an investment in packs, for sure. Of course, over time out gear closets have grown.
How did you train for your first race? Did you need to gain any new skills?
For the first race, we really didn't train much different than we always did. We both came from a running background, so we had to learn over time to add more strength to our workouts.
Were there any resources (online or in person) that significantly helped you prepare? Please provide links if applicable.
I remember my teammate had these photocopied pages from a book about orienteering. We also would seek out veteran racers. In Colorado, we heard Ian Adamson give a presentation at an outdoor store. Then we raced against him the next weekend!
How did the race go?
The first race was great fun! I remember passing a ton of people on my mountain bike. We wanted more and we wanted longer.
What hooked you on adventure racing?
The "off-road" multi-disciplines hooked me. I was already doing that stuff, so it was a way to combine it all into an endurance event. I did a few triathlons, but the scene wasn't for me. The outdoor vibe of AR, the way teams were there for an adventure first and a race second really appealed to me.
Since your first race, name one or two AR highlights you’ve experienced.
Racing at the USARA Nationals in 2012 was a highlight. I think my team finished fifteenth. Adventure racing with my kids at family-specific races has also been a great way to get outside and bring the kids into the lifestyle.
Stay tuned for more from USARA! Visit www.usara.com for more information on adventure racing in the United States.
A space for AR musings from the USARA team and guest authors. Ready to race? Check out the rest of our resources on the USARA homepage.