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?
Scott Erlandson (most people call me Erl), I was about 33 when I did my first AR. I had seen Eco-Challenge British Columbia on TV and was drawn to the teamwork aspect across multiple sports that AR required. I was running road marathons at the time and wanted to try another sport that wasn’t so hard on my body.
How did you find your first adventure race? Which race did you pick and where was it?
There was a quarterly magazine called Midwest Sports that I received. The magazine included an events calendar for Minnesota and Wisconsin. There was only one adventure race listed and that was a six-hour race at Camp Ihduhapi, just west of Minneapolis.
Did you create your own team or did a team recruit you?
My Uncle Roe was a triathlete so I asked him to be my teammate. The race was four-person teams only, but the Race Directors helped pair everyone up so the two of us were placed on a team with two others. I don’t remember much about our other two teammates - so they weren’t terrible!
Did you need to get any new gear, what did you need, where did you find it?
I had a decent mountain bike already, but I bought a Camelbak Mule for my race pack from REI.
How did you train for your first race? Did you need to gain any new skills?
I was already into running road marathons so I had pretty good fitness, but I added in some bike miles as well. The paddling section in the race was pretty short and my uncle and I felt good about our paddle skills for that distance.
Were there any resources (online or in person) that significantly helped you prepare? Please provide links if applicable.
I didn’t find anything. After the Ihduhapi race, I wanted to get more involved in AR, so I went to an adventure racing indoor climbing clinic put on by some former Eco-Challenge racers. That’s where I met a guy named Paul, and after the clinic we decided to do a race together. The following weekend, the Minnesota Orienteering Club hosted a navigation clinic, and Paul met another guy named Justin. I reached out to another adventure racer named Amy who I had met at Camp Ihduhapi. So myself, Paul, Amy and Justin formed a team called “We Eat Dust And Like It” which eventually evolved into WEDALI.
How did the race go?
So, we finished under our own power, but were past the cutoff and the finish line had already been taken down and put away. All of the post-race food was gone and the RDs were about to leave. I don’t even think we found half of the checkpoints. Our team just had a lot of fun together on the course. Before the race, I thought the checkpoints would all be on the trail, but most of them were off-trail, and I wasn’t quite ready for that.
What hooked you on adventure racing?
Honestly, based on my team's experience at our first race, I should have hated it. But I didn’t. Adventure racing was just so different from anything else I had experienced so far. I really enjoyed being in remote wilderness areas with just my team to rely on. I liked all of the different sports that went into AR and wanted to improve in each sport. I liked developing good teamwork and being a good teammate. AR is just fun to me.
Since your first race, name one or two AR highlights you’ve experienced.
My most treasured AR memories are all of the amazing teammates I have gotten to race with, including meeting my wife! I have gotten to travel all across the US and also internationally for races. Adventure race directors always find the most interesting spots, even in areas that might seem boring on paper. It is so cool to explore new parts of each state or country that most people don’t get to see. Also WEDALI started in 2003, and won USARA National Champs in 2010 and 2012 with myself, Justin, and his wife Molly. Those wins were a highlight because we all started at the same time and worked our way up together.
Stay tuned for more from USARA! Visit www.usara.com for more information on adventure racing in the United States.
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