By Brent Freedland
Diving into adventure racing can be intimidating since it requires a wide and somewhat unusual skillset. Bikers have to be comfortable riding trails. Runners have to be prepared to leave paths altogether and head overland, sometimes bushwhacking across technical terrain. Many new racers have very little experience on the water, and paddling in AR may require you to be comfortable on anything and everything from flat water to white-water to open-ocean kayaking.
If that isn’t enough, someone on your team needs to be able to navigate with enough competency to complete a course void of directional signs, ribbons, or paint. For those jumping off the cliff into an ARWS expedition race or an event like World's Toughest Race: Eco Challenge, you might also need to learn ropes skills, mountaineering, horseback riding, rollerblading, or other more adventurous disciplines.
As we've suggested in previous posts, start with realistic goals. For shorter events, beginner and intermediate racers with a baseline level of fitness and skill can generally expect to cross the finish line. It may not be easy, but with the right attitude and proper expectations, even those with novice-level skills can have a good experience.
In this installment in our New to AR Series, we will focus on some general tips, truly meant for beginners. We will start off with two of the core disciplines in AR, and next week, we will examine the others. Remember, this isn’t intended to replace a training plan, and you will need to get out there and learn the skills, but hopefully it will give you some direction!
OK, let’s start with what is arguably the most basic of the AR disciplines. Efficient foot travel in adventure racing is extremely important, and I believe people sometimes take this “skill” for granted, especially in longer events. How hard can running, jogging, or even walking be?
Anyone that has participated in a multi-day race knows that more experienced, efficient, and skilled teams can open-up massive leads on a foot section. Being able to move efficiently through technical terrain requires both skill and art, and just piling up the miles on a treadmill or your local trails won't necessarily translate to an adventure racing course. What should you do to better prepare for the unique challenges of adventure racing foot-travel?
First, no, you don’t need to buy the fanciest bike in the world. While many racers dream of the newest, lightest bike, be aware that bikes take a heavy beating in adventure racing. This isn’t a buyer’s guide for a new bike, but any bike capable of tackling dirt will do when you start out.
In adventure racing, you will need to be prepared for all sorts of riding. Even in a shorter race, you will likely encounter different flavors of biking. Yes, the section may be called 'mountain biking,' but AR riding can and does involve the following: paved surfaces, dirt roads, old jeep tracks, single-track trails including smooth, groomed trails and gnarly technical ones, and even sections where one simply dreams about riding the bike they are, in reality, hauling on a shoulder, shoving from behind, or throwing into a ditch. In short, be prepared for everything and anything! Here are some considerations for training:
Alright! That does it for today. Check back in next week for some discussion of the other core disciplines in AR: paddling and navigation.
Other Articles in the New to AR Series:
If you haven't already, like or follow USARA's Facebook page, join the AR Discussion Group, sign up for our newsletter, or consider becoming a USARA member to stay up to date on everything AR-related. And stay tuned for future articles in the "New to AR" series including:
Official USARA Media Partner
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.