In a recent race the best answer to the question “What is Adventure Racing was given…OR it might have been, but I didn’t hear it. I had scampered off the trail to snag a checkpoint, and when I caught back up a few minutes later, the dude was just finishing up his definition. Hardly a concise definition—whatever it was.
Completely missing his definition while punching a CP is completely apropos—adventure racing is hard to define. Sure, we describe the basic disciplines—trek, bike, paddle all while orienteering—but even those are fluid (are we trekking or hiking or trail running or rucking). In races, I’ve also jumped off cliffs, ascended, rappelled, ridden a horse, swam, caved, scootered, kayaked, canoed, rollerbladed, riverboarded, SUPed, packrafted, obstacle raced, shot a paintball gun, cross-country skied, snowshoed, and Tyrolean traversed. (OK, maybe I didn’t do all of these, but I know people who have done at least one in an AR).
USARA Executive Director Mike Garrison likes to tell a story about trying and failing to explain to his mother what adventure racing is all about. And he is the Executive Director of USARA. We often resort to the “Eco-Challenge” technique: “Have you seen this show on Prime? Watch that. It’s from the guy who created Survivor”
Of course, if you have raced through a populated city—like downtown Philadelphia on a Friday night (thanks, GOALS ARA)—you have inevitably been hit with “Are you on the Amazing Race?” But do we really want to resort to television shows to define our sport? Even if Nathan Fa’avae did a great job doing just that on a show that inspired many (most) of us to get into this crazy pursuit.
So how do you define adventure racing? What is it all about for you? Is it about teamwork and camaraderie? Is it about adventure? competition? challenge?
Let’s explore our definitions together. Chime in on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or the Comments below.
Show us your 15 second videos, adventurous pictures, or tweetable text of how you define AR.
And maybe we can come with something to tell Garrison’s mother.
As you have (hopefully) heard and seen by now, Toyota Tundra is sponsoring our 2022 season, and GearJunkie is our exclusive media partner.
This sponsorship deal is a significant step forward for Adventure Racing in the United States and beyond. We want to use this opportunity to show large corporations the value of investing in AR.
Our purpose at USARA is to ensure the enduring success of adventure racing. We believe in the spirit of adventure and the community that enables the journey. We strive to strengthen and support our existing community of racers and directors and create pathways for new adventurers to enter the sport.
The partnerships with Toyota Tundra and GearJunkie are helping us meet those goals while increasing our exposure to the broader adventure and outdoor worlds.
Toyota wants to have their product associated with our sport as much as possible, and they want to know that a TON of people are seeing it. In the marketing/media world, this is known as "impressions," and we've promised A LOT of them!
We are well on our way to meeting our target, AND there are ways that you can help!
Visit our website often for information, blog posts, and race calendars!
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Invite your Facebook friends to LIKE and FOLLOW our page. (Click on those three dots (...) on the menu bar to access the invite function.)
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And ENGAGE with us—on any of our media channels or through email with any suggestions, questions, or other valuable input! (email@example.com)
We love the AR community. It’s why we do what we do. So keep in touch until we see you at the next race!
The rugged and wild OutThere No Sleep Adventure Race starts at 7 AM Saturday, June 4, at Shawnee National Forest in Illinois with event tracking from Adventure Enablers.
"We are known for tough navigation," says co-race director John Farless. "With this the first year for us having trackers, we are looking forward to seeing the route choices racers are taking. We used to have to wait for the stories afterwards, but now it is available in real time."
Farless and co-race director Brian Fribley are "old-school" course designers.
“We have a great relationship with the climbing community and still incorporate ropes in our courses,” said Farless.
“And we have a significant rappel that will be one of those pucker moments,” added Fribley.
In addition to a ropes section, racers can look forward to a Friday night of CP plotting and staring at maps—a skill the directors want to make sure racers know not only for safety but also to keep the skill part of AR.
“We have always seen land nav as part of adventure racing and some directors are getting away from it,” says Fribley. “And with technology like google maps, having the ability to not only plot but pinpoint themselves and be able to plot their own location is becoming a lost art of land navigation.”
Without a TA, racers will also have to carry all their gear and nutrition for the duration of the linear, point to point course where racers will not see the same spot on the course twice (at least not by design).
With a five-year permit to conduct races in the Shawnee National Forests, it easy to keep the course fresh.
“[Shawnee National Forest] is massive,” says Farless. “We just shift a little east or west, and we put on a new course.”
The directors start their planning 18 months in advance, reconnoitering areas, comparing with maps, and vetting facilities. Once they have a blueprint, they examine the course in person.
“We try to find unique features that are outside the high tourists spots,” says Fribley. “We steer our racers to those spots. Racers tells that us that they can tell we spend a lot of time on the course.”
“It’s a beautiful course,” adds Farless. “A true wilderness course, expedition style, never going through the same location, racers carry everything with them, not a lot of paved roads. It’s a true wilderness experience.”
The nation’s largest adventure race returned this weekend, with a sold-out field of five hundred athletes take part. The seventh edition of the Rib Mountain Adventure Challenge, which includes three-, eight-, and eighteen-hour divisions, drew participants from fourteen states, ranging in age from seven to sixty-nine. While the longer division often draws top teams from the region - reigning national champions Team Toyota Tundra claimed the top of the podium in this year's eighteen-hour race, their fourth win of the season - the annual Memorial Day event is perhaps best known for welcoming newcomers to adventure racing.
Megan LaDue, an occasional 5k finisher, made the trip up to Rib Mountain, Wisconsin from Florida to participate in her first adventure race. LaDue is in good company; 58 percent of this year’s field chose the Challenge as their first or second adventure race. “We are thrilled to introduce so many to the sport we fell in love with,” said Anna Nummelin, who directs the event with her husband and Rib Mountain Racing teammate, Tim Buchholz.
LaDue teamed up with Douglas Henke, her college sweetheart, in the three-hour race. After she and Doug graduated, LaDue joined the US Army and they parted ways. In the Army, she ran obstacle courses and learned to navigate. “It was challenging and exciting and pushed me to places I didn’t know I could go…” The pair recently reunited after a twenty-year separation. They started chatting remotely, and then by phone - and then Henke flew down to Florida for a business trip and invited LaDue to participate in the 2022 Rib Mountain Adventure Challenge. “Fast forward to the present, after four kids, a divorce, and somewhat forgetting who that girl was... Now at forty, I’m so excited to be doing this race.... and it will be a great way to reconnect after twenty years!"
The duo joined forces with Henke's cousins, Paul and Hallie. As Team 507, they navigated their way through fourteen of the sixteen checkpoints on the course, strong river currents preventing them from visiting the final two. "The entire experience was incredible," LaDue reflected. "Riding the bikes through the cow barn was my favorite part. This race was literally the hardest thing I have ever done physically... [and] I would say that adventure racing is a great way to rekindle a relationship!!"
Team Liberty Pups returned this year for their fourth Rib Mountain event. The team – whose name is a nod to their pet dachshund – has historically consisted of mom Liesle Markevitch and daughter Ellise. The pair learned about adventure racing as many have: watching Eco-Challenge. But their journey into the sport was more complicated. In ninth grade, Ellise entered in-patient treatment for an eating disorder. One of her symptoms was over-exercising, and after a year away from activity, part of her recovery included easing back into sports. Her reentry coincided with her mom’s introduction to Eco-Challenge. “It looked like horrible fun,” said Liesle, a longtime Crossfitter. “It was totally outside of my comfort zone and I couldn’t believe people would actually do it.”
The pair decided to enter their first Rib Mountain Adventure Challenge as a local, low-stakes competition. “It was new to us so we weren’t completely invested. If it was too much, we could just walk away.”
They loved it.
Team Vert has finally broken through and claimed a mixed division USARA National Points Series Regional Championship race. The team won in meticulous fashion surviving an epic overnight trek and was the only team to clear the course at NYARA's The Longest Day.
“We had so much out there,” said Alyssa Godesky from Team Vert. “We knew this would be a course to play to our strengths of being physically demanding on technical terrain, so we were pleased to back that up with a solid day of navigation and route choices.”
Teammate Matt Cymanski concurred about the difficult course through the Catskills.
“The course was by far the physically hardest trekking we've experienced in an adventure race, compounded by the heat on Saturday, but we loved it,” he said. “There were some interesting route choices, great unpredictable, mandatory bushwhacking with not many rhododendrons, and some opportunities to put the hammer down on roads and trails.”
“The course played to some of our strengths, but also it was incredibly well run by Aaron, Austin and the team at NYARA. They worked really hard and pulled off a ton of logistics to make the race happen,” he added.
The race was originally scheduled for western Connecticut, but the state wouldn't issue any permits due to logging activities in one section of the course.
"I have been adventure race planning non-stop for two months," said Aaron Courain, the main race director. "The course hasn't suffered at all. We were not going to just slap something together. I would want to race this course."
NYARA is very familiar with the Catskills, but the course reused a few areas. And they haven't been used since 2009 in this linear, point-to-point race featuring big elevation, class IV scrambling near the summits, and beautiful alpine terrain.
“The overnight trek is pretty committing,” said Aaron Courain, NYARA Race Director. “It is 12 miles and 5000 ft of vert. There is no way out other than through ---I was a little worried. The 3 mile bushwhack is very committing.”
"It was all of our first time visiting the Catskills, and it was a unique opportunity to race through the wilderness area," said Cymanski. "We will definitely be back in the future."
Team Vert has raced strong at the other Regional Championship races including the Shenandoah Epic in April and the Hard Fall last October.
“It feels great to finally get the first adventure racing W,” said Cymanski. “We targeted this race with the intent of punching our ticket to Nationals, and it seemed in doubt a few times during the day and night to us, but we were able to manage our mistakes and always keep moving forward. We still have so much to learn but are excited to see where we stack up against the best in the country this fall."
Team Vert joins Strong Machine AR, Team Kuat, Rootstock Racing, Dead Reckoning, and Team Toyota Tundra as mixed division Regional Champions who have earned free entry into the USARA National Championship in September.
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