Prep Talk

A successful adventure race begins long before the starting gun sounds

Jul 1, 2001
Outside Magazine

Choosing a Race: Event reviews are traded frequently among participants in the adventure- racing e-mail list maintained by champion racer Robert Nagle; subscribe at www.adventurerac For a complete calendar of North American adventure races, visit the USARA Web site at Consider, too, that the "adventure racing" moniker gets attached to events of many different shapes and sizes. The popular Hi-Tec Adventure Racing Series events consume three to five hours and involve no navigation (they're in suburban settings), while events like the Endorphin FIX span a couple of days in the rural environs of West Virginia's New River Gorge. Need a few more suggestions? See "You'll Never Forget...," facing page.

Picking a Team: The most common adventure-racing team format is a coed foursome, but most events now include multiple categories and welcome single-sex teams and teams as small as two members. How to recruit? "The most important quality any teammate can have is a good attitude that doesn't wither under stress," says Don Mann, author of The Complete Guide to Adventure Racing, published in April (Hatherleigh Press, $20). Also, sign up teammates whose fitness levels are comparable to your own and whose skills complement yours. You're a strong biker? Ring up your expert-paddler friend.
Choosing a Support Crew: Many weekend adventure races allow support teams—usually in the form of dear, devoted friends (one to four, depending on the race). This crew is responsible for having their team's equipment ready at each official checkpoint. Generally, they also feed the racers a quick, hot meal, perform light first aid, and pass on useful information (weather conditions, water levels, the team's position, etc.). "Look for organization, a good disposition, and technical knowledge, in that order," says Nagle.

Skills: The core adventure-racing skills are land and water navigation, packing and carrying a backpack, basic rope work (usually rappelling on a fixed line or sliding along a Tyrolean traverse), and bike maintenance. "Ideally, the members of your team will have a mix of skills, so you can teach them to each other," says Nagle. "But if none of you knows any navigation, for example, it would be a good idea to go get that training as a team."

Conditioning: "The first thing you need to do is sit down and figure out how much time you can spend training for this sport on a weekly basis," says Don Mann. "If you have at least six hours a week to train, you can complete a 24- or 48-hour race." Mann, 43, divides training into two components: conditioning and skills. Conditioning should absorb about 90 percent of your time; skills, the rest. By race day, you'll need marathon-level endurance, i.e. you should be able to run, mountain bike, or paddle at a fairly intense level for at least three hours. If possible, plan for four months of consistent, incremental training (maybe half this amount of time if you already have a solid endurance base). No need to be anal—heart-rate monitors are optional—just be steady, dividing your time fairly evenly among running, mountain biking, and paddling, with extra time spent on your weakest event. Periodically, go hard; periodically, go long.

If you've got eight hours a week to train and you're a terrible paddler, your regimen should look something like this:
Monday: off. Tuesday: one-hour mountain-bike ride. Wednesday: one hour of kayaking. Thursday: one-hour trail run with pack. Friday: one-hour nighttime mountain-bike ride with pack. Saturday: two hours of kayaking with team. Sunday: two-hour orienteering race with team.

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