Performance in Adventure Races

Checkpoint Zero has a really interesting article about what are the most important elements to consider when preparing for an Adventure Race. Basically, the article suggests that we focus too much on the conditioning aspects of preparing for a race, and forget about some other elements that are very crucial to successfully completing a race. For instance, navigation skills, working with a teammate, and general AR experience are all critical ingredients that can make or break a race.

I found this to be a thought provoking article. A racer can train and prepare all he or she wants, but we all know you can’t survive in an expedition length race (or even 24-48 hour races) without your teammates, and having the skills necessary to paddle, peddle, or navigate your way through the course. Conditioning is only one part of the puzzle when it comes to making it to the finish line, but it’s still a very important piece of that puzzle.

When training for an Adventure Race, you need to think about your conditioning while building those skills. You can have a great training session on the mountain bike, which not only provides a good cardio workout, but teaches you how to ride faster and more securely over rugged terrain. You can spend hours in the kayak and gain both much needed paddling skills, and endurance on the water. We don’t often think about those things going hand in hand, but they do, and perhaps if we are more cognizant of that while we are training, we’ll see how the elements mesh more.

Learning to navigate and work well with your team are two things that can only come through experience. If at all possible, train with your team whenever you can. You’ll build a rapport, and soon find out if you are compatible or not. Head out to the woods for a navigation exercise in which all teammates participate, and learn to work together, find out who is a strong navigator, and who is better in other areas, and more importantly learn to trust one another. It’ll save you a lot of headaches in the field later on, and will make for a more pleasureable racing experience for everyone involved.

Which brings me to the next point the article makes, experience. There is only one way to get experience in adventure racing, and this is by adventure racing. Do a few races. Start with the shorter sprints. Work your way up to the 24 hour, or longer, races. If things feel good, and you find yourself on a team that you get along well with, and one that consistently finishes these shorter races, then perhaps you are ready for a longer, expedition length race, such as Primal Quest.

It seems like this is the first of a series of articles aimed at preparing for a longer race, that will be coming over the next few weeks. I look forward to what the future installments will add, as this piece was thought provoking and insightful. With 2006 here, and a new Primal Quest coming in a few months, it’s never to early to start preparing.