Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Adventure Racing: What it is and why I do it
Even amongst mountain bikers, trail runners, and multi-sport athletes, I often get asked "What is an adventure race?" It seems everyone knows what a triathlon is, (although most NON-triathletes automatically think of Ironman) but relatively few people know what an adventure race is. My usual response is that an adventure race is like an off-road triathlon, but instead of the traditional swim, bike, run, the events are trail running, mountain biking, and kayaking (in no particular order) with special tests or mystery events throughout the race. As with triathlons, there are varying distances, but this is pretty much where the similarities end.
Triathlons usually consist of a sprint, olympic distance, half-ironman, or ironman distance, but the disciplines and order of events are always (borishly in my opinion) consistent. Swim - transition - Bike - transition - Run. Triathlons are a great way to motivate some people to stay healthy and they're a decent measure of fitness, but they are also a decent way to get people to push themselves physically and mentally more than they otherwise might in their daily routines or hobbies.
Adventure Racing not only incorporates these physical disciplines, it also adds several other dimensions like scenery, interacting with the varying terrains, mental/intellectual challenges, team building skills, and an unpretentious comraderie amongst competitors that is hard to find in triathletes. I know this from first-hand experience. Many adventure racers were once triathletes that (like myself) made the cross over and stuck with it after discovering how much there is to love about it.
There are no prerequisites to be an adventure racer other than having a love of life and wanting to have fun. There are a few solo ARs, but most are team events consisting of 2, 3, or 4 person teams. The rules for adventure racing are simple. During the race, teammates must stay together and complete each event as a team. This is for safety as well as a necessity for completing the race successfully. Racers must respect the land they're racing on and practice the "Leave no trace" philosophy. During ARs, competitors cannot receive assistance from spectators or anyone outside the race, but MAY get help from other racers. This happens frequently and is sometimes necessary to complete a race. The "special tests/mystery events" can be anything from orienteering/navigation, an obstacle course, completing a run while zip-tied to your teammate at the wrist, crawling through a mud pit, solving a rubix cube, guessing a movie from clues, solving a sudoku puzzle, hitting paintball targets, or various other mental and physical challenges.
Hopefully, this gives at least a basic understanding of what adventure racing is. That being said, hopefully you'll want to get involved in one some day.