“Adventure race? That’s not for me.”
I hear this all the time when people hear what I do with my days. The thought evokes epic scales up impressively impossible, snow covered peaks and men with thick biceps and strong jaws making grunting noises over their squirrel dinner.
But the fact is, adventure racing (or “A.R.” as we shorten it to) can be as painful as the Death Race or as long as more than a week in the wilds of Patagonia, but for the vast majority of folks looking to get out of their head, out of the city, and see something amazing, AR offers the opportunity to anyone who can sit on a bike and walk on the soil.
“Sprint Races” give the less-committed, or maybe less initiated participant a taste of the good stuff, with a lot more control and support than what most people think of as an “adventure race.” Usually taking the fastest teams two hours to complete, he slowest teams usually come in around four (some even walk the whole thing, taking pictures and eating picnics along the way). It’s a great way to take a morning to do something you’ll talk about for a while while still having time to get home and do chores or explore the location of the adventure race you’ve traveled to.
All Out is committed to providing you with the finest race experience you can have – selecting heart-stoppingly beautiful venues and uber fun trails, always favoring single track above dirt and asphalt when we can, and making courses dynamic and fluid, like a real trek through the most beautiful stuff the region has to offer. We want you to have a good time and truly see what you’re made of, and we promise never to frustrate you with course design or stupid elements.
The Components of the Race
For our sprints, we require a two-person team. For one reason, it’s more fun, and for another, you’re there to take care of each other. A lot of times your race time will be faster because you’ll be pushing your teammate (both mentally and literally). Coming across the finish line with your friend, loved one, or maybe just the partner you found can make the experience. Many people get creative, they’re ride one another, hold hands, skip, leap frog . . . and that’s just the finish. Sharing the experience with someone makes it that much better. You need to stay within 100 feet of each other at all times, no dropping or strategic waiting – you both pull the same load and experience the same race.
This is often the big stopper for adventure race would-bes because they do not have much experience with water. But no fear, most people’s weakest part of the race is this one. We provide two-person sit-on-top kayaks, which no one is really great at on lakes anyway. Just grab one, jump on and start paddling. You’ll get there. The two of you will figure out a rhythm and when one gets tired, the other picks up the slack.
Our races favor fun single track mountain biking – which means you need to be pretty comfortable on the bike. You don’t need to be an expert, though. If you’re used to riding a bike on paths, you may have to get off and push occasionally (steep climbing and descents can be intimidating), but the fact that you’re in a “race” will help push you a little harder than you knew you could go, and that’s part of the joy. Your commuter bike, if it’s got big tires, can get you through the race, but having at least a single-suspension mountain bike will make it more comfortable and fun. Bikes are available locally to rent, just ask us!
AR always bills the foot section as “running” but for most teams, even the fast ones, it’s more often jogging or walking/hiking. Because our races are usually situated in hilly locations, you’ll be doing a lot of up and down, maybe some bushwacking, and maybe some light rock scaling. You’re likely carrying a pack with you, too. We don’t expect four-minute miles, and you shouldn’t either. Please take the time to check out the view as you go!
In our sprint races, we clearly mark the trail with arrows and flagging tape – in longer AR experiences, you need to find your own way. In order to keep that element of thinking, teamwork, and surprise, All Out is always coming up with fun little challenges on-course that involve skills you didn’t know you had. Maybe it involves supervised ropes, puzzle-solving, cargo-net climbing, or even water slides!
Since the race is so short, a few portable food items and water usually does the trick. If the weather is hot, be sure to take time and make sure you have enough water and some food to help you absorb the water and you’ll be just fine. No technical nutrient intake needed. You’ll burn tons of calories, but you’ll be having fun doing it at your own pace.
A bike helmet, comfortable clothes, and a bike is really all you need for this race. We recommend clipless pedals for the bike to make you faster and more efficient, but many people do fine with toe clips or flat paddle-type pedals. Lots of people like wearing spandex bike shorts and jerseys for the races – it cuts down on chafing and picking up burrs and such. Because our sprint AR races are usually on paths, you don’t have to be as worried about poison oak contact or stickers, but gaiters can be a good thing in tick-country. Good running shoes are a must – check out the tread for off-roading beforehand, sometimes road shoes are too slick for solid footing on loose soil and rock. Hats or bandanas are great, and don’t forget the sunblock and sunglasses!
Hopefully this article helps you get some confidence about adventure racing. In no other sport do you combine multiple disciplines in a well-supported backcountry jaunt in a fun and as competitive-as-you-want-to-make-it setting. Get off the roads and into the wilderness, it’s good for the soul!
Hope to see you soon!
Thanks to Scott Wallace for the photos from the 2010 May Adventure Sprint!