Bill Swann and teammate Jeremy Kuhlen weren't exactly in uncharted territory.
Their map and compass calculations in a Fredericksburg adventure race, however, definitely took them off the beaten path.
"We took a six- to eight-minute detour up a cruel hill only to realize we had arrived at the rear entrance to a shopping center," Swann said.
Getting sidetracked didn't cost them the race. They went on to win the overall championship in the Rappahannock Adventure Triathlon by a comfortable margin.
But it just goes to show that they don't call it adventure racing for nothing.
"Races have been won by the courses chosen and lost by the courses not chosen," said Swann, president of the Richmond YeRen Adventure Sports and Racing Team.
Using a map and compass is one of the cerebral challenges in a sport that revels in testing the muscles, as well as the minds, of off-road athletes.
"Adventure racing is more challenging than triathlons," said Christine Bone, an ultramarathoner and triathlete. "You don't know what you're getting into. It's an adventure."
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Bone, an intelligence officer with the Army, was among three dozen athletes at Pocahontas State Park last month for a nighttime navigation clinic. She and Scott Olson, a Special Forces officer, came from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to link up with members of NVRacing, a team based in Northern Virginia.
As temperatures neared three digits and the humidity pressed close like a steaming towel, racers readied kayaks, canoes, mountain bikes and trail-running shoes for a 10- to 12-hour stint in the park in Chesterfield County.
For Bone and Olson, the event provided an opportunity to stay sharp for next spring's Primal Quest. The televised expedition race spans six to 10 days and offers the biggest cash pot and the toughest challenge in the sport.
For Swann and Kuhlen, the Pocahontas jaunt was preparation for one of Virginia's gold-star events, Storm the Eastern Shore.