The Mule, The Captain, and The Mother Hen all play important roles in Adventure Racing, and no, these are not fairy tale personalities.
Each is a critical role that every team must have and understand in order to be successful. Expectations for each role are set before a race and should not be changed unless injury occurs.
The Captain. Adventure racing is not a democratic activity. A race is not the time to have a team discussion on strategy. Decision making is the key to success in adventure racing. Whether you are picking a direction to travel or deciding when to take a team nap, the captain is the decision maker for the team.
The Mule. The team member that is responsible for towing and carrying the majority of the team gear. Often, the mule is carrying extra water, food, and other team gear.
This allows the other team members to travel light and go fast. Often you will designate different individuals to be the mule for the various disciplines of an adventure race, usually the strongest kayaker, runner, and mountain biker.
The Mother Hen. The success of the team depends on this role. This team member sets the pace for the team and makes sure that people are eating and drinking on a regular schedule. More importantly, the Mother Hen watches for signs of fatigue, injury, limping and anything else that may have negative effects on the team.
Working closely with the team Captain, the Mother Hen is empowered to slow down the pace, initiate team rest breaks, and do whatever is necessary to keep the team physically, emotionally and mentally healthy.
The Navigator. This is the person responsible for the maps, route selection and overall travel strategy for the team. The Navigator and Captain work closely throughout the race.
Usually the navigator is given the responsibility to make all travel decisions, but the Captain can over-rule these decisions if the race takes an unexpected direction.
Lastly, whenever possible, the Captain and Navigator should not be the same person in a race. The navigator needs to focus on the maps and will not make for a good captain.
Pick the Role That's Right for You
Remember, roles need to be understood before the race start. During a race, it is critical that everyone support each other. If you are not the Navigator, you should refrain from making any suggestions or comments about the maps, unless you are asked.
If the Mother Hen says that the team needs to rest, then everyone will stop and rest. Once the race is done, take a few days to recover, and then you can discuss what you liked and did not like about the team. Be constructive.
And what if you don't have a role on a team? Just race and think about what role you would like to have next time. Share your thoughts with the team after the race and pick your role for the next race.
Hani Juha is an active adventure racer, triathlon coach, and co-founder of California Adventure Racing Association, a non-profit that helps promote teamwork and community through adventure racing.