What takes between three hours and 12 days, requires stamina, athleticism and patience, and usually leaves participants feeling worn out and battered? If you said completing your taxes, youre close. The actual answer is adventure racing, one of the fastest-growing sports in the world.
No adventure race is the same. Most incorporate trail-running or hiking, mountain biking, paddling and navigation, and races can last just a few hours or more than a week. No matter the distance, preparation is the key to success in any adventure race.
Adventure races are divided into three categories: sprint, midlength and expedition. Sprint races are the most popular and fastest-growing segment. These events, such as the Hi-Tec Adventure Racing Series and the Western Maryland Adventure Race, usually last three to eight hours. For the most part, speed is more important than skill.
Midlength events last anywhere from 24 to 60 hours, and though speed is still important, skills play an increasingly crucial role. Odyssey Adventure Racings Endorphin Fix and the Subaru/NOC 30-Hour Adventure Race are excellent examples of midlength events.
Finally, expedition races are multiday, nonstop events that run from four to 12 days. These races require strong skills, endurance, teamwork and smarts in order to even finish. The Eco-Challenge, Raid Gauloises, Southern Traverse and the Beast of the East are all expedition races.
Tips for sprint adventure races
Alan Holmes, an adventure racer from Norfolk, Va., who has competed in everything from the Hi-Tec Adventure Series to the Raid Gauloises, says that the best way to train for a sprint-distance adventure race is to train like you would for a triathlon. Speed is crucial, and the physically strongest team usually wins.
Holmes recommends teams incorporate track speedwork and strength training into their running regimes. Its important to run and bike several days each week and on the weekends, combine both of these activities and practice reducing the transition time between events. Additionally, try to get actual paddling time in a canoe or kayak. If not, swimming, weightlifting and ergonomic machines can help increase upper-body strength.
Holmes also suggests doing some tactical planning. For example, many of the sprint races have special tests such as wall climbs and ropes. It helps for teams to think through how they'd want to handle these events ahead of time.
Tips for midlength races
Tracyn and Norm Greenberg, who run the NOCs adventure racing school in North Carolina, and are considered Americas most successful adventure-racing couple, say that for the midlength races its critical to focus on endurance workouts. During the weekdays, Tracyn does more aerobic-type workouts, usually a one-hour run or a one- to two-hour bike ride followed by a weight workout.
On the weekends, she does a long hike with a heavy pack, followed by a long mountain-bike ride (with her pack), followed by a two- to three-hour paddle. Caroline Brosius, an experienced adventure-racer from D.C., recommends training at night. In midlength races, participants get little or no sleep, so its critical they feel comfortable hiking, biking and navigating in the dark.
The mind games one plays to stay awake for days on end with short bits of sleep is satisfying in some twisted sort of way, Tracyn says.