Adventure racing offers many unique challenges for athletes and teams, one of the toughest being the night portion of the race. More than physical strength and endurance, teams need a good strategy in order to get through the night and arrive to the finish line safely.
So if you are considering the challenge of a 24-hour adventure race, you need to be prepared for the cold, racing in the dark, and fighting the sleep monsters. Following is an idea of what to expect, should you and your team decide to accept the challenge.
Two hours before sunset, you will feel a burst of energy fueled by anxiety and the misconception that the race will end before dark. Your body will not expect for you to continue racing into the night, as we are conditioned to rest and sleep at that time--but there will be another 12 hours to go. This is the point when having an effective night racing strategy is critical.
The most obvious challenge of racing at night is poor visibility. Assuming a 9 p.m. sunset and 5 a.m. sunrise, teams will have to plan for eight hours of racing without sunlight. Even with lights, you simply cannot see the necessary details of your surrounding terrain, thereby limiting your available options for navigation. For example, leaving the safety of the trail for a short cut becomes a much bigger risk than during the day.
On the bike, you will be forced to slow down on descents in order to anticipate bumps and turns. While on the kayak, safety gear and kayak skills will be critical. Any potential emergency will need to be handled quickly and with confidence.
Being cold is not fun. Air temperature begins to drop after sunset and continues to do so through the night, usually reaching its lowest point two to three hours before sunrise. While pedaling, paddling, hiking or running, your body will generate heat and keep you warm, while simultaneously generate sweat--a good thing for staying cool during the daytime, but not such a good thing at night. Long or extended breaks at night as well as frequent stops will dry your sweat and begin the dangerous process of cooling your core body temperature.