Adventure Race Training: Beyond the Physical

Never try something (strategy, equipment) in a race without first trying it in practice. While this isn’t possible in every situation-adventure racing particularly requires on-the-fly creativity-it is advisable to practice as many race scenarios as possible. Practice these elements of adventure racing and your first race will become even more “do-able”.

Transitons: Much like in triathlon, time can be gained or lost in your transitions. Adventure racing transitions can be much more complicated than those in triathlon-you may not only be changing gear, but you may be doing map work, restocking foods and fluids, tending to blisters….Just like triathlon, it is important to visualize the transition-what you want to do and the order in which you’ll do it-before you get there. Talk to your teammates….evaluate your physical and mental condition….decide on a plan of action…..If you need more time to “recover”-take it. But, always keep in mind that an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion…..

Support Crews: While most sprint races have a central transition area much like triathlons, some races require teams to enlist the help of support crews to move their equipment from transition to transition. Support crews are typically family members, friends, or other people interested in learning more about the sport. Good support crews can make or break your race. Practicing transitions with your support crew during training is an excellent way to figure out how you want your gear arranged, what you’ll do in the transition and what you would like your crew to do, what type of food you want….

Night Training: While I don’t recommend you make your first race a night race, sometimes this may be what you choose. Don’t make the race the first time you try trail running, mountain biking or paddling at night. It would be a mistake to get out on the trail in a race and realize that your LED bike light just isn’t bright enough to see that big palmetto root in the trail or that your headlamp batteries only last an hour.

Sleep Deprivation: Again, I don’t recommend that your first race be an overnighter, but if this is what you choose, train accordingly. While experienced adventure racers don’t often train through several days without sleep-it is important for beginners faced with this possibility in a race to try it. Everyone needs to experience sleep deprivation (the nausea, the giddiness, the difficulty concentrating, the head bobs) before actually attempting a multi-day race so that you will know how you and your teammates will react. Knowing this will help you develop a sleep strategy to get you through the race.

Towing: Adventure racing at the highest level is a coed team sport and typically not all the athletes on the team have the same physical abilities. Towing a slower or injured teammate (or one with a broken bike) can help the whole team move faster. Most top teams will carry some type of tow set up to use on the run (usually some type of thin bungee cord) and the bike (typically bungee cord held away from the rear wheel by some type of rod or tube). Because the danger to both participants can increase while towing, it is essential to practice attaching and detaching the bungee while moving.

Navigation: While it is typically not as challenging in sprint races as in longer events, navigation still can be the crux of the race. Charging full speed down the wrong trail or paddling upstream when you were supposed to be going downstream can make or break your team’s race. With this in mind, go somewhere (biking, hiking, and paddling) that has maps and take turns practicing navigation. Stop frequently to assess where you are. Try to figure out faster routes to different points.

NOTE: this article was orginally published as a sidebar in Florida Sports.

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