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Adventure Racing: The Basics

Have fun.  Now this simple idea is twisted on interpretation by a few sick, masochistic individuals who’s idea of fun involves traipsing through the woods (desert, ocean, jungle, bog, etc) by as many human powered methods as possible.  Then, you turn it into a race so you can see how you fair against other similarly psychotic individuals.  Next thing you know, you have an adventure race.

With this overall guiding light to show us the way the rest of adventure racing falls into place.  For starters, there is no set course.  Racers must navigate between point A and point B by the route that seems most appropriate to them.  Having a set course would take some of the fun out of it.  With out those “where the hell are we” moments, it wouldn’t be an adventure race.  These points in adventure racing terms are called Checkpoints, or more commonly CP’s.  The CP’s are numbered, and it works just like connect the dots.  You go from CP 1 to CP 2, and then to CP 3, and so on, and so on.

A race that simply involves a single discipline would only require checkpoints, but to be a true adventure race, you need to make it a multi-sport event.  This requirement generates another adventure racing term, transition area (TA’s).  The TA’s are the locations where your equipment will be to switch from kayaking to biking for example.  TA’s are also CP’s.  For instance, TA 1 may also be CP 4.  The great thing about transition areas is that if your arms are tired from kayaking, you know that upcoming TA means you get to rest your arms (your legs may complain now, but at least your arms get a break). 

Navigation is necessary throughout an adventure race to ensure that you are actually traveling from CP 2 to CP 3 rather than heading off to, let’s say Canada, or some other far flung locale that gets you no closer to the finish.  Navigation is accomplished with a map and compass.  The only other aid that you can have is an altimeter (although that does little to help you on the kayaking legs.  Sea level is sea level).  With these three simple tools you pin point the location where you are currently, and decide the route that you need to travel to get to your next CP.  GPS’s are not allowed at any point, as they would severely detract from those “where the hell are we” moments that make adventure racing so much fun.

We hope this little intro into adventure racing is helpful, and answers most questions you may have.  If there are any points you would like clarification on please email us, and we will reply with an answer that is both informative and entertaining.  For specifics on navigation, food, water, paddling technique, running form, or bike maintenance there are numerous books available at your local bookstore that can aid in all of these areas and many more.  Judging by the fact you are even considering doing an adventure race you may also want to spend some time in the self help section of the bookstore because there is definitely something wrong with you if you want to spend your weekend slogging around the San Juan Islands rather than at home watching football.

For gear that you will need for these races please check out our gear lists for each race.  

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