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Time To Go On An Adventure --

an Adventure Race

If you've participated in marathons, triathlons and the like and are looking for the ultimate challenge to test your manhood (or womanhood), adventure racing is for you! According to the United States Adventure Race Association (USARA), 250,000 people participated in adventure racing over the last five years. The USARA expects this number to double and possibly triple during the next couple years.

Adventure racing is the sport that can show you what you're made of. You canít fully appreciate this fact, however, until you are out there cold, famished, aching and exhausted... yet, somehow finding the guts to continue.

Two of the most popular adventure races are the Raid Gauloises and Eco Challenge. Teams of four, comprised of both males and females race for 6Ė12 days (24 hours a day), covering a rugged course via mountain bike, river raft, horseback, mountaineering, canoe, kayak and caving. To win, you must be the first team, completely intact, to cross the finish line. Check out for information on last yearís race in Fiji. You can subscribe to the Raid Gauloises newsletter at

Granted this is not for everyone. But not all adventure races are as extreme as the Eco Challenge or Raid Gauloises, expedition-style races that typically last two days or longer. The other types of races are sprint (lasting anywhere from three hours to eight) and adventure (lasting from eight to 48 hours).

Sprint races are a good introduction to racing. They are relatively short but still present a major challenge to racers. A typical race includes four disciplines -- mountain biking, trekking, kayaking and climbing -- for a total of 12 to 30 miles over harsh territory. Races often have surprises along the way, such as archery, orienteering, Tyrolean traverse, swimming and rock wall climbing.

Expedition races are strictly for experienced adventure racers. They last several days and are located in some of the most difficult mountain or jungle areas in the world. These types of races boast that they equate to climbing two Mount Everests.

Races such as the Eco Challenge require nearly full-time training and are very expensive to participate in -- the entry fee for this race is $12,000 alone. Add in gear, food, travel expenses, etc. and you are talking big money. Some teams are subsidized by private or corporate sponsors.

Adventure races require the skill to navigate unfamiliar territory at night. The potential for injury, lack of sleep, inclement weather, meal planning and extreme endurance all come into play. But the fittest team does not necessarily win an adventure race. It takes mental fortitude, outdoor savvy and excellent navigational skills to complete, let alone win, the race.

Once you have chosen your race, itís time to start training. You need a fitness program tailored to the challenges the race presents. You should have a solid aerobic base with three to six months of consistent training under your belt.

While training, learn more about the race you have chosen. What gear is needed? Which certifications, if any, may be required? Speak with people who have participated in the particular race you have chosen. If possible, volunteer at it the year before you plan to participate.

Tips for a successful adventure race:

1. Base your goals according to your experience. Finishing in and of itself is a victory.

2. Choose teammates that share common goals, fitness and skill levels.

3. Train as a team to practice team strategy and decision-making.

4. Pre-select the team leader and navigator. The leader is responsible for ensuring time is used effectively. The navigator is responsible for knowing where the team is, has been and is going.

5. Spend as much time as possible practicing the activities required for the race. Take lessons for the activities you or your team members are unfamiliar with.

6. Train wearing a pack to simulate carrying all your gear, food and water -- about 20 pounds. You may carry your pack throughout the entire race or through just one discipline.

7. Do a brick workout -- a session of one discipline immediately followed by another (i.e., one hour of biking followed by two hours of hiking) -- once a week. Once a month, go on a weekend outing for a multi-discipline, multi-hour (6 Ė 10 continuous hours) team practice.

8. Since most races require some nocturnal mountain biking and hiking, train at night as part of your monthly multi-discipline, multi-hour outing.

9. Plan your route and navigate on a topographical map to determine your team's pace in each discipline. Imitate race conditions, from sleep deprivation to nocturnal navigation. Pack and use gear and food as you would while racing.

10. Learn how to pack efficiently. Ten extra pounds will feel a lot heavier after 48 hours. Decide what gear you really need and what extras you must take. Make sure you have everything on the required equipment list: a watch, water, food, extra flashlight batteries, etc.

11. Learn how to eat. Often you are burning calories faster than your body can process what you have eaten. Try different things, such as having a hydration bladder full of water and one of a sports drink. Sip throughout the race -- striving for a 3:1 ratio of water to sports drink to maintain electrolyte balance. Anything compact that is nutritious and calorie dense is good.

12. Train your teamís navigational skills. If you donít know where you are or need to go, it doesnít matter how fast your team is.

13. Build strength, power, speed and endurance. Your strength-training program should include exercises that replicate the actual movements required, i.e., dips, step-ups, standing hip extensions, push-ups and pull-ups. An interval session each week will build speed and power. Aerobic and brick workouts will build endurance.

14. Recovery time is very important. Schedule plenty of rest time following the race and replenish nutrients. Smaller races are becoming more available and are a great place to start. You shouldnít consider an expedition race until you have dedicated three or four years to adventure racing.

Even if you have been exercising regularly, give yourself at least 12 weeks to prepare mentally and physically for a smaller race. If you are unaccustomed to adventure racing, you need to give yourself time to become proficient at each sport as well as doing them consecutively. If you start out with no training base, it will take longer.

If you plan far enough ahead, you will be more than prepared for your first adventure race. Happy racing!

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

by Debbie Hickey, B.A., CPT/LWMC ACE, Wellness Coach
Special For eFitness -
Debbie has helped clients from all walks of life achieve a healthier lifestyle. She received her Bachelorís Degree from Rutgers College in New Jersey and is an ACE-certified Personal Trainer and Lifestyle & Weight Management Consultant. Before joining eFitness, Debbie managed and directed programming for fitness centers in New Jersey.

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