Adventure Races

Race Flag-off

Adventure racing is a multi-sports race, and you cannot escape the two most grueling disciplines, run and cycle. In some races, Kayaking (or Canoeing) form a major part of the race distance and endurance. As the name suggests, “adventure” racing is a race that brings you through a series of adventures that are exhausting yet exciting. Apart from running, cycling and sometimes kayaking, participants of adventure races will engage in other adventurous activities like rock climbing, abseiling, modified climbing related obstacles, mud crawling etc. The types of activities varies, some races even include handling or even eating some gruesome creatures.

Most races will take place in some wilderness areas, or a combination of urban and rural areas. In our local context (Singapore), we cannot escape racing in an urban area as what we have is abundance of concrete jungle. With the scarcity of our land, considering that putting up new buildings like condominiums and shopping malls have higher investment returns, we can only hope to race around the central catchment areas and along parks and park connectors.

We reckon that people who enjoy endurance sport will be keen to take part in an adventure race. However, not all people will appreciate the ambiguity of the sport. Meaning, the race has little information about the race route, little information about how much you have to endure or suffer during a race. So the case, if you are so a tune to having pre information given to you, and only be comfortable to expect what to be expected, then adventure racing may not suit you. Unlike triathlon races, adventure racing do not have fix running, cycling distances; a wrong decision or a minor error may send the team to race longer distances than required.

Type and Length of Races
There are three types of races: sprint (lasting a few hours to eight), adventure (lasting eight to 48 hours) and expedition (lasting two days or longer).

Sprint-style races are a good introduction to racing. Since they’re short, racers are less likely to put themselves in risky situations due to a lack of wilderness survival preparation. However, don’t be fooled into thinking they’re less than a major feat. A typical race includes four disciplines–mountain biking, trekking, kayaking and climbing–for a total of 12 to 40 kilometers over inhospitable terrain. Races often have mystery challenges, such as archery, orienteering, Crawling, Tyrolean Traverse, swimming, knot tying, rock wall climbing and puzzles.

Adventure-style races require nocturnal travel and navigational skills. Dealing with injury, meals, sleep, inclement weather and extreme endurance comes into play. Since a slower biker/runner/paddler/climber with good wilderness and navigational skills will do better in this race than a sprint, racers sometimes start here.

Expedition-style races are strictly for the experienced adventure racer. They last multiple days and take place in some of the most formidable mountain or jungle areas in the world. They include the Eco-Challenge (now defunct), Raid Gauloise, Southern Traverse, Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge — races that pride themselves as the equivalent of climbing two Mount Everest and in which a single misstep equals death. Not only do they require nearly full-time training, they’re also extremely expensive. Smaller races are becoming more accessible, so make expedition-style races a goal after three or four years of dedicated adventure racing, definitely not a first step.


Team Work

Most adventure races are team events.  Many racers find the team aspect of adventure racing to be among the most enticing and demanding aspects.  Teams typically elect a team captain, and designate a team navigator.  Teams have different views as to the functions of each of these positions, with some teams having little structure, while others assigned specifics rights and responsibilities to each of these persons.

Although teams have been successful with differing organizational philosophies, few teams are able to complete expedition length races with poor team dynamics.  Determining roles, goals and team philosophy before the start of the race is critical.

Preparing for an Adventure Race
Adventure racing is a multi-discipline event, training for adventure racing combines pure strength and endurance training with skills training.  The three disciplines that should be practiced are trekking or running, off road cycling and paddling.  It is worth noting that to simply compete and have an enjoyable race, you do not need to be an expert in all these events.  Often, a basic working knowledge will suffice.  Navigation is another aspect to consider, so basic map and compass knowledge is often pre-requisite for at least one teammate.
You do not need to be a super-human to do an adventure race.  Average people compete in these races and do well.  The best advice we can give is to train consistently.  Try and train with a group of like minded friends and get to know each other’s strengths.  When you race, decide on a common goal – whether it is to win, or just to finish.  Remember, it is not the strongest person that wins an adventure race, it is usually the team that works together the best.
To become a competitive adventure racer, one must be an accomplished runner, mountain biker, paddler and navigator.  Moreover, adventure race training goes beyond physical preparation; navigation skills, rope knowledge and basic wilderness medicine skills are also vital when competing in the longer events.  Proper nutrition, foot care, and mental preparation are essential during these longer races.
Jargons used in Adventure Racing
Below is a compiled list of terms that are commonly used in Adventure Racing.
Bonk – A physical or mental breakdown which makes one unable to continue at speed, or sometimes at all. Most often brought on by dehydration, lack of food energy, low electrolytes, sleep deprivation or some combination of the above. Also – the sound made when your head hits the ground.

Check Point – (Also CP) Numbered and ordered waypoints along the race course where the full team must check in with race officials and present their race passport. Numbers range from 2 or 3 in sprint races to 30 or more in expedition length races. (Also know as Passport Control (PC))Cut Off – A time, set by the race organization, by which teams must reach a check point to continue in the race. Failure to make a cut off may cause a team to be pulled off the course or transferred to a shorter alternative course.Dark Zone – Any section of the race course the race director has determined is unsafe to travel at night, and thus prohibited travel between certain hours. A team held up by a dark zone must not travel in the Dark Zone until the dark zone is lifted. Violation of Dark Zones is grounds for disqualification or penalty.

Diet – This is a new term that is now being used by some races. Current definition is an adventure race simulation where you lose the excess fat…no fees, no rules, no t -shirts, no support.

DQ: Disqualification.Endo – The act of momentary flight as you sail over your (bike) handle bars and collide with a stationary object, such as the ground.Gear Drop – (Also GD) An unsupported Transition Area, which means race officials will drop your crate, or bag, of equipment and supplies in a predetermined place, but with no support crew.Mandatory Gear–  A list of compulsory gear required to race.Monkey Butt – That beautiful bright pink effect one gets being on a bike saddle or kayak seat for several hundred miles.

Navigator – That unfortunate soul that volunteers, or gets saddled with, the navigation during a race. This person is both a hero and a villain, changing roles hourly…sometimes by the minute. Just remember when you are thinking of “knocking them off”, make sure you get the compass.

Passport – A small, multi-page book created by the race organization each team must carry throughout the race. The passport must be signed and time stamped at each CP.  Loss of the passport results in a team disqualification (DQ).Portage – Most often used to describe the carrying of kayaks or canoes, but in AR often used to describe the carrying of bikes over rough and steep terrain.Puppy Pile – Most often in cold weather, the way a team gathers in a cluster of bodies to conserve body heat.Routing Point – (RP) Points places within a race course used to direct you through a certain area. Routing Points do not usually have any kind of tag or punch. They are merely used to keep you in a certain area, route you around areas or make a race loop longer.Sleep Dep. – The tendency of Adventure Racers to run until their brains stop functioning from a lack of down time. Short for sleep deprivation.

Team Captain– The one individual responsible for all of the initial information, receiving the checkpoints, and getting important information about the race.

Transition Area – (Also TA) Defined areas, generally within check points (CP), where teams may receive aid from their support crews. In real terms this means a chance to change clothes, eat substantial food, receive body repairs, and change equipment.

Unranked Team – A team that is allowed to continue without all members, or having missed a portion of the course for any reason. In many cases they may finish the race, but will not be listed in the “official” rankings.

Yard Sale – Scattering of equipment over a race course, usually under the influence of stress and sleep deprivation or fatigue, by otherwise responsible racers.