Tuesday, June 26, 2012

AR: Surviving Adventure Race

You have done it. You are on a team, registered for an adventure race and ready to take the next step. Planning a realistic and structured training plan is as important as showing upon race day. Like many sports, if you develop and follow a realistic and well-structured plan, you will enjoy the journey and reap the benefits of your training.

An adventure race, unlike a triathlon, is unpredictable. No one team will complete the same course. There are variations in navigation, weather and distance. Because of this, one needs to train for the endurance to keep moving for 24 hours straight or even several days at a time. It is a rugged kind of fitness. It is about stepping out of your comfort zone and challenging your mind and body to work with whatever crosses your path. The key is to be strong enough to adapt and keep moving.

Team Kakithon presented by Mentor Training

Planning a training program for an adventure race is a fun and creative process. You get to include a variety of sports and exercise and it is very specific to the race you've selected. It is a little like building a home. And if you let it…it will take you back to your childhood in a heartbeat. It is important to start from the ground up. The first step is to build the "foundation" to train your heart, lungs and muscles for the time and intensity of the event. A strong foundation will provide the structure to bare the distance, time and elements of the race.

Although the disciplines vary from race to race, a solid training program should include running, mountain biking, rowing or kayaking, strength and flexibility, and hiking/trekking. It sounds like a lot to put in every week but there are ways to incorporate all modes efficiently. What may seem overwhelming soon becomes a refreshing way to use your fitness as you train differently every day. Plus, the element of mystery regarding the course will keep you motivated and inspired.


The foundation stage of training should concentrate more on building endurance and less on intensity or speed. It will allow your body to move efficiently to the next level, specificity.

Once the foundation is strong it is time to add specific elements of the course to your training plan. For instance, running or trekking on hills if the terrain will be rolling. Trekking with weight in your pack for hours. Spending the time on your feet with a simulated race pack (everything you will carry on race day) will prepare you for what it will feel like during the event. Find out as much information on the terrain as possible and then simulate it in your training. Kayaking or paddling on lakes or rivers. Running on grass or sand to strengthen your legs, ankles and feet. Training with your teammates. Training through the night to experience sleep deprivation. Learning how to work with ropes for rappelling and climbing. If animals are involved, get on them and ride them. Mountain biking with a full pack. The key to this stage is to be creative and have fun with it. The one element I completely overlooked when attempting to complete The Fix was getting time on my feet. You will be trekking for hours with weight on your back. I made it through the race but my feet resembled the Elephant Man during the post-race party. Prepare your body now and it will work with you on raced day.

Once the house is built it is time to accessorize or fine-tune your training. This includes practicing the sports that you are least experienced at. Developing good technique can save you hours on the racecourse. Whether it is paddling, navigation, climbing, riding or transitions, practice will further prepare you and your team for the challenges that will come your way.

Remember, the key to being a successful adventure racer is being a good generalist. The joy of this sport is that you can have average skills at a lot of sports and still do well. What is better than that?

Nothing...

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