Monday, June 11, 2012

AR: Valuable Input for Beginner

Some racers have come from a triathlon background and for them the conversion is easy, it’s just a matter of replacing swimming with kayak or canoeing. 

What about the true beginner adventure racing, they may have seen races on television such as the Eco-Challenge (by Mark Burnett) and thought they would like to do that. The Eco-Challenge is what is called an expedition race and is not a recommended way to start for the beginner adventure racing.

A work out plan for adventure racing will need to be scheduled for six to eight weeks prior to the event putting in training on the three basic disciplines, running, mountain biking and kayaking. A lot of beginner adventure racing omit training in kayaking and canoeing, and these people can often be seen going in circles during the race, so it is worth while spending some time at a local canoe or kayak club to learn the basics of how to travel in a straight line. Often in short races inflatable boats are used and these can be very challenging if a wind springs up.

Running and mountain biking should be practiced on trails gravel roads and single tracks, starting off with 30 minute sessions and building to 90 minutes remembering to put in some varied countryside and hills if possible.

Navigation is another area which is overlooked; if you have an orienteering gang near you it is well worth joining then you can practice your running and navigation at the same time.

A beginner adventure racing does not need special adventure racing gear or clothes to start with a race vest and shorts or leggings will do fine for the first few races. A running shoe or cross trainer which are the most suitable footwear for both for the running and mountain biking sections. You will also need a hydro-pack or bottle carriers for water and snacks such as energy bars or gels. Compass and map holder.

The biggest expense will be a mountain bike, although any bike can be used the most popular one is a hardtail that has front suspension, the key is to have one which is as light as possible. Remember also to have a toolkit with patches and gas inflator together with spare tubes. Some adventure racers put slime into tyres to help prevent punctures.

Most times kayaks or canoes are supplied by race organizer, but if the adventure racing bug bites, then it will be worth buying your own one to train with. If you have your own PFD (Personal Floatation Device) take it along, even if lifejacket are provided your own will be more comfortable, get one that has pockets to gear and if possible place to store a drinking bladder.

You will also need to put together a small first aid kit, with plasters, steril-strips, antiseptics, scissors, tweezers and don’t forget you will need vaseline or petroleum based gel to help prevent saddle sores and the like.

Beginner adventure racing involves passing through a number of check points or control points, at these points the beginner adventure racer will need to either clip a race card or have their time recorded in a passport. Care must be taken not to lose the card or passport as it is the only way of proving you have followed the correct course. Except in score races where competitors a given a set time to reach as many check points as possible it is important to move through the checkpoints in the correct order, Failure to do so will result in either having to return to the missed checkpoint, suffer a penalty or disqualification.

What type of race should a beginner adventure racing enter, the sprint race lasting a few hours or a longer race up to 24 hours. Many people assume the sprint race is the easiest, however the truth lies in the name a sprint is usually fast paced, so if you walk or jog you will be in trouble, if you have a background of running this is a fine starting point.

The longer the race the slower the pace for the beginner adventure racing and the slower pace allows one to take in and enjoy the great outdoors which is a big part of what beginner adventure racing is about, meeting people and discovering new places whilst learning about oneself.

The beginner adventure racing often makes the mistake of not get organised prior to the day of the race, it is vitally important to check that you have everything on the gear list packed and ready to go, together with any documents required by the organizers. Do this at least a day before the race when you will be resting from training.

On the day of the race remember to drink plenty of water to fully hydrate your body and get to the race area as early as possible. The area will be busy with fellow competitors rushing around unloading gear and making preparations. As soon as you can track down the registration area and get the formalities out of the way. Recheck the start time and then go to the starting area and check out the lay of the land. If the first leg is kayaking there may even be the opportunity to try out the kayak, if not just check out the one that you will be using.

Beginner adventure racing may be lucky to find races specifically for novices where an element of training is provided or where other racers will act as helpers and assist with navigation or provide advice during the race.

Perhaps you have arrived early, you may have the opportunity to chat with fellow racers, who might be able to provide insight in the way that particular race is run or points to watch out for. You will also see what kind of equipment they are using. Adventure racers are generally a happy bunch of people willing to help one another. If you are racing as a solo you will often end up making a number of new friends.

It is a good idea for beginner adventure racer to work out some kind of race plan. What are you aims, do you just wish to complete the course, or perhaps finish in the middle of the field or are you aiming for a top ten position. What are your strengths, how are you going to improve your weaker events. When you have a few races under your belt, you will perhaps recognize other racers and can start thinking about improving you performance by trying to shadow a faster racer.

Competitors will start to gather in the starting area to pick prime positions. Once you have done your final checks, Sort out where you will start. I always suggest picking an area at the side, so you do not get overrun in the melee that usually develops. Try to get a clean start but keep to your own pace, if you have plan stick with it 

The field spreads out quite quickly after the gun and within fifteen minutes virtually everyone is settled into their racing pace, now is the time to take your first sip of water (you should be drinking every 15 minutes) and take a look around you. Although you should be racing your own race it’s nice to have company, so if you see someone ahead of you that is moving at the same pace, close up with them slowly.

Some races have courses laid out with marshals, markers and tapes to keep you on course, others require you to navigate with compass and instructions from point to point. In the latter races you may benefit from being with someone else, however be wary of blindly following the person or team in front they might be lost.

If for some reason the beginner adventure racing gets lost, it is important not to panic. Stop and get out your map, compass and instructions. Orientate the map so the grid lines are inline with North on you compass. Look around you, if you are on a track note its direction. and compare it with the map. How much time has elapsed since you passed the last check point? You should have a rough idea of the average speed you have been travelling. This will give you a radius of where you might be. If there are any prominent landmarks take a bearing. Also look for natural features such as rivers and streams or roads and railways, have you passed any of these recently. If you still cannot work out where you are start backtracking towards the last checkpoint. Still Lost take stock of food and water, find a main track heading in a direction that will lead to a road river or other linear feature. If you come across another linear feature unexpectedly check out the direction and try to reassess your position. If you cannot find your way out by dusk, seek shelter beside the track and if possible light a fire and await help. Race organizers will know a racer is overdue and will start a search.

Transitions are where the beginner adventure racing changes from one discipline to another. This is where time can be lost or gained; more often than not this is where the beginner adventure racing loses out. Approaching the transition is where the beginner adventure racing should be mentally rehearsing what they will do, perhaps change socks, replenish water bottles and restock gel or food bars. The least you do the quicker the changeover will be, however is you are developing a hotspot or blister you should deal with it before continuing.

Once away from transition it’s about getting back into the racing rhythm and finding the next checkpoint. and the next transition area until you arrive at the finish line tired and disheveled and perhaps collapse in a heap saying you will never do it again. One important thing that most people forget is to spend some time stretching your tired muscles, 15 minutes of stretching will help prevent muscle soreness over the following days.

When you reflect on beginner adventure racing, you can look back in pride having taken on nature, the course designer and challenged yourself and won, yes that’s right everyone is a winner. Rather than sitting in an armchair watch others, you have gone out and done it yourself, and gained some healthy exercise at the same time.

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