What is Adventure Racing?
One of Fully Rad Adventure's goals is to get more people outside and into adventure racing. What follows is a guide for racers thinking of taking the step up to adventure racing. To get an idea of what it is like to prepare for your first adventure race, it is more appropriate to think of it as a journey rather than a race or sporting event. You will need to plan every element from what gear and food to carry, to individual roles, who will lead, who will navigate and how you will make decisions. The biggest challenge is finding a team, surviving the training and getting to the start line.
What follows is a bit of a summary of the key areas you need to consider when preparing for a race such as Wildside. This is not a science, however, and the experience will be different for everyone. Use this only as a guide to create your own experiences and successful adventure racing formula. Like all outdoor pursuits adventure racing is an ongoing learning process, experienced racers will often talk of the lessons they learn each race.
Selecting a Team
Once you have decided that you want to do Wildside, one of the first and most critical things to do is get together with the right team. You will be spending significant time with your teammates in highly stressful situations, both during the race and in long hours of training. Make sure you all have the same goals, similar physical ability and similar levels of commitment to the event. A mismatch in any of these opens the door for frustration for both sides. It is also a good idea to look for a good balance of personalities as well, although this is not critical. Most importantly, make sure you all get along and can enjoy each other's company as you will be spending a fair bit of time together. Remember this style of racing is a team sport and you can only cross the finish line together. There will be times when you will need to help your teammates out and times when you will need help. Failure in team make up has ended many racers dreams so paying a lot of attention to this early will pay dividends come later in the race.
Team Goals & Priorities
How seriously you and your team plan to take the race and how competitive you want to be are details that should be discussed before race day (in fact, they should be discussed when you are putting together the team). To be blunt, since you must race together at all times, the success of the team is reduced to the lowest common denominator. If one of your teammates is not willing to commit to being competitive then your team will not be competitive. Make sure the team has talked about how hard they want to race, what you will do when there is an injury or equipment failure and have agreed in advance what the goals and commitment levels will be.
Creating a training program is the best way to arrive to the start line feeling confident (well as much as you can!). There are three elements to your adventure racing training program, physical, skill and mental training. For all three, it is best to try and simulate race situations in your training. Don't avoid the hard stuff - train at night, train in the rain, train on the cold days - adventure races continue regardless of the weather. (Assuming it is safe - of course!) The best form of physical training for any race is to simulate the different elements of the race you are doing. In the months leading up it is best to do most of your training with a pack. Also, get in a few non-stop multi-sport weekend sessions. It helps train your body to burn fat and gives you an idea of how 'bad' you will feel by day two in the race. It's also important to do some of your longer training with your teammates. It's not just your body that goes soft after long stretches with little sleep. Make sure you know how each of your teammates reacts to sleep deprivation and fatigue. Arguments can and have ended races. Get training in specific skills from the experts – ropes, caving, paddling, navigation. We find combining these sessions with a team bonding and weekend trip work the best.
Choosing the right gear for this style of racing is an endless process. We don't know of anyone that has found the ideal gear for all races. There is always a newer, lighter, more efficient piece of kit. This is definitely one of the more challenging parts of preparation and has been the source of many long meetings for us over the years. If you aren’t sure there are plenty of gear blogs and race reports on the web. If possible, talk to people who have raced before to get a feel for what will suit you best. Asking the dude behind the counter in your local outdoor store, or people unfamiliar with adventure racing, may not be so valuable. Make sure you understand the climate, terrain and weather for the location of your race. This will play a big role in your equipment decisions. As a general rule, lightest and simplest to use is best. Lastly, don’t go for the cheap gear. You do not want it to fail late in the night, right when you need it. Saving money on gear to then risk your investment of time and money in a big race does not make sense.
Remember – “there is no such thing as bad weather – just bad gear”
What to eat during the race and in training is a very difficult subject. We are not experts in this area. While there are very different schools of thought on the subject, there are a few basic rules that most will agree on. First, count on burning more than 6,000 calories a day. Second, the best foods are those with the highest calories per pound you must carry. Finally, make sure you like the taste of the foods you are bringing. It is not easy to force down 6,000 calories of food you don't like. As for the specific foods to bring and the best source of calories (fat, protein, carbs), there are many different answers. Everyone is different. Experiment with different things in your training to see what works best for you. Always be on the lookout for new ideas.
This is one of the areas which you have no control over and can have a huge impact on your race. For Wildside it will most likely be warm during the day but cool to cold at night and dry, but as with any climate “Mixed” would be a fair way to describe it… you will experience everything from heat to cold, to rain, to wind? Be prepared to continue racing in the pouring rain or heat of the midday sun.
This sport is expensive. We know – we race too. That's all there is to it. And the more seriously you take it, the more expensive it becomes. There is always lighter, more efficient gear available. Therefore, unless you are independently wealthy, it is important to plan ahead to minimize your spending. Obviously the best way to make any race affordable is to get sponsorship for your team. This can either be in the form of a financial sponsor (cash to spend on gear) or a product sponsor (gear to race in). It is not easy to get sponsorship. The key to success lies in being able to offer guaranteed exposure to companies that sponsor your team. This means, not only do you have to prepare documents and make calls to potential sponsor companies, but you must also drum up media attention. To get the media to listen, you've got to figure out what is interesting about your team competing in this race and exploit the hell out of it. It's a long, tiring process.
We can help you with all this adventure racing stuff. We can provide previous Wildside info, briefing notes, images and support.
Drop us a line because we want to grow this sport.