How one can Break Into the Journey Racing World

So, you need to be an journey racer? ​As you determine whether or not to leap into the loopy, inspiring, roller-coaster world of AR, maintain this in thoughts: The toughest half is attending to the beginning line.

Editor’s word: This text was initially revealed on and has been modified for GearJunkie.

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As is true of any new endeavor, the most important hurdle is getting began. And journey racing (AR), as you might know, affords some distinctive challenges.

Along with choosing a race, new racers typically need to purchase new expertise, add to their gear closet (or begin one from scratch), and coerce pals or strangers into becoming a member of them. Then, they have to work out methods to prepare for an occasion that, even at its shortest, is perhaps hours longer than some other occasion they’ve accomplished.

This primary record doesn’t handle the limitless particulars of journey racing resembling foot care, sleep deprivation, and diet. It may be daunting, overwhelming, and even downright terrifying.

The excellent news is that the AR neighborhood is without doubt one of the most welcoming teams of athletes on the market. There are few, if any, sports activities that see new racers rubbing shoulders with the elite on the beginning line. The AR neighborhood is small and well-connected, and we’re at all times joyful to speak gear, coaching, and experiences with new racers.

Right here at GearJunkie, now we have an extended historical past of journey racing. For instance, Group Bend Racing got here out on high within the Patagonian Expedition Race. The staff, together with GearJunkie founder Stephen Regenold, has competed in different journey races earlier than and since.

Oh, and GearJunkie can be the official media accomplice of the United States Journey Racing Affiliation (USARA). So it’s secure to say we all know a factor or two about AR.

Learn on for our recommendation (in partnership with the USARA) on methods to dip your toe into the uneven waters of AR — full with an inventory of studying and viewing materials to review up on.

Mountain bike laying on the ground with a helmet and a map ready to go.
(Photograph/Ann Ilagen)

Set a Purpose, Discover a Race

First, there are usually two main forms of rookie journey racers. Some dive into the abyss and join a multiday expedition race like these within the AR World Collection. Others determine to begin small, check the waters, and construct up — whether or not the last word purpose is a multiday occasion or mastering the 6-hour dash.

There’s no proper solution to do it. However should you’re not an skilled endurance athlete with a well-established cardio base and powerful skillset in mountain biking, bushwhacking, paddling, and different wilderness expertise, discover a native dash or half-day (12-hour) journey race to find out whether or not AR is for you. It’ll be significantly extra inexpensive, and the stakes are a lot decrease in case your teammates don’t work nicely collectively. All advised, you’ll have a a lot increased probability of success (extra on this later).

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The place do you start? You’ll find a calendar of sanctioned races on the USARA’s web site. This calendar consists of journey races nice and small, and it additionally lists AR-adjacent occasions like rogaines and different single-sport navigation-based occasions. These races are usually foot-only occasions and may present a style of AR with out the effort of all of the gear. And so they often have decrease entry charges. Most significantly, they will introduce you to navigation-centric occasions.

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Likewise, native orienteering meets (aka “o-meets”) can function a terrific portal for journey racing. These teams host occasions periodically all year long. And a few of the greater golf equipment typically arrange programs on most weekends, spring to fall.

Often solely $5-10 to enter, o-meets supply a vary of programs, from newbie to superior. Whereas the maps are totally different from these usually present in an journey race, these meets typically embrace hands-on instruction and supply terrific follow on the subject of primary and superior navigation. Aside from some snacks, water, and a constructive angle, all you want is a compass!

In the end, take into consideration what feels best for you after which discover your native choices. Many new racers discover a 6-hour occasion to be daunting sufficient. Others really feel prepared for an entire day within the woods. And some really feel assured they will tackle a 10-day expedition just like the “world’s hardest race,” the Eco-Problem. You recognize what feels doable for you.

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Begin Small, Discover Teammates

Whereas there are these within the journey racing neighborhood who race solo, AR is, at its core, a staff sport. To actually get the entire expertise, attempt to construct a staff. Many new racers discover this to be a problem. It’s possible you’ll suppose 6, 12, or 24 hours within the woods — with out sleep and within the rain, warmth, or snow, coated with mud and blood — sounds enjoyable. However don’t be shocked when pals, members of the family, and colleagues snigger you off as mildly insane.

Once more, that is the place beginning small could make breaking into the game a bit extra manageable. It’ll be quite a bit simpler to persuade your accomplice, childhood good friend, or co-worker to affix you for a 4- to 6-hour occasion than a 24-hour one.

When you knock off that 6-hour dash, the 12-hour will really feel extra manageable. After realizing that your physique and thoughts can do greater than you anticipated, going in a single day received’t really feel so daunting. Constructing this experiential reminiscence with teammates will improve the probabilities that you just discover your house within the sport.

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Ideally, it helps to race with individuals you recognize, belief, and with whom you’ve got a very good rapport. Nevertheless it’s definitely doable that you just received’t have any luck convincing your family members to affix you. If you happen to can’t construct your dream staff from inside, look to the AR Teammate Finder on Fb, or attain out to your native race director (RD) to see in the event that they may also help you staff up with somebody.

If you happen to’re racing with strangers, attempt to meet up with them first. Maybe exit for a coaching day or two. You received’t know for certain should you’ll work nicely collectively till you’re misplaced within the woods or coping with a nasty bushwhack. However attempt to staff up with individuals you belief and are suitable with when AR turns into extra journey than race.

Lastly, do not forget that AR can be distinctive for being a mixed-gender sport. Few different sports activities be a part of female and male opponents on the identical staff. We encourage you to embrace this facet of the game if the chance presents itself.

Three teams of canoes navigating a winding river at a USARA Adventure Race.
(Photograph/Randy Ericksen)

Set Expectations

Wander across the pre-race happenings of any established journey race, and also you’re sure to search out the rookie staff confidently predicting victory. I’m certain it’s occurred someplace, someday. However we’ve by no means seen a rookie staff atop the rostrum. And it’s hardly ever been shut.

AR is a sport that uniquely favors expertise and expertise; these issues vastly outweigh pace, energy, and athleticism. Overconfident rookie groups typically marvel at seasoned AR veterans. They marvel how the wily specialists end a number of hours forward. How are the winners in a position to “clear the course” (full your complete course as designed) whereas the less-experienced groups wrestle to complete shorter, considerably modified programs? How are they so environment friendly with navigation, technique, and transitions?

Effectively, whereas coaching and bodily preparation are vital elements of the game, different components actually set the extra profitable groups aside. These embrace navigation skill, staff chemistry, expertise with sleep deprivation, technique, and the data and expertise that comes with racing again and again.

Not like extra conventional races like marathons or triathlons, journey racecourses are totally different annually. They often actually evolve through the race, as surprising circumstances pressure RDs to adapt and modify part by part.

This implies you need to be capable to adapt to quickly evolving circumstances, poor mapping information, unexpected obstacles, and inter-team dynamics in each artwork and science. This skillset can solely be developed and refined by way of racing with a longtime staff — with whom you construct a racing and journey rapport.

So discover your individuals after which set some expectations. Most of the most profitable journey racers began with modest objectives: don’t end final, end midpack, or just end.

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As soon as they began to construct their experiential toolbox, discover secure teammates, and fine-tune their skillsets, they started to set increased objectives. A few of these are to complete within the high third, full a full course, shoot for his or her divisional podium, after which, maybe, shoot for the general mixed-gender podium.

FYI: Regardless of what some new racers count on, the premier combined groups are sometimes the strongest groups at a given occasion, particularly when occasions are 12 hours or longer.

5 book cover images of Adventure Racing resources.

Watch, Learn, Study

Analysis. Watch AR movies on YouTube, Vimeo, and Amazon Prime. Even should you aren’t competing in an expedition race anytime quickly, watching movies of those occasions can present priceless perception into how journey races work, what kind of gear individuals put money into, and the way staff dynamics can form a staff’s expertise. SleepMonsters additionally supplies worldwide protection of journey races and different associated sports activities that hosts invaluable data as you begin your journey.

Extra priceless for shorter occasions is the near-ubiquitous “race report.” Many journey racers write them, running a blog about their experiences, typically in checkpoint-by-checkpoint element. Others log their adventures on coaching platforms resembling Attackpoint AR (be sure to’re on the AR department of AP slightly than the orienteering website).

The Journey Racing Cooperative (ARC) has constructed a powerful assortment of those accounts, so that you would possibly be capable to discover a report from the final version of the race you’ve circled in your calendar. If you happen to can’t discover a report there, attempt Googling studies from that occasion. Or, alternatively, learn accounts of different races with comparable lengths, difficulties, kinds, and terrain.

There are additionally a handful of excellent books about journey racing that’ll make it easier to get began. Some are extra related than others for the first-time racer, however all of them encourage.

Right here’s a choice of AR-specific books:

Lastly, attain out to your native RD with questions, or put up on dialogue teams like these hosted on Fb or Attackpoint AR. Odds are good that somebody studying your put up could have performed the race and can gladly volunteer to speak.

When you’ve watched what there’s to observe, learn by way of varied race studies, and Googled your coronary heart out, you’ll in all probability nonetheless have questions. And also you would possibly nonetheless spend a sleepless evening earlier than race day nervous, excited, scared, or some mixture of all of it.

However you’ll be as prepared as any new journey racer ever is to toe the road on race day. And our expertise suggests you’ll already be hooked!

This text is sponsored by Toyota. Discover out extra concerning the 2022 Toyota Tundra on-line

A team arriving to their canoes for the paddling portion of their Adventure Race at USARA Nationals in 2021.
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