Journey Racing Lingo: Get within the Know, Race Like a Professional

From plotting UTMs to avoiding the ‘sleepmonsters’ after darkish, journey racing has distinctive nomenclature that’s essential to soak up earlier than you get out onto the course.

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

Assume you’re able to tackle an journey race? You’ll wish to research up on the terminology of the game first.

Right here at GearJunkie, our workers has a protracted historical past of journey racing, from the Patagonian Expedition Race to Eco-Problem Fiji and extra. And because the official media accomplice of the United States Journey Racing Affiliation (USARA), we’ve teamed up that will help you out.

Learn on to be taught among the commonest phrases and phrases you’ll encounter within the sport of AR.

Primary Journey Racing Phrases


You guessed it! Say goodbye to the consolation and ease of trails and roads. Even the shortest journey races have a tendency to incorporate a little bit of off-trail journey. These segments may be purely for the expertise, requiring little greater than perspective and fundamental navigation.

However many journey races (particularly one-day occasions and expeditions) ramp up the navigational problem after they tempt or require groups to journey overland. Such sections may be daunting, they usually usually separate the groups with extra expertise from these with much less. Bushwhacking may be something from wide-open, big-sky, non secular trekking to soul-crushing jungle bashing.

Clue Sheet

Earlier than the race begins, groups are supplied with a set of directions and an in depth clue sheet. The clue sheet describes the exact location of every checkpoint (see under). Rookies and seasoned vets alike continually make the basic blunder of not studying these essential paperwork carefully sufficient. It’s straightforward to overlook essential info, and when this occurs, groups lose worthwhile time or face stiff penalties — typically even disqualification.

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Checkpoint flag adventure racing
Checkpoints are positioned across the course. Racers should attain every flag and punch in to show they had been there; (picture/Ann Ilagan)


All confer with the checkpoints that have to be positioned utilizing map-and-compass navigation. Sometimes, CPs are three-dimensional orienteering flags, however they are often absolutely anything. Race administrators (RDs; see under) often make it clear earlier than the occasion begins what try to be searching for.

Generally, checkpoints are everlasting objects like monuments, plaques, or indicators. In such circumstances, racers are requested to file a quantity, phrase, or phrase. Learn the directions and clue sheet rigorously earlier than the race, and be sure you hearken to the race director through the pre-race assembly. In the event that they don’t let you know what you might be searching for, ask!

Darkish Zone

When a piece of the course is just too harmful to undertake at midnight, RDs impose a “darkish zone” and cease groups from continuing. These sections are usually associated to water, particularly paddling sections that embrace whitewater. Some RDs give groups time credit for the stopped time in a darkish zone. Others don’t, although groups stopped in a darkish zone profit from additional relaxation.

Full Course

This time period is extra prevalent in expedition racing, although it may be utilized to any race. Groups ending the “full course” full all the race course as designed. Modern expedition programs are usually very troublesome to finish for many groups, and plenty of RDs design “short-course” choices in order that extra groups can end formally.

Persons hand pointing to a spot on a map during a USARA Adventure Race.
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GearJunkie team member using a flashlight in the dark during a USARA Adventure Race.
(Photograph/Ann Ilagen)


Lose your passport if you find yourself abroad, and also you would possibly by no means go dwelling. Lose your passport in an journey race, and also you is perhaps out of the occasion.

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Passports are usually slips of paper or small booklets. Volunteers signal your passport if you arrive at a staffed CP, and racers “punch” their passports at distant CPs, usually utilizing a small stapler with a novel sample matched to that particular CP. Some races additionally depend on digital punching (see under) and dippers in lieu of paper passports.

Passports present proof that you just discovered CPs and accomplished the course. Maintain your passport protected and dry. Misplaced passports usually result in disqualification or different vital penalties.

Race Director (RD)

Fairly self-explanatory! At most native occasions, the RD does all of it. They plan logistics, design the course, deal with the communication, and so forth. Generally (often in larger occasions) a number of individuals tackle particular roles, dividing up the course design, logistics, and different duties.

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Transitions or Transition Areas (TAs)

These are staffed areas alongside the course the place groups change disciplines. In longer races, particularly, groups have entry to staff or private gear bins, baggage, and bike bins with gear, meals, and clothes you’ll want for the subsequent part.

Generally RDs present meals, drink, and amenities at TAs, however typically it’s nothing greater than a motorcycle drop or an empty boat ramp with a fleet of canoes.

A team of Adventure Racers boatwhacking to get to a checkpoint during a USARA race.
(Photograph/Randy Ericksen)

The Subsequent Degree


See “bushwhacking.” Add a motorcycle to the combination. Sure, bushwhacking with a motorcycle.


See “bushwhacking.” Now, add a ship. You learn that proper. This isn’t the most typical self-discipline in journey racing, however it should depart you with among the most vivid recollections of your racing profession in case you are … lucky sufficient to do it.


When a staff completes the “full course” (see above), they’ve “cleared” the course. Whereas many groups search to clear the racecourse, few groups with out expertise and a sure, comparatively excessive degree of endurance health can count on to clear the common journey racecourse (at the very least one-day and expedition occasions).

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All races have a time cutoff: the end line. Many have extra embedded time cutoffs. Such cutoffs are usually designed along side short-course (see under) choices to provide all groups a greater probability of finishing the course.

Whereas most RDs enable racers to proceed on a modified quick course in the event that they miss a cutoff, some disqualify groups for lacking these cutoffs and take away them from the occasion.

Deer Path/Goat Path

Whereas not often a time period utilized by an RD, it’s value storing this one away. Such routes are created by animals and are generally discovered when touring off path.

If you are on the whim of the animal, if these paths lead in your common route of journey, they’ll make bushwhacking sooner. Simply watch out that you realize the place you might be heading!


Most expedition races, and a few shorter occasions, make the most of satellite tv for pc monitoring throughout their occasions. In these occasions, groups are geared up with a satellite tv for pc monitoring system that’s used for security administration, in the beginning.

As well as, more often than not, RDs share their monitoring maps with viewers at dwelling, permitting spectators to trace their favourite groups as they progress by way of the course. “Dotwatchers” refers to these spectators who comply with alongside, monitoring the dots or “breadcrumbs” of groups displayed on the monitoring map, exhibiting viewers at dwelling a given staff’s route of journey.

Dotwatching will get intense, with individuals throughout the globe becoming a member of dialogue boards to research how the race is unfolding. Many expertise sleep deprivation to match the racers they’re following.

Patagonia Expedition Race - Team YogaSlackers/Bend Racing
(Photograph/Bend Racing Media staff: Tyler Brower, Scott Almendinger, and Darren Steinbach)

Digital Punching/E-Punching/Dipping

Some RDs make the most of dearer expertise to trace groups’ progress by way of a course. As a substitute of utilizing a standard orienteering punch and paper passport, RDs use e-punches. An e-punch consists of an digital recording system that tracks a staff’s arrival — all the way down to the second.

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Groups have a “dipper” that’s used along side the field to file the staff’s arrival time. The e-punch both replaces or is positioned along side a standard marker at every CP.

Linear Course

A linear course is essentially the most conventional fashion of journey race structure. Groups are required to go to all TAs and all CPs. Groups failing to go to all of the checkpoints are pulled off the course or are ranked as unofficial.

Throughout these occasions, groups are likely to unfold out considerably, and extra groups don’t end. Some RDs design “quick programs” that also enable groups to complete formally, although these groups are ranked behind anybody ending the “full course.”

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Portaging requires groups to journey with their boats overland throughout a paddling part. Varied components decide whether or not RDs will embrace portaging in an journey race: dams, shallow water, harmful rapids, personal property, geography requiring groups to journey between water options, strategic choices, and infrequently a sick humorousness.

More often than not, groups merely carry their boats, both as a staff or individually. In expedition races, some RDs talk forward of time to let groups know that they’ll profit from utilizing a portage trolley/portage wheels. Sustained portaging is just not widespread in shorter occasions.


Most journey races, from sprints to expeditions, begin with some form of quick occasion that’s designed to unfold the groups out. These levels may be something: a relay run; an orienteering loop; a mini, multistage journey race inside an extended race.

In a brief race, a separator is usually wherever from a couple of minutes to half an hour in period. In expedition races, a separator is perhaps just a few miles of working, or it might final for a number of hours.

Some RDs wait to offer groups with their maps and different course info till after the prologue, and others hand racers their maps and ask them to plan their route on the clock, remodeling the prologue right into a psychological and strategic problem. You get the purpose; prologues may be absolutely anything.

Two team members hands pointing to a spot on the map during a USARA Adventure Race.
(Photograph/Ann Ilagen)


A reentrant is an orienteering time period that in all probability most frequently confuses new racers. Merriam-Webster defines it as “an indentation in a landform.”

Heather Williams, of the orienteering world, defines a reentrant within the following method:

A reentrant seems on the map as a U or V form within the contour traces, pointing again right into a hillside somewhat than protruding of the hill (as would a spur). So a reentrant is a small valley, the middle of which might acquire water and funnel it downhill (if it had been raining onerous).

These “valleys,” or depressions, may be dry, otherwise you would possibly discover a stream of some kind in a reentrant.


A rogaine is a category of occasion related to orienteering. These occasions have a central begin/end and dozens of CPs. Racers/groups have a predetermined period of time to seek out as many checkpoints as potential.

Sometimes, rogaine RDs set extra CPs than may be discovered by any staff, which forces groups to strategize and resolve which CPs to skip. Journey racing RDs typically depend on this strategy to course design, making some and even all CPs non-obligatory.

Journey races are usually designed as a “modified rogaine” (see under) or a “linear course” (see above).

Modified Rogaine

Many journey races require groups to journey from TA to TA. Generally, there are necessary CPs alongside the way in which. When there are additionally non-obligatory CPs, the course is described as a “modified rogaine” and therefore combines parts of rogaines with linear course design.

The profit to those programs is that they’re extra accessible to all ranges of racers. Extra-experienced, sooner, and extra expert groups usually attempt to “clear” the course. Much less-experienced racers can nonetheless take part and end formally, specializing in the necessary factors and including non-obligatory factors relying on their strengths and weaknesses.

Modified rogaines and rogaine-style programs are designed to maintain all racers out throughout the occasion — or near it.

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See “prologue.”

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Brief Course

RDs are likely to design “short-course” choices at most expedition races — and plenty of one-day occasions — to accommodate groups unable to finish the complete course. Totally different than “rogaine”-style or “modified rogaine”-style occasions, groups are nonetheless required to seek out all of the CPs they’re tasked to seek out.

Sometimes, groups are given time cutoffs. In the event that they fail to make a time cutoff, they are going to be re-routed, bypassing a part of the course and its corresponding CPs. As soon as again on the official course, groups then should discover all of the remaining CPs to be ranked as official finishers (except they’re short-coursed greater than as soon as, which is feasible). They are going to be ranked behind all “full-course” groups, nonetheless, no matter whether or not they end forward of or behind such groups in keeping with time.

These design choices make journey racing extra accessible and permit extra groups to compete and end occasions formally.


Sleepmonsters come out at evening, often 2-3 nights into an expedition race. As a result of journey racing is a nonstop occasion that welcomes and infrequently necessitates vital sleep deprivation, the human mind begins to play video games with exhausted racers.

Briefly, hallucinations should not unusual, although most racers solely expertise this phenomenon in multiday racing. Ask any seasoned expedition racer, and you can be regaled with tales of castles within the woods, buffets of mouth-watering meals on a lonely moor, or terrifying encounters with animals that actually don’t exist.

Sleepmonsters should not essentially monsters, however they by no means are actual, even when two teammates see them on the identical time. This does occur!

Patagonia Expedition Race - Team YogaSlackers/Bend Racing
(Photograph/Bend Racing Media staff: Tyler Brower, Scott Almendinger, and Darren Steinbach)

Supported vs. Unsupported

Sometimes, expedition races are described as “supported” or “unsupported.” A long time in the past, many expedition races had been supported occasions, however most multiday races at the moment are usually unsupported.

Supported occasions require groups to offer their very own assist crew. These assist crews are accountable for transferring a staff’s gear and will help their groups in TAs. Supported occasions add extra parts of technique, because the assist crew can affect how the staff performs and makes TAs “simpler” for the racers.

In an unsupported occasion, groups should not allowed this exterior help. The RDs transport groups’ tools for them. Unsupported occasions require groups to be extra self-sufficient in addition to significantly lower bills, as groups don’t must hire automobiles or assist their crews financially.

Common Transverse Mercator (UTM)

It’s a little bit of a mouthful, so everybody calls them UTMs. Briefly, the UTM system is a coordinate grid system discovered on some topographic maps; it’s an alternative choice to longitude and latitude.

Sometimes, an RD will ask racers to plot CPs by offering them with numerical UTM coordinates. Groups should use a small mapping instrument with UTM measurements to plot the factors. This provides a unique form of navigational mapping ability.

Being adept at UTM plotting additionally permits groups to offer an RD with coordinates in case of an emergency. This ability is turning into much less widespread, and most RDs now pre-plot their maps for racers.

The Wrapup

For now, this could provide you with reference level for the widespread language used to elucidate journey racing. After all, there’s a lot extra to be taught. Endurance athletes have their very own slang and lingo, and also you’ll slowly decide it up.

For additional perception into the language of AR, try this terrific, and hilarious, dialogue thread on the Journey Racing Dialogue Fb Group.

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

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