September 26, 2022

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Tips on how to 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, hold this in thoughts: The toughest half is attending to the beginning line.


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


As is true of any new endeavor, the most important hurdle is getting began. And journey racing (AR), as it’s possible you’ll know, gives some distinctive challenges.

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

This fundamental record doesn’t deal with the infinite particulars of journey racing akin to 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 comfortable to speak gear, coaching, and experiences with new racers.

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

Oh, and GearJunkie can be the official media associate 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 learn how to dip your toe into the uneven waters of AR — full with an inventory of studying and viewing materials to check up on.

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

Set a Objective, Discover a Race

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

There’s no proper technique to do it. However when you’re not an skilled endurance athlete with a well-established cardio base and powerful skillset in mountain biking, bushwhacking, paddling, and different wilderness abilities, 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 properly collectively. All advised, you’ll have a a lot increased likelihood of success (extra on this later).

The place do you start? You could find a calendar of sanctioned races on the USARA’s web site. This calendar contains journey races nice and small, and it additionally lists AR-adjacent occasions like rogaines and different single-sport navigation-based occasions. These races are typically foot-only occasions and might present a style of AR with out the trouble of all of the gear. And so they normally 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 among the larger golf equipment typically set up programs on most weekends, spring to fall.

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Normally solely $5-10 to enter, o-meets supply a vary of programs, from newbie to superior. Whereas the maps are totally different from these sometimes present in an journey race, these meets typically embrace hands-on instruction and supply terrific follow on the subject of fundamental and superior navigation. Aside from some snacks, water, and a constructive perspective, 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 realize 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 workforce sport. To actually get the entire expertise, attempt to construct a workforce. Many new racers discover this to be a problem. Chances are 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 stunned when pals, members of the family, and colleagues snort 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 rather a lot simpler to persuade your associate, childhood pal, 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 simply discover your home within the sport.

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Ideally, it helps to race with folks you recognize, belief, and with whom you have got a very good rapport. But it surely’s definitely doable that you simply received’t have any luck convincing your family members to affix you. For those who can’t construct your dream workforce 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 will help you workforce up with somebody.

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For those who’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 when you’ll work properly collectively till you’re misplaced within the woods or coping with a nasty bushwhack. However attempt to workforce up with folks you belief and are suitable with when AR turns into extra journey than race.

Lastly, keep in mind that AR can be distinctive for being a mixed-gender sport. Few different sports activities be part of female and male rivals on the identical workforce. We encourage you to embrace this side of the game if the chance presents itself.

Three teams of canoes navigating a winding river at a USARA Adventure Race.
(Picture/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 workforce confidently predicting victory. I’m certain it’s occurred someplace, someday. However we’ve by no means seen a rookie workforce atop the rostrum. And it’s hardly ever been shut.

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

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

In contrast to extra conventional races like marathons or triathlons, journey racecourses are totally different annually. They often actually evolve throughout the race, as surprising circumstances drive RDs to adapt and modify part by part.

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

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

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As soon as they began to construct their experiential toolbox, discover steady teammates, and fine-tune their skillsets, they started to set increased targets. 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 anticipate, the premier blended 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.
(Picture/Amazon)

Watch, Learn, Be taught

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

Extra worthwhile 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 akin to Attackpoint AR (ensure you’re on the AR department of AP slightly than the orienteering web site).

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. For those who can’t discover a report there, attempt Googling reviews from that occasion. Or, alternatively, learn accounts of different races with comparable lengths, difficulties, types, and terrain.

There are additionally a handful of fine books about journey racing that’ll enable you 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 submit on dialogue teams like these hosted on Fb or Attackpoint AR. Odds are good that somebody studying your submit may have performed the race and can gladly volunteer to talk.

When you’ve watched what there may be to observe, learn by means of varied race reviews, and Googled your coronary heart out, you’ll in all probability nonetheless have questions. And also you would possibly nonetheless spend a sleepless night time 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 in regards to 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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