By Jen Segger
Navigating down the backside of a mountain trail, eyes fixated on the terrain in front of you. Hammering the technical single track as it winds through old growth forest. Feeling the burn in your shoulders as you paddle the last few meters into shore. And all of this with your teammates in tow as you race the clock, desperate to find out what you’re made of. Welcome to adventure racing.
In a sport with few parameters, adventure racing is as much of a team effort as it is a solo challenge. People from all types of athletic and sporting backgrounds have been drawn to this unique outdoor pursuit. If you are someone that chooses dirt over pavement and finds the concept of bush-whacking appealing, then you my friend are on your way to experiencing the world of AR.
Originating in New Zealand but brought to “main stream” tv (ok, that might be a bit of a stretch as it’s still considered somewhat of a fringe sport) by Mark Burnett back in the ‘90’s with the creation of Eco Challenge, adventure racing has drastically changed. Today, this off-road multi-sport is attracting both the weekend warrior and elite athlete alike as it encapsulates and captivates anyone looking for a rugged adventure and a true test of self. Tri-athletes are making the switch, trading in lengths in the pool for kayaking instruction and trail runners. People, regular weekend warriors, are learning how to ride a mountain bike on the same terrain that would usually only be tackled on foot.
The ability to read a map and compass plays a critical role and adds an additional challenging element to the sport. Being the best runners, bikers and paddlers won’t necessarily see the fittest team taking the first place prize home at the end of the day. Navigating from A to Z, collecting checkpoints and staying within 100 meters of your team mates at all times is what makes adventure racing unique. It’s sort of like a treasure hunt that can last anywhere from 4 hours up to 8 days!
Why race? We do this sport to challenge the mind and body to its fullest potential. Running/trekking sections take racers through the hills and on some of the best running trails the area has to offer. On bike, with daylight and through the night, we ride a combination of technical single track and fire roads. Water sections can range from kayaks and canoes to white water rafting. And then there is the ropes section, usually the highlight of the whole event, leaving us racers in a euphoric state for days. Imagine flying at full speed across a gully on a zip line or rappelling off the edge of a cliff into a waiting body of water below with your teammate on the next rope over yelling “this is fricken’ awesome!!!!”
Once you get the AR bug, it might be hard to outrun it. So I say with words of caution, “once you start, you will likely be hooked.” See you on the start line!
For more information about adventure racing in California visit www.arcalifornia.org. Other national resources include the Checkpoint Tracker National series – www.checkpoint.com and the US Adventure Racing Association website with a list of clubs among other useful information – www.usara.com
Jen Segger is a member of Team DART-Nuun-SportMulti. www.dartadventure.com