Another bucket list item ticked off!
Coincidentally I was pretty ticked off myself during parts of the race…but that’s another story.
This past weekend Al and I competed in my first adventure race (I say mine, because he’s done one before). It’s something that’s been on my bucket list for a couple of years and I finally made it happen (would have happened last year except that I was ignorant of the local racing season and missed out on registering).
So…what’s an adventure race?
It’s sort of like a nutcase version of a triathlon … it involves running, mountain biking and kayaking (and I’m lead to believe there’s swimming sometimes too), but there’s not a readily discernible route involved. (elite level events can go for days! Yikes!) You are provided with a map, a set of check points to pass and instructions an hour before the race. You then have to read and assimilate the information and decide the best way to get to each check point using navigation/orienteering skills. Sometimes there are ‘games’ and other challenges involved too…we copped a sudoku at the start to thin out the pack (that was just cruel … mind games at 7 in the morning!!) Adventure really is the operative word. You can’t just run/ride/paddle mindlessly…you have to concentrate ALL THE TIME …which I’m not always good at
This was the first time I’d competed in anything vaguely resembling physical activity since high school (so…hmmm…nearly 25 years). I woke on the morning of the race having prepared the logistical requirements the night before, but feeling so nervous I thought I was going to vomit. I hadn’t slept well because things were turning over in my mind. I had no idea what to expect or whether my training would be enough to get me to the other end without falling in a screaming heap … my body refusing to carry me further.
As it happens I needn’t have been so worried. Adventure racing is about as relaxed and as quirky as mountain biking. Sure there are the professional crowd that go hard, but the vast majority of the mob we raced with were mellow and friendly and the spirit of the sport is one of fun and mate-ship. You’re not playing for sheep stations, so if you see someone in trouble…help them out!
It was not easy. And there was a fair amount of cranky involved in places, but I was never in a place where I didn’t want to be there. It was as much a mental game as a physical one. Tough on all levels!
Had you asked me within a couple of hours of the race whether I would do another one, I probably would have said no. But now that I have (mostly) recovered I can look back and say that I truly enjoyed the whole experience. I have NEVER pushed my body that hard. Ever. And I think I surprised myself. I’ll never be competitive, but there was enough fun to be had that I think I might even sign up for another one. If my (very patient) partner in crime will put up with me again
There are a couple of things I need to work on for next time…
- navigation skills…we got a little geographically embarrassed at one point, and because I can’t read a map to save myself, I felt out of control and stressed when we didn’t have a clue where we were.
- power to weight ratio … I need to improve my power to weight ratio … end of story.
- understanding race instructions … now that I’ve done it once I’ll know what’s important to look out for next time…and highlight the hell out them so that we don’t end up backtracking needlessly.
- running speed … I need to keep developing my speed and distance abilities…slow and steady is OK…but less than optimal when racing.
- do something about cramping … I had the most horrendous calf cramps (both legs within 5 minutes) that I’m sure are avoidable…must do some research.
One thing that I was really pleased with was the versatility of my Vibram KomodoSport shoes. I normally run in regular Vibram KSOs, ride in fiveten flats and kayak in Vibram Classics. I didn’t want to get my bike shoes wet (have to wear covered shoes on the kayak) and I knew the terrain was probably going to be too rocky and the pedals too spiky for the original thin soled Vibrams. The KomodoSports were PERFECT for all parts of the race! I could not have wished for better footwear. I think they freaked a few people out…caught the odd strange look, and I ended up spending quite a bit of time talking to two different people about barefoot running and the Vibrams. That was fun.
In the end we did about 32.5kms in 5 hours. The official results haven’t been posted yet, so I’m not sure where we actually placed …will update when I find out.
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