How to Prepare for an Adventure Race

Adventure races are quickly becoming a bucket list item for many outdoor enthusiasts across the country. The races resemble a triathlon with tweaks to the woods to add the element of nature into the mix. The most common adventure races include three events: Trail running, mountain biking, and kayaking. Whether you are a seasoned triathlete or this is your first multi-event race, there are steps to take to make sure you have a successful first adventure race.

Start Small

Adventure races are hard, and there is no way around that. Don’t jump into something overwhelming for your first race. There are sprint adventure races with shorter stages that still give you the satisfaction of completing the race without requiring you to train like an olympic athlete. Find a few shorter races to find out what works best for you in terms of events and length. Once you are comfortable with those races, it may be time for you to move on to longer events and multi-day races.

Train Smarter, Not Harder

Don’t confuse the title as an excuse to just cruise through your training plan without pushing yourself. You need to push yourself, but there is a point of diminishing returns. The days of training to exhaustion daily are behind us, and there is plenty of research that shows recovery is just as important as hard training days are. There are plenty of training plans for triathlons, and they can easily be adapted to your adventure race. Find something that’s tailored to a race around the same length as yours and stick to it.

Get Comfortable with your Equipment

One of the biggest issues most people have with their first adventure race is a lack of familiarity with their kayak or mountain bike. You will want to spend a few hours per week getting used to them before you start your training program. Make sure you know how to perform trail maintenance on your bike including changing a flat and replacing a chain link. These two issues alone will keep many people from finishing the bike stage.

Learn the Course

Most adventure races will have course maps available online long before the race starts. If it is close to home, take a weekend to explore the course. It will go a long way on race day. If you cannot get to the course before the race you can always find out what trails you will be on and find YouTube videos from the same trail system. There’s a good chance someone rode the route with a GoPro and posted it online.

Adventure races are a great way to experience nature and challenge yourself both physically and mentally. They’re popping up all over the place. If you want to mix your love for the outdoors with your love of fitness, then these races will be perfect for you.

Finding the Right Mountain Bike

Mountain Biking Handlebars

Breaking into the world of mountain biking can be a daunting task for someone who wants to buy their first bike. There are a few factors you should consider before you go out and buy a bike at your local department store. Do you want to go fully rigid, hardtail, or full suspension? Do you want clipless pedals or flats? How many gears do I want? By answering these questions, you’ll be able to choose the perfect bike.

Riding Style

The first thing you should research before buying a mountain bike is the terrain where you will be riding. Will you be shredding flowy downhill sections with moderate climbs peppered in, or will you be powering through rock gardens on mostly flat terrain? It could also be a mix of both. If you are going to be riding primarily flowy single tracks with a lot of climbing involved, you will want to go with a rigid or hardtail bike to maximize your climbs. With a full suspension bike, you’ll be losing ground each time you pedal and compress your rear shock, which will make your climbs much more labor intensive. If you plan on riding in rocky terrain, a full suspension bike is going to be your best friend. New suspension technology makes riding a mountain bike feel like you are driving a luxury car.

Pedals

One of the biggest learning curves I experienced when I got serious about mountain biking was learning how to unclip from my pedals. The pros to clipless pedals heavily outweigh the cons.  You can feel a dramatic difference in climbs by being able to pull and push with each pedal stroke, essentially doubling your output while you climb. You also have much more control over your bike since you are clipped in and attached to the pedals. Being clipped in is a double-edged sword, and results in the only downside to clipless pedals. If you are not familiar with unclipping, you will easily topple over whenever you go to put your foot down without properly rotating out of the clips. Once you are over the learning curve, you will never go back to flats.

Gear Ratio

There are a few different options when it comes to the gears on your mountain bike. It seems like most major bike manufacturers are producing one-by mountain bikes in 2017. The mentality behind this transition comes from the idea that most people don’t use all the gears on a 27-speed bike. By eliminating the extra chainrings, bike companies are also able to make bikes lighter. My advice to beginners is to always have more gears. When you’re out on the trail, you may need that extra low gear to get back to your car. As you gain experience, you may find that you no longer need the added weight and opt to convert to a one-by. If you are really feeling adventurous, you could convert your bike to a single-speed, but at that point, I feel like riding is more of a chore than something you are enjoying.

Mountain biking is a great way to spend time outdoors while still getting an intense workout in. The mountain biking community is an accepting and fun crowd that is always up for the next adventure. Do yourself a favor and find your nearest mountain biking club so you’ll never have to ride alone.