Adventure racing is an endurance sport which involves travel on foot (trekking or running), mountain bike and by water (canoe, kayak, raft, occasionally swimming).

What differentiates AR from other racing sports is the inclusion of wilderness navigation using a map, compass and common sense. There is no set race course; participants must find their own route from one checkpoint to the next. The checkpoints (CPs) are marked on maps which the racers receive shortly prior to or at the start of the race. AR also differs from other sports in that racers are part of a team of 2-4 people who travel together the entire time.

The races can last from several hours to many days and are unsupported, for the most part, which means that the racers carry what they will need (food, water, gear) in backpacks for the duration of the race.

To succeed, racers will need athletic endurance, navigation skills, mental toughness, good pre-race planning, strategic decision making as well as a strong and supportive "team" mentality.

Sound intimidating? While it's true that longer races can test even the toughest outdoor athletes, AR is a very open and inclusive sport. Beginning racers will feel welcome at nearly every event. Most races are organized so that anyone at any level of experience and fitness can participate. You can find a race near you on the calendar at the USARA website.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Volunteering at Untamed New England

My 11-year old son and I headed up to Moosehead Lake in Maine to help out with Untamed New England 2014, a 4-day race through the remote mountains and waterways of an unseasonably cold and windy northern Maine. We were stationed at CP36/TA3 to help Marlena and Scott Harrison manage the TA tasks and provide some relief so each of us could take turns grabbing some occasional sleep. This TA was at the end of leg 3. Teams coming into our TA had just completed, by all accounts, the toughest part of the course: a multi-summit bushwhack though horrendously dense northern forest. This TA was also the site of the Kelty "tent city", where racers had the option of crashing in the pitched tents for as long as they elected to. The approach to this TA varied quite a bit between teams. Frontrunners Columbia-Vidaraid and Peak Performance, blew thought the TA with a visible sense of urgency, making the in/out transition in 16 and 17 minutes, respectively. Most other teams took a little more or a lot more time to eat, drink, switch gear and rest before heading out for the remaining 1.5 - 2 days of racing. Most spent an hour or two, some took full advantage of the tents and banked several hours of sleep.        -Mason

Kelty tent city at TA3, on a little peninsula on the eastern shore of Moosehead Lake

Eventual winners Columbia Vidaraid hustling into our TA

Sweden's Peak Performance rapidly switching gear

At times the TA resembled an international yard sale:

A racer from taking a minute to catch up on some personal hygiene. A rarity in AR.
Checkpoint Zero-Tech 4o handling a chilly nighttime transition
A racer receiving  a consult from an on-site medic.

Jose finessing 32 mountain bikes into a 24' box truck. The man is a wizard at nesting these bikes together. I just brought him the bikes and watched in amazement. Okay that one on top wasn't exactly finessed, but the first 31 were a tour de force.
This crepe truck located right next to CP38 on the shore of Moosehead Lake in Greenville at the "Urban O" saw a lot of traffic from racers and staff


  1. Hi guys,

    I'm interested in getting into adventure racing, but I need to get into mountain biking. Can you give me some recommendations on bikes to check out? I'm in NH, so New England would be where I'd be riding. I see that there are several types of bikes like XC, trail, and all mountain, but I'm not sure what category I should look at.

    I'm going to try and borrow some bikes to try out, but none of the owners are adventure racers.

    Any advice you could give would be great!

  2. Hi Ross. Sorry for the delayed response. You pose a very good question, in that there is not a single consensus answer to it. While at Untamed NE, I actually toured the bike drop to see what everyone was riding and it was (approximately):
    50/50 Hardtail (front suspension only)/Full Suspension
    60/40 29er/26er (wheel diameter)
    My general recommendation would be to go with a bike designed for XC riding. Much of the riding during an adventure race is not technical trails but dirt roads or even pavement, so an All-Mountain or Trail bike might not be ideal. These bike types are more about robust suspension and aggressive riding. An XC type bike will have a little less suspension and be a little more rigid and possibly lighter, good for dirt roads and adequate on a trail. As noted above, this could be full-suspension or hardtail, 29er or 26er. As with all things, lighter is better but you pay out the nose for that. A good basic bike? Consider an aluminum 29er hardtail 1000-2000$. Got a cash surplus problem? Try the carbon dual suspension 29er; $6000-10000!