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.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Maine Summer Adventure Race - 8hr. Jefferson, ME

I scoped out this race early in the year as a good first race to do with my son, Reed (13). It being close (~2hr drive) and pretty short (8 hr) made it a nice intro. I dragged Reed along on rides, runs and a paddle for the months leading up to it because it's, you know, a race, after all and I knew a decent finish would be rewarding (for him, of course).

A 4:10 AM alarm gave us time to eat a quick bite and drive up to Jefferson, ME in time for the 7:00 check-in.  Although a short race and in its inaugural run, there was a great turnout of teams - 25 in the 8 hr race and several more in a concurrent 3-hour race. Kate and Cliff White were directing for their AR outfit, Strong Machine, with the help of the staff at race HQ: Hidden Valley Nature Center.

JS O'Connor photography

The order of disciplines would be: short memory-O, road bike, lake kayak, road & trail bike, and then a final long O section at HVNC.

Riding on leg 2. It was a warm/hot humid day. Finding shade on country roads was helpful.

Paddling on pretty lake Damariscotta, leg 3. We went after 4 of the possible 8 points on this big lake, It was a really nice time out on the water with this kid.

JS O'Connor photography

After we decided to spend a little extra time at TA3 and take a quick dip in the lake to cool off before the hottest part of the race - the 2nd bike leg. 

Riding one of many scenic country roads. It was good that we started off wet on this warm sunny, hilly ride.

A short singletrack section heading back into HVNC at the end of bike 2. This was kind of soft and humpy - not real easy to ride.

After finishing Bike 2, we had 2 hrs left to get as many CPs as we could off the HVNC trails.  We had to swim to this one, on an island in Little Dyer Pond. I love it when you have to swim in adventure races. A nice cool-off.
Trekking around on the last leg. Reed was still going strong after 7+ hrs. We jogged most of the trails we were on.

The final orienteering section ran a bit slower than we thought: we only found 5 CPs in 2 hours. We jogged into the finish line with about 12 minutes to spare. This was good enough for 11th place out of 25 teams. The post-race spread was ideal: home cooked locally sourced mac-n-cheese and toppings, quinoa salads and a delicious keg of beer from Oxbow Brewing.  We had an awesome time and will surely be back for any future editions of the race. Big thanks to Kate and Cliff, the folks at HVNC and all the sponsors and volunteers that made it happen.

Kudos on a job well done.      JS O'Connor photography      

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