We are very amateur adventure racers, and have no goal or expectation of joining the professional circuit like the pro-team (fka Yoga Slackers) that first taught us about adventure racing. But, we have participated enough to appreciate how much work it takes to really excel at the multi-disciplinary sport, and, how, at the same time, it can be accessible to most anyone who is willing to push their bodies and their minds, and spend a few months in hard training. Being the unique sport that it is, it’s one of the few where amateurs and elites can race side by side on the same course.
Sort of like a triathlon, the races involve elements of mountain biking, paddling (anything from a blow-up raft you carry in your pack to a kayak or canoe), and trekking/running, all within a framework or orienteering and navigating a route.
Racers compete on teams and, using strategy, teamwork, and navigation skills, move as fast as possible over the varied terrain, in an effort to check off various way-points. Races can be as short as 4-6 hours (like most that we have done), or they can extend for multiple days.
I had worked with a girl during my tenure as an attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine who was active in the sport, and in secret I was totally awed and intimidated by what I surmised must be her athleticism and endurance. As much as I liked to imagine participating in the sport, I never imagined that I actually would have the guts, much less the ability, to do it. Enter my husband, Al, who I met several years after my first introduction to the notion of adventure racing.
Al and I had bonded over running and mountain biking, hiking, and, to a lesser extent road cycling, during our “dating” period. Al is always reading the latest blogs and magazines on everything from gardening, to gadgets, to…adventure racing. He suggested we try out adventure racing and, to get us started, proposed doing the Spring Sting in Bend, Oregon, and attending a “training camp” sponsored by Bend Racing and one of the world’s top adventure racing teams, then known as the Yoga Slackers. (For those who don’t know–as we didn’t–yoga “slacking” is really a “thing” involving balance and yoga on slack lines).
We drove down to Bend, Oregon for the spring training camp, which involved training on navigation, and a number of drills–including night mountain bike rides and paddling through icy cold water in blow-up rafts that we could carry in our packs, along with rides up steep hills and timed runs. We bonded with a few people who also were new to the sport and teamed up with one of them for our three-man team at the Spring Sting.
We’ve done a handful of other adventure races together since Bend, with most of them being in the 4-6 hour range. We had a delightful experience at the Island Quest Adventure Race on Orcas Island (where, to our surprise, we managed to come in first–just showing that so many crazy factors and circumstances are involved in adventure racing), some events through Krank Events, and a lovely little mini-adventure race in Winthrop through Recreation Northwest.
The race was one of those experiences–like so many–where during the event you never want to do it again, and then, after you’ve finished, you can’t wait to choose the next event.