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Backpacker Magazine – April 2005

Tune Up: Your First Adventure Race

Get ready for your first race with a fitness plan from a world champ

by: Ian Adamson


Adventure racing traces its roots to the 1970s, when a bunch of outdoor enthusiasts in Australia and New Zealand decided to push human endurance and competition into the wilds--which may explain why so many backpackers have taken up the sport. But the prospect of getting ready to climb, paddle, and ride 20-odd miles over rugged mountain terrain can seem daunting. How do you prepare for such a multifaceted challenge? What type of race should you attempt?

If you're a first-time competitor, you'd be wise to opt for a 2- to 6-hour "sprint"; these races usually include mountain biking, trail running, and canoeing or kayaking, along with simple orienteering and teamwork challenges. Assuming you have the basic skills in each sport to complete the event safely, sign up and spend at least two months training 5 to 6 times a week. Here's how to fit it all in.

SKILL During each workout, pick a technique to focus on, such as jumping or riding over obstacles on your mountain bike, twisting from your waist during a paddle stroke, scrambling on a talus slope, or navigating a river crossing on a trail run.

ENDURANCE Start at a comfortable distance in each discipline, then increase it by no more than 10 percent per week until you reach race distance in each discipline.

SPEED Incorporate at least 20 minutes of intervals into each sport each week, distributing them throughout the workout. A 60-minute trail run could go like this: easy running (20 minutes); 30-second speed/recovery on a rocky stretch (5 minutes); easy (5 minutes); 1-minute speed/recovery on smooth trail or uphill (10 minutes); 30-second speed/recovery on rocky stretch (5 minutes); easy (15 minutes).

DOUBLE UP Combine sports as well as skill, endurance, and speed training into a single session. For instance, follow a 60-minute trail run with two hours of technical mountain biking, 20 minutes of paddling (or on a rowing machine), and 20 more minutes of running.

TEAM UP You'll go faster and have more fun if your team is in sync. Build synergy and communication by training at least once a week with your mates.

More training and race info: Runner's World's Guide to Adventure Racing, by Ian Adamson; www.balancebaradventure.com; www.adventuresports.com/calendar



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