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A GODZone Survival Guide – An Introduction to Expedition Racing

posted Sep 12, 2015, 12:58 AM by Guy O'Neill   [ updated Sep 12, 2015, 12:58 AM ]

Author : Warren Bates, Godzone Adventure

Were it possible to complete a university course in triathlon there is no doubt the successful graduate would emerge with a Bachelor of Science degree. What would the same student get if they studied a degree in expedition adventure racing? Yes, yes...some self-respect and a healthy loathing of one-piece lycra. Nope, the enlightened AR student would emerge, arms aloft, holding a scroll of paper with Bachelor of Arts stamped on it.

If you are going to waste your time reading this Introductory GODZone Survival Guide, which delves into some of the dark arts of expedition adventure racing, then let's make a few things clear from the outset. This is deliberately not a scientific piece of research. This is not a training guide (though we might post one of those soon if we can find one person who thinks it’s a good idea). Note: If you do want a training plan then there are literally thousands of people on the internet willing to charge you $50 a month for one (telling you stuff that you already know but choose to ignore for some unfathomable reason).

This is not a magical document that will transform your inept team into future GODZone winners by dint of the fact that you have several copies, printed and bound, taking pride of place in your lavatory. And unfortunately it isn’t going to win us a knighthood for services to coaching and sport. This is merely a short and vague ramble that aims to get you thinking about how to train and prepare for an event that is – understatement alert - pretty damn hard. Ultimately, it might provide you with an insight or two about how to survive and succeed at GODZone.

Let’s start with the basics. The stark reality is that nearly every successful team in adventure racing history has been made up of old people. Not free bus pass old, but certainly old compared to the champions of practically every other dynamic sport you can think of. Why? It is because the playing field that our sport is contested on is infinitely varied, even if the fundamental disciplines remain somewhat consistent. This variety, coupled with the teams of four, mixed-sex dynamic, means that preparation can’t be distilled down to just numbers and the appliance of science. You simply don’t know what you are going to come up against and how people are going to react until you are racing. Experience and adaptability are key, not just physical prowess (though you do need a hefty dose of that if you want to win). The best teams in adventure racing have learnt the ‘art’ of the sport, largely through experience, and have not spent their lives worrying about lactate thresholds and whether those stupid long socks really do increase blood flow to their extremities.

If you are a first timer at GODZone, if you consider yourself a novice, or are you are one of those teams that has previously been humbled by the event, then the most important thing is to learn from the teams at the front and how they practice the ‘art’ of racing. This doesn't mean learning to run, bike or kayak as fast as them (though this has considerable merits if you can pull it off and still go in the right direction (not as easy as it sounds)), it means you have to focus on getting as much experience as you can and use your preparation time wisely. Here are some of things that you might want to think about:

Navigation - We’ve said this before many times but navigation is crucial in expedition races and those who have competed previously at GODZone will be acutely aware that their event outcome will be dictated by how well they navigate and by the strategic decisions they make about route choice. You must learn the art of moving at a speed, which you can comfortably navigate at, rather than racing at a pace you can physically cope with, but which leads to mistakes. For some team members this may feel painfully slow at times but the alternative of being lost is not a good one.

Comparable skills - Leading teams rarely employ towlines or resort to pulling team mates relentlessly along for large sections of the event. Some tactical load shifting between backpacks is common but not much more. Why? It is because the variance in athletic and technical prowess between a leading team of four is usually a lot less extreme than that of a novice team of four. That annoying law of diminishing returns applies in elite levels of the sport and those at the very front of the field are often extremely well matched, rendering tows an emergency only option. What can we take from this? In summary, your best bet is to try and equalize your abilities. In athletic parlance, there is very little point having one person on the team capable of running a sub 30 minute 10k if the other three consider running that fast absurd, preferring to take a leisurely 90 minutes to do the same.

To expedite the development of your art try to create a team as evenly matched as possible, particularly on foot and on the bike (in the kayaks and canoes it can be well worth having a highly skilled person making decisions about the optimal lines down rapids, etc). Go out with your team and ascend some decent hills and run down some rough terrain. Walk up a gnarly riverbed for a few hours and teeter along a craggy ridgeline. Do some technical bike descents and climb some big hills. It should be blatantly obvious what your team’s relative weaknesses and strengths are. Then sit down and have an honest conversation about where improvements can realistically be made. You may be the God of biking on your local club rides but if your team mates are leaving you for dead on every descent then you need to work on keeping up. Similarly, if you are going up hills and wondering where the hell your team mates are (30 minutes down the hill, crying with the effort) then perhaps ease off the hill reps in training and focus on something more productive for the team – navigation/fast transitions/keeping the team well fed, etc. In short, a good team is a well-balanced team.

There is nothing wrong with a bit of selfishness - For some reason a narrative exists within AR that it’s all about super duper team dynamics and the best teams get on like a house on fire. Team Nike, probably the most successful team in AR history, didn’t give off the air of a team that loved to spend Christmas together, holding hands whilst they sang carols and toasted marshmallows.

Your first consideration on the course should always be to look after yourself properly. Do not neglect your own health, nutrition and over exert yourself just because someone has randomly nominated you as the team packhorse. If you have energy to spare and can see that others in the team are struggling then it makes sense to help. However, far too often we see some daft alpha male carrying the kitchen sink up the mountain on Stage 1, towing some poor female who keeps shouting - “I thought we’d agreed to take it easy on Day 1”? Three days later, that same daft alpha male is completely broken and the female is carrying his backpack, muttering under her breath “I told you we were going too fast on Day 1”. Always be aware of your team and how they are feeling, help where you can. But do not become a liability later in the race by failing to exercise sensible self-preservation.

Train as you expect to race – We’ve done a fair bit of analysis of the times it takes team to complete the stages at GODZone. The stats show us that the fastest teams will typically complete the early trekking stages at about 4km/h and the slow teams at about 2.3km/h. By the end of the event the leading teams will travel at about 3km/h and the slow teams will be moving at about 1.5km/h or less. As you can see, the average pace is not exactly electrifying. What you can deduce from this is that you will spend an awful lot of time going slowly. So why do people insist on doing a lot of run training, eh? It does give you a good work out in a short time but for GODZone a novice team will be far better served if ‘conditioned’ for the event rather than ‘fit’. Think hard about how to train and what will enable you to cope with the unique demands of going at what might be easily described as a snail’s pace for up to 7 days. We will provide some more training insights at a later juncture…just don’t expect the appliance of science – it makes our heads hurt.

Oi, stop mucking about – It has been mentioned before on the GODZone website that the novice or slow teams lose a lot of time versus the fastest by stopping a lot rather than just travelling slower. This is perhaps most apparent in transitions and the difference between good and bad is a sight to behold. At GODZone, Team Seagate will take approximately 25mins, on average, per transition. The team at the other end of the spectrum will take, on average, over 2.5hrs per transition. Let’s assume we have 10 transitions per race, that’s a combined time of 25hrs versus Seagate’s 4hrs 10mins. That’s an awful lot of time to give up when you consider that the slow team did pretty much the same as Seagate in the transition, except eat an extra tube of Barbecue flavoured Pringles. 

Of course, it is important that you use transitions wisely, that you don’t forget equipment and that you eat whilst you can and it’s readily available. However, transitions are a deadly trap when it comes to mindless faffing. It is unrealistic for a novice team to transition like Seagate (they've done hundreds of them) but it would be wise to set yourself some goals – it’s the best way to make the team focus. Why not outline some realistic time targets? For example: All transitions on day 1 to be done in 45 minutes or less. All transitions on Day 2 to be done in an hour or less. Perhaps allow yourself a bit more time for a couple of key stages in the middle of the event and then tighten back up to 45 minutes for the last couple of TA’s as you sense the finish is in sight. Remember, it’s important that the entire team buys into the protocol for transitions, as one slow person will slow everyone up. There is nothing more annoying than racing through a transition with breathtaking efficiency, jumping on your bike in eager anticipation, only to be told that team mate X is having a shower (though we don’t often provide those options at GODZone, truth be known).

Get organised - Ideally as soon as possible and get used to using your kit on a regular basis. Day 1 of GODZone is not the place to discover that your flash new tights have a seam with a nasty tendency to sandpaper your delicates. Or that your head torch doesn’t provide enough light to read let alone ride a bike downhill at breakneck speed in the dark. It is always amazing how many questions we get about kit and logistics in the last couple of weeks before the event starts. We even had a team ask us if we knew where they could hire bikes a week before the start at one of the Chapters. Get your bike box built well in advance. Use it, abuse it, pack it, and unpack it. Take it away with you on your training trips and learn to love its frustratingly small capacity. And remember to take note of the allowed weights of your bike/gear boxes well in advance.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, remember that whilst GODZone is an incredibly tough event, it should be a fulfilling and rewarding experience too. Don’t beat yourself or team mates up about mistakes or worry about things that are outside of your control – the time for reflection is once the event has finished and your brain and body has returned to some kind of normality.

Enjoy your training, prepare well as a balanced team and remember, it’s more art than science. We look forward to seeing all the super slick transitions in beautiful Tasman next year.

Tips on Rogaine Race Planning

posted Jul 8, 2015, 5:18 AM by Guy O'Neill   [ updated Aug 5, 2015, 3:23 AM ]

The full article is below as a pdf attachment, the text article is an abbreviation of the main points.
I have added my thoughts and experiences to this document including advice from some top rogainers I received in the aftermath discussions of adventure races and rogaines.

Rogaine Beginner’s Guide – Top Ten Tips John Godino and John Bartholomew, CROC 

The ideas below are from John's own Rogaine Journal, a sort of rambling account kept after each event of what worked, what didn't, and what I would do differently next time.  A final word of advice . . . enjoy the moments you're out there. Hear the nighttime call of the owls and the dawn warble of the meadowlarks, be mesmerized by the wind’s rhythmic ripple in the tall spring grasses, take a moment to look into the center of the blooming wildflowers, admire the deer antler you found next to the water hole. 

“Rogaining is 14 hours of fun followed by 10 hours of character enhancement.” And remember: It doesn't have to be fun . . . to be fun. 

1. Training 
2. Map prep 
3. Route planning 2 
4. Foot care 
5. Food and hydration 
6. What’s in your pack? 
7. General Navigation 
8. Pace counting 
9. Keeping the Mental Mojo 
10. Night O, Lighting, and the Secret Weapon Training for a Rogaine 

Get fit, but include off-trail hiking to condition your legs for the abuse they will receive when rogaining.
I suggest packing up as if you are racing as often as you can to not only condition yourself for the weight you need to carry, but you will find out what works equipment-wise, and even how to pack. How you get to your peak fitness is up to you. 

Map prep 
A big help in doing this is having the following items to make your map easy to read and durable. Note: you do not need these items on the actual course, just for pre-race planning. 3 1 ultra fine tip Sharpie pens, in red and blue (for annotating map, drawing in distances and bearings to control points) 2 two colors of highlighter pens (one color to mark every control 50 points or higher, the other color to mark all of the water controls) 3 pencil (general purpose writing) 4 scissors (for trimming map) 5 wide clear packaging/strapping tape (for joining two map halves; duct tape works okay too. Adding a “frame” of wide clear strapping tape all around the edge of the map, and on the fold lines, makes the map a lot more durable over the course of the race.) 6 About 6 feet of string or twine with a knot tied every 2 miles at the scale of the map. (Hint: On a 1;24,000 scale 7.5 minute USGS map, 2.6 inches on the map equals 1 mile on the ground, so a knot tied every 5 inches should be about right.) A pace of 2 mph for a long loop out of the hash house is a reasonable goal, which factors in elevation, eating/water stops, etc. Use this string to determine the actual distance of your proposed route. 

Route planning 
As noted above, it’s crucial that you properly utilize the two hours you get to plan your route. Here’s a few suggestions to get started. Keep in mind that this is some very subjective advice, and I'm sure some expert Rogainers will differ on some of these ideas. This tip alone could easily be several pages, but I'll try to keep it short. Also bear in mind that these tips are for a moderately fit team who will be walking, not running, the course. 1. First, mark all controls that are 50 points of higher, and mark all water controls with your highlighter pen(s). 2. Plan Night O - Approximately one third of your Rogaine time (8 hours) will be in the dark. This means approximately one quarter to one third of the map needs to be marked off for nighttime travel. Try to choose a quadrant of the map that has the greatest number of obvious linear features (ideally roads, but streams and big trails work too) that will be easy to navigate at night. Using a pencil, lightly draw a series of diagonal lines on the part of the map you think would be best traveled at night. For now, mentally set aside this “night portion” of the map and focus on the rest, which is the Day O portion. 3. Plan Day O - Now you have your day and night portions of the map delineated, and the higher point and water controls marked. In general, try to plan a route that gets as many 50 point or above control points. This usually involves heading for the edge of the map and moving around the perimeter in a zigzag manner. Try to avoid going up, over and down ridgelines. For easier terrain, plan on hitting 2 controls per hour for the day shift. For tougher terrain and hotter weather, plan on 1.5 controls per hour. For a “day shift” of 11am to 11pm, that’s 24 (or 18) controls. Don’t mark many more than this on your daytime route plan. If you do plan more than 24 controls, prepare to drop some near the end if you are getting behind schedule. 4. Decide on the first 4-5 controls you’ll hit, and draw the best route from one to another onto the map with a fine tip pen. Note that the best route to a control might not always be a straight line. If from the map colors and contours you determine that it’s light vegetation and not too steep, you likely can travel in a straight line. This is a good thing! If so, draw it 4 using the edge of your compass as a straightedge. Then, from the map (and hopefully the scale on your compass) determine the distance and bearing from each point to the other. Write the distance and bearing on the line you drew – this will help you get into the groove on the first few points. 5. Avoid picking up all the lower point controls near the hash house early on, on your way out into the field. If you're making two or three large loops in and out during the event, there's plenty of time to get these - work them into your loops out AND back into the hash house. (Note: some event designers put more lower point controls close in, others mix the points up a lot more - look for this during your route planning!) 6. Water: Try to hit a water control every three to four hours, depending on temperature. Keep in mind that location of water controls usually depend on some kind of road or ATV trail access, and thus water controls may not be evenly spread out on the course. If it’s hot, you might want avoid any large part of the map that lacks a water control. I bring a few water purification tablets in case I really need water and can only find a stream, lake etc. on the course. 7. Plan your night route: Once you've mapped your daytime course, apply the same strategy to the nighttime part of the map. Plan on moving more slowly at night and the following morning when you are tired! Plan on approx. 1.5 controls per hour for the night shift. If you’re out from midnight to 10:30 am (10.5 hours), that’s 16 controls. 8. Plan your end game: Plan loops out and back to hash house which give you "cut off/add on" options. If you're ahead of plan, you can deviate a bit and pick up another control or two. More often than not, you'll be a little behind schedule instead of ahead - it's nice to have an easy one or two controls to cut off your list at the end and head straight in for the finish. Working hard for hours and hours only to lose lots of points for being a few minutes late is a real downer. 9. Assign 'check times': To stay on track, have a reality check after 6, 12, and 18 hours to see if you're keeping up with your scheduled pace. 10. Timing: Try to take no more than 1 1/2 hours to do your route planning, so you have 30 minutes prior to the start of the race for any last-minute gear futzing. Trust me, you’ll need it. 

Foot care 
Proper care of your feet is critical to a happy Rogaine the experience. It can be pretty amusing to walk around the Hash House 30 minutes before the start and have a peek at what everybody is doing - some people get pretty carried away with wrapping their feet. Here's what I found be useful. 1 Insoles - some kind of aftermarket insole, such as Superfeet, can be a good idea. 2 Socks - for every Rogaine, I buy two brand new pairs of really nice socks. Remember that wonderful “Ahhhhhh . . .” feeling when you put on a cushy pair of brand new socks? Well believe me, that's a great feeling to have at midnight when you're heading out on the night shift. 3 Blister prevention - if you know you're prone to blisters, taping that area well before you head out as a good plan. Putting some tincture of benzoin on the skin before the blister pad helps keep the adhesive stick a lot better. Nexcare brand Waterproof Bandages (made with 3M adhesive) stick very well, and are good for preventative bandaging on blister prone spots. Some folks prefer to use a pair of light hiking liner socks underneath their main pair, or 5 wear new outdoor socks incorporating blister-guard material. 4 If you feel a blister developing during the event, a good gob of Vaseline on your hotspot does wonders to stop the friction. Vaseline, as well as baby diaper rash cream, can also work for crotch chafing. This is a widespread yet little-discussed Rogaine ailment that usually strikes about 4 am. Lanolinbased lubricants work well, too. If you feel a crotch rash starting, wiping down with unscented baby wipes in a small plastic baggie can help postpone it. 
5 Footwear – Rogainers seem divided between running shoes and light hiking boots. If you are not used to a lot of off trail travel, I suggest going with the light hikers. 

Food and hydration 
This is probably the most subjective area of Rogaine advice, so I will tread carefully. While sucking down a few packs of carbohydrate gel and chugging a liter of sports drink might work well in a three-hour mountain bike ride, most of us need something more substantial during a Rogaine. The psychological (not to mention caloric) boost of, say, a fat salami and cheese sandwich at dawn can be huge! For me, I like a combination of an hourly carbohydrate gel, water with your additive of the choice (Cytomax, Gookinaid, etc.) along with more substantial treats such as sandwiches, corn chips, and chocolate covered coffee beans. Water found at the water controls will be warm and not terribly palatable. I like to bring some extra sports drink mix in an 8 ounce plastic jar (sturdier than a ziplock bag) to add to the water refilled on the course. 
Electrolyte replacement powder or capsules can be vital on a hot day. Here’s a recipe to make your own super cheap “home brew” Gu from ingredients you can buy at a beer-brewing store: http://www.alpinedave.com/make_gu.html While it’s great that event planners provide food, don’t count on a five-star meal at the Hash House. Some are well-catered, others are simple affairs and can end up low on more popular foodstuffs by the end. 
While U.S. events tend to have one central hash house, some international events (in Australia, for example) may have more than one location where food is available. I've found that a cold orzo pasta salad (heavy on the olive oil), kept in a cooler in the car, is a great dinner as well as post race food. And on that note, be sure to have some ultra yummy post-race food stashed in your car. 
Potato chips, olives and canned fruit juice will work well for me. Adult malted beverages might be tempting, but keep in mind you may well have to drive home soon after to drink them. Adding a buzz to sleep deprivation and physical hammering is not a good combination for safe driving. 
You may also find yourself not wanting to eat much after several hours - sometimes called "rogaine tummy" - caused by extended physical exertion. But not eating occasionally will cause you to end up worse off. During an endurance event like a rogaine, always eat before you're hungry and drink before you're thirsty - though it can often be hard to know exactly when that is...! Check in advance about water availability on the course. 
While many rogaines include maintained water stops on the course, some do not. Here, you'll be expected to bring your own water to the event and/or use a water purifier while out in the field. New backpack style hydration packs are popular and speed progress on the 6 trail. I once had a teammate end up in bad shape as he'd packed water bottles in his pack - and then never stopped to drink from them! He ended up noticeably dehydrated 4 hours into a 6 hour mini-rogaine. Fortunately, his other two teammates (with Camelbacks) saw his deteriorating condition before he did, and we stooped long enough to sufficiently rehydrate him before continuing. 

What’s in Your Pack? 
Here’s another highly subjective topic. Every pack will be different, but this is what I wear and carry. The loaded pack should not weigh more than 10 lbs, food and water included. The hardcore racers will carry a lot less, conservative folks a bit more. This is planned for one return to the hash house during the event. You don’t need much for a first aid kit – blisters and a twisted ankle are by far the most likely injuries. For the car: A cooler well stocked with ice, a plushy sleeping pad and folding camp chairs are great to have. Hydrate slowly and continuously the evening before the event. For your water bottles, mix up 4 liters of your preferred drink additive at home, and freeze them all. Keep them well iced in the cooler. Take 2 bottles out for each leg. When you add more water on the course, it’ll get cold, yum! Try to have all needed gear prep and packing DONE before the map handout. This means water bottles ready, food packed, toes taped, heels wrapped, daypack loaded and ready. Cramming all this in 30 minutes before the race starts creates unneeded stress. Wearing: ____ long sleeve silkweight synthetic shirt ____ sun hat (with full brim or baseball style) ____ sunglasses ____ outer shorts with some good cargo and zippered pockets ____ spandex “underwear” shorts ____ trail running or very light hiking shoes ____ yummy pair of brand new socks ____ low top gaitors (to repel evil grass seeds) In a small pack: ___ 2 liters of frozen water with your preferred additive (Gookinaid, etc.) ___ extra drink additive mix in plastic jar (to add to water found on course) ___ 6-8 packets Gu or Hammer gel ___ electrolyte tablets (for salt/potassium repletion) ___ 2 yummy sandwiches / bagels ___ olives in 4 oz. plastic jar ___ whistle ___ watch ___ small digital camera (optional) ___ pencil stub ___ map (each partner carries one) ___ control card (paper or electronic) ___ ultralight raincoat or windbreaker 7 ___ good headlamp with new batteries ___ compass (I like the Suunto model M3) ___ backup compass (1 per team) ___ single trekking pole (2 poles don’t work well, as you need a hand free for the compass) ___ velcro ankle support or Ace bandage ___ blister pads ___ ibuprofen (6 tabs) ___ lip balm with sunscreen ___ sunscreen (apply lots before start of race) ___ vaseline or Sportslick in small tube (for chafing) ___ empty ziplock sandwich bag (for trash) ___ toilet paper or baby wipes, in sandwich bag ___ diaper rash cream, in small tube ___ tincture of benzoin in tiny eye dropper bottle (help blister pads stick on sweaty skin) ___ water purification tablets (optional) 

General Navigation 
1 It's important to be able to recognize terrain in which you'll be able to walk a straight line to your next control, versus terrain in which you need to do some creative zigzags to get to the control. Obviously, straight line travel is a lot easier. 
2 Try to avoid going up, over, and right back down ridgelines. 
3 Try to avoid sidehilling, that is, traveling along the side of a hill at a constant elevation, any longer then you have to. This puts serious abuse on your legs, and is no fun for long periods of time. 
4 Travel along ridges and in drainages is generally the easiest terrain to both see on a map and travel on the ground. 
5 If the distance to the next control is critical to determine, both team members should be pace counting. That way, if one person loses count, the other person can remind them. 
6 When you get within 1/10 of the mile of where you think the control point is, team members should spread out (but staying within shouting distance, according to Rogaine rules.) By spreading out, you cover more terrain and have a better chance of hitting the control. 
7 Don't take too long back at the Hash House between the day shift in the night shift. It's easy to let a planned 30 minute dinner break stretch to an hour and a half. Some of the hardcore teams stay out the entire 24 hours without ever coming back to the Hash House. (Like I said, hardcore!) 
8 Get the harder to find, more distant controls in the daylight, and save the easy controls near obvious roads and features for the walk back to the Hash House after dark. 
9 Especially later in the event, it's very easy to start taking longer and longer breaks at control points. Think about it this way: if you hit 30 control points over the course of the event, and if you can save an extra two minutes at each one, that gives you an extra hour of time, which could translate into 100 more total points (if you can keep up a solid pace of 100 points per hour.) Translated, be efficient at the control points. As one partner is punching the control card, the other should be grabbing a bearing and determining the best route to the next control. 
10 Even if one person is the main navigator, each partner should check all 8 bearings. This is more important late in the game when you’re tired. There is nothing that takes the wind out of your sails like realizing you just walked a mile or so in the wrong direction. 
11 Consider doing a 8 or 12 hour event for your first time. Night navigation is hard and you should practice it in advance! Distances feel different at night, esp. when you're fatigued. Most rogaines (though not all) are held on nights with full or nearly full moons, though the weather may not always cooperate. You can see a lot by the light of a full moon while walking on a dirt road at 2 am. Know when to expect moonlight, sunset, sunrise by checking a web site in advance, like this one: http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneDay.html 

Pace counting In normal orienteering, maps are always metric. Therefore, knowing your pace count for 100 m is very useful. However, in a Rogaine (at least in the United States) maps are based on the USGS 7 1/2 minute quad, and are not in metric units. Therefore, I feel that knowing your pace count for 1/10 of a mile (528 feet) is more useful in a Rogaine. It can be somewhat tricky to determine this. Probably the best way is on a good high school running track, walking exactly 100 meters, and then doing a little arithmetic to extrapolate this to 528 feet. I will leave the math to you - geez, we can’t tell you ALL the secrets, can we? Okay, here’s a hint: 160 meters = 528 feet. The compass I like for Rogaines is a Suunto model M3. This wonder of Finnish engineering has a 1:24,000 map scale directly on the end of the base plate. This allows you to put the end of the baseplate directly on a control, rotate the compass so the next control is under the end of the baseplate, and instantly see the correct distance between the two in real world distance. Remember to set your compass declination to zero – O-maps are set to magnetic north and do not use declination. Link to Suunto compass; http://www.thecompassstore.com/51m3dl.html 9 

Keeping the Mental Mojo 
Like any good relationship, keeping things happy between you and your partner is crucial. There will times when both of you hit a low point and need a boost. It's the task of your partner to hopefully notice this (or better yet anticipate it) and do what they can to bring you back up. It can be as simple as reminding your partner to eat a Gu packet and drink every hour, or as dramatic as them telling you they want to quit entirely after a missed control and 3:00am meltdown. Ideally, your partner is someone you know well and has a background in some sort of endurance sports, such as century bike rides, triathlons, marathons, mountaineering, etc. A past history in sports like this is some assurance that they know how to maintain a moderate level of suffering for a long period of time - probably the most important factor in completing a Rogaine. Talk about your goals in advance and stick to them. Mountaineers call it "summit fever" - the drive to reach the top blinding all other thinking. Rogaining, like mountaineering, is a team venture - strive for mutual success by moving only as fast and hard as your slowest team member can reasonably sustain. 4:00am in the middle of nowhere after 17 hours of exertion can be a cold and lonely place - you want to be there with willing friends, not new enemies. 

Night O and Lighting (and the Secret Weapon!) Ahhh, the joys of Night-O. Nailing a control point in the dark usually tastes twice as sweet as those you find during the day. It's a great idea to have your Night-O gear ready to grab and go in your car or tent before the event begins. 

For me, my nighttime gear bag looks like this: 
 ___ toilet paper or baby wipes, in sandwich baggie 
___ 4 packs Gu or Hammer gel 
___ lightweight fleece cap, maybe gloves, depending on temperature 
___ 1 yummy sandwich / bagel 
___ 1-2 cans energy drink (Red Bull) or canned coffee, drink it at the car 
___ 2 liters of frozen water with your preferred additive (Gookinaid, etc.) 
___ face-melter super flashlight, with fresh batteries, see below I’m a flashlight freak, and I own at least five. The current headlamp battles between Petzl and Black Diamond, not to mention the amazing advances in LED flashlights in the last few years, give the Rogainer many options. My preferred combination is a quality LED headlamp for general walking and map reading, combined with what I call “the Facemelter” handheld flashlight, used when you know you're close to a control, or need to see how tall that cliff is over which you’re about to stumble. At present, for general lighting, I love the Petzl Tikka XP headlamp, which has several light settings and a “boost” feature for a short term extra blast of light. Some models even have a red bulb, which might be nice for reading a map without ruining your night vision. (Hmm, this may be my next headlamp upgrade . . .) Depending on the course, control points may or may not have reflective tape on them. The tape obviously makes the control point much easier to find at night. I’m sure the master Rogainers out there will never forgive me for revealing the secret to their amazing Night-O scores, but you’ve read this far, so here is the Rogaine Secret Weapon: a super duper bright flashlight. There are a few solid 10 brands out there, but the one I love is the Surefire G2 model. Surefire makes flashlights for SWAT teams, Special Forces etc., and they rock! The G2 weighs just 4.1 ounces, costs about $40, runs on 2 small lithium batteries, and throws out a 60 lumen beam for an hour, brighter than a 4 D cell Maglite. An even better option might be the lights made by Fenix. These are even smaller, have a greater light output, and run on cheaper and readily available AA batteries. Note that the Facemelter is meant for a quick burst of a few seconds, not for continuous use, as battery life is fairly short on most models. The night controls practically jump into your lap when you have this puppy. Available online or at various places in Portland; I got my Surefire G2 at the knife shop in Lloyd Center mall (Portland). Use the nifty “dealer locator” feature on the Surefire website. Surefire: http://www.kk.org/cooltools/archives/000728.php Fenix lights: http://www.kk.org/cooltools/archives/002531.php In Conclusion Your first (or second!) Rogaine is not the place to "be all you can be" in a single 24- hour period of your mortal existence. Train well in advance for it. Try a shorter one (8-12 hours) the first time. Pick a partner you know you'd enjoy a less than perfect hike with - you'll be together for a day or more in some less than comfortable conditions. Enjoy the scenery, the weather, the wildlife and the competition. Remember, "any fool can skydive once". Come prepared, so you'll have a good time and want to be back for your next Rogaine...! 

How to be an Adventure Racer (an article)

posted Oct 22, 2014, 9:09 PM by Guy O'Neill   [ updated Oct 22, 2014, 9:09 PM ]

article from Australian Geographic written by Chris Ord

To newbie, adventure racing can seem daunting but our expert adventurer shows you that it's time to get into it.

HAVE YOU HEARD THE ONE about grown men screaming in white pain after thrashing their way through a forest full of the world's most poisonous foliage, their 'burns' sated only by more searing from hydrochloric acid poured on them at the nearest checkpoint? Or the little yarn about scooting the remaining 60km of a race with only one pedal on a mountain bike? How about the time an adventure racer puts out his hand to grab a wayward paddle and clasps a croc's head instead?
No? Haven't heard those anecdotes? Good. Best not be exposed to that until after you've done your beginner's course in adventure racing, because the take-note clue in this sport is most definitely the word 'adventure', more so than the word 'racing'.
I've selectively picked out juiced-up bites of mayhem, but it's not my fault there's an ocean of anecdotes out there. I mean, let's look at a quick little list of 'memorable moments' as reeled off by one of Australia's most accomplished adventure racers, John Jacoby: "Paddling in big ocean conditions off the Moroccan coast and having to land double sea kayaksthrough 8ft surf - that was good fun. And 24 hours later, sleeping in the mountains at 12,000ft in freezing conditions spooning together to stay warm. There was the time I fell asleep while mountain biking down a 6000ft mountain in the freezing cold in the middle of the night. 

"Or racing in flooded tropical Brazil where every stream was a torrent of muddy water infested with pig crap and then having to drink the same water for days on end. No wonder my guts felt a bit average for weeks after that race."
John, a former world champion adventure racer who started competing not long after the very first competitive events kicked off in the late '80s, is what we'd call a watercooler man: his are the stories others repeat (without the need for exaggeration).
Yet the reality is that adventure racing is an egalitarian pursuit much more accessible and achievable - enjoyable, even - than such tales might suggest. 

Even John - a man known to tell competitors in the adventure races he now organises to take some HTFU* pills- mellows to the point of hippidom when asked what those new to adventure racing should consider first up:
"Just follow your dreams and believe in what's possible because the human body can do a lot with a good head on its shoulders," John says. "Of course it helps to have a bit of tenacity, flexibility and adaptability along with a never say die attitude."
Thanks for the motivational speech, but where practically to begin? "Start racing. It's the only way to get good experience and know-how," says John. 

All very well, but best you do a little schooling if you want to make it to that first checkpoint…welcome to adventure racing 101. 


The term 'adventure racing' covers many different forms of event. Some are for beginners, others best left until you've got some experience under your hydro belt. 

Urban AR: Checkpoint Charlie-type events that usually have more running and soft biking, sometimes a paddle. Less competitive, more fun, sometimes scavenger hunt. Easy map-reading navigation (non compass). 
Get into it: Urban Max (www.kathmanduurban.com.au), Rat Race (www.ratraceadventure.com/australia).
Level: Beginner 

Off-road tri: Triathlon disciplines (swim, bike, run), but all off road. Single day. Individual and teams. No navigation. If you're a triathlete, it's a good way to ease in. If you're not a triathlete - don't bother. I mean, no paddling? 
Get into it: Tre-X (www.tre-x.com.au), Straddie Salute (www.weekendwarriorevents.com.au). 
Level: Beginner to intermediate. 

Sprint: Combinations of mountain bike, trail run and paddle, sometimes with novelty checkpoints or activities. Middling to no navigation (those without navigation are sometimes also called 'multisport' - a debate for a different article).Individuals or teams. Great intro to adventure racing, but often more reliant on pure fitness and technical skills than any strategy or bush skills. 
Get into it: Anaconda Adventure Race (www.anacondaadventurerace.com),Kathmandu AR (www.kathmanduadventure.com.au), Paddy Pallin AR (www.arocsport.com.au), Adventure Race Australia Series (www.adventureraceaustralia.com.au). 
Level: Beginner to intermediate 

Multisport: Various combinations of paddle (generally flatwater), road and mountain bike, trail run, swim. No navigation.
Get into it: Coast to Coast NZ (www.coasttocoast.co.nz), Marysville to Melbourne Multisport (www.marysville2melbourne.com.au), Mainpeak Multisport (www.mainpeakmultisport.com.au), Upper Murray Challenge (www.uppermurraychallenge.com.au)
Level: Intermediate to advanced 

12-48 Hour: Longer form of the sprint hit outs, tend to have more navigation involved and pass through wilder territory. And of course, overnight.
Get into it: Geoquest (www.geoquest.com.au), Kathmandu 24 HR (www.kathmanduadventure.com.au)
Level: Intermediate to advanced 

Stage race: Teams, usually four including a female. Usually 5-7 days. Variety of disciplines including trail running, paddling, mountain biking, wild swimming and ropework. All sorts of extra activities including paragliding and rollerblading. Navigation not always compulsory or lessened by use of GPS. Set stop periods where athletes sleep and recover at the same camp location. Can include transport for athletes between stages to access the best terrain. 
Get into it: The Quest (www.waet.org.za/quest.htm), WulongMountain Quest (www.wulongquest.com), Sabah Adventure Challenge (www.sabahadventurechallenge.com), Vanuatu AR (www.racevanuatu.com). 
Level: Intermediate to advanced
Expedition: Teams, usually four including a female. Five to 10 days of continuous racing. Athletes choose where, when and how long to sleep. Disciplines include trail running/trekking, mountain biking, paddling and plenty of navigation. Some include ropework and other challenges en route - caving, canyoning, paragliding, plus novelty legs. Camels and horses have been used. Usually super-remote wilderness, passing through checkpoints.
Get into it: Patagonia Expedition Race (www.patagonianexpeditionrace.com), Costa Rica (www.arcostarica.com), XPD (www.xpd.com.au) and other Adventure Racing World Series events (www.arworldseries.com), Ultimate Indo (www.ultimateadventureraces.com). 
Level: Advanced


No-one will come to adventure racing as an expert at all disciplines (if any!). There are just too many to be mastered. Often, people migrate to AR after having achieved in a single field - paddling, for instance - but their exposure to another - say, mountain biking - will be limited, if non-existent. The key is to figure out what your biggest weakness is and then be brave enough to tackle that as a priority. 

"Get coaching and advice by experts," advises AR athlete Jarad Kohlar, who sees many AR wannabes join his weekly paddle-training session on Port Philip Bay (www.peakadventure.com.au).
Paddling in particular, he notes, is often a beginner's weakness. Jarad reckons that "if you put the word 'never' or 'can't' in the same sentence as any of the AR disciplines, then that's what you need to concentrate on. 


Motivation is key. It's all too easy to peek over the doona on a winter's morn, feel the icicles forming on your nostrils, and decide, unsighted, that there's a squall raging in which your mountain bike session would turn life-threatening. But if you know there's a coach and 10 others waiting and cursing in the carpark for you to arrive, you'll drag your sorry Skins-clad butt outta bed and down to that training session. And enjoy it. 

The best thing about training in a group, apart from the camaraderie, is you pick up skills much quicker and your own dodgy techniques will be highlighted and corrected earlier. There aren't too many pure adventure-racing training groups around (although they are popping up as the sport grows), but that shouldn't stop you joining paddling, trail running, mountain biking and orienteering sessions, all of which have group representation in most major cities and many rural centres.
Many of the event companies that put on AR outings also run training and familiarisation days: "We get nearly as many people rocking up at our Anaconda famil days as to the events themselves," says Rapid Ascent's John Jacoby.
Melbourne: www.peakadventure.com.au |www.melbourneadventure.org.au | jarasport.com.au  www.vigor.net.au 
Sydney: www.addventuretraining.com Noosa: www.triadventure.com.au 
South East Qldwww.phoenixadventure.com.au 
Brisbane: www.uqtriads.net.au and www.explorefitness.com.au 
Adelaide: www.adelaidevales.com.au 


There's no need to go overboard with training, reckons experienced adventure racer, Alina McMaster, now a director of AROC, purveyors of the Paddy Pallin Adventure Race Series. "And don't wait until you think you are fit enough before you enter an event. Just get out and do it - you'll get better along the way and find out which areas you need to work on." 

Alina offers this sample weekly program as a good base training regime:
 • 1-2 x 10km paddles; 
• 1-2 runs (1-2 hours); 
• 1-2 mountain bike sessions (2 hours); 
• 1 longer session of any discipline (eg mountain bike trip, hike - try to aim for about five hours). 
• Make time the measuring stick, not distance. 

Adds Jarad Kohlar: "You also need to train on terrain and in environments similar to race conditions. If you live in Melbourne, there's no point riding up and down Beach Road or running a footpath around the Botanical Gardens - plan on getting into the hills, run some trails, mountain bike off road." 

Interacting with your gear is important, too: "Refine the art of getting food from your pack while continuing to run and look at a map," says Jarad.
Sessions should be mixed in style, too, rather than all being drawn out slog fests. 

"Those of you who abhor structure (a good sensibility to have in the world of AR) can take alternative inspiration from two-time winner of the XPD Expedition race, Damon Goerke: "There's no need to have a structured training program. Intervals, skills and endurance will be naturally built in, just by getting out and using the appropriate terrain. Do some long bike rides and runs. Get out and paddle. Get a sea kayak (beg, borrow or steal) and have a go on the harbour or bay. Also, try paddling in choppy water to improve skills and confidence. Make your own adventures, go hiking, just go play!"
Structured or not, all experts agree that you have to at least be disciplined enough to actually get out there regularly.


Strength of will gets you through the darkest moments of any adventure race long after the body has given up. Fact. So, while in the shorter races fitness will come to the fore, in the longer races it will be your attitude and ability to suffer that determines your race outcome.
"Both mind and body are inextricably linked: both are genetically determined to an extent but they can still be fine-tuned to benefit the athlete," says John. "I almost think the mind is more important for AR. Without the willpower, and mental strength, a well-tuned athlete will fall apart if their head space is not ready. Guts and determination are definitely more important than talent."


Over the course of a five to eight hour race, you're probably going to be burning around 800-1000 calories per hour. No matter how much you take in, you won't be able to replace all the calories you'll be expending. That's why your training program is important - so your body can become efficient at using fat as an energy source. You are also going to require some kind of electrolyte replacement and energy bars to replace those calories. Use what has worked best for you in training; race day is not the day to try something new!
Specifically, Sports Dieticians Australia anoints carbohydrate requirements as being the highest for AR given the sport's endurance demands.
For a more comprehensive guide to AR nutrition see sportsdieticians.com.au.


Probably the most important thing to consider on team AR outings is your teammates. The golden rule is that you are only ever going to go as fast as your slowest team mate. Or as slow as your longest tantrum session.
"You need to be sure you all have the same goal (which should be to finish the race); no point one wanting to walk and just finish and the others wanting to go hard and win," says Damon, who has found dependability in Team Blackheart cohorts Rob Preston, Kim Willocks and Josh Street (www.teamblackheart.com).
"You should discuss everything beforehand and know what everyone's strengths and weaknesses are. Look after your teammates, lose the ego and accept help if needed," advises Damon.
"In a typical race you have to navigate, determine distance and speed and look for control points, all while you are running, biking and kayaking.
"Having a clear strategy of who does what in the team and communicating at all times is vital," says Henry van Heerden, operations manager at Maximum Adventure, the mob responsible for the Kathmandu AR series. 

Henry has witnessed many AR teams fall apart during a race through lack of common understanding and expectation between team members.
"Pair up with team mates who have similar fitness levels. Try to train together as much as possible." 


Many AR events (but not all) involve navigation, a dark art that seems to scare off many punters - needlessly says Henry. "People are often put off by the navigation element of adventure racing, thinking that they might get lost during a race. The reality is newcomers often comment after they've completed their first event that the navigation was not nearly as daunting as they anticipated," he says. "By spending time reading a topographic map you learn how to relate the landscape in front of you to a two-dimensional map. You can be the fastest runner, mountain biker or kayaker but if you are going in the wrong direction you still end up with the wooden spoon." 

Orienteering and rogaining events are great training grounds for adventure racing, teaching you to navigate accurately and quickly, equipping you with the skills able to make quick decisions on the fly, be organised and always moving - never stopping to read the map or decide where to go. 

*Never Eat Soggy Weetbix - if you don't know what I'm talking about you may be reading the wrong magazine 


"Being organised and prepared is one thing that will put you ahead," says Alina McMaster, who races with Team AROC. "We used to always be the last to bed in events where they gave you the maps the night before the start. We would spend hours preparing the maps and our gear. This meant once the race started we just followed the plan and our gear was all ready - so we didn't waste any time during the race."


Think of adventure racing as a Buddhist sport: you have to deprive yourself. Of food, of sleep, of warmth, of comfort. You have to find your Zen Zone - a meditative equilibrium (it's the only way to manage the pain and exhaustion and keep going). You'll reach a higher plane. It'll still hurt, but a higher plane nevertheless. You'll contemplate - sometimes it'll be all you can do. You'll blank your mind. All you'll want to do is sit under a tree and stop the world spinning. You'll find a way. And if you don't, take John Jacoby's advice: take a HTFU* pill.
*Harden The F@#k Up 


"Adventure racers are notorious gear junkies, but I don't think it's that important, just fun," reckons Damon Goerke. It's true - outdoor bods love toys, but there is much less snobbery around AR than in the triathlon-scene: you won't be laughed off the pitch for turning up to tackle the course on your kick-stand clad Malvern Star. More likely, the bloke with his 10 grand MTB will saunter across and slap you on the back: "Goodonya fa 'avin a go, mate!" 

Specialist equipment is more important when you start participating in 24hr or multiday adventure races, where you need to be super-confident in your gear, know its nuances, and preferably know how to fix it. 

So what kit do you need? Here's a guide: 

Runners: Use a good trail runner style, rather than your road runners. 

Clothing: There are plenty of options but make sure its quick-wicking, quick-dry, and for colder climes, warm. Layers are best, lightweight rules, and think 'chaffing' (and how to combat it). 

Mountain bike: Preferably a bike with suspension, your body will thank you. 

Hydration pack: Stay hydrated at all times. You'll need it to carry all of your mandatory gear items. Even for longer races, keep it as small and light as possible. 

Compass: A good compass will last you a lifetime and essential for expedition-style races. 

Kayak, PFD and paddle: Often an event will supply as part of the entry fee or you can rent equipment. Owning your own is always preferable, but remember there are as many different styles of boats as there are styles of adventure racing. Owning your own PFD and paddle and just renting a boat is a good option - so long as you can access a boat for training, too (local boat clubs are good for this).
First-aid Kit: The essentials at least. Many races make these mandatory. 

Map holder: Something to keep your maps dry at all times. 

Miscellaneous: Including whistle, space blanket, pen/paper, locking-blade knife, bike tools, sunscreen. 

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