Photo Provided by: Too Cool Racing

I started the Spread Your Wings Adventure Race last year with the knowledge that my friends and I would finish as a team.

It was my first adventure race, and it took my team and me through challenges like mountain biking, swimming, kayaking, navigation, and zip-lining. It never occurred to me that we might quit.

Growing up as an overweight girl with a great personality, I saw adventure racing as a way to add “athlete” to my list of accomplishments–and if I can do it, so can any couch potato. I’m sharing these few lessons I’ve learned as an adventure racing newbie in the hope that they’ll help first-timers break into the sport:

Don’t let your ego get in the way.

Photo Provided by: Too Cool Racing

Adventure racing is hard. Unless you’re exceptionally fit, well-trained, and have an experienced team, I wouldn’t recommend starting with a 24-hour race.

I tiptoed my way into adventure racing by starting with a 12-hour race. It was the perfect duration to test me mentally and physically, but not so long as to be impossible. Lots of adventure races have short 4 to 12-hour courses. Try one to see if you like it before investing yourself in a longer race.

Be Prepared Similar to triathletes, adventure racers have to be proficient in a number of different activities, including paddling, navigation, and biking. There are several adventure racing camps and training events to help new racers prepare, regardless of their physical fitness. Odyssey Adventure Racing’s Land Navigation Clinic and Pure Vida Adventure Racing Camps are two good places to start.

Photo Provided by: Too Cool Racing

Triple-check the checklist I read the rules. I double-checked most of my equipment. But a water resistant rain jacket? Like it was really going to rain — it was May in Texas. Sure enough, it started to pour halfway through the race, and I got drenched.

I’d advise bringing everything in the checklist, as well as making sure that at least one of your group members is an expert navigator.

Race Day is not a day for counting calories. As part of my training for the race, I started monitoring my diet to help my body prepare for the endurance test. Still, race day is not the day for limiting calorie intake. You will burn them all off, and the last thing you want to do is bonk on an uphill climb during a 12-mile mountain biking stage. Eat plenty of good carbs and electrolytes to ensure that you have the energy to excel throughout the day.

Experienced friends rock. Supportive friends are the best asset you can have on your first adventure race.

The single thing I was most grateful for was my team. My friends, some of them ten-year adventure racing vets, were the ones who encouraged me to try the sport. Even in the short time we raced together, I learned an enormous amount from each of them.

Feature Image provided by Rick McCharles

Community Connection

Read about the Amazing Race and other things that inspire people to travel on Brave New Traveler.

Read about the 2009 Adventure Race World Championships for new heights to aspire to in Adventure Racing.

Try Urban Adventure Racing as a way to step into the scene without leaving the metropolis.