Adventure races are the ultimate hybrid event – they can include any variety of activities such as mountain biking, abseiling, rock climbing, kayaking and running (lots of it). Obviously, no athlete will be able to ace every category, so teamwork is essential. (An adventure race is usually run in teams of two or four people.)
WHAT EXACTLY IS AN ADVENTURE RACE?
It’s essentially heading down the path less travelled. Adventure races take place in areas where there is minimal contact with the city or urban environment, says Avtar Singh Sandhu, race director and co-founder of the Sabah Adventure Challenge. It started from a mix of Hash Hound Harrier runs (where runners have to pick up clues of the running route left behind by the lead runner, known as the “hare”), triathlons and mountain bike races. “Some races can get very lonely,” says Sandhu, who is himself a veteran adventure racer and trail runner. “Racing with buddies through difficult sections makes things fun.”
WHAT SETS IT APART
It’s often impossible to totally prepare for an adventure race in the same way you would train for a marathon. The secret to even completing one, especially a race that stretches over many days, is to understand your teammate’s limitations, says Sandhu. “It happens every year: Teams fall apart due to personal disputes, and from a lack of respect for each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” he says. This is especially bad once things get tough, and when physical and mental stress set in – allowing even the smallest quibble to break up a team.
Sandhu suggests training with your teammate whenever possible. This means running, cycling, swimming and even travelling together. But also make sure he has the same goals as you: Is he looking to just finish the race or is he aiming for a spot in the top 20? The more you know about your buddy’s quirks, the easier it will be to finish the race with him.
Still, it doesn’t mean you can get through an adventure race based on good friendship. The event demands lots of physical ability, too. “Adventure races used to comprise kayaking, mountain biking, trail running and navigation,” recalls Sandhu. Now – depending on the location of the race – inline skating, rope courses and urban obstacles have been added, too.
You’ll need to develop a good endurance base, as you can expect running to make up the bulk of the race. Do at least two long runs a week – do this build- up phase for at least four months to half a year prior to the race. For variety, throw in a circuit workout at a fitness corner (include pull-ups, dips, pushups and squats) in the middle of your long runs, as that closely simulates the run-stop-run demands of an adventure race. If you can, kayak (we’re talking round-Ubin trips, not one-hour joy rides) and do road (the East Coast park connector to Changi Village is awesome for this) and mountain (the Bukit Timah Trail) bike trips when you can.
Above all, you’ve got to keep your head screwed on right. It’s interesting to note that while the top adventure racers aren’t Olympiccalibre athletes (even though they’re very fit), these guys do have the ability to endure and think clearly under extreme duress. “Being able to think logically when under stress from heat, lack of food and exhaustion is difficult,” says Sandhu. The best way to cope: Drill into your mind to finish what you started.
The most important thing to bring: your common sense. You don’t need to bring everything on the equipment checklist, says Sandhu. “If it’s not important, dump it.” check to see what the actual event requires and pack accordingly. You’ll actually need only two things: water – lots of it – and a basic first-aid kit (with bandages, gauze, blister plasters and an antiseptic solution).
ANNUAL ADVENTURE RACES
Amazing Thailand Adventure Race Series (www.tinyurl.com/thailandadventure)
There are three stages to this race: The River Kwai Trophy (March, Kanchanaburi), the Bangkok Challenge (November), and the Koh Samui Trophy (October). These are demanding races and can last anywhere from three to eight hours.
Amarin Outdoor Unlimited Dash Series (www.tinyurl.com/adventuredash)
These solo adventure races are held from January to June, at Kao Kaew, in the Thai resort island of Krabi. These are shorter races that comprise only biking and running, and cater to a wider group of people.
Safra Avventura Singapore (www.safra.sg)
Held in January, the Avventura is one of the larger locally organised races. Now in its fourth year, the event has definitely grown in stature, attracting local and regional competitors alike. The event usually stretches for about 35km.
Sabah Adventure Challenge (www.sabahadventurechallenge.com)
This is probably the toughest race in the region. It stretches over four days (April 2-4) and covers 150km. Good mapreading and navigation skills are required, as is an adaptable mindset (participants may spend the night camped in a football field or kampung, for example).