Want to give the sport of adventure racing a try, but can't seem to find any friends or family as enthusiastic about bushwhacking for miles and carrying bikes through knee deep swamps as you are? Then you're probably wondering how to find an adventure racing team.
Believe me, I get it. Over the years I have heard my fair share of the line "I only run when I'm being chased!", "I don't even like to drive that far!", or my favorite, "you actually PAID to do that?" from friends and strangers like.
But when it comes to adventure racing, the multi-disciplinary aspect of the race, as well as the fact that there is, by nature, so much "unknown" before a race, can make even convincing even the most dedicated endurance athletes hesitant to give adventure racing a try (though they don't know what they are missing!).
In this post, we'll cover how to find an adventure racing team (or fellow athletes to create one yourself), where to find these elusive adventure seekers, and 8 characteristics to look for in adventure racing teammates.
How Do I Find An Adventure Racing Team or Partner?
You basically have two options when it comes to finding an adventure racing team: join an already established team that is looking to add another teammate, or start your own team.
Both of these options may sound a little intimidating, especially if you are new to the sport of adventure racing, and don't know anyone else in the sport. But I can assure you this: pretty much everyone in this sport participates because they love it, and what's more, are always excited to see someone new discover adventure racing.
That said, being a team sport, there is no doubt that some athletes will be a better match, and will work better together, than others. So while you aren't married to the first team you race with (unless, like in my case, you technically actually are married), it helps to have a positive first racing experience by finding a good fit from the start. But we'll cover that soon enough.
Where to Find Adventure Racing Teammates:
Short answer: reach out to race organizers, post in online forums, or reach out to the endurance community as a whole.
No one in your friends Facebook chat wants to give adventure racing a try. None of your co-workers join your adventure racing team, not even that one guy who has the "I do my own stunts" coffee mug with a mountain bike on it. So where do you find adventure racing teammates?
Reach out to the Race Organizers
Race organizers naturally want people to participate in their race. So chances are, they'd be more than happy to connect you with other participants also looking for teams.
The nature of a team sport among everyday, adult, non-elite athletes means that chances are pretty high that someone's kid is going to have an unexpected soccer championship game the same day as the race, or that another team's navigator took an accidental tumble while walking the dog and now has a sprained ankle and can't race, or that someone couldn't get time off from work after all. You get the idea.
Point being, chances are you aren't the only person looking for a team or teammate, so reach out to the race director and ask for help.
Post in Adventure Racing Online Forums:
Long gone are the days where "meeting people online" was taboo. These days, the internet can be an amazing tool to connect you with like-minded future friends or find an adventure racing team.
Post in online forums, to see if anyone wants to join you. You may find other beginners looking for a team. Remember, you don't need to be experts or own a ton of fancy gear for your first adventure race, you just need to get out there and give it a try.
But, you may find an incredibly experienced athlete who wants to participate in the same race, but for whatever reason, the rest of their teammates can't make it.
Adventure Race Teammate Finder is a very active group on Facebook with over 3,600 members, with the sole purpose of helping connect adventure racers in need of teammates.
r/AdventureRacing is a Reddit forum dedicated to Adventure Racing and Obstacle Course Racing (which we've already established are not the same thing!). The forum is pretty slow, but when someone does post, seems to get a decent amount of traffic.
Reach Out to Your Local Endurance Community
Reach out to your local running, cycling, triathlon, or orienteering communities (if you have them near you). While many amateur athletes are hyper-focused on one single sport, others cross train or participate in many sports, and might be interested in joining you.
Or maybe they are just bored, and want to try something new. That's how we got Brian to join us - he got sick of running all the time.
8 Characteristics to Look for in Adventure Racing Teammates
As a mom of two young teens, I've more than once had to give the "you don't get to choose your teammates, and you're not always going to like all of them, so an important life skill to develop is learning to get along." speech to my frustrated kids after a game or a practice.
But, when it comes to adventure racing, you do get to choose your teammates. Which is a great thing, because if you're going to spend multiple hours in the middle of nowhere, doing physically and sometimes mentally trying tasks (while sometimes sleep deprived), it's kind of important that you get along.
But, beyond choosing to bushwack with friends you already know you like, there are some other important qualities to seek out when starting new adventure team:
1. Team Players
This may seem like an obvious suggestion when choosing and adventure racing team, but it's worth emphasizing nonetheless: make sure all of your teammates put the team's success over their personal success or ego.
The most successful teams in the sport of adventure racing aren't necessarily the most fit, talented athletes, but rather are really good at working together to reach a common goal.
In a podcast with Obstacle Racing Media, Jason Magness and Dan Staudigel from Team Bend Racing discuss how new adventure racers often struggle transitioning from an individual sport to a team sport, regardless of their fitness levels.
Jason says: "With the team aspect, you have the benefit of having people to rely on when you are out there, but for most people getting into the sport, that's not the reality. What they have is they have somebody else to blame."
Jason points out that it often takes teams awhile to understand that having a team is an asset, not a hindrance, especially when it comes to already very individually competitive athletes.
In the documentary "For The Team", which follows the incredibly successful Team Avaya, team captain Nathan Fa'avae says "There's no point, when there's four of you out there, for one person to be feeling absolutely amazing and great, and one person to be struggling."
The best teammates are those who avoid the "this person on our team is holding us back" thought process, and instead think "what can I do to help make this easier for my teammate, and thus my team?".
2. Similar Racing Goals
Do you and your teammates have the same outcome goals for a given race? Are you in it simply for the experience and to have fun, or are you trying to win? Making sure you are on the same page with similar racing goals is absolutely integral, and will help avoid friction when one person is taking GoPro selfies, while the other is anxiously watching the seconds on their (non GPS) watch tick by.
Now, this isn't to say that a single team can't set out to compete during some events, while simply wanting to have fun and enjoy the experience during others.
Rather, it's a reminder that it's important that all of your teammates are on the same page before each event. If you don't have a competitive bone in your body and never want to truly "race", then it's important you find teammates who have the same sort of goals.
3. Similar Fitness Levels
Look for teammates that generally have the same level of fitness that you do. You don't have to necessarily hold the same minute per mile pace while running down trails. But, you may find yourself frustrated if you want to actually run trekking sessions, and your teammates would rather walk, or if your hardest effort on the bike isn't fast enough to keep up with the moderate effort of your teammates.
(This kind of goes hand in hand with the above point: making sure you have similar race goals.)
You're Only as Fast As Your Slowest Teammate
One of the cool things about a team sport is that you don't necessarily have to have the exact same levels of fitness across all disciplines. In fact, having some teammates stronger in certain areas than others can actually be useful at times.
But similar racing speeds, or teammates who are content racing at a speed appropriate for the "slowest" teammate, is important.
4. Similar Level of Training Dedication
Find teammates who are able and willing to put forth similar levels of dedication to train for an adventure race.
Of course, the majority of us aren't elite athletes, and we have do have jobs/families/responsibilities that come before training. But, it can be wildly frustrating if you spend months training for a race, only to find out one of your teammates hasn't put on their running shoes in the last 6 months, simply because they weren't really dedicated to the training.
5. Unique Strengths
While you absolutely need to work together as one in an adventure race, having teammates that have unique strengths can be beneficial.
For example, on our team: while all three of us know how to navigate, Brian and I are stronger at it than Geoff - who frequently messes up his left and right, and can't really see the map very well to begin with.
While all three of us know how to change a flat tire on a bicycle, Geoff and Brian can fix a flat significantly faster than I could, as I have less experience doing so.
While all three of us get the same pre-race email, Brian is significantly better at organizational skills and making sure we actually have what we need.
If everyone on your team is an incredibly strong paddler, but no one knows how to fix a dropped chain or read a map, you might find yourself in a bit of trouble.
Patience is a critical skill in team adventure racing, for a number of reasons.
First, adventure racing is a strategic sport that requires being able to think and make decisions on the go. And sometimes, that means slowing down in order to analyze your teams next move. This requires patience.
7. Communication Skills
Communication between teammates is essential during an adventure race. I say this as the teammate who, in the past, would have been guilty of giving someone the cold shoulder because I was mad at them.
(For what it's worth, this is especially important when you're married to your racing partner.)
But beyond being able to speak up so you don't harbor some low-blood-sugar-induced-resentment, it's important that your teammates have good communication skills in general. It's important to know (and to speak up), if something is wrong
Trust is something that is built over time between a team. Nevertheless, it's important that there is even an initial level of trust between you and your adventure racing teammates.
Because if you're in the middle of absolutely nowhere, staring down a massive alligator protecting his territory from your team's kayaks, you're going to want to make sure you trust your teammates to not leave you in the dust when they take off at a full sprint paddle.
Remember: you don't have to find the "perfect" adventure racing team right away to get started (and even if you do, there's no guarantee you'll race with them every time!). What matters is that you get out there, gain some experience, and have some fun!