I am only one year into my adventure racing career. That clearly isn’t a long time, to sufficiently become an expert at a sport. But it doesn't matter, because... have you ever heard of the saying “love at first sight”?
I love adventure racing.
No, my wife doesn’t need to worry. Well, maybe about the race entry fees, but that’s it. I promise.
Adventure racing is an outstanding sport, and perhaps this shortlist of reasons why I love it will convince you to give it a try. My hope is that you'll fall in love with adventure racing too.
Top 5 Things Brian Loves About Adventure Racing
In no particular order...
1. The Unknown
The best thing about adventure racing is the element of the unknown. You have no idea what the race is going to throw at you, or when. The only things that are certain are the starting point, and the amount of time you are given before you need to cross the finish line.
Everything else is a mystery.
I have done a lot of endurance sport races in my life. On and off-road triathlons; running 5K’s to 50K’s. In all of these events, you know what to expect. You know where the course will go beforehand. In a triathlon, you know the exact order of disciplines.
It gets BORING!!
So, add some excitement to your endurance racing life, and give an adventure race a try.
2. Team Sport
I haven’t participated in a team sport for a very long time. I grew up playing soccer, but once I hit college and beyond, I’ve been rolling solo in my athletics. Sure there are other people on the start line of a triathlon or road race. Sometimes there are hundreds of them.
But...they are not on your team! I promise you.
Adventure racing has brought back something I haven’t experienced in years: teamwork. And it is fantastic.
My two teammates and I are all in this together. We will start a race together, and we will finish that race together, helping each other every step of the way.
If someone is having a rough paddle you tow them.
If you need a teammate to take a 150mg caffeinated gel to help get you up a hill on your bike, he will do it.
(By the way, that's a true story from the 2021 The BEAR 12 hour AR. The race was very... interesting. When you take flatlanders and put them in mountains the wheels will fall off. You can read Heather's recap here.)
It’s refreshing to be a part of something where you can celebrate a victory when you cross the finish line as a team, knowing you all worked together to get there.
Related post: How to Find an Adventure Racing Team
3. Being in Nature
Does this even need an explanation? One of my favorite reasons to love adventure racing is that it forces you to get up close and personal with Mother Nature. And let me tell you: she is truly amazing.
The sun, flowers, animals, sounds, and smells. If that doesn’t bring a smile to your face I don’t know what will. I love the rain on a warm day. I love the sound of squirrels running through the bushes. I love it all. I love being in nature.
Mother Nature isn't all sunshine and rainbows, though. Almost stepping on a venomous snake while searching for my first ever checkpoint during the 2021 Palmetto Swamp Fox Adventure Race was interesting, to say the least. But I don’t hold that against her (Mother Nature or the Snake).
Now the gigantic Alligator we saw during the paddle of the same race, I will hold that one against her. That thing was enormous, and more than a bit terrifying. It doesn’t help when it decides to dive under the water next to your kayaks, leaving you unaware of it's next move!
Have you ever paddled a kayak at a "paddle for your life" sprint pace while looking behind you? I have.
When you adventure race you get to be one on one with nature for hours, sometimes days at a time, experiencing both the good, and the sometimes scary. But it's all worth it. It’s glorious.
4. Mountain Biking
If I could only do one sport for the rest of my life it would be a toss-up between cycling and lifting weights.
(Yes, weightlifting is a sport... just watch the Olympics!)
Since I doubt I will ever run into an adventure race that wants me to pull a max deadlift to get a checkpoint (race directors, take note), it only makes sense that my other favorite sport is on this list: mountain biking.
I am not very good at mountain biking. I am not very fast, and I crash.
But dang it if it doesn’t bring a smile to my face when I get on my bike. Unless, of course, there is sand...something commonly found here in the Coastal Southeast. I hate sand.
But nevertheless, I feel like there is something hardwired in us that the second we climb on bike, we immediately remember riding as a kid, probably without a helmet, and having the time of our lives.
More people need to experience that feeling. My suggestion? Go ride a bike.
But back to adventure racing. It probably comes as no surprise of the reasons I love adventure racing is that I get to ride my bike.
Note: You don't need a fancy mountain bike to get started with adventure racing! Check out our post "A Complete Adventure Racing Gear List for Beginners"
5. The Challenge
The challenge of an adventure race is part of it's appeal. This links very closely with the first item on the list: the unknown aspect of an adventure race.
When you don’t know what is coming next, how do even begin to train for it?
The unknown element presents a challenge that forces you to be a well-rounded athlete. An elite cyclist can still lose an adventure race because they can’t paddle a kayak. A 20 minute 5K runner that can’t do a pull-up will miss that checkpoint in the tree.
Sure the fast 5K person can have their teammate get that particular checkpoint but guess what? The team needs to stay together. You can’t zoom ahead. You need to stay with the team.
How your team manages different strengths and weakness is a big obstacle to figure out. It could be overcome with towing the slower teammate, or by just loading up one person's pack (the "mule" or "workhorse") with more gear.
One of your teammates can’t see? Don’t make him, *cough cough Geoff*, navigator.
Being realistic about your abilities, or lack of, will make the race more enjoyable for the entire team.
Related post - How to Train for an Adventure Race: A Guide for Beginners
Adventure racing is a sport that rewards intelligence just as much as fitness, and that is a nice change of pace for me. A smart navigator can save you hours that fitness alone can’t make up for.
Plus, when was the last time you counted reading a book as training? That count’s in my adventure racing circle. You have to exercise your body and mind to be able to succeed at adventure racing!
So, if you're tired of the same old thing, or sick of running in circles? Join or find an adventure racing team, and try the sport out!
Take it from me, you won't regret it.