Team Endurance Racing Information


Insider Info

dotTeam endurance racing. The name alone explains the nature of the sport. Racing under intense emotional, mental, and physical strain, these athletes possess incredible teamwork skills, tons of endurance and a passion to push physical boundaries.

dotTeam endurance racing, also called adventure racing, is one of the newest "extreme" sports around. Races run anywhere from three hours (called sprints) to many days. Some races run around the clock. Others stop at night and start again in the morning.

dotAt this point, the sport lacks definition. Nancy Crumb is a team endurance racer. "It's such a new sport that there's...not a lot of standards in place. There's a lot of movement within the U.S. and a little bit in Canada, trying to get a bit more [organized]."

On the other hand, notes Crumb, some athletes thrive on the variety and the freedom of a sport without boundaries.

dotPerhaps the most renowned multi-day race is the Raid Gauloises, fondly known as the Raid. One Raid, for example, covered 250 miles of wild river, bamboo forest and mountain peaks in Argentina. Teams kayaked, climbed, rode horses, and canoed the distance in no less than seven days.

Crumb is preparing for a 350-mile race in Alaska called the Beast. And beastly it is. In addition to floating through a third of the course in one-person rafts, the team has to cross 90 miles of sheer ice.

"I think we'll be faced with climate challenges because we're going to be spending a fair bit of time on the glacier and that's something that our team doesn't do every day!" she says.

dotEach race is different. Some are stage races. Others are relay races. What they generally have in common is this: each race travels through rugged wilderness. The teams must cover the distance using non-motorized methods, such as:

  • mountain biking
  • kayaking, canoeing or whitewater rafting
  • rock climbing
  • riding horseback or camelback
  • trekking or hiking, day and night
  • skydiving, rappelling or hang-gliding

dotThe teams do not follow trails. Instead, they must find their own way through an unmarked wilderness course. This takes flawless navigation skills, such as those developed in orienteering.

dotTeamwork is crucial. You have to trust and care about each team member in order to help each other through the rough sections. Jeff Hobbs, captain of Team Noelle2K, believes the best teams are made up of close friends.

"There are some teams made up of people who just know each other. But I think for the team to work, you've got to be able to get along. You've got to know [each others'] weaknesses and strengths and know how to be patient because at some point, everybody runs into trouble," he says.

dotThis is a sport favoured by people who want an extreme challenge of their athleticism, stamina and mental strength.

In 1999, Crumb placed second in a race. "Not too bad after breaking my leg and having surgery 10 weeks prior," she says. "See? You really don't have to be all that fit!"

dotBut let's not kid ourselves. These courses are designed to push your limits. Teams have to cross the finish line just to qualify. If even one member is left behind, the entire team is disqualified. For instance, in the first Raid Gauloises, only 16 of 26 teams officially finished.

"The first goal should not be to win or to place. It should be to finish," says Hobbs.

dotYou'll also have to decide how decisions will be made on the course. Will it be by a democratic vote? Will a leader be chosen for the entire race? Or will different leaders be chosen for each section?

Many teams have stalled on a course and sacrificed victory because the members couldn't agree on which direction to hike.

dotExperience with a wide range of sports is essential as well. For example, the team endurance race held at one Xtreme Games in California included mountaineering, horseback riding, swimming, mountain biking, hiking and kayaking.

dotAnother challenging aspect of team racing lies in finding your way. Remember the Blair Witch Project? It takes serious patience and cooperation to lead a lost group.

There are no signs on these courses. Many teams have been lost. Many have missed checkpoints entirely, or lost valuable time by taking a wrong turn.

Teams find the right path through orienteering, a technique that involves using maps, compasses and landmarks to keep them going in the right direction.

Sandra Rondzik-Popik, captain of Team Swift Traders, is still trying to get over a recent navigational error that prevented her team from finishing a race.

"We basically slid from having two teams ahead of us to not finishing the race. That's very tough emotionally, after you put in so much hard work into it and you push through the night," she says.

dotLost or injured teams are equipped to handle the situation. First aid kits are required luggage for all levels of racing. As well, most races supply teams with radio communication.

dotThis sport requires a huge investment of time and some expensive equipment. Most teams get sponsors before they begin serious training. Mountain bikes, climbing gear, lightweight backpacks and hiking clothes are all required. So are specially packaged foods and plenty of good footwear.

There is a chance to recoup some of the expenses, however. Some races offer considerable cash and equipment prizes.

dotTeam endurance racing has exploded in popularity. Some informal long-distance hiking races date back a couple decades. Yet one of the original formal endurance races, Raid Gauloises, only held its inaugural race in 1998.

dotThose who really like this activity may be able to find related work. For instance, an adventure travel guide would require many of the skills held by these competitors.

Meanwhile, experience in the outdoors may lead to work testing a company's products in real-world conditions. Finally, those interested in adventures in the outdoors may find an audience for stories in adventure magazines and publications.

Getting Started

dotThis is no entry-level sport. Nor is it one of the safest sports around. It will take years of physical and mental training to develop the skills needed to compete. It will also take considerable maturity to manage the costs and pressures involved.

Hobbs says start small. "A lot of times, there's small companies putting on local races. You don't want to start with a multi-day," he says.

dotGetting started can take as little as finding a patch of woods, getting comfortable in the wilderness and working on your outdoor athletics. Some outdoor shops, recreation programs and intense summer camps offer multi-day trips to test and improve your outdoorsy abilities.

dotPush your limits. Take extra long hikes with little or no breaks, as fast as you can. Practice swimming while pushing a full backpack ahead of you in the water.

dotWhatever you do to prepare, take food and plenty of water. Pushing mental and physical boundaries does not mean flirting with death. Dehydration is a serious issue. As Hobbs puts it, scrapes and bruises are standard issue, but the real problems begin when racers don't get enough fluids.

"We carry water at all times and we hydrate three days before. [We] drink up to a gallon of water a day. That's really important," says Hobbs.

dotPick your team carefully. The strongest people don't always make winning team members. Choose people who can deal handle both mental and physical strain and come out smiling. A positive attitude will carry the team a long way.

Some teams go through a variety of athletes before the mix is just right. Hobbs says his team has had four members withdraw. "The commitment was too much. It just conflicted with work [and] the training regimen was too intense," says Hobbs.

Education

dotHere are just a couple of schools that offer related programs:

Princeton University
Outdoor Action Team Building Course
Princeton , NJ   0854413-103
USA
Internethttp://www.princeton.edu/~oa/adventure/lowbroch.sh
tml

Idaho State University
Outdoor Program
P.O. Box 8128
Pocatello , ID   83209
USA
Internethttp://www.isu.edu/outdoor/

Associations

Adventure Racing Association
P.O. Box 270862
Fort Collins , CO   80527
USA
Internethttp://www.adventuresports.com/asap/pub/beyond/bas
_ara2.htm

Florida Adventure Racing Association
4166 Northwest 65th Ave.
Coral Springs , FL   33067
USA
E-mail : info@flara.com
Internethttp://www.flara.com/

Links

Gradschools.com
Graduate Schools in the United States offering Outdoor Programs

The Raid World Championship
The official website of one of the original -- and most intensely followed -- team adventure races

EXPN Extreme Sports
Read all about extreme sports at this news site