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A Beginner's Look at Adventure Racing

by Andy
03/21/2012 10:49:40 A.M.

The easiest way to explain a Pangea Adventure Race is; a off-road triathlon mixed with a scavenger hunt on steroids. If you’ve ever enjoyed running and exploring things in the woods then it’s pretty safe to say that you’d enjoy a Pangea race.  On top of everything, you get dirty, you get sweaty, you might get a scratch or two, but you have a hell of a story to start work Monday morning with.

The Boar AR (my first adventure race) was held just outside of Christmas, FL in the beautiful Seminole Ranch WMA & Orlando Wetlands Park.

We showed up at a given location with our running gear and bikes. A volunteer handed us event t-shirts and a map with red dots on it, which serve as location markers. In the given amount of time (3 hours for Sport and 6 for Elite), you have to go to as many of the red dots as possible. To get to these, you must do a combination of the following; run, bike, boat (they supply the boat), and navigate. You work in teams. For this particular race there were about 200 people competing. We felt fairly confident in our abilities, so we entered the Elite class.

I knew going in that it would be a muddy day. I had the feeling that my shoes would be wet all day so I brought out my Merrell Trail Gloves to compensate. I’ve run so many of miles in these shoes (both pair that I own) that I knew what I was getting myself into with them on my feet: stability, durability, a zero drop (the same thickness of rubber under the forefoot and heel) and only 5mm soles.

However, upon race start: I was a little tentative. I am confident in my running abilities, but not so much on the bike and paddle - where I thought I'd be 'winging-it'.

I was right. I would have happily done that run for the entire 6 hours, but - sadly - that was not the case.

We got lucky and got to run first. The race started out on a single track course with the first red dot about 40 meters off the trail. As the run progress the pack broke up and the trail shifted from single track to double, over fences and through fields.  We did fairly well at this and were sitting pretty going into the canoeing section.

The canoeing section was a whole different story. I suck at paddling. Our sponsor, Travel Country, helped us out with first class paddles but it didn’t help me in the slightest. Serving to further frustrate my efforts, there was a vicious head wind all day. It was fun trying to take short-cuts and running through lily pads, but we finished the water course in less-than-spectacular fashion. We had some fun, but lost a lot of ground here.

The next section was the bike. Again the head wind was really blowing and the temperature was already in the mid 80s. This section takes you all over the park, pedaling for what seems like many hours (it was actually about 45 minutes total). I am not a strong biker but - I’d like to think - I held my own and didn’t slow the team down too much.

Mixed in with the biking were a few navigation points. My team member is a walking GPS device and was spot-on with finding all the markers. We handled this section by walking/running systematically for only 200 yards at a time - fanning out in multiple directions. We killed this section and were making up great time.

What got me at the end was the last marker. Every adventure racer will talk about the marker that got away and this one was ours. With 40 or so minutes left we took off for one final marker. After about 30 minutes of running through the woods, jumping mud pits, and getting cut up, we finally gave in and hauled ass back to the main check in station, hoping to get back in the allotted 6 hour time period.

When we finally got back we discovered that we were 8 seconds over the limit and that cost us 1 point. The final standings are figured by the number of markers you found and how long it took you to find them. We still fared pretty well, but we would have preferred being 9 seconds faster.

All-in-all, I had a great time. This was one tough course but I never once felt that I couldn’t go any further. And for this race, the Trail Gloves were the ticket! Wet, dirty, running, biking - it didn’t matter...these shoes held up, they dried quickly and were never uncomfortable. I stayed consistently aware of my water intake (since dehydration is a common pitfall) and listened well to the instruction of my wise friend. It’s a no-brainer, I would definitely tackle this course again. And as for Pangea Adventure Races? I’ll be back at one of these again soon.