Now that you have a little background on adventure racing, lets talk training. One thing I love about this type of racing is, like a triathlon, you have multiple disciplines to keep you busy, and you can mix it up. Most adventure racers focus on mountain biking because this is what you do for the majority of your race. I recommend a basic routine of running two days a week, mountain biking two days a week (preferably on single track trails), and lifting two days a week. One thing you learn on these races: you can do so much more than you think you can. Getting over that mental barrier in a race is difficult at times, but if you train the same way, it prepares you.
Running: Train the way you will be running in the race, right? I promise there are no sections where you’ll run for 8-10 miles straight. First, it makes completing the longer races extremely difficult unless you are exceptionally good (my team is not one of those teams). Secondly, the races aren’t set up like that. You frequently stop to mark checkpoints, check the map and navigation, and refill your water supply. If you are like one of my teammates, a frequent bathroom break may be needed, but that’s getting a little off topic.
Given that you can expect to be stopping frequently, I recommend you use interval training for your run workouts. Run for anywhere from ¼-2 miles, walk or rest, then repeat the run for as many reps as you can handle. This training keeps it fun and is great for cardiovascular health. Studies show that using interval training to fluctuate heart rate increases VO2 max more effectively than moderate level, long distance training.
Biking: Drive out to the middle of the woods, climb on your bike (with a helmet, of course; safety first!), and coast through the wilderness. For the local readers, my favorite locations are New Harmony State Park, Scales Lake Park, and Ben Hawes Park. Similar to running, you don’t necessarily need a detailed plan when going out to ride. Pump hard up a hill, coast down hills, ride wherever the trails take you for as long as you can, but most importantly, enjoy being out exploring new trails and the beautiful scenery. If you haven’t tried mountain biking before, I highly recommend it.
Lifting: Lifting is the aspect of training I believe most endurance athletes forget about or ignore. Did you know long distance runners are the most likely athletes to sustain an injury during training? Having a good balance of strength throughout the body is important to decrease your risk of injury while logging so many miles. Of utmost importance are your stabilizing muscles.
Focus a lot of strength training around hip and core control, functional movement patterns, and single leg balance. How long can you stand on one leg? You should be able to hold for 30 seconds without significant difficulty; give it a shot! Think about running, a series of controlled single leg stances, right?! If you can’t statically stabilize your hips, pelvis, and spine, imagine what kind of wonky compensations your body is doing while running.
In addition to reducing injury risk, strength training can prepare you well for another mode of transportation in adventure races: canoeing. If you’re like me and don’t have easy access for canoe training, lifting can help you develop the required upper body and back strength.
The best part of adventure race training is that the variety keeps it interesting. From a health standpoint, I like to encourage people to start off with light activity 4-5 days a week. It doesn’t have to be a lot, and may even be simply going for a walk or hike. Whatever your starting point is doesn’t matter; just don’t be afraid to make that change in your life! Be on the look out for part 3 to see how my team faired in the race on June 8th!