Articles Doug Theis on 09 Aug 2004 06:26 am
August 8, 2004
Adventure Racing (AR) has a physical component and a mental component. Both the physical and mental components require appropriate training and conditioning. This article addresses the mental side of Adventure Racing.
Multiple Disciplines, Multiple People, Multiple Goals
An Adventure Race includes many different disciplines such as mountain biking, running, walking, orienteering, paddling and ropes. A team is made up of multiple individuals, and all members of a team typically must stay together and complete all the disciplines. The individual members of the team have personal goals associated with a race, and smart teams establish team goals. Because there are so many variables (disciplines, people, and goals), organizing your thoughts and your approach to a race will increase you and your teamâ€™s chances of meeting your goals and enjoying the experience.
BEFORE THE RACE
The Team and its Goals
AR Teams are made of individuals, and individual goals can be very different. As a member of an AR team, your ability to complete the race is totally dependent upon each member of the team. This means that no one individual is in control, not even the team captain. Hopefully youâ€™ve selected teammates that are roughly equal in ability and expectations so you can work with them define your team goals. That way you can know what to expect from each other.
As a middle-of-the-pack team, Team Ragged Gloryâ€™s goals for a race are almost always the same. In order of priority, our goals are usually:
â€¢ Stay safe
â€¢ Have fun
â€¢ Finish the race
If you donâ€™t define your team goals before the race, you may find yourself having to stop and define them during the race. That can be very heated, argumentative, and stressful. If you donâ€™t define goals at all, chances are that some or all teammates will walk away dissatisfied with the experience. Speak frankly with each other. Remember that itâ€™s only one race. If you find that the team goals donâ€™t match your individual goals, you should probably do the next race with more suitable people. Or you should change your own personal goals to be more realistic.
Planning and Expectations
AR is a team sport, but planning, logistics and preparing are best delegated to individual members of the team. Choose one person to be responsible for collecting money and signing up. Someone needs to coordinate gear lists, both mandatory and optional. Each individual has to be responsible for their own physical training regimen. You may want to coordinate joint training sessions to improve your team dynamic. Robert Nagle, one of the fathers of AR, developed the 40-30-30 rule of Adventure Racing:
â€¢ 40% of a successful race is physical conditioning
â€¢ 30% is team dynamic
â€¢ 30% is in-race decision making.
Be responsible for your own training. Donâ€™t sweat other team members training level; you canâ€™t control it. Be a nice person and a selfless teammate and the 30% team dynamic and 30% in-race decision making will help you enjoy the experience.
As part of your planning and goal setting, understand that anything can happen during the race. A twisted ankle or a broken bike chain can happen five minutes into a race and change all of your team goals and expectations immediately. In order to enjoy and learn from the race, youâ€™ll need to accept whatever happens. Itâ€™s just one race. Plan for the unexpected and youâ€™ll enjoy the experience more.
Talk to and learn from experienced racers. Most racers LOVE to give advice and talk of their experiences.
Donâ€™t worry too much about the race. My wife Teresa calls what we do â€œplaying.â€ Sheâ€™s right. Itâ€™s just fun, no matter how much time youâ€™ve planned/worried/trained/obsessed about it.
DURING THE RACE
One Thing at a Time
When you get the course information, you may find out that thereâ€™s a very challenging section of the race. Donâ€™t spend too much energy dreading a certain section; deal with each section of the race as it comes.
Keep it Light
Be careful not to be too serious. Itâ€™s okay to laugh or make fun of yourself or the situation.
Anything Can Happen
Once again, anything can happen during a race. Someone (including you) may get injured. Your inflatable boat may hit a rock and deflate. The maps may be lousy. You may make a bad decision and have to backtrack. Be ready to change every goal you have and be ready to live with it. If it was easy, your mother would be racing with you and making sure that nothing terrible happened to you.
Keep track of your teammates and they will keep track of you. If youâ€™re feeling bad, donâ€™t keep it to yourself. Let them know and they will help you. Keep your mind focused on the team and the goal as much as you can. Accept a tow rope or let someone carry your pack if youâ€™re weak. Your selfish pride is worse than worthless during the race. It is a detriment to your team.
Tired, Hungry, Sore and Whiny
There are two components to being tired, hungry, sore and whiny during a race: when itâ€™s you who is weak and when it is one of your teammates.
If itâ€™s you, understand that an Adventure Race is a difficult thing to complete. You WILL feel bad at some point. Donâ€™t let a warm fire or fatigue make you believe you must quit. The fatigue will go away. Keep moving and remember your goals. Talk to your teammates about how you feel. But donâ€™t dwell on your trouble. Five minutes and some support from your teammates can make a huge difference. Donâ€™t forget to be thankful that you have the ability to participate.
If itâ€™s a teammate, take care of them. This is the time to be selfless. They need everything you can give them, even if the teammate does not appear to want it. Be sensitive to what they need. Carry their pack. Tow them. Hug them. Allow them to rest for an hour in order to complete the race.
AFTER THE RACE
Memories, Fond and Regretful
If youâ€™ve set your expectations before the race, chances are your memories will be good ones, because youâ€™ll have prepared yourself for the fact that anything can happen during an Adventure Race. As you reflect upon the race, there will always be things that you realize you could have done better. Note them and share them with your teammates during the debrief.
The debrief may be the most important portion of your race. It can be done face-to-face, via phone or e-mail. It is when each member of the team reflects upon the race and the team. It includes weaknesses, strengths and successes. It should be an open forum for feedback and honesty. Some people are more critical; some are more forgiving. Donâ€™t use the debrief as an attack on individual team members. Even if you hated the entire race, keep the tone positive and constructive. This is a great time to talk about the team goals and how they lined up with personal goals. People race at three levels: as an individual, as a team, and as a group of teams who completed a particular course. Talk about the potential of future races. If your goals didnâ€™t match up well with your teammates, thatâ€™s okay. You may choose to race with others in the future. Evaluate your own reactions. You may be the problem. Or you may have solutions for a better experience the next time.
The Next One
Finally, use what you learned in your next race. Write down the important things that you learned. Or make â€œmantrasâ€ from what youâ€™ve learned. Our team has a few mantras, like â€œour race, our paceâ€ and â€œstay safe, have fun, finish.â€ And remember that itâ€™s only playing, and that the rest of your life is probably far more important than all this fun that you just had racing. My teammate Steve calls the trip back to reality after the end of a race â€œthe final transition.â€ Itâ€™s the hardest one.