Novice Plan

article005Comrades champ Bruce Fordyce and actor David Vlok recently took part in Southern Africa’s most gruelling 200km adventure race, Swazi Xtreme. Lucky for them, neither had to do much in the way of planning and preparation for this event, with the exception of assembling specified items of clothing and equipment. They also attended a 1-day rope skills session (which proved to be a good decision!).

What the two friends did have were two experienced racers on their team. Evan Price and myself, who handled all the pre-race preparations and guided them through the race. This is what we learned.

Distance
I can see you thinking, as you scroll through the AR event calendar that there’s no way you could complete 120km. Remember that the race distance is covered mostly on a mountain bike, hiking or trekking on foot and paddling on water. Truth be told, you won’t often be running in an adventure race.
“You can’t think about total distance,” Fordyce confirms. “It’s about getting each leg done. And distance is also totally unrelated to time. One of the MTB sections took us 12-hours to do 40-K.”

Food
Adventure racers require two different food elements: 1. Meals you eat in transition, like a substantial warm meal of stew and rice or Jungle Oats and muffins for breakfast and 2. Snacks you munch on while out on course, including peanut butter sandwiches, bars, gels, dried fruit, biltong, sweets.

Meals can be prepared and frozen at home. Snacks can be portioned into zip-seal plastic bags before you leave.

Armed with Chinese Crackers, dried wors and assorted treats, Fordyce enjoyed a variety of snacks. “You’ve got to have a mixture of tastes,” he says. “Like those sour worms we had. If I’d just had squeezies I would have gone demented from boredom.”

Equipment Check
In the weeks before a big race send your bike in for a service, making sure that you have basics like spare tubes, a pump and a puncture repair kit. Stitch closed the gaping hole in your cycle shorts, sew a pouch onto your lifejacket for your water reservoir and fix that rudder problem on your kayak.

Clothing & Gear
Don’t know what to pack? Start from your feet and work your way up: shoes, lots of socks and jocks, long leggings and shorts, cycle shorts, long sleeved and short sleeved moisture-wicking tops, thermal top, fleece sweater, windproof and waterproof shell, shades, cap, beanie and cycle helmet. That covers the basics.

How many of each? One for most and two each for tops and shorts. Some of these items will be mandatory, meaning that you have to carry them with you at all times e.g. thermal top. Pop it into a drybag or zip-seal plastic bag and pack it into your backpack now.

Other compulsory items like a whistle, torch, spare batteries, emergency blanket and sleeping bag can be drybagged now too.

Aim to arrive at the start venue with your race backpack pretty much packed so that your fussing is minimised. “Pack very carefully,” advises Fordyce. “You need to know where you’ve put things so that you can get to them quickly.”

What if you don’t have fancy garb like insulated cycle gloves and a waterproof shell? Improvise! Try dishwashing gloves (sweaty, warm hands are better than numb, cold hands) and a cheap plastic rain jacket.

Navigation
AR incorporates map and compass navigation from checkpoint to checkpoint and through transitions. It is the discipline that causes the most apprehension.
Fortunately navigation is a skill that can be learned, practised and refined. Aim to recruit a seasoned navigator to your team and learn from them.

“We did the Comrades of adventure racing,” explains Fordyce. “But it comes down to your navigator. If you have a Mickey Mouse navigator you’ll come to blows and you’ll never make it. You’ll be doomed.”«

Comrades champ Bruce Fordyce and actor David Vlok recently took part in Southern Africa’s most gruelling 200km adventure race, Swazi Xtreme. Lucky for them, neither had to do much in the way of planning and preparation for this event, with the exception of assembling specified items of clothing and equipment. They also attended a 1-day rope skills session (which proved to be a good decision!).

What the two friends did have were two experienced racers on their team. Evan Price and myself, who handled all the pre-race preparations and guided them through the race. This is what we learned.

Distance
I can see you thinking, as you scroll through the AR event calendar that there’s no way you could complete 120km. Remember that the race distance is covered mostly on a mountain bike, hiking or trekking on foot and paddling on water. Truth be told, you won’t often be running in an adventure race.
“You can’t think about total distance,” Fordyce confirms. “It’s about getting each leg done. And distance is also totally unrelated to time. One of the MTB sections took us 12-hours to do 40-K.”

Food
Adventure racers require two different food elements: 1. Meals you eat in transition, like a substantial warm meal of stew and rice or Jungle Oats and muffins for breakfast and 2. Snacks you munch on while out on course, including peanut butter sandwiches, bars, gels, dried fruit, biltong, sweets.

Meals can be prepared and frozen at home. Snacks can be portioned into zip-seal plastic bags before you leave.

Armed with Chinese Crackers, dried wors and assorted treats, Fordyce enjoyed a variety of snacks. “You’ve got to have a mixture of tastes,” he says. “Like those sour worms we had. If I’d just had squeezies I would have gone demented from boredom.”

Equipment Check
In the weeks before a big race send your bike in for a service, making sure that you have basics like spare tubes, a pump and a puncture repair kit. Stitch closed the gaping hole in your cycle shorts, sew a pouch onto your lifejacket for your water reservoir and fix that rudder problem on your kayak.

Clothing & Gear
Don’t know what to pack? Start from your feet and work your way up: shoes, lots of socks and jocks, long leggings and shorts, cycle shorts, long sleeved and short sleeved moisture-wicking tops, thermal top, fleece sweater, windproof and waterproof shell, shades, cap, beanie and cycle helmet. That covers the basics.

How many of each? One for most and two each for tops and shorts. Some of these items will be mandatory, meaning that you have to carry them with you at all times e.g. thermal top. Pop it into a drybag or zip-seal plastic bag and pack it into your backpack now.

Other compulsory items like a whistle, torch, spare batteries, emergency blanket and sleeping bag can be drybagged now too.

Aim to arrive at the start venue with your race backpack pretty much packed so that your fussing is minimised. “Pack very carefully,” advises Fordyce. “You need to know where you’ve put things so that you can get to them quickly.”

What if you don’t have fancy garb like insulated cycle gloves and a waterproof shell? Improvise! Try dishwashing gloves (sweaty, warm hands are better than numb, cold hands) and a cheap plastic rain jacket.

Navigation
AR incorporates map and compass navigation from checkpoint to checkpoint and through transitions. It is the discipline that causes the most apprehension.
Fortunately navigation is a skill that can be learned, practised and refined. Aim to recruit a seasoned navigator to your team and learn from them.

“We did the Comrades of adventure racing,” explains Fordyce. “But it comes down to your navigator. If you have a Mickey Mouse navigator you’ll come to blows and you’ll never make it. You’ll be doomed.”

Author: Lisa de Speville | Published in Runner’s World SA, July 2006