What to expect at races

Your entry is in for your first event and now you’re nipping, not sure what to expect when you arrive at the race venue. Fear no more! These are the basics…

Before you leave for the race (like a day or two before), read the information provided, check for compulsory equipment and print the race directions. Really. Don’t phone the organiser and pester them because you’re a lazy-butt. They’ve got lots of other things to deal with pre-race.

On arrival, check in at the race registration table to collect your race envelope. It may have instructions, maps, bibs and, most certainly, an indemnity form. Get each team member to sign the form and return it promptly. Read the race instructions. There is also usually a race briefing before the start. I loathe convoluted race briefings as I believe they should just welcome us, thank the sponsors and let us get going. When it comes to instructions and rules, my rule is that if it isn’t on paper, it doesn’t exist. Sure, it doesn’t always happen this way but it should. After 30-minutes (if that!) I can’t remember to turn left, right, right again and left at some obscure white post.

Anyway, don’t stress yourself before the race about the route, the disciplines and the distances. That’s the thing with adventure racing – adaptability and variability. And don’t make assumptions. Just attend the briefing, read the rules and do what you’re told. It’s as easy as that.

Sprint races and short course races (up to around 65km) will probably have a central transition area and are generally unsupported (no support crew required). And becuase of this central transition they’re a bit more spectator friendly. You can leave your bikes and gear for the running and biking disciplines in the transition area. You can also leave a bottle of water to refill your hydration reservoir/bottle and some food, like a banana, extra bars, sandwich and such – you don’t need to carry everything the whole time.

While you’re munching out on course, please take care that your wrappers from gels and bars don’t end up on the ground. Secure in you backpack and place in a bin when you return to the transition. It’s amazing how much stuff ends up on the ground when it wiggles out of pack pockets.

In short races you can expect to have running and biking and maybe some other obstacles thrown in for fun. The running and biking will be split into more than one leg – so even on a short 2-3hr race you could still have 3-4 legs. This is nice because then no one leg will be much more than 10-15km, which is a comparitive drop in the ocean on a bike. Obstacles require no special skills – they’re meant to be fun.

The start could see all the teams on the starting line for a group run/bike or you may receive instructions/maps at the start. If it’s the latter, teams will usually move to one side, read the instructions or the map to decide where to go or what to do first, and then they’ll move off in their own time.

Navigation is included in short adventure races too (multisport events have no nav – and they’re not often team events either). You can be assured that the navigation in short course events will be easy – it is not rocket science – and they don’t hide the controls. They’ll be on significant features like a big tree, fences, road junction and you should notice the control as you approach.

Each time you come in to the transition you’ll have to check-in with the marshal. You may have to check out with them too. You’ll be told in the briefing. If your team withdraws from the race, for whatever reason, be sure to tell the marshal. Very important! Make sure you’re checked off at the finish.

The pace of short events is faster than a 24hr and longer race so don’t be put off and think you could never do a longer race. They are as different as a 5km fun run is to Comrades Marathon.

And then, once the race is done, there’s a prize giving. Most events have lots of luck draw prizes so it is worth hanging around. It’s also fun to sit around chatting with other teams after the race.

It’s a similar setup for longer races – the main differences being that you’ll have a support crew who transports your gear and provides food; transitions will be all over the place as the race progresses; paddling will certainly be included; leg distances will be longer; and navigation will be a little more challenging.

That’s it.