When we do not succeed, friends and family console us with words spoken to reassure that the journey is more important than the destination. This stands true for every sport in which we participate, where we enter to experience the journey; the race, environment and challenges. Even so, the destination – winning and prizes, the realisation of goals, competition and the finish – stands out as a key motivator.
Success has a variety of meanings. For top ranked adventure racing teams, real success is undoubtedly a win or the attainment of that podium position. The rest of the field aims to realise goals relevant to their experience and ability; to place within a range or to finish in the official rankings, team intact and before prize giving.
“Finishing is always the goal,” says Nicholas Mulder, Team Cyanosis’ navigator. Cyanosis is one of our most established and successful adventure racing teams. “I’d never want to start a race even entertaining the thought that we would not finish. It puts you in the wrong mindset and gives you an easy excuse to bail.”
They went into the 2010 edition of the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge knowing that a win, or even a podium placing, was unlikely. Their goal was a Top 15 placing, which they did get close to.
Improving your chances
Success in adventure racing is influenced almost as much by physical and mental fitness of all team members, the weather, navigation and determination as experience.
With every race you learn how to better manage sleep, pacing, equipment, food, decisions… It is only through mistakes and errors made by inexperience that you find out why you didn’t succeed and what you need to work on to make sure you have a better chance of achieving your objectives next time.
“I’m always racing someone. My friends, other teams who have beaten us in the past or teams we believe are around our level,” says adventure racer Fred Richardson. He has also organised and presented many events over the years.
“I’m racing the front teams too; not to beat them, but to see how close I can get to them.” Richardson also races against the course director, aiming to be faster than anticipated through a section or taking an unexpected route that proves more efficient.
Time means nothing
Adventure racing is a sport ungoverned by time, a worthy opponent for most participants across disciplines. A frustrated Bruce Fordyce complains that five kilometres in adventure racing means nothing because it could take hours to cover this meagre distance. And as one stretch is nothing like the next, there’s no scope for comparison. Fordyce favours distance markers and kilometres that can be ticked off at regular, paced intervals.
In summing up his opponent Richardson says, “Mostly I race for the adventure and the joy of pitting myself against the course, mountains, rivers, trails and the special tasks”.
“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.”
Greg Anderson, author
Competition isn’t everything
While it appears that front teams whizz through courses, the landscape a blur, they too appreciate the whole package. “For me, adventure racing is about the journey, the environment and the scenery. It is real adventure,” says Mulder. “The experience is what counts; competition gives it an edge.”
Where the starting line is the beginning and the destination defines an end point, everything in between makes for a memorable journey. Like Frank Sinatra’s horse and carriage, when it comes to a journey and its destination “you can’t have one, you can’t have none, you can’t have one without the other”.
Author: Lisa de Speville | Published in Go Multi Magazine, Mar/April 2011. Vol 15.1