From a new-comers perspective, can you provide more detail on the skills and proficiencies required to participate in Wilderness Traverse?
For most adventure races in Ontario, you'll be doing three disciplines:
- Trekking/running, on and off-trail
- Mountain biking
- Paddling - usually in canoes but often using kayak paddles. Canoe paddles are usually provided by organizers but most of the serious racers bring their own kayak paddles.
At least one person on your team needs to be navigating while you do all of these disciplines, so that's your 4th discipline.
For each discipline, you need to develop both fitness and skills, not always in the same training session. The fitness aspect is a huge subject that I'm sure you already know something about, and there is plenty of information out there. On the skills side, you'll need to work on:
- Running/trekking in rough terrain, including bushwhacking comfortably at a decent speed. Trail running on rough trails is good too.
- Technical mountain biking - A lot of adventure races in Ontario travel on ATV or snowmobile trails so we often ride through mud and over rocks. If you develop technical singletrack skills at places like Albion Hills or Hardwood Hills, you will do better in an adventure race than people who mostly ride on roads.
- Paddling - This is a skill that many adventure racers ignore. You want to be comfortable in a boat, and ideally, you want to practice paddling with the person you'll be racing with. Whether you use canoe or kayak paddles, you'll need to know how to steer a canoe properly and how to use your core and back instead of just your arms. There is a paddling school in Toronto on Lake Ontario called the Harbourfront Canoe and Kayak Centre. That may be a good option if you live near the city and your team is looking to build its paddling skills. You also need to practice your portaging. Keep in mind that if you race as a team of three, you will need to paddle three in a canoe and figure out some kind of seat for the middle person. It is more comfortable to race on a 4-person team and use two canoes.
- Map and Compass Navigation - This is a skill that is new to most adventure racers. On some teams, only one person learns how to navigate. On other teams, everyone learns. You only get one map in AR so there will be one person at a time reading the map. However, there is a lot more to navigating than that, e.g. while you're reading the map, your teammate can be up ahead following a bearing that you've given him/her and choosing a good line through the forest while the rest of you follow. Another teammate can be double checking the first guy's bearing while another is measuring time or paces to help you estimate the distance you have traveled. It is helpful to have at least one other navigator on the team so you can bounce ideas off him/her if you run into problems.
To become good at adventure racing, you need to become good at the disciplines, and a great way to improve is by racing against people who are specialists in those disciplines. So you could practice your trail running by entering races in the Salomon 5 Peaks Series. There are various mountain bike races around, including Chico Racing's Tuesday night series at Albion Hills and their 24 Hours of Summer Solstice event in June, which is a great event to practice riding at night with lights. There are paddling races or you could just plan a canoe trip weekend with your buddies where you'll also do some paddle practice.
For navigation, there are a few things you can do. There are instructional clinics but not until the spring. In the meantime, there's nothing to stop you from attending orienteering events and learning what you can by trial and error. Newbies are always welcome. Adventure racers often attend the inexpensive events in the O-Cup winter orienteering series, and there is a lot of post-race social chat where you can review routes that other people took, etc. http://dontgetlost.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=598&Itemid=452
You can learn about upcoming public orienteering events on the Orienteering Ontario website and you can also "like" the Facebook page.
While you're there, be sure to "like" the Wilderness Traverse Facebook page! :)
The Toronto Orienteering club invites newbies to join them for their Summer Series on Wednesday nights in parks around Toronto, including Sunnybrook. I think that starts around April and is dirt cheap - like a dollar or two.
Orienteering maps are more detailed than the ones you typically get in adventure racing. That doesn't mean that orienteering is a waste of time; it is a great way to learn nav skills. However, you will also need to become familiar with 1:50,000 topographical maps. In the past, Bob Miller has offered two-part spring navigation clinics - classroom session and field practice - free to anyone who has registered for Wilderness Traverse. He is one of the best adventure race navigators in the world so it's well worth spending some time with him and picking his brain. The 2013 schedule isn't posted yet but Bob will be offering a similar group of clinics again.
While you're on that page, you will definitely want to attend the free "Taking it to the Next Level" AR clinic. Bob and I are both there for a couple of hours. He gives a Powerpoint presentation and we answer tons of questions. It's also a great chance to meet other adventure racers and make some contacts. Bob brings his Salomon XA20 pack and empties it out to show people what he carries for an overnight race. Really useful!
I've just mentioned gear, and that is a *huge* topic. You'll want to get a good quality backpack, shoes and technical clothing layers. You obviously need a mountain bike, a PFD (life jacket) and possibly a kayak paddle unless your team decides to just use the canoe paddles supplied by the organizer. If you read the Mandatory Gear section of the WT race rules, you can see what you'll need to buy. The gear lists are different for every adventure race but a lot of the items are the same.
One of the relatively expensive items you'll need is a bright light suitable for mountain biking at night, along with sufficient batteries to get you through the night. You don't know which discipline(s) you'll be doing at night so you need to be prepared for anything. Biking requires the most powerful light because of the speed you're going. For trekking or paddling, you can use the same super-bright light but you can get away with something less powerful.
Aside from the mandatory gear, you'll probably do some other shopping and preparation. For example, a lot of teams carry an elasticized tow rope so that a faster racer can pull his teammate along, usually on roads or trails that aren't super-technical. Some people use bike tows as well, although those *really* require practice and can cause accidents if you're not careful.
One of the key rules is, "Nothing new in a race". That applies very widely. You don't want to wear new shoes or even new underwear that might chafe. You don't want to drink a sports beverage you haven't tried before or eat a big sandwich if you've never done that before a bike ride. When you get lights, you want to get to know them well by using them after dark. What this all boils down to is that as often as possible, you need to train the way you're going to race. Test out your clothing layers and your pack. See how your body handles certain types of food. Practice changing the tire on your bike. Even practice doing the things you will need to do in transition, e.g. "remove helmet", "take off bike shoes", "change socks" (or not), "put on new trekking shoes", "add food to pack", etc.
I'd suggest that your team try a race or two before Wilderness Traverse if you are able to fit them into your schedule. The best shorter events in Ontario are organized by STORM Racing.
Both Storm the Trent (May) and ESAR (June) are good races for first-timers. ESAR is a team of three while Storm the Trent allows various team configurations. RockstAR in late July is one of the most fun races in Ontario - a party atmosphere with some good navigation challenges.
You may find it interesting to review old Wilderness Traverse courses to get an idea of how we think. :) The maps are posted online on our Course Description pages. Here's the one for the 2012 event and you can find the others in our Live Coverage section.
A number of the adventure racers in southern Ontario log their training through an online community at Attackpoint.org. There is an adventure racing discussion forum and we often comment on each other's logs. It's free to try it out and if you like it, you can donate to help the developer (a young athlete) and get some extra features. I use mine as a training blog where I talk about other things too. You can see it here.
Last Updated (Friday, 21 December 2012 17:40)