February 25, 2011 Features & Images » Feature Story

Diving in 

Modern adventure racing captures the human drive and takes it to the next level


Flashback: I am seriously pondering registering for my first adventure race; my finger is hovering over the "Sign Up" button and my heart is beginning to race.

That was last year. Now I don't hesitate and in all honesty - I'm addicted!

As human beings we have a basic instinct to explore, compete and find adventure. Modern adventure racing captures this human drive and takes it to the next level. Popularity of this high-intensity form of adventure is growing; televised races such as the "Eco Challenge" have put the sport firmly on the map, and race organizers big and small are challenging a wide range of people from all over the world.

Adventure races are always multi-sport, combining at least two different disciplines that can include - but are in no way limited to - navigation and orienteering, hiking, mountaineering, trail running, mountain biking, paddling and climbing. Some races also have inline skating, canyoneering, swimming, sailing, driving (off-road, naturally), obstacle courses, rope courses, skiing and snowshoeing, and other specialized activities.

The races can be "short sprints," a name that is extremely relative to this sport and should not be mistaken for a quick 100-metre dash. Short sprints can still take four to eight hours. "Endurance" and "expedition" races are long haul and can take anywhere from a day to 10 days to complete. With both types of races, there is always an element of surprise - you only get the map on the day of the event, although you might know in advance what challenges to prepare for.

I've always loved running, but since coming to Whistler I also started to get interested in the bike scene. Not as much of an adrenaline junkie as I thought, I steered clear of the bike park (sacrilege, I know), but the cross-country trails looked more like my thing. Before I knew it I was already into multi-sports - I just never thought of combining them.

The idea of competing in an adventure race came from a friend who'd done a few back in Australia, and I liked the idea of working towards a goal. Even so I was hesitating. These races are tough - was I up for the challenge?

I needed a pep talk and luckily there are a few people around Whistler who know what it feels like to complete such a race. Jen Segger is a Canadian endurance athlete, coach and adventure race course designer. Two weeks ago she placed second in a 250-km ultra run through the jungles of Costa Rica. A few weeks before that she placed first in the 4th Dimensions Winter Duathlon in Washington. She's been to the Adventure Race World Championships several times, as well as most of the top-tier pro events on the circuit. Racing solo, she completed the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon through Death Valley, as well as the 243-km Marathon des Sables through the Sahara Desert. Once, when she had a gap in her schedule, she decided to go from Cape Scott on the northern tip of Vancouver Island to Victoria non-stop, alternating between biking and trail running. You name, she's done it.

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