Adventure Racing World Championships, 2012

Out of the frying pan, into the fire!

The Adventure Racing World Championships (ARWC) are taking place in southern France this year. The race starts on September 14th . The Raid in France is the host race (The French call Adventure Races RAIDs). I’ll be taking part as a member of team BRAT-Lupine. The team requirements for this race are the standard Adventure Racing team of 4, where at least one must be female. My team is a multi-national team consisting of one Irishman, one American (my good friend Thomas Etter), and the Brazilian pair of Gui Pahl and Camila Nicolau. I haven’t met either of my Brazilian teammates before!

Being a proper adventure race, we won’t know the details of the course until the race briefing shortly before the start. The organisers have given us the following statistics about the race:

  • 70 teams, 30 nations
  • Race’s length: more than 500km
  • Positive elevation: about 18 000m
  • A non-stop 5 to 8 days race itinerary
  • Race maps at 1:50000 and 1:25000 without GPS
  • Activities including raft, kayak, high altitudes mountains (hike with crampons), orienteering, caving, canyoning, via ferrata, ropes activities, mountain bike…

River Crossing, RTNX British Columbia, 2011

Probably the most interesting inclusion in this year’s ARWC is proper Alpine Glacier trekking. Ice tools, mountaineering boots, crampons and various other alpine climbing gear are included in the mandatory gear list, which hopefully indicates that we will be doing some serious high alpine mountaineering stages. The race starts in an area where I learned the ropes (deliberate pun) of alpine climbing on a 2 week course way back in 1999 (I think). It’s probable that this will be a lot of racer’s first encounter with true alpine style mountaineering.

Alpine Treking in RTNX, British Columbia, 2011 (I’m at the back!)

There is an enormous amount of logistics and planning that has to be sorted out just to get a team to the startline for a big expedition adventure race such as this one. In the months prior to this I’ve had to sort out flights (much more complicated than it seems, since I could have up to 60kg of luggage, including a bike), liaising with my teammates to get a complete team together and entered, and then sort out gear and certification requirements between us all. We’ve also been establishing our goals etc and getting to know each other  as well as possible before the race so that we can all work to maximum effect together as a team.

The last few days have been spent gathering, finding, borrowing, and organising all the pieces of gear needed for the race (you can see the mandatory gear list here), and finally packing them into bags for travelling (and then running it all through my head again to figure out what I’ve forgotten… there’s always something). Nearly there now!

Thomas is the team captain, and he has made life a huge amount easier for the rest of the team by sorting out a lot of logistics ahead of time for us, such as taking care of all the interactions with the race organisers, booking accommodation for the team for both before and after the race itself, and being the fulcrum of all team communications.

I’m the navigator on the team, which is another role which takes up a huge amount of mental as well as physical effort. This year we have 2 navigators on the team, as Gui, my Brazilian teammate is also a navigator. This should hopefully ease the load on both of us and (even more hopefully) make it less likely that navigation mistakes will be made.

In Navigator mode at the Beast of Ballyhoura Adventure Race, 2012

We’ll have 3 days of preparation at the race HQ. This will involve getting our mandatory gear checked, getting out skills checked, packing the gear into the right boxes for the race, buying and packing food for the race, attending all race briefings, and preparing the maps, choosing routes, and doing as much pre-race strategising as possible. This is usually a very busy and often quite stressful time, as mistakes made he can cause huge, and potentially race-ending, consequences when we’re out on the course. Our aim will be to make this a smooth and stress free as we can.

The line up of teams taking part in this year’s ARWC is highly impressive. To me it seems like the strongest line up I’ve ever seen for an Adventure Race. It should be a very fast competitive battle at the front. Sometimes its easy to pick the likely podiums out before the race start, but there are far too many possibilities in this race. But even with that I’d still stick my neck out and say that Seagate have to be my pre-race favourites for the win. They’ll be even more motivated than usual this year, as a trivial mistake (accidentally leaving a tracker behind at a transition) cost them the win in last year’s ARWC in Tasmania.

Last year’s winners, Thule Adventure, are back to defend their title. This year their French pairing have the advantage of being on home territory. With two Swedish team members, they are also part of the wave of Scandinavian teams taking part. One of the main talking points to emerge from last year’s AWRC was the strength in depth of the Scandinavian teams, in particular the Swedes. They seem to be overtaking New Zealand as the world’s powerhouse of AR. It’s more than possible that they’ll have a large number of teams in the top ten of this year’s ARWC too.

Another notable previous ARWC winning team in this year’s race is the British team Addidas Terrex. Over the years they have been very supportive and helpful to Irish teams in international races. As well as being exceptionally fast, they’re also one of the cleverest sharpest teams on the international AR circuit. Hopefully they’ll have a great race.

Team Endurox before start, Primal Quest South Dakota 2008. Left to Right… Mark Lattanzi, Avril Copland, Eoin Keith, Pete Spagnoli

There are a few teams out there with former teammates of mine racing. Team Dancing Pandas has my 3 teammates from the South Dakota Primal Quest: top Irish racer Avril Copeland, Mark Lattanzi and Pete Spagnoli. “My” spot on the team is taken by Paul Humphreys, who I spent a lot of time racing alongside in last year’s RTNX in Canada. I look forward to racing with them all again.

Team Endurox at finish, Primal Quest South Dakota, 2008

My Kiwi teammate from last year’s ARWC, Sam Clark, was originally going to be racing with us again this year but had to pull out a few months ago. A change in circumstances has him back in the race, this time as part of the top American team Tecnu Adventure Racing. He can only add to Tecnu’s ability.

Thomas Etter, Eoin Keith and Sam Clark on the last trek stage, ARWC 2011, Tasmania

All teams have to carry trackers as part of our mandatory gear. This gives the race the ability to show live coverage on the internet on their website. Unfortunately I can’t tell whether they will be doing so or not. No doubt the crew at Sleepmonsters will be providing some reports from the race as well.

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