The fittest don’t always survive in adventure racing |

The fittest don’t always survive in adventure racing

BRECKENRIDGE – Any athlete who is a jack of all trades has the potential to master adventure racing.

Adventure racing is an up-and-coming athletic endeavor, and, according to Summit County adventure racers, an addicting genre.

Adventure racing always includes some variety of three disciplines -mountain biking, running or trekking and paddling. There are three categories of adventure racing – sprint races (which last a few hours), 24-hour races, and multiple-day expedition races.

Navigation is an element that comes into play in all three categories. To make the race truly adventurous, competitors aren’t given any information about the location of the race course until the night before the race.

“It is a bit boring to do one sport over and over again, especially after you’ve done an adventure race,” said Michael “Patch” Doyle, who just began adventure racing last year after a life time of competing in single-discipline, individual sports. “Living in Summit County, you’re already doing so many different sports. You go biking in the morning, play racquetball at night … whatever. People are enjoying the multi discipline lifestyle. It’s just plain fun. Then, the navigational side throws a whole new loop into it. You have triathlons, but in those, the courses are marked. The unknown part of adventure racing is what makes it so exciting. You can’t just go out and blast through the course. You have to know where you’re going.”

Adventure racers travel great distances for their competitions, as the prize purses are substantial, ranging anywhere from $250,000 prize for the top team in the Eco-Challenge expedition race to the $10,000 series champion prize in smaller series like the Adventurestream Adventure Race Series. On July 26, for the first time in its three-year history, Adventurestream will hold a race in Summit County.

The four-part 2003 series started in Moab, Utah in March, stopped in Durango last weekend and will wrap up in Vail Sept. 6. The June 26 race will begin in Breckenridge, and will be a sprint format, including trail running, mountain biking and paddling. The race will be open to individual competitors and teams of two and three.

“The premiere guys will finish the race in about six hours,” said Will Newcomer, president of Gravity Play, the company that organizes the Adventurestream series.

“We get a large spectrum of people that do the event. We have the Danelle Ballengees and the Mike Klosers (elite High Country athletes) – it’s an excellent training ground for them. But, the majority of people that do the series are your typical weekend-warrior that are out to have a good time and just finish the race.”

Ballengee just returned from competing in an adventure race in Spain, where her team was disqualified for missing a checkpoint. Poor navigation – even one wrong turn – is probably the most frequent downfall of individuals and teams in adventure racing, especially when nocturnal navigation is required.

“The big factor that will knock you out of the race is navigation,” Doyle said. “Even the top teams that have the best navigators in the world, any team out there … where they’ll get screwed up is navigation. It could happen to anybody. They give you maps and check point locations, but you can just get lost. Then, navigating at night is a whole new world.”

In addition to biking, trekking and paddling, most adventure races include one or two random disciplines for extra challenge. The Breck Adenturestream will be no exception, as it will include a portion of inline skating.

Additionally, Beaver Creek hosts the Ford Adventure Sport Challenge July 17-20 and will feature the Balance Bar 24-hour adventure race consisting of trekking, mountain biking, class I and II kayaking, white water swimming, rappelling and land navigation.

Ballengee said she is doing the Beaver Creek race, as the winning team will score $40,000, and said she will also try to do the Breckenridge Adventurestream if she is in town.

Doyle is also considering doing at least one of the races.

Adventure racing is not inexpensive – the single-event entry fee for the Breckenridge Adventurestream, for instance is $175. It also requires a lot of specialized training and equipment.

“Someone who is good at a lot of things but not great at anything would do well at adventure racing,” Doyle said. “Maybe the best way to look at it is, when you first get into adventure racing, you have to go out and learn these things right before a race. Maybe you’ve never rappelled before, or done a ropes course. I just got a call from an adventure racer. She just got some inline skates and said that’s the hardest part. She has been falling a lot trying to get used to them. In adventure racing, you have to make sure you know how to do a whole bunch of things.”

Upcoming adventure races:

Saturday: Elk Mountain Adventure Race in Aspen: A 10-16-hour race including 60 miles of whitewater paddling, trekking and running, mountain biking and rappelling. Deadline to register is Thursday. For more information, visit

July 17-20: Ford Adventure Sport Challenge in Beaver Creek

Includes a 24-hour race of mountain biking, trekking, kayaking, whitewater swimming rappelling and land navigation. For more information, visit www.

July 26: Adventurestream Adventure Race in Breckenridge. Top teams will finish in 6 to 7 hours. Disciplines include trail running, paddling, mountain biking, inline skating and navigation. For more information, visit

Sept. 6: Adventurestream Adventure Race in Vail. For more information, visit

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