Better Adventure Racing, Part 1 – There Is A Way

Warning – This is an in-depth, lengthy post about the system I’m building to make myself a better adventure racer. Want the short version? Scroll to the bottom for my cliff notes.

Hi fellow adventure racers! My name is Cy, and I freely admit that while I am an avid adventure racer, I am by no means a good one. It’s my intention to fix that. I’m tired of just completing adventure races. I want to COMPETE in adventure races. I like to win, and frankly, I’m tired of nipping at the heels of racers that are faster, stronger, and straight up better than I am. It’s time to get on the podium. And in my journey to get to the top, I want to share the experiments I’ve run on myself with the rest of the adventure racing community in order to spread awareness of what works (and what doesn’t), solicit advice from the racers who are better than me (pretty much everyone), and hopefully, help advance the sport. You see, this blog post focuses on my journey, but really, it’s a lens onto the sport of Adventure Racing. Too many of the keys to success in adventure racing are hidden in the minds of the elite racers.

the author, enjoying post-race refreshment
the author, enjoying post-race refreshment

This isn’t an accusation that people are hoarding the secrets of their trade, merely a statement that we as a sport haven’t been diligent at documentation. There are some good books out there and a couple training camps, but I’ve to find a platform that provides instruction for racers in all facets of the sport. If the AR community wants to not just survive, but thrive, a ‘democratization’ of the sport must occur.

I started because I saw a gap in the sport that wasn’t being served – there wasn’t a single destination for accurate information about upcoming races. ARHub raises the visibility of ARs so racers can easily find their next race. This series of entries represents the next stage in my plan to help grow the sport by providing a blueprint for the regular athlete to become a better racer, so they will in turn race more. It’s a virtuous cycle: Better, more confident racers will sign up for more races, which will let race directors put on more races, which will bring in more racers, some of whom will inevitably want to become better racers. Simple, right?

Just remember I said simple, not easy.

The Better Adventure Racing (BAR) series of posts and the corresponding training system I’ve built represent my own opinions. I’m no sports scientist nor an accomplished coach, but I am a voracious learner and spend most of my free time soaking up the teachings of the best and brightest in the endurance performance world. And I see no reason to do all the work of figuring out how to improve myself and not share it with everyone else. This is my effort to switch from just improving myself to helping improve others too.

Credit goes to Ben Greenfield, Endurance Planet, Rob Shaul (Strong Swift Durable), Rob Wolff (Paleo Solution), Brad Kearns & Mark Sission (Primal Endurance), Phil Maffetone, Alex Viadara (Hybrid Athlete) and many, many others for their excellent work and the influence it has had on me. I’ve tried to do a good job of adopting your teachings to the Adventure Racing world and give credit where it’s due.

I hope you enjoy this journey and it inspires you. Now get the hell out there and race!

Part 1 – There is a Way

Adventure Racers, by the nature of their sport, are not really great at anything. Good? Oh yeah. But not great in the sense of world-class. You don’t see a great adventure racer on the winner’s podium at a UTMB, Leadville 100, or the Yukon 100 kayak race (Travis Macy being an exception to just about all of these races). Why? Because excellence in a specific sport demands specificity in the training of that sport. A great kayaker doesn’t bother training on their ability to bomb technical downhills on their mountain bike. Why would they? Their competitive kayaking skills pay the bills, so if it doesn’t directly benefit their ability to kayak, it’s not just irrelevant, it’s flat out detrimental. A kayaker is best served by either 1) kayaking more or 2) resting so they can go out and kayak more.

Travis, if you ever read this, please adopt me, even though I'm older than you. Credit Travis Macy
Travis, if you ever read this, please adopt me, even though I’m older than you. Credit Travis Macy

Now, before anyone gets out their pitchforks and torches, I fully acknowledge that there are some spectacular adventure racers that DO get on the podium at other sports. World-class mountain athletes can easily transfer from one endurance sport to another. That’s bloody fantastic, I’m immensely jealous. But for us mere mortals, we must contend with the genes we were born with. True, some racers are single-sport athletes who converted to AR or just dabble recreationally, and if the race course is biased towards their strengths, they can dominate. But the typical racer is a generalist by nature, someone who doesn’t focus solely on one sport (or at least, SHOULDN’T focus solely on one sport).

The necessity of avoiding specificity is because to be a good adventure racer, you must be adept at many things. Not just the 3 primary sports within adventuring racing (mountain biking, trail running, paddling), but also know how to navigate the whole time, sometimes rappel, mountaineer, swim, cross glaciers, and all sorts of nonsense race directors like to cook up. Oh, and know how to maintain their bodies and gear throughout the whole thing.

While there is overlap between these sports in terms of transferable capabilities, the fact remains that in order to achieve even a moderate amount of skill in any of the sports in adventure racing requires deliberate practice, which in turn requires time, equipment, money, and adequate training locations. You can’t just walk into a sport as complex as adventure racing on a whim and win the gold medal. Except if you’re one of those genetic freaks, in which case, I hate you (not you Travis, you’re my hero).

So we’re caught in a conundrum: How do you get better at a sport (which requires specificity in training) when the sport itself is so complex that specific training is so hard to achieve?

Unless someone has figured out to how to fit more than 24 hours within a day, or you live the life of carefree luxury in some outdoor sports mecca (cough…Yogaslackers…cough) then you’ve got to regularly decide what activity you’ll dedicate your precious training time too. Using myself as an example: 2 kids, 2 dogs, a self-employed wife with irregular hours, my own job at a demanding corporation, church, National Guard, and the necessity to just take a break from time to time all contribute to filtering my time to training down to less than 10 hours a week. Oh yeah, I might start my graduate degree too. I imagine many of you readers are in similar situations.

So what’s an eager racer to do when they want to get better? How do you improve at so many sports with only a limited amount of resources and you don’t happen to live in Jackson Hole or Boulder? This problem forms the nucleus of these series of blog posts: Charting a path to becoming a better adventure racer despite less than ideal circumstances and a sport with a bewildering number of requirements.

The recent summer Olympics provided a phenomenal example of an athlete who excelled at a tremendous number of sports. Ashton Eaton, the 2-time Gold Medalist in the decathlon, dominated his sport and is rightly crowned “Fittest Athlete in the World”. If you’re not familiar with the decathlon, it’s actually 10 sports in 1: athletes must compete in the 100m run, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400m run, 110m hurdle, discus throw, pole vault, javelin throw, and 1500m run across 2 days. Keep in mind that every one of these 10 sports is its own unique Olympic sport.

here's Ashton, screaming what I imagine is something like "Is there no one else? Is there no one else??"
here’s Ashton, screaming what I imagine is something like “Is there no one else? Is there no one else??” credit AP Images

So by necessity, Ashton and his peers have to find a way to training for 10 sports, some of which are closely related (100m sprint and 400m sprint) and others that are extremely distinct from the rest (pole vault, 1500m run). They are a jack of all trades and master of none. When you compare the results of decathletes in one of the above 10 sports against Olympic athletes from the same specific sport, the decathletes look like amateurs. How could they not, when they have to split their efforts across 9 additional sports?

Decathletes absolutely cannot afford to waste any time on nonsense that doesn’t directly support them becoming better at multiple sports simultaneously. That’s not just a waste of time, it’s a waste of precious other resources like energy, cognition, and recovery. When you examine the training programs of decathletes, what you don’t see is as striking as what you do see. These athletes don’t just rotate through all 10 sports, trying to be equally proficient across the board. Instead, they focus heavily on the aspects of their fitness that best translates across multiple events. Ashton is known to practice running hurdles only once a month. Not because he’s already great at the hurdles, but because that’s a technical component of just 1 of his 10 sports.

He and his coaches have to make smart decisions on what parts of his sport they can (or have to) assume risk on and which parts must be emphasized and trained routinely. Decathletes know that trying to be good at everything makes you end up bad at everything. This translates across to our programming principles for adventure race training, as our limited time and resources must be carefully dispensed so it’s not wasted.

Let’s accept that a good adventure racer, like a decathlete, must be at least moderately good at the 3 core sports of AR, but will likely get their butt kicked when facing against an athlete who is exclusive to one of the 3 core sports. Each of the sports has its own unique demands on the body’s musculature, energy systems, and nervous system, so I don’t think I’m making a revolutionary claim. To get better, we must improve across all those sports as efficiently and effectively as possible. What defines better? A higher place

To get better, we must improve across all those sports as efficiently and effectively as possible. What defines better? A higher place finish, for sure. How about improved performance across all domains of the sport? Improved recovery capabilities, so I can train more frequently at a higher threshold? Yes, please. More resiliency, so when I inevitably hurt myself, it’s just a bruise, not a broken bone. Definitely going to need more resiliency. Now we know our end goal (#winning), our major constraints stopping us from achieving it (resources, time, and energy), and the key performance indicators that should be focused on in order to get to the end goal. I believe I’ve found, through a combination of trial and error and immersive study, a path to achieve this desired end state.

Now we know our end goal (#winning), our major constraints stopping us from achieving it (resources, time, and energy), and the key performance indicators that should be focused on in order to get to the end goal. I believe I’ve found, through a combination of trial and error and immersive study, a path to achieve this desired end state. Excellence in adventure racing is, in fact, achievable for us mortals through a disciplined and intelligent approach to training.

Before I go into greater depths of what precisely should be done to get better at adventure racing, let me upset a few more folks (sorry!) In my initial efforts to improve at the sport I love, I scoured the interwebs for any program or guidance I could find. As I said before, there are a couple resources out there for learning about the sport, but I couldn’t find any that were about getting better at the sport. Training programs were either just rip-offs of triathlon training programs (you could actually see examples where the program wrote “instead of swimming, just substitute with kayaking). As if triathlon and adventure racing were the same sport (they most certainly are NOT). This approach struck me as lazy. Other training programs were hyper-specified, not providing any flexibility or adjustments to the program for the individual’s needs, resources, or physical ability. These plans are typically reflections of the coaches who put them together and whatever biases that coach brings to the table, typically the single sport they excel at. Finally, other plans were grossly over-biased, prescribing only endurance workouts, or only high-intensity workouts, or only weight training. These plans seem to think that a sport as complex as AR has a “quick fix” button, or you can “hack” your way to the top. Sorry, doesn’t work like that. Bottom line:

Other training programs were hyper-specified, not providing any flexibility or adjustments to the program for the individual’s needs, resources, or physical ability. These plans are typically reflections of the coaches who put them together and whatever biases that coach brings to the table, typically the single sport they excel at. Finally, other plans were grossly over-biased, prescribing only endurance workouts, or only high-intensity workouts, or only weight training. These plans seem to think that a sport as complex as AR has a “quick fix” button, or you can “hack” your way to the top. Sorry, doesn’t work like that. Bottom line:

Finally, other plans were grossly over-biased, prescribing only endurance workouts, or only high-intensity workouts, or only weight training. These plans seem to think that a sport as complex as AR has a “quick fix” button, or you can “hack” your way to the top. Sorry, doesn’t work like that. Bottom line: There isn’t any scale-able, holistic program that deconstructs the complex sport of Adventure Racing and provides a blueprint of how to do it well.

Challenge accepted.

Unsatisfied with what I found, and given my strong interest in the area of physical training, I set out to build my own program that tears apart adventure racing block by block, deconstructing the demands the sport places on the body and mind in order to maximize efforts to improve at it. I’m certain that a smarter approach is possible by leveraging the knowledge provided by leaders in the sports science, strength and conditioning, and endurance sports industries. I’ve compiled a couple key principles that are derived from my studies. These serve as my north star, keeping me on track for achieving the performance I need to fulfill my goals. If you read nothing else, read these and I reckon you’ll do just fine.

Principle #1: Adventure Racing Specific Training

We are not triathletes that just happen to race on unpaved roads. Excellence in adventure racing requires extensive training in all components of the sport and in the manner the sport is conducted. At a surface level, it would appear that a racer would only need to rotate between the ‘Big 3’ AR sports:  1-hour trail run, the next day 1-hour mountain bike, the day after 1 hour of paddling. Rinse, lather, repeat. Now you’re a varsity level adventure racer! This is markedly wrong for a number of reasons:

  1. Adventure Racing disciplines are not evenly weighted. On average*, a racer will be on their mountain bike 40-50% of the race, on their feet trail running 30-40% of the time, and 10-20% of the time paddling. From the 6 hour sprint ARs to the monster week-long expeditions, racers just aren’t spending as much time paddling as on their feet, and usually spending more time in the saddle then running. Therefore, training efforts should reflect racing efforts (makes sense, right?)  In the Army, we have a saying, “train as you fight”. Same goes for adventure racing. Racers should safely assume risk by limiting their paddling training while emphasizing their biking and running. Controversial? Maybe to some folks, but every time I hear about an adventure race that spent more than 1/3 of the race in the water, it inevitably is a horror story involving equipment failures, unexpected changes in water conditions, and/or poor navigation. The 2016 Cowboy Tough 5-day adventure race featured a massive 72-mile paddle section, which while very daunting, still pales in comparison to the 100s of miles the teams moved over foot and tire. Paddling is the runt of the litter when it comes to the ‘Big 3’, and smart training for adventure racing should reflect its diminished status. Not eliminate, mind you, but rather assume calculated risk by minimizing.
  2. It doesn’t make necessary accommodations for an individual’s requirements, both skill wise and from a greater lifestyle perspective. Races are won by the ability to emphasize strengths and shore up weaknesses. Just as training equally across all AR disciplines is incorrect, so is training without accommodation. A good training program addresses your strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, it must fit into your life. Whether you work the swing shift, have to coach the kids’ soccer game on Saturdays, or live 1 hour from the nearest decent single track, a training program must provide the ability to flex and adapt to your needs. We’re not machines.

In order to achieve our goal, we need to do a lot of work. Seriously, we need to execute a significant amount of force across a lot of distance (because Work = Force * Distance). Adventure Racing is a complex sport that is not easily mastered. As pop star and sage advice-giver Britney Spears says, “you better work, b*tch”.

this article is starting to go in an odd direction...
this article is starting to go in an odd direction…

We must subject ourselves regularly to the stresses of our sport so that our body adapts and positively responds to it. Hans Selye’s General Adaptation System posits that a system’s capability to adapt to an external stress is a function of its exposure to a stress and the recovery from said stress in order to enter a phase of compensation. In plain English, that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

But as anyone who has made it through a day of brutal squat workouts know, “recovery” can be a very long period of time. For a racer, we can’t sit around for a week waiting for our legs to stop aching. That’s the result of foolish programming (or failure to follow reasonable programming…)

We need to recover quickly so that we can train across multiple modalities regularly. Which brings us to the 2nd major training principle, Minimum Effective Dose.

Here’s a simplified visualization of the General Adaptation Theorem.

Principle #2: Do Less, Better

Minimum Effective Dose (MED) is the smallest amount of training necessary to elicit the desired improvement. In layman’s terms, its the amount of necessary medicine to treat the disease, and not a drop more. In all our training, we aspire to achieve the MED, and no more. Why?

  1. The body can only handle so much. If getting biceps the size of Arnold (excuse me, Ahh-nuld) only required that you keep stressing them, then we could all just do bicep curls until our arms fell off and we’d be jacked.

    But sadly, it’s a tad more complicated than that. As we previously discussed with the GAS theorem, the body must recover in order to grow. In practical terms, the stress introduced to the body should be around 1-4% more than the body’s current capability. This is the ideal “zone of sustainable discomfort” that activates the body’s sympathetic nervous system, causes muscle fiber damage, and subsequently causes hormonal activation to fight inflammation, repair damaged tissue, and improve performance for the next time it experiences the same stress.

    To go deeper than this into the zone of discomfort is to write a check the body can’t cash. Chronic overtraining forces your sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight part) to stay on, never letting the parasympathetic (rest and digest) part get its turn. This is a perpetual problem for many endurance athletes, as the idea of “no pain, no gain” is engraved in many of our minds and 1-4% improvement is small enough to be almost unnoticeable at times. This requires a significant mindset change for some and can be the most difficult adjustment, both physically and mentally, in the entire BAR program (speaking from experience…).

    in all our training efforts, we aspire to hit the top of the green part of the graph and no more. Better to get lower on the green then go to far and drop into the yellow. Credit Whole9Life
  2. Efficiency. Time is one of the most precious resources, so if we’ve already hit the ‘sweet spot’ in terms of the training stress accumulated, why keep training past that point? Besides potentially hurting your efforts by overtraining, you’re wasting time that would be better used elsewhere. Reading my awesome blog would be a great example of time well spent outside of training 🙂
  3. It lets us get to the high volume of work we need. Wait a minute, didn’t I just say we’re trying to as little work as possible? Yes, but with the important caveat of as little work as necessary to elicit improvement. If only 20 minutes of weight lifting gets me enough training stress that I’ll be 1-4% stronger the next time I lift, it also doesn’t degrade my overall fitness so that the very next day, I can bike, and the day after that run, and so on and so on. You’ve got to be good at a lot of stuff in to be good at adventure racing, so adhering to MED allows you to keep training continuously without breaking yourself. That’s why it’s critical to lift for only 20 minutes, not 30 minutes (or whatever that MED is for you).
this is the ideal expression of MED applied through the adaptation cycle. A little improvement time and time again adds to significant growth. Credit

Principle #3: Stay Healthy, Until You Can’t

Look, let’s call a spade a spade. Adventure Racing is ridiculous. You gotta have a little bit (or a lotta bit) of crazy to do this sport. Racing for 12, 24, 36 hours or a week straight just isn’t something human beings are made to do. Nothing is made to do this. We are intentionally pushing ourselves well past the realms of standard, expected behavior. And that’s unhealthy. Our bodies are natural endurance machines, but even machines break down when in extremely demanding environments.

So it’s absolutely critical that we keep ourselves as healthy as long as possible, so that when the times comes to do something that’s very unhealthy, we’re doing so from a position of strength, allowing us to absorb the damage with minimal long-term impact. On top of that, getting good enough to be in that position of strength requires a large amount of training, which can only be accomplished if training is smart (see the two principles above).

There are plenty of training programs that will get you “race-ready” in 3 months, but if continued to 6 or 12 months, will likely get you in front of a surgeon, physical therapist, or looking for a new sport that doesn’t hurt as much. I want to get better at adventure racing. I want you to get better at adventure racing too, and in order to do that, we’re going to have to train a lot. And to train in a way that maximizes our efforts while minimizes our stresses (again, see two principles above).

I’ve been in the position where I lurch from a period of intense training, followed by injury, followed by long, uneven recovery, then repeated all over again. Don’t do this. Train easy, getting just 1-4% increase in intensity, accumulating improvements over time, sometimes to such a small degree that it’s undetectable. Yes, this isn’t easy, but it’s absolutely necessary.

Generally, being “fit” and being “healthy” coincide. There’s no question that regular, moderate exercise directly contributes to quality and quantity of life. But as one approaches elite levels, fitness and health start to separate and even start to be in opposition to each.

Exhibit A: Ryan Hall. Ryan Hall, the current American half marathon record holder and only American to run a sub-2:05 marathon is a fantastic example of when health is sacrificed for the sake of fitness. In his efforts to become the first marathon runner to break the 2-hour threshold, Ryan had to give up a lot. His eating was closely monitored so that he maintained the maximum power-to-weight ratio. His training volume was enormous. His race schedule ferocious. And his social life next to nil. In 2016, Ryan announced his retirement from competitive racing, citing the damage he had suffered, to include troubles with weight and low testosterone. And you know what? I would have done the same if I was him and had his capabilities. But let’s acknowledge up front the costs that come from being singularly focused.

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 03: Ryan Hall celebrates after winning the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Men's Marathon held in Central Park, November 3, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 03: Ryan Hall celebrates after winning the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Men’s Marathon held in Central Park, November 3, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Luckily for us adventure racers, because the sport doesn’t contain many pros (by which I mean people who actively earn the bulk of their income from the sport), but is almost entirely amateur (by which I mean people who may earn some of their income from AR, but certainly not all of it, plus the remainder of us schlubs who’ve never made a dime), the sport is naturally dispositioned to be healthier. Because most of us are doing this for fun, and the remainder of us are doing it on top of a number of additional sports and events, that means that adventure racers typically don’t obsessively dedicate their entire lives to achieving excellence in the sport.

Like the example above with Ryan Hall, there are significant gains to be made when you strip away everything that isn’t crucial to achieving excellence at a specific event, but that are also huge drawbacks. Adventure racers don’t have to make these choices because of by-and-large, there’s no way to financially support that level of obsession.

But the day (or days) will come when you must depart from the path of healthy. Don’t expect to toe the line at Primal Quest and think you’ll just be doing an extra-long workout. To perform competitively at ARs, you’ll have to push yourself deep into the pain cave, sacrificing sleep, good diet, and recovery for extreme bouts of staying awake, shoveling junk food just to get more calories, and pushing through injuries.

Make no mistake about it, the actual racing part of adventure racing takes a toll. That’s why it is so crucial that up until race day, you’re as healthy as possible so that your body is fully charged and capable of absorbing the level of abuse that’s about to hit it. If you’re at the start line and you’re already nursing injuries, haven’t been eating right, and are under-recovered because you tried to jam in a ton of training in right before the race, your chances won’t be good to make the podium.

Principle #4: Stay On Target

I know how easy it is to get overwhelmed by the daunting amount of possible challenges you may face in an adventure race. And if you let yourself fall victim to the “what if” monster, the next thing you know, you’ll be practicing how to white water kayak blindfolded while towing a burro (challenge to race directors – make this event happen!)

granted, it didn't turn out well for Gold Leader, but he was still correct
granted, it didn’t turn out well for Gold Leader, but he was still correct

But that’s ridiculous. To achieve excellence, you must focus on the core inputs. Bike well, run well, orient well, paddle decently, and when the occasion happens that you need to open water swim or climb a 5.8 wall or whatever to get a checkpoint, you’ll manage. And even if you do poorly, you’ve got the whole rest of the race to make up for that mistake, which you will, because you kick ass at what’s critical in adventure racing. And that’s what wins races, not white water rafting with a donkey.

Core inputs, core inputs, core inputs. Keeping focused on the elements of the race that truly matter drives what how you train and keeps you from distractions. As Gold Leader said, “Stay on target”.

Exercise A.D.D. is a real thing, I know because I suffer from it. There was a time in my mid-20s where my workout program probably changed every month or so. Gymnastics to Powerlifting to Strength-focused High Intensity to Parkour to whatever else was shiny. And of course, since I couldn’t decide, I ended up trying to do it all at the same time, with a 6 am lift session, a lunchtime CrossFit workout, and an evening gymnastics and Parkour workout. I wonder why I’ve had 2 knee surgeries… I had the discipline and attention span of Dory from Finding Nemo.

This made me mediocre at many things and good at nothing. Not a recipe for success when you’ve got a sport that has specific demands that it places on the body. While the complexity of AR does require more variation in training than most sports (think more Ashton Eaton than Ryan Hall), that doesn’t give us carte blanche to do whatever the hell seems like it might be helpful. Gymnastics is a fantastic sport. So is Crossfit. Powerlifting is cool, those dudes are super strong. And I’m envious of the sweet beards that all the ultra-endurance trail runners have these days. All these sports are cool, but they aren’t AR. Stay on target – train for AR.

So what are these key inputs that are critical to success? Allow me to introduce the Pyramid of Excellence for Adventure Racing, aka PEAR (I’m working on a cooler name. Suggestions?)



Have no fear, I’m not going to leave you with just broad training principles, I’m going to break down the core inputs that if done in accordance with the principles above, will lead to victory (hopefully. I’m a work in progress). Here they are, in order of importance:

  1. Base Endurance
  2. Resistance Training
  3. High-Intensity Interval Training
  4. Skills & Drills

Stay tuned as I reveal the details behind each of these core inputs. Now, if you’ve made it this far, you may be wondering why this matters to me so much. Sure, who doesn’t like winning, but what’s with this guy’s obsession with getting good at an obscure sport? Well, here’s why this is so important to me:

Because I’m going to win the Adventure Racing US Championship by the time I’m 40 years old.

There it is. It’s public, there’s no taking it back or hiding it. I’m putting my pride on the line because I want the kind of pressure that comes from when a no-name, mediocre racer making bold-as-brass claims to the entire sports community. The good news? That gives me 8 more years. The bad news? I haven’t won an adventure race before. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, I’ve made it onto the podium at many races, but never on the top of the podium. To be the US Champion, I’ve got to get WAYYY better at racing, which means no more messing around.

I ran my first AR when I was 21 years old at Bear Mountain, NY. I remember briefly meeting Robyn Bennecasa at the race, having no idea who she was, but knowing the amount of attention that was being given to her, she was somebody important. I also remember having an absolute blast at the race, enough that I caught the “AR bug” and kept finding more races. I’ve raced in the swamps of Georgia, hills of Tennessee, Cascade mountains, and lakes in the Ozarks. When I turned 30, I decided that I wanted to get serious about the sport. In order to become a good racer, I knew that I’d have to play to my strengths.

Having served in the US Army for 10 years, I didn’t lack in grit or general fitness but had relatively little sport specific fitness. I could always just sort of power through most races, relying on my general fitness to overcome a serious deficiency in biking and paddling skills. I would look at the good racers and think to myself “man, they are fast! I wish I could bike like they do”, but it never really occurred to me that these people were human too, they were just doing something different than I was. Relying on my general fitness worked. Until it didn’t. I got older and life happened. Marriage. Kids. Dogs. A job with a well-known technology company that is famous for its demanding environment. If I was serious about getting serious, I could no longer play around, expecting that lifting in the gym 5 days a week doing things like barbell snatches would somehow prepare me well for ARs. Time was already a valuable commodity, so wasting it on an activity that didn’t directly improve wasn’t acceptable. So I really started diving deep to educate myself on what made the winners so much better than the rest of us. Then working backward to break apart their expert performance into basic building blocks that I could follow. BAR is the result.

And if you’re all the way down here, I hope I’ve done a decent job of inspiring you to join me on this trip. Thanks for your time, and stay tuned!


Cliff Notes – I’m not very good at AR, but want to get better. I’ve studied a lot of great athletes and coaches and built a system for methodical, incremental improvement in order to achieve my goal of winning the US Championship by the time I’m 40. I’m still writing the up the specifics, but the principles of achieving this success are: 1) Adventure Racing Specific Training, 2) Minimum Effective Dose, 3) Stay Healthy Until I Can’t, and 4) Stay on Target. The core inputs to be conducted in accordance with these principles are 1) Base Endurance, 2) Resistance Training, 3) High-Intensity Interval Training, and 4) Skills & Drills.


  1. Cy says:

    Wow, what a thoughtful and insightful post, Cy! Thanks so much for really peeling off the layers involved in improving yourself as a racer and putting yourself on the line in order to support transparency in the sport!

    -Some guy who definitely isn’t Cy

Comments are closed.