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Shower Thoughts After My First Expedition AR

I just finished my first ever expedition-length adventure race, Expedition Oregon. About 80 hours and ~350 kilometers (give or take, not really sure. Let’s just agree it felt like 350 kilometers) and many thousands of feet of elevation gain and loss.

pics or it didn’t happen. Thank goodness a teammate brought his camera!

Rather than the standard race report (we went here, then we went there…) I’m presenting an unfiltered list of “shower thoughts” I had during the race and in the days following. Some of these are inside jokes, others are gems of wisdom. Have more to add? Throw them into the comments below!

  • Poop. Lots of talk about poop. Lots of pooping. Being a parent of a 3 and 5-year-old prepared me well for this part of the race.
  • You and your teammates will get close to each other. Uncomfortably close. Better get used to it.
  • The rumors about JD Eskelson’s rampant nudism have not been overstated.
  • Typical race food SUCKs after a couple days. By the end of the 3rd day my stomach said “no more, we’re done” and refused to digest anything further. This led to a bonk a few hours later, as my body, now dependant on a steady flow of sugars and simple carbs, no longer got its fix. It’s been said before in various forums and posts, but preplanning real food at the TAs and packable food items is a critically important part of a race
  • A bag of Ruffles potato chips and string cheese bar saved me from the bonk when I couldn’t eat anything else. After that, I could get back to eating something a bit more “performance” like.
  • Next time, I’m making more of my own food vs. buying bars and stuff. Check out the book for some great recipes.

    Feed Zone Portables: A Cookbook of On-the-Go Food for Athletes (The Feed Zone Series) (Hardcover)


    List Price: $24.95 USD
    New From: $14.53 USD In Stock
    Used from: $8.99 USD In Stock

  • Fitness wise, I was okay. Not great, there was some big hill climbs that I was the weak member of the team, which I believe was the result of me not shiting my endurance training blocks to be bike focused earlier in the year. But I’m convinced there’s a path to being a good adventure racer despite only having about an hour of training time in the day. Read more about my efforts here: Better Adventure Racing, Part 1 – There Is A Way
  • We focus so much of our training on the sports that happen during the race – kayak, mountain bike, trail run. But there are other disciplines that require training too – TA transition and sleep.
  • Sleep is its own sport. When to sleep, where to sleep, how to sleep. These are all tactical decisions that have just an important impact on the outcome of a race as having the right shoes, being ready to ride downhill single track, etc.
  • The podium at Expedition Oregon was largely shaped by the decisions of the top teams when and where to sleep. because they were neck and neck to the end, they were too worried about giving up position to sleep and ended up making big errors. Ironically, had any of them passed out for an hour, they would have regained the “cognitive advantage” and probably swept past the competition. Seriously, sleep is a sport.
  • It’s impressive what can be done with just an hour of sleep. You can squeeze a full day of high-intensity activity out of your body in exchange for just a tiny amount of sleep. It’s got more to do with whether or not you’re keeping your body and mind busy and engaged than it is about how much rest you’ve gotten.
  • TA transition is much like it is in Triathlon – the 4th sport. The siren song of the TA box with its goodies, warm clothes, and excuse to loiter can easily suck the most aggressive team into spending hours bumbling around at the TA.
  • The way to combat the TA monster is smart preplanning like pre-packaging your food for each leg of the race and making team objectives prior to arriving at the TA (we’re leaving in 30 minutes, priority of work is (1) reassembling bike, (2) filtering water, (3) changing shoes, etc.)
  • Having the opening lines of the song “One Step” from the Disney film Aladdin stuck in your head for four days is a form of torture I wouldn’t wish on any person. Oh, that Aladdin, he’s a problem! He’s become a one man…. OMG, KILL ME
  • At the end of the race, we got to do some killer downhill singletrack. I’d never done anything like that before and it was incredibly thrilling. Forget this days-long XC bullshit, I’m a downhill guy now!
  • Thank goodness we got to do it during the day
  • Speaking of things better done in daylight, going whitewater packrafting at 2am with just a headlamp lighting your way is a harrowing experience.
  • Makes for a great story afterward though!
  • For some reason, throughout the entire whitewater leg, I never flipped once, despite being relatively new to packrafting and especially whitewater packrafting.
  • I credit this to my mindset and dryland training. I did a bunch of kayak-inspired training in the gym to make sure I had the muscular endurance in my upper body
  • For my mindset, I found myself repeating a line I heard from the great Seattle Seahawks running back, Marshawn Lynch – “I know I’m gunna get got, but I’m gunna get mine before they get me”.
  • During the Class 3 rapids, I found myself cursing out each wave I made it past. Somehow telling the water to “get F’ed” made me externalize the challenge of getting through the rapids and helped keep me sharp and aggressive.
  • It really is all about staying aggressive in the water. I decide where I go, not the raft and not the water.
  • There was a trek CP in the first leg (between 2 and 3) that I’m pretty sure was straight out of a scene from the Lord of the Rings. Sweeping mist and clouds, sharp, rocky ridges, and tons of tiny alpine lakes got a lot of teams lost. We’d pop up on one ridge, see another team on the ridge next to us, both of us shrugging our shoulders as we were totally lost.
  • There was also a camera drone nearly gave me and my team a heart attack when it suddenly spun up beside us, as we thought we had just ran into a swarm of killer death wasps
  • Two words – Ass Callous
  • Ass callous is created by spending an ungodly amount of time on a bike seat, way past what any human should
  • Ass callous is prevented by the liberal and frequent application of anti-friction lube and having a good bike seat. Never again will I question the $60 investment of upgrading my seat. Nor should you
  • If the above two actions aren’t taken, prepare for serious butt check bleeding. Welcome to AR!
  • A week later and I still have weird tingly nerve pain in my feet. This goes away, right?
  • Speaking of going away, 4 dead toenails and counting.
  • It was nice to be around other people who also have horrible, damaged feet.
  • It was great to finally meet in person a number of my internet friends, but it stinks that we didn’t get much time to actually chat. So to Mark, Shane, Michelle, Chip, Ryan, and others, my apologies for not getting to spend more time in person.
  • Note to race organizers – big group dinners before and after the race would be a great way to alleviate this issue
  • The day prior to race start is exhausting! So many layouts, running around and getting gear, doing skills testing, meetings, etc. Basically just tack on another day to the race.
  • It’s crazy that you can essentially high five some folks at the start and end of the race, knowing you’ll see them in another 6 months or year at some distant place, all because you both love doing this sport.
  • Having an all-you-can-eat taco bar at the finish line is f’ing brilliant. I ate 12, plus beans and rice.
  • See the first bullet on this list for the results of 12 tacos.
  • I still can’t get over the soaring, breath-taking views we saw. Expedition Oregon found some absolute jewels in the Cascades and shared them with us.
  • That being said, I may never do another expedition AR. I know, I know, blasphemy. The race cost too much. Not in $$ (in fact, they charged way too little, IMHO). The cost was in the stress getting to the race. The constant worry about logistics, the never-ending list of equipment that I needed to buy, and the perpetual worry that I wasn’t fit enough and would be a drag on my team all contributed to the lead up to the race being very stressful for me. I wasn’t the best dad or husband in the month prior to the race, as the pre-occupation with the race dominated my free time from work. Furthermore, it was time I took off that wasn’t shared with the family.
  • My wife kicks ass
  • Don’t get me wrong. I loved the race. It was incredible. I’m just not sure it’s worth the cost in terms of money (I easily spent thousands between a new packraft, bike upgrades, random race equipment, etc.) and the opportunity cost. No doubt any future expedition race will be easier, as I now know what I need to do, but it’s still a massive commitment. For a guy with a young family and a busy corporate job, it may not be the best fit.
  • Then again…. the mountains are calling!

10 great Father’s Day gifts for adventure racers!

It’s not like adventure racers need an excuse to buy themselves more gear. Between the constant new releases of great stuff, the inevitable breakdown of cherished equipment, and, frankly, losing lots of gear out on the trail, we’re always on the hunt for more stuff. But for those who aren’t die-hard racers, it can be totally overwhelming to buy for adventure racers. That’s where this handy list comes in. With Father’s Day right around the corner, there’s no better time to surprise your racer (or yourself!) with something they’re bound to love (and use!) Let us be your shortcut to Father’s Day gifting excellence!

look at all the stuff adventure racers need!
  1. Some seriously high-quality sunscreen. Adventure racers are exposed to the elements for hours and days on end, with rarely a spare minute to think about the long-term consequences of their efforts. This means they can get some nasty sunburn. Not with sunscreen like the Isdin Fusion Gel Fotoprotector. Pricey when compared to your drugstore Copperblock? Yeah. Worth it? Oh yeah.
  2. A reliable bike light. Nothing induces some panic on the race course like losing your only source of vision. This Fenix is trusted by some of the best in the sport.
  3. This handy hose attachment works wonders once you get back home from a race with gear that’s completely covered with crusted mud and who knows what else. Serious time saver for weary racers who just want to lie on the couch but know they need to take care of their gear first.
  4. A durable and flexible bike stand. Yes, I’ll admit there are cheaper versions. But none of them have 123 5-star reviews. Bike shops around the world trust the Feedback Sports bike stand. With this, you can easily conduct just about every necessary maintenance action on your bike without having to constantly re-arrange the bike while having to fight for space or dealing with the bike flopping all over the place.

    Feedback Sports Sport-Mechanic Repair Stand (Black) (Sports)


    List Price: $169.99 USD
    New From: $154.99 USD In Stock
    Used from: Out of Stock

  5. Some serious protection for the legs. Adventure racers have to constantly trek through the woods off trail (this is called bushwacking) and let me tell you, it can be very hazardous to our legs. Thorns, nettles, sticks, rocks, and all sorts of random things that can inflict some pain will happen. In comes the Moxie shin guards with their solution. Similar to soccer shin guards but made for bushwacking, lots of teams trust the Moxie shin guards to protect their legs during long races.

    Moxie Gear Shin Gaiters Black Large (Misc.)


    List Price: $36.50 USD
    New From: $36.50 USD In Stock
    Used from: Out of Stock

  6. A lightweight bike pump. This little guy fits both types of bike tires, weighs practically nothing, and is super cheap.

    PRO.S Bike Pump for Road & Mountain Biking – 100 PSI Thread on Multi Valve


    List Price: Price Not Listed
    New From: 0 Out of Stock
    Used from: Out of Stock

  7. A thumb compass. Every adventure race requires orienteering, and this compass is one of the most popular due to its weight and comfort. It can’t guarantee you won’t get lost, but it will help as much as it can!

    Suunto Arrow 6 Orienteering Compass (Sports)


    List Price: Price Not Listed
    New From: 0 Out of Stock
    Used from: Out of Stock

  8. Tailwind Electrolyte Powder. This is a personal favorite of mine and you’ll almost never find me out on the trails without it. Tailwind powder is “liquid calories”, allowing a racer to dump a scoop of powder into their water bottles and drink their food. I’m a huge fan because I hate carrying around lots of bars and gels in my pockets, and can instead just slowly hydrate myself and feed myself simultaneously. Specially formulated for endurance activities, Tailwind’s nutritional content helps prevent cramping, muscles soreness, and keeps racers competitive for hours and hour. A must-have for any adventure racer. 
  9. A kickass adventure race shirt. Okay, full disclosure. Shameless self-promotion here, but if you want to get your adventure racer something unique and not just another piece of gear (not that they don’t love their gear), head over to AdventureRaceHub.com’s shop, where you can check out the unique apparel my wife and I have created for the adventure racing community. You may have noticed that many adventure racing shirts are junky quality, with poorly printed logos and ill-fitting. Not our stuff. Trust me, they’ll love it, and if they don’t, I’ll send you a refund!
  10. Okay, these are pricey for some bike shorts, I get it. But do the math. If you’re doing a 12-hour adventure race wearing these shorts, that’s about $10/hour. If you do 2 12-hour races, that’s $5/hour. When it comes to providing the support and protection needed for our most…ahem…valuable locations…it’s worth spending a bit more money. These shorts provide are made for triathlons, so they’ve got built-in chamois lining for riding the bike, as well as performance enhancing compression.

    2XU Men’s Compression Tri Shorts, Black/White, Medium (Apparel)


    List Price: Price Not Listed
    New From: 0 Out of Stock
    Used from: Out of Stock

Venues

Organizers

Top 10 Best Gifts for Adventure Racers

Adventure racers love stuff. Lots of stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. I’ve got kayaks, mountain bikes, inflatable rafts, climbing equipment, running gear, and enough performance clothing in my house that sometimes I find things tucked away that I had completely forgotten about in the first place. Seriously, I might be a hoarder. But the good news is that this makes adventure racers absolutely perfect for getting them a gift. Christmas? Birthday? Anniversary? Just because they’re awesome? Since we need and love so much gear (and there’s so much awesome gear out there we want), buying a gift for an adventure racer should be a breeze, right?

Not so much.

It’s a classic case of “paralysis by analysis”. There’s just so much cool outdoor gear, workout clothes, and sports equipment that you can easily get overwhelmed by all the choices, throw in the towel, and buy a gift card. Nobody likes gift cards, that’s the lazy way out. Let me help you get your adventure racer something he/she will love.

As an adventure racer myself, I’m always keeping my eye out for stuff that will help me perform better as an adventure racer. My Amazon cart always has a few “I want this” items, and don’t even get me started on my wish list. I’ve compiled a top 10 list of what I think are the best gifts that will put a smile on any adventure racer’s face.  These pieces of gear come highly recommended, not just by me, but by many adventure racers. So don’t sweat if you’re getting them something they want, because I’m positive all of these will be well received. Oh, and don’t worry, even though there’s a lot of pricey gear out there, I’m only listing stuff that I think is reasonably.

One last thing – it’s okay that maybe you just buy it for yourself. Sometimes you gotta just treat yourself.

giphy-8

  1. Salomon Speedcross 4. Every adventure racer has a ton of shoes and Salomon has some of the most popular shoes in the AR community. Their newly released Speedcross 4 is a big improvement to the already excellent Speedcross 3 and looks like a very promising, with impressive lugs for traction in the loose soil and mud, protection for the ankles (plenty of ankle rolling when out bushwacking through the woods), and a modest heel drop (helps ensure mid-foot strike, improving posture and reducing injury chances). Can’t go wrong with a great set of shoes! 

    Salomon Men’s Speedcross 4 Trail Runner, Slate Blue/Black/Blue Yonder, 11.5 D US (Shoes)


    List Price: $130.00 USD
    New From: $289.00 USD In Stock
    Used from: Out of Stock

  2. Bodyglide.Ever had a bad case of chafing? Well, I sure have, and let me tell you, it ain’t fun. This stuff stops chafing dead in its tracks. I use it before every race and every long training day. Trust me, you can never have enough of these, I’ve got them in my house, my truck, my office, you name it.

    Bodyglide Original Anti-Chafe Balm (Packaging May Vary) (Sports)


    List Price: Price Not Listed
    New From: 0 Out of Stock
    Used from: Out of Stock

  3. Feed Zone Portables. Does your racer a DIY type or big into nutrition? Then they’ll probably like this popular book Feed Zone Portables, which is loved by many endurance athletes. Lots of tasty recipes designed for athletes to consume while they’re training and racing. You’ll notice that the next few items are all nutrition focused and for a very good reason. Adventure Racers have to constantly feed themselves during their extremely long races, so the necessity to fuel their bodies correctly is paramount. Feed Zone Portables gives racers a long list of yummy foods they can make themselves ensure they stay in the game.

    Feed Zone Portables: A Cookbook of On-the-Go Food for Athletes (The Feed Zone Series) (Hardcover)


    List Price: $24.95 USD
    New From: $14.53 USD In Stock
    Used from: $8.99 USD In Stock

  4. Tailwind Electrolyte Powder. This is a personal favorite of mine and you’ll almost never find me out on the trails without it. Tailwind powder is “liquid calories”, allowing a racer to dump a scoop of powder into their water bottles and drink their food. I’m a huge fan because I hate carrying around lots of bars and gels in my pockets, and can instead just slowly hydrate myself and feed myself simultaneously. Specially formulated for endurance activities, Tailwind’s nutritional content helps prevent cramping, muscles soreness, and keeps racers competitive for hours and hour. A must-have for any adventure racer. 
  5. Huma Gels. Okay, I know in the previous paragraph I kinda talked trash about gels and bars. And I stand by that, with a few exceptions. Huma Gels are one of those exceptions. Chia-seed based, these gel packets provide long-lasting energy for athletes as chia seeds are slow-digesting carbohydrates that are far more nutritious than what you find in the standard sugar-based energy gels. Also, they’re crazy delicious, I have to stop myself from eating too many when I’m out on a long bike ride. 

    Huma PLUS – Chia Energy Gel, Berries & Pomegranate, 24 Gels – Natural Electrolyte Enhanced Energy Gel (Misc.)


    List Price: $60.00 USD
    New From: $56.95 USD In Stock
    Used from: Out of Stock

  6. Seal Line Map Case. Adventure Racing requires lots of orienteering, which if you’re unfamiliar, is reading a map and plotting a course from where you currently are to where you want to go. The best racers are those who can navigate the fastest between points. And you can’t do that if your map turns into mush because it got wet. I’ve seen plenty of racers out on the course with their maps in a simple zip-lock bag, which works if you’re doing a short race, but if I figure if you’re interested in buying a gift for an adventure racer, they’re probably the type who does the longer races. So they need a proper case to keep their map dry and safe. The Seal Line Map Case is the industry standard.

    SealLine Map Case, Large (Sports)


    List Price: $24.95 USD
    New From: $24.95 USD In Stock
    Used from: Out of Stock

  7. Petzl Tikka XP Headlamp. Many races start in the dark, finish in the dark, or go through the night. There are tons of top notch light systems out there, but I don’t think many of them are worth all the pricey bells and whistles, as you typically don’t end up using all the custom functions. Most racers are best served by something that is rugged, dependable, and long lasting. Petzl’s Tikka XP fits into that category and is a great bargain too. It’s not top of the line, but you’ll sure to see a smile and get a big “thank you” from your racer when you give it to them. 

    Petzl Tikka XP Orange Headlamp (Sports)


    List Price: $33.88 USD
    New From: $33.88 USD In Stock
    Used from: Out of Stock

  8. Injinji 2.0 Compression Over The Calf Toesocks. Okay, I now what you’re thinking. They look weird. Toe socks? Who even wears those? Well, actually, quite a few of the best endurance athletes, that’s who. These socks provide 3 distinct advantages to many other socks on the market: They are as close to blister-proof as a sock can be thanks to the moisture wicking material and extremely close fit that comes from individually covering each toe. Their compression provides additional support to the calf muscles, helping speed recovery by improved blood flow and clearing of the lymphatic system. And finally, the knee-high length provides racers additional protection from all the inevitable off-trail bushwacking that takes place during a race. Goofy looking? Sure. But a serious Adventure Racer isn’t too concerned with looking suave. They want serious gear to help them out, and these socks are it. 

    Injinji 2.0 Men’s Compression Over The Calf Toesocks, Black, Small (Apparel)


    List Price: $49.00 USD
    New From: $49.00 USD In Stock
    Used from: Out of Stock

  9. Primal Endurance. If you’re racer enjoys diving deep is a big time self-improver and/or loves reading about the latest in science and training methodologies, this is the must-have book. Brad Kearns and Mark Sission provide some radical proposals about intentionally training slow and easy in order to accumulate the modest, incremental changes to the cardiovascular system that’s crucial to long-term success in endurance sports. Contrary to the typical “no pain, no gain” and heavy training based programs currently popular in the endurance communities, this book is jam-packed with actionable material. I’m joking when I sleep with it, because it’s on the top of my book pile on my night stand. 10/10, must read. 

    Primal Endurance: Escape chronic cardio and carbohydrate dependency and become a fat burning beast! (Paperback)


    List Price: $29.95 USD
    New From: $22.63 USD In Stock
    Used from: $18.62 USD In Stock

  10. A kickass adventure race shirt. Okay, full disclosure. Shameless self-promotion here, but if you want to get your adventure racer something unique and not just another piece of gear (not that they don’t love their gear), head over to AdventureRaceHub.com’s shop, where you can check out the unique apparel my wife and I have created for the adventure racing community. You may have noticed that many adventure racing shirts are junky quality, with poorly printed logos and ill-fitting. Not our stuff. Trust me, they’ll love it, and if they don’t, I’ll send you a refund!

 

2016 Adventure Racing Calendar Analysis

Here are some interesting data points for the 2016 Adventure Race season:

  • 129 races take place this year (not double counting races that have multiple lengths but occur the same location/day)
  • June 18th is the most popular day of the year to conduct an adventure race – 7 separate races occur this year on that date.
  • June 30th marks the half-way point of the season.
  • May is the most popular month for ARs, with 24 taking place throughout the month
  • Despite being the middle of summer, July is very unpopular for ARs – only 6 occur. Maybe somebody should look at moving their race from May to July?
  • September is a close second place, with 20 races. Maybe because the kids are back in school?

Interesting stuff, right? Would you like more adventure race data in future newsletters? I love digging into these sorts of trends, but only want to provide content of value to my fellow racers. Let me know your thoughts!