Adventure racing is a team effort. The team aspect adds layers of fun and challenges. The team moves together constantly, and individual performances are not measured. In many team sports the team can change its players during the competition. But not in adventure racing, where the same team members have to complete the race together.
The team aspect means that one never has to do things alone. But being in a team also adds to the pressure –you are always responsible for the team, not just for yourself. Also, all the team members have to stay fit and motivated throughout the race. If the team does not work together the results are never good. With poor team spirit and collaboration the whole team can underachieve physically.
In this post, I will explain how you can prepare for the race as a team and how to build up team co-operation. I will describe where the team challenges lie and how you can prepare for those in advance.
A good adventure racing team functions together and aims for the same target
In AR is essential, that team works well together. Team racing means slightly different challenges than individual racing. These challenges are physical as well as mental. The best way to develop the team spirit is to train together. Team training events or practise competitions give an idea how the team functions together. And how to improve the team together.
1. Equipment – the adventure racing team also needs team equipment.
It is a good idea to check the compulsory equipment list well before the race date. That makes it easy to decide who is responsible for what equipment.
In addition to the compulsory team kit, the team should discuss together the kind of individual gear everyone is taking. This makes others aware of the team’s resources and gives new ideas about what to take as individual gear. The team should also check together that all members have similar individual gear. The decisions about gear should be made together before the race so that during the race there will be no surprises about eg. different quality headlamps or not-so-waterproof jackets.
2. Adventure racing team speed is not the same as the individual’s speed
The team consists of different individuals with varying racing- and sports’ experience. These individuals should move together with the fastest possible speed. Which is different than the speed of the slowest or fastest team member. When the team is functioning well together, the team’s speed is the fastest possible speed for moving together. But when things are not so well, the team is making poor use of its speed-reserves. For example when one member of the team is struggling to move and another member is getting cold while waiting for the slowest.
What is the best team speed at the beginning?
In a team competition, it is very tempting to start too fast. Even more so than in individual races. The race atmosphere urges the team to get going and everyone is strongly focused on moving. Nobody wants to fall behind other teams.
No one wants to disappoint the team, and in the beginning, individuals easily go faster than they should. But adventure races take hours and/or days, and from the very beginning, the speed should be such that the team can keep moving effectively, with similar speed, throughout the whole race. In other words, if one team member is at their physical limit straight from the start, they are likely to feel that hard effort at the end of the race. And that can slow down the team.
Increasing the Team Speed
In the beginning there is pressure to increase the team speed if there is clear speed differences between the individual members. In the beginning it is easy to think that one should go faster. In short races it is possible to increase the speed here.
But in eg. 24 hour races the speed slows down significantly during the night and the next day. If it is possible to move 1km/hr faster during the first day when towing someone, it can happen when towing during the last race hours the team could make itself move 3-10km/hr faster. Therefore it pays to think if it is worth to increase the team speed at the beginning with lots of hard effort or not.
Easy ways to increase team speed:
• Take some of the weight off the slowest member. Or even the whole rucksack.
• Towing with a rubber band (towing while cycling should be practised beforehand).
People Have Naturally Different Speeds
Everyone has a natural way of doing things. Some might take a long time in the changing area, some might need a lot of breaks while moving. Often the most frustrating moments arrive when people function at different speeds.
Therefore it is worth remembering that each team member can have different responsibilities. While waiting for the orienteerer to organize maps other team members can help him instead of standing around. For example, fill up water bottles and ask what else there is to do.
Naturally, this can also be done with the slowest team member. Help them actively in the service area, take on his other team responsibilities etc. After all, it does not make sense that everyone goes far to fill up water bottles separately instead of one person doing it all. Always thinking, what is the fastest way for the team.
3. Adventure Racing and Team Communication
Surprisingly often team members fail to communicate with each other. Things are just not said aloud. Many things can seem so self-evident that people do not say it. Comfortable routine talk between team members about moving, tasks and service points is a good idea. For example:
- Ask others if they have remembered to eat and drink.
- Talk about the speed, how it feels –is it too fast or too slow.
- In the quest CP’s (control points), divide the task, talk about it, say aloud if there are problems. Keep the others informed how it is going.
- Before the transition area decide what you are going to do. Do you need more water, change clothes etc. Or can you go on without stopping? The idea is that the whole team always does the same things in the service point. Instead of others doing nothing and one member doing everything.
- In the transition area check aloud that everyone has the compulsory equipment that is needed for the next stage.
4. Team Spirit –Everyone Can Contribute
When the race is going well it is easier to keep up the team spirit than when things are difficult. Team spirit can be a vicious circle. Positive attitude contributes to more positive things and vice versa.
Everyone is responsible for the team spirit. One person can be really positive and happy, but even they can not alone change the attitude of the other. Everyone contributes to the team spirit, it is not just one person’s fault or responsibility.
It helps when the whole team has the same objective in the race. If one member is there only to try out the sport and another member wants to win the race it can cause conflicts. The team can have only one, common objective in the race. If a conflict situation arises one could think that there would be no team without all the team members. Individual performances do not matter. The whole team must finish the race together, otherwise, the team is disqualified
How to prepare together before the race
- Train together: you will learn about speed in different disciplines.
- Try paddling together.
- Try towing while cycling and running.
- Try a training session, where you change from one discipline to another and what to do in transition areas between disciplines.
- Agree what is the team’s objective.
- Check the race equipment together.