by D2D Champion Team Tecnu captain, Garrett Bean
Are you thinking about trying out the Dawn to Dusk 12 Hour Adventure Race, does it sound ridiculously hard and insane? The reality is that this race is feasible as two 11 year olds (Griffin Chen and Sam Uriarte) demonstrated by completing the race in 2012! The three things that are essential in completing a 12 hour race is perseverance, a sense of adventure and a little preparation.
There is no question that a 12-hour race is going to be a little more difficult than a 2-4 hour race, but you are getting 3 to 6 times as much fun, and you then deserve 3 to 6 times as many beers! In the Dawn to Dusk the race director will set you loose on a course that will typically involve mountain biking (20-25 miles), trekking (6-12 miles), kayaking (3-5 miles), and some other disclosed events that may include a rappel or climbing over/through obstacles in a remote lake. Along the way it will be your responsibility to find your location on a map and follow trails to the next checkpoint. If you know how to ride a bike, hike, paddle, and read a map you will be able to compete in the race.
Preparation is the key to successful completing any adventure race and in my experience that means having the skillset required to participate in every stage of the race, training to make sure your fitness can take you through the race, and preparing your food and hydration so you can complete the race. I briefly go over each aspect below and hopefully this will give you an idea of what it takes to complete the Dawn to Dusk!
Mountain Bike – Each team member should be able to ride a mountain bike on a mountain. That means if all you have ever done is take your hardtail or full suspension bike to the boardwalk, it is time to get it dirty. The Dawn to Dusk 12-hour race will take you on paved roads, fire roads, and single track. Don’t let this intimidate you, get out on the mountain, ride up a couple hills, and then get used to the feel of some dirt beneath the tires. You don’t have to go 30 mph downhill, take your time and go at your own pace. If you don’t want to ride a steep part, you can walk your bike down the sections you are uncomfortable with and then hop back on for the next section. Just remember, rubber side down.
Trekking – Have you completed a hike that lasted more than 2 hours or a 10K? If you answered yes, then you can do this. Trekking is not rocket science and almost everyone can put one leg in front of the other. You will climb some mountains, cut across some valleys, and jog some down hills. The one thing I would say is use trail running shoes and gators (keep stickers prickly things out of socks) and do not use hiking boots.
Kayaking/Paddling – Know how to paddle a kayak. The important thing here is to be able to get yourself into and out of a kayak, believe me easier said than done for some people. Dawn to Dusk provides very stable kayaks that are easy to paddle. You can bring your own if you want. A good thing to do before the race is to go rent a kayak and paddle with the person you will be paddling with in the race. You should make sure that your cadence and paddling strokes are similar. When the front person puts their right paddle in the water, the person in the back should be doing the same. When going straight both people should be paddling on the same side and at the same cadence. Occasionally the person in the back will have to alter their stroke to steer the boat. One hour on a kayak will provide you more than enough time to figure this out.
Navigation – The last skill that one person on your team needs is to know how to read a topographic map and navigate to each checkpoint. This person will need to be able to look at a map, identify the team’s location, and determine what trails or path your team needs to take to reach the next checkpoint. It is not overly complicated but this person should know how to use a compass and examine contour lines to identify topographic features like valleys, saddles, drainage channels and mountain peaks. If you do not know how to do this REI offers a class and the Tecnu Adventure Racing team hosts a navigation clinic the day before the race. Don’t worry in a course of this distance it is hard to get extraordinarily lost, although at least once it will happen. Trust your skills here, and know how to recognize lost teams… don’t follow them. The blind leading the blind is never a good thing.
[All Out note: please remember that part of navigation is deciding just how many checkpoints you should be going for based on timing, weather, and the current ability of your team. We generally lay out choices like optional checkpoints for harder terrain. Remember that you can finish with less points and get the whole course – if it looks easy but there are lots of checkpoints that you don’t have to get – it’s probably not easy! ]
Training is important and your team needs to have the fitness to go the required distance from start to finish. In total you will be covering approximately 45 miles. Seems like a lot but it only turns out to be 3.75 mph which is 16 minutes/mile. Here is a hint, you walk that fast!
Your training is as important as your skills and will determine how quickly you progress through the race. If you have trained and are prepared for the race it will make it more enjoyable. If you are not currently active I would suggest a training program of around 3-4 months minimum to prepare for the race. If you are a moderately fit person that exercises around 2-3 times a week already, you can get yourself ready for a 12 hour race in about 2-3 months. I would generally suggest training between 5 to 10 hours a week, or more if you want to stand on the podium. For suggested training plans for beginners or intermediate athletes you should check out www.arcalifornia.org . This website provides 16 week plans that will prepare you for fitness and skills needed in the race.
Important things to consider when training:
1) Train in the same percentages as each of the disciplines in the race. For most people the duration (not distance) of the race is about 45% bike, 40% run, and 15% paddle, that is the same ratio you should use for training during the week. If you can’t get to a boat for a paddle, try and perform an exercise that utilizes the same muscles.
2) Also, remember that you will be racing with a backpack. In the beginning of your training regimen you do not need to wear a pack, but over time and prior to a race you should train for at least a month with your pack on to know how it feels.
3) Train with your team if possible, it is great to know the level of fitness of your team so you know what to expect in the race.
Nutrition and Hydration
Nutrition and hydration are very important and a plan is essential to finishing your race. Since temps can reach into the 90’s at times, you need to make sure you are taking in water constantly. This will help cool your core temperature down. As you perspire throughout the race, you also need to make sure you are replacing your salts and essential minerals. [AOE note: if you start to feel chilled on a hot day or you are not sweating, it is time to check in with your body, rest and look for ways to hydrate – these are early signs of potentially dangerous dehydration and can escalate without attention.] I always suggest supplementing your intake with sports drinks, but suggest drinks like Accelerade or Accel Gel followed by water. [AOE note: you may want to also try the packets of FLUID performance mix, rather than recovery – you can add them to your water throughout the day.] These gels and drink mixes taste great and will provide you with carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, and protein that will help your muscles endure longer and recover more quickly. Much better for you than the old school sugary Gatorade drink mixes. Remember, some foods may turn your stomach upside down and send you running to the bathroom instead of the next checkpoint! So during your training start testing products and foods out so you know what works and how much you need.
Every person will have different preferences and consume calories at different rates based on their fitness and exertion. Typically I will burn between 200 to 300 calories an hour. It was very important for me to test out different foods and hydration drinks during training, now I know exactly how much and how often I need to take in nutrients when racing and I don’t have to carry around the excess food weight when I race. [AOE note: you will be shocked at how little you want to consume on course. Test your nutrition during training or endurance days to see what works for you.]
Overall, know that this race is feasible with a little training. You will have an epic adventure and the race directors are awesome. Don’t forget your Tecnu showers after the race, you will be happy you did.
Tecnu Extreme Adventure Racing
[All Out: the 12-hour is an estimation. A racing team like Tecnu Extreme can finish our courses in 8 hours. Most finish 12-13 hours – some don’t come in until long after that – largely because of a combination of poor route choice and physical inability to keep the pace they planned on – don’t over estimate yourself, especially if this is your first race!]