After months of training, 60 teams will take off from Costa Rica’s border with Panama Monday for the Adventure Race World Championship. A grueling week-long race across the country, the ARWC is the year’s culminating event for adventure athletes.
For more than 20 years, the sport of adventure racing has combined different outdoor sports into intense endurance competitions. The ARWC is a multiday team race, where racers will mountain bike, kayak, hike and climb their way through an 815-kilometer course with only a map and compass to guide them.
Teams prepare for months, sometimes years, to gather the training and funding to compete in the race. The Tico Times sat down with three teams before they took off for the start line to find out what they are expecting for this year’s championship. Excerpts follow.
Toyota Adventure Racing Team
Led by adventure racing veteran Mérida Barbee, Toyota Adventure Racing is one of Costa Rica’s oldest and most respected adventure teams. Barbee, along with two of the race organizers, competed with the team at the 2011 world championships in Tasmania. This year, on their home turf, the team is hoping to finish at the top for Costa Rican teams.
TT: How long has your team been preparing for this race? What is your training schedule like?
MB: Honestly, this is the sort of thing you look back at and think, this is what I have been training for my whole life. But, technically, as a team, we started training a year ago.
We can’t always train together because we live in different places throughout Costa Rica, but on an individual level people know they need to be putting in three hours a day on a not-intense day and a longer 5-8 hour training segment at least once a week. We schedule sessions together every couple of months in different spots across the country.
What have been the biggest challenges for your team getting to this point?
The biggest challenges in all of adventure racing is just getting funding to compete. Usually these competitions are sponsored by my wallet, but there has been a lot of big support this year for teams across the board.
Living and training in Costa Rica, do you guys feel like you have a big advantage over the other teams?
It always helps when you know where you are at all times and know where you are headed. When you compete in a foreign country you can’t really imagine it and you can’t really see what is on the map in your head. We have been there and we’ve done it before. We know what the images to put in our heads are.
The only all-women’s team to ever compete in a world championship, Swedish team Ducati is returning with experienced captain Linnéa Grahn and three fresh faces. Ducati was the only all-women’s team to compete and finish in last year’s world championship in France, and hoping to draw more women into the adventure racing fold, Ducati’s goal is to finish the race again this year with all four team members.
TT: What have been the biggest challenges in getting your team to this point?
LG: Getting a good team together that works well together is a big challenge. There aren’t many women in this sport so we recruited through the year and held test competitions. It’s also a huge economic challenge, finding sponsors and getting all of the gear that we need to compete. Just being here is a massive challenge.
Most co-ed adventure race competitions, including the world championship, only require one woman per team. What made you decide to form an all-women’s team?
We want to get more women to start competing in this type of competition. We want more girls in this sport. It’s an easy access sport, if you want an adventure you can just go walk in the woods or carry an extra heavy backpack. Challenge yourself and go for it.
What do you think will be your biggest challenge for this race and how have you been preparing for it?
The environment itself is going to be a tough experience. France is a lot like home, and we have only trained in Europe. Common sense in the jungle is different from common sense at home. The heat, the animals, they are all things that we have never seen before and we don’t really know what to expect.
We have been preparing in the best ways we know how. We set up stationary bikes in a sauna set to 95 degrees to pretend that we are in the tropics and have done other things with heat.
Fresh off two wins in their native New Zealand, team Seagate sits well above other teams at the top of the Adventure Racing World Series. The same four team members led Seagate to a win at the 2012 world championship in France and team captain Nathan Fa’avae is hungry for another win.
TT: How does it feel coming into this race with such big wins in your recent past?
NF: It feels good. It gives us confidence that we have been winning, but we are also well aware that there are other teams here that we race against regularly. We treat every race as a new race and try not to look at what happened historically.
What separates this race from the others you’ve competed in this year, and how have you been preparing for it?
There are a lot of races around the world, but this is the one race where all of the top teams make sure they go. It’s the most competitive race and the teams that pose a challenge to us regularly will be there.
I think one of the things that works to our advantage is that we race consistently together and many other teams do not. I think it’s hard to learn from your mistakes if you are changing the team regularly. Coming from New Zealand, we are just in a good environment to train and prepare for these races. Collectively our experience does seem to play in quite a lot to these races. You tend to find that it is the more experienced that tend to be filling up the podium.
No team in the history of adventure racing has ever won two back-to-back world championships. Do you think Seagate has a shot at being the first?
In any race we line up to, the challenge really is to try to win the race. But once you get out there you just have to live in the moment and forget about winning just to get through the race. But it is definitely a draw card for us to do something that no other team has managed to do before.
Racers take off at 2 p.m. on Monday. You can follow the race live at http://live.arcostarica.com/