For the next couple of newsletters, we’re going to talk about some activities that are both helpful for preparedness AND are fun activities to do alone, with your family, and/or with friends.
One side of me thought that this was the wrong time to be covering something light hearted. There are many reasons to be focused and serious about preparedness right now—economic, terror related, and natural disasters including tornadoes and the horrible flooding happening along the Mississippi. If you’re being effected by the flooding, know that millions of people are praying for you daily.
At the same time, it’s also important to find ways to have fun with preparedness and finding fun activities to do with your family that will help them get prepared…whether they realize they’re doing something related to preparedness or not.
A couple of weeks ago, I saw a sign for an upcoming obstacle course adventure race. I’ve been doing solo and team adventure races since 1999 and thought it looked like it’d be fun. So, I called a buddy of mine, and we decided to do it together.
Some skills have been proven through the centuries to be very valuable after economic collapses or breakdowns in civil order after natural or manmade disasters. A few of these in particular are physical strength, physical endurance, interpersonal skills, the ability to make decisions under physical and mental stress, and tenacity in the face of adversity. Adventure racing is a fun and very effective way to develop every one of these skills, as well as being a way to evaluate your level of competence…both compared to where you want to be and to where others are currently.
Adventure racing is also perfectly suited for training for escape and evasion scenarios, fast and light bugout scenarios, and movement across a chaotic landscape that’s been affected by disaster. In short, it’s a GREAT activity for preppers.
To give you a little background, adventure races are sort of like off road triathlons, except the main three disciplines are usually trail running, mountain biking, and kayaking. Events range from 3-4 miles in length with multiple obstacles to multi-day events. Shorter events are called “sprints” and are normally run on a marked path, and longer ones also involve orienteering or land navigation with a map and compass. The longest ones are multiple days and are called “expeditions.”
In addition to the main three disciplines, some adventure races include roller blading, rock climbing, rappelling, traversing rope bridges, rope challenges, swimming, BIG pools of mud, full-on military style obstacle courses, running trails at night while being tied to your team, individual challenges, team challenges, and more.
Many of them are also self-supporting races, which means that there are no aid stations or limited aid stations every 5-10 miles. If you think you might need it, you either need to carry it with you or cache it days before the race.
One example of the benefits of being prepared was a 6 hour race I did a few years ago. The race started with a running section on the shore of a small lake. The other side was nice dry deep sand. So, immediately everyone had wet feet and sandy, gritty shoes. People who had dry socks and experience taking care of their feet had an obvious advantage a few hours later when the effects of the moisture and grit had compounded.
In recent years, a VERY popular new type of adventure race has emerged—the obstacle course adventure race. Most of them involve mud. Sliding down muddy slopes into big puddles of mud, crawling through tunnels filled with mud, crawling under barbed wire or fencing wire through swimming pool sized puddles of mud, and simple grave sized holes of mud along the course that you have to jump into and climb out of. In short, lots of mud. To spice things up, they also have military obstacle course style obstacles of all levels in between the mud obstacles. These range from 5ks that you can do with kids to 10 milers that have the express purpose of causing everyone involved physical pain and making them want to quit.
So here are some reasons why I think adventure races are so great, why I continue to do them, and why I think that every prepper who can should consider doing so as well.
- Fitness is easier when you have a concrete, achievable goal with a deadline. Almost everyone knows it from experience, but there’s a big difference between knowing it and actually doing something about it. Adventure races are great for this because as they approach, you will know that if you slack off, you will pay for it with real, tangible discomfort and pain on race day.
- Your training intensity will be higher if you’re training for an event or a goal. If your goal is to be fit for some unknown disaster that will happen at some unknown date in the future, it’s much harder to train with the same level of intensity as if you’re training for a specific race on a specific date. The benefit, of course, is that if disaster strikes in the meantime, you’ll be in better shape than you would have been otherwise.
- Adventure racing forces you to be multi-dimensional and functional with your fitness. It’s kind of like the Crossfit saying, “faster than a lifter and stronger than a runner.” You learn to transition from one physical activity to another, react to and overcome surprise challenges, and work on both your upper and lower body while also improving strength and endurance. While you’re using your entire body, most adventure races will also demand that you make decisions on how to handle challenges. This is exactly the kind of training that will come in handy if you’re trying to get home from work in a hurry on foot after a disaster.
- Adventure races help you learn effective ways to deal with the unknown under stress in a low to no risk environment. One race that I did gave instructions to show up at a given spot at midnight with a bike and running shoes prepared for a 3-10 hour self-supported race and await instructions. At 0300, when everyone’s adrenaline had worn off and people were fighting to stay awake, a horn blew and they told us to assemble at the starting line prepared to run a leg that would be somewhere between 1 and 10 miles in length. Not all adventure races are like this, but all adventure races are designed to throw surprise challenges at you atRepeated exposure to situations like this quickly train you to keep your adrenaline under control, take naps whenever you can, and to roll with the punches. The unknown distance component of adventure racing has trained me to listen to my body better. As a result, I know where I need to keep my pulse rate to sustain activity for an unknown period of time without “hitting the wall” or “running out of gas.” I learned the hard way that going at a faster pace that increased my heart rate would cause me to “hit the wall” much sooner.
- Adventure races are set up for people of ALL fitness levels. The race I did last weekend had a couple of people who looked to be bigger than the tunnels that we crawled through. They walked instead of running, stopped often, and may not have been able to do a couple of the obstacles, but they were making a LOT more forward progress than if they would have been at home on their couches watching TV. I did a race series a few years ago where a lady in her late 70s ran EVERY race. She didn’t break any speed records, and completed the races in 4 hours vs. the winners who finished in under two. Mom, dad, and kid teams are popular for a lot of shorter adventure races as well.At the same time, you’ll also find world class athletes competing in adventure races. When I say world class, I mean Tour de France competitors, (and one winner in particular) sponsored racers, professional athletes from other sports, and former Olympians. In other words, people with your fitness level and people who can push you are participating or competing.
- It’s going to be easier to get reluctant friends and family to train to do a fun event or a series of fun events than training for the end of the world. Frankly, your body won’t know the difference. The better shape your body is in and the more you’ve inoculated yourself to stress/unknown/adrenaline, the better prepared you’ll be for the physical and mental demands of a survival situation.
- From an operational security perspective, adventure racing gives you a plausible reason for many prepper activities…especially those related to fitness. More importantly, it gives you a FUN topic to talk about if people ask you why you’re doing what you’re doing.
- They’re fun races to do with kids. If they can run 3-4 miles, they can start doing shorter adventure races with you. If your kids are too young to run, more and more races are starting to have childcare while you run the course.
- They’re a good activity to do with a friend who you MAY be depending on in a survival situation so that you get to know how each other responds under stress.
- If you start doing longer, self-supported races, you get very in tune with the water, calorie, and nutrient requirements of your body, how to satisfy them without stopping, foot care, trauma self-care, knee and spine-friendly ways to run while wearing a pack, and interpersonal skills when you’re tired, sore, thirsty, hungry, and possibly lost in the dark and missing key supplies
- Adventure and obstacle races, especially the shorter ones, are GREAT gut checks / reality checks to drive home your functional level of fitness. That being said, they’re fun enough that when you get done, you will have enjoyed the event so much that you’ll be itching to do another one as soon as possible.
- The training required for adventure racing is varied, exciting, and stimulating to both the mind and body.
- Adventure racing can be done solo or in teams. Most team races are co-ed.
- Adventure racers are a fun group to be around. LOTS of military and law enforcement having fun with friends and family, there’s usually music, barbeque, games, and a family reunion atmosphere afterwords.
- And, as a personal note…doing an adventure race is a quick way to tell if things are going to go well between you and someone you’re dating. Several years ago, I was dumb enough to ask a girl I’d just started dating to do Muddy Buddy with me. Some guys take their dates out for dinner and a movie. I asked my date to run and bike a muddy obstacle course and crawl through a mud pit together and get washed off with a fire hose afterwords. That experience didn’t scare her off, she actually enjoyed it, and she’s now my wife
So, if it’s at all possible, I want to encourage you to find a local race and do it as soon as as you can. In many parts of the country, there are 2-4 sprint (short) adventure races to choose from per month. Walk the entire course if you have to. Do it alone if you have to. Just take action and use them to make forward progress with your preparedness.
Personally, I use races as a reward, as a way to measure myself, and as intermediate inspiration to exercise as often as possible.
If you’re interested in learning more about adventure races, obstacle course adventure races, or want to start competing in them, here are some national resources. You’ll also want to check out your local trail racing/adventure racing scene for local and regional races. I’ve listed several resources below, but you’ll probably also want to go to your favorite search engine and do a search for “adventure race” and the name of your town/city or the closest large city.
http://xterraplanet.com XTERRA Planet A semi-traditional off road triathlon.
And here are some short, fun, obstacle adventure races:
Http://muddybuddy.com Muddy Buddy
http://toughmudder.com Tough Mudder
http://spartanrace.com Spartan Race
http://warriordash.com Warrior Dash
http://ruggedmaniac.com Rugged Maniac
Urban Adventure Races (they vary on whether they emphasize puzzles, fitness, or obstacles)
http://oysterracingseries.com/ Oyster Racing Series
http://metrodash.com Metro Dash
http://citysolveurbanrace.com/register City Solve Urban Race
Expedition Adventure Races requiring orienteering
And a few resources for finding independent races:
http://usara.com/calendar.aspx US Adventure Racing Association
http://www.checkpointtracker.com/adventure_racing_calendar Checkpoint Tracker
Do you have any experience with adventure racing? Any thoughts on the crossover between adventure racing and preparedness? Did you get inspired to find and do an upcoming event? If so, please share your thoughts below.
Also, if the topic of urban escape and evasion and tactical movement after a disaster is a topic you’re interested in, I want to encourage you to get signed up for the SurviveInPlace.com Urban Survival Course. Specifically, Lesson 13 covers this topic and in it, you’ll learn:
Lesson 13. Urban Movement After A Disaster
- Protect your body so your body can protect you.
- Where to find free local maps after a disaster.
- Scouting out gangs and community groups.
- Concentric circles of security.
- Be boring… it might keep you from getting shot.
- When to carry a padlock and a livestock marker.
- Surveillance detection and avoidance.
- Field expedient disguises.
- Barter items.
- Don’t look like the weak gazelle.
- Money counting lessons from a blind man.
- Group formations to avoid mugging.
- Reuniting your family after a disaster.
- “Smelling” danger in advance to gain a head start.
- How to keep yourself “invisible” in plain sight.
To learn more, go to http://SurviveInPlace.com
Until next week, God bless and stay safe,