All Out Adventure Series recently put on their annual Checkpoint Challenge. Checkpoint Challenge offers participants a chance to take a dip into Adventure Racing with a short 2-4 hour and 6-hour race. Both events offer participants an opportunity to try out the world of Adventure Racing and still make it home in time for lunch or dinner. The perfect opportunity for obstacle racing athletes to try something new and experience a new type of obstacle, navigation.
Adventure Racing is in many ways an older cousin of obstacle racing. Many remember the days of Eco-Challenge on the Discovery Channel in the late 1990's and early 2000's. For those who missed those shows, Adventure Racing is a multi-disciplinary (mostly team) sport. Events can last from two hours to sometimes as long as two weeks. Typically participants are handed a map and must navigate from checkpoint to checkpoint by foot, bike, or paddling. Some races even incorporate horseback riding or skiing. Each event is a little different.
I first met one of the founders, Yishai Horowitz, in Nicaragua during Survival Run in 2015 after working together on the production side. Yishai and his wife Kristin own and run All Out Adventures and have experience producing both Obstacle Races, Adventure Races and other endurance events. Yishai piqued my interest when talking about the Checkpoint Challenge event. When the opportunity came up to make the trip, it was a quick yes!
I headed to California, not knowing what I was in store for and personally took on the 6-hour Checkpoint Challenge in the solo category. The 2-4 hour race is a team race, and most in the 6-hour compete as a team, but the 6-hour also allows for a solo category. Team sizes can vary from about 2-4 people.
The course features some beautiful mountain biking (even for someone just jumping onto a bike it was navigatable) trekking/hiking/trail running, and kayaking. For the shorter race, the kayaks are included in your race fee, and a local bike shop does bike rentals if needed. So Checkpoint Challenge makes it easy even if you don't have all the equipment. The longer race you had the option to rent a kayak and also could rent a bike if needed for the day. So even if you don't own any of the equipment, you can take on this challenge and try out Adventure Racing.
Yishai and his wife Kristin make it easy for even us in the OCR world to get another sport. The event itself is fun for all abilities, and after the race, there were food trucks and free local beer to fill up the finisher pint glass. The atmosphere was very friendly and while racing everyone was willing to help one another and offer advice on map reading or which direction to go next.
Why Should Obstacle Racers Consider Adventure Racing?
For those in the obstacle racing industry who have gotten that 10x headband, have a dinner plate sized trifecta medal, or just want to try something a little different Adventure Racing can be a great addition to your racing schedule. Adventure Racing and Checkpoint Challenge, in particular, offers athletes a chance to put all the skills learned in obstacle racing into practice.
At Checkpoint Challenge, the shorter of the two races, the 2-4 hour race, offered all the traditional components of Adventure Racing – mountain biking, kayaking, and trails, but also included a few obstacles along the way. This year a team challenge of creating a bridge and a vertical cargo net. Last year a puzzle was involved in the event and other obstacles. This makes the Checkpoint Challenge feel like a more familiar event but also lets participants start to feel what it is like to be in an Adventure Race and multi-sport race.
In the 6-hour event, the mountain bike is longer, the kayak is longer, and instead of a few challenges or obstacles, there is more land navigation, map reading, trekking, trail running, and some traverses (pictured above) versus the shorter race. For any obstacle racer, the running section will feel like an obstacle race, running down creek beds, a small swim (this year), sections of bushwacking, climbing rocks, and then a few sections of rolling trails. It basically, has everything an obstacle race has but in the natural environment.
But the real reason is why?
Personally, in my 8th season of obstacle racing, I have seen the transformation of the industry. From the first Spartan Race in Vermont in 2010 to now worldwide events and championships. Adventure Racing is in many ways similar to the original OCR's they are no frills, and simplistic in nature. Simplistic in the fact it is you and the natural elements, but simple does not mean easy.
It reminded me of my days spent training deep in the woods alone, getting lost and finding my way back out of the woods. Adventure Racing has that same feeling. It is you and your teammate(s) and nature. It brings in all skills of climbing, crawling, jumping, and more that OCR has but also brings in an additional sense of adventure into your day, a pure wild experience.
So for obstacle racers who have been in the game for a while and looking to expand their horizons jumping into Checkpoint Challenge can be a great way to try out a new sport while at the same time having something that feels so familiar.
My personal recommendation is for racers to start with the 2-4 hour event. It gives you a feel for it all and is about as challenging as a Spartan Race Beast, Tough Mudder full, or other 13ish mile obstacle race. The 6-hour race is a little more difficult but if you can finish a Spartan Ultra Beast, Tough Mudder Toughest, or challenging Spartan Beast like Killington or Tahoe you can take on the 6-hour race. Just practice a few times on the bike before you race.
In addition to the Checkpoint Challenge, All Out Adventure Series puts on a variety of events throughout the year to let athletes get into Adventure Racing at various levels. National Geographic has named the series the best beginner adventure race series for a good reason. Checkpoint Challenge is the perfect mix of challenge and fun for anyone remotely interested in trying an Adventure Race.
For a more personal account of the race, check out my recap on Dirt in Your Skirt.
All Photos Credited to Kaori Photo: www.kaoriphoto.com