Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Gettin' into AR sprints

Would you believe that on Saturday I participated in my 3rd adventure racing sprint ever... and the first one since late-2002?

Adventure racing sprints, a short (20-40km) adventure racing event format, first made their appearance in late- 2000 with the introduction of Zirk Botha's Dirty Weekend Series and Mike Baker's Game Sprint Series. These events were immediately popular and they brought adventure racing into the mainstream market.

Where events over 200km are not for everyone, sprints are. Sprints are generally held within an hour of major centres, the disciplines are not technical, the distances are not intimidating, navigation is rudimentary (if included) and equipment is minimal (takkies, mtb and helmet). Most of all, they offer affordable, straight-up outdoorsy fun and they don't consume your whole weekend.

The very first sprint I did was one of Zirk's Dirty Weekend Series events at Roodeplaat dam in late-2001 (I think?). Near the end of 2002 I did Garry Townsend's sprint at Stanford Lake College in the Magoebaskloof area. It was tagged on to the Magoebaskloof Mountain Bike Classic. Ever since I've been on the sidelines taking photos and marshalling.

So, it was with suprise that I received an email from Philip Kruger about 2 weeks before the UGE Events Sprint asking me whether I'd like to join him. I hadn't even thought of racing! Tim was committed to racing with his friend so this was an opportunity not to be missed.

The event was held at Bushtrails in the Magaliesberg, an area I'd been to a few years ago for orienteering - no advantage... I didn't recognise a thing! We started off with an orienteering section, collecting 4 controls within a defined area. It was already roasting so Philip and I were glad that we'd chosen to run first and then mtb as those running later would be even hotter on foot. Then we got onto our bikes for a very rocky ride, one that included much bike-pushing. I really enjoyed the first section of it going up-and-over bumps on what looked like a quad bike track. Back into the transition we headed out for another short run-orienteering section before returning to the base for a very muddy obstacle course. How delightful to be walking on logs, climbing cargo nets, crawling through a tunnel and slithering through muddy pits.

While I controversally maintain that sprints are not strictly adventure racing, I do recommend these events to all and sundry. Why?

For novices this is an excellent opportunity to get out, have fun and to do something with your teammates. Even over 25km you can get a feel for your teammates strengths and weaknesses.

For experienced competitors, sprints offer a wonderful opportunity for you to promote your team. You can't get much better publicity than racing with 200 (or more) competitors out on the course and all around you versus 80 competitors you don't see for 3-days.

My thanks to Philip for inviting me to race with him. It was an excellent race and was good to be out playing. Next race? Tim and I are in Cape Town next weekend for a wedding so we're going sneak away from post-wedding festivities to take part in Ugene Nel's Quantum Adventure Sprint on Sunday, 18 Feb. Delightful!

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