Adventure races vary dramatically from race to race unlike a triathlon where, if you sign up for a sprint triathlon, you know the exact distances and order of events, no matter where it is. In an adventure race, part of the fun is NOT knowing exactly what lies in store until the race starts, writes Patty Butterworth.
Just a few years ago, adventure racing was an obscure sport with a cult-like following. But as more sponsorship and television deals are signed and the sport attracts better athletes, adventure racing has become a more professional and mainstream sport.
The basic rules require teams of four or five, at least one of whom must be a woman, to travel together. If one member can’t continue because of injury or exhaustion, the entire team is disqualified. To add to the delirium, these races are nonstop – meaning that teams go day and night, at their discretion.
The Plett Adventure Race Team was established in 2016 and includes members Andrew Damp, Petrus Maree, Drew Scott and most recently Sara Hearn who has replaced former team member Kate Southey.
The relatively civilised races are designed for those with an eager appetite for adventure. But that comes at a price – daunting expenses, time commitments, sleep deprivation, dehydration, nausea, blisters, hallucinations and sometimes the threat of snakes. For many, daunting obstacles, but for the team members there are much larger hurdles.
“The confidence to attempt the unknown is my main obstacle. It’s important to achieve the dream, and to realise that if you put your mind to it you will achieve more than you anticipated,” says Petrus. Also, “finding the time amongst running your own business to balance training is difficult….you have to be dedicated to make the time and put in the hours.”
Your support team is also paramount to your success. The Plett Adventure Race team is committed and we wear our Plett flag at every race, and as a recognised ambassador of Plett Tourism, we are extremely proud. When it comes to positive vibes, the community of Plett has our back. “It is a privilege to promote a brand that speaks to the essence of what we are about. Plett Tourism represents Plett and Plett represents a wilderness paradise (amongst other things) that we train in and love being in. We are truly blessed with the vast natural beauty that Plett has in abundance. It is easy to be proud of Plett. In the last Expedition Africa race we chatted with members from Eastern Cape Tourism and due to us being a Plett Tourism team the conversation flourished with positive comments and enthusiasm,” says Drew.
Why, why, why… I say
I ask myself, why would any sane person subject himself or herself to such torture?
Let’s take the easy question first. Think of a triathlon type of race in the wilderness consisting of kayaking, rock climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking, orienteering, rafting or some other mobile chore a sadistic race director has dreamed up. Make the course so long that it takes 6 to 12 days to complete and set it on terrain capable of crippling an army, and you begin to get the picture.
Newest team member, Sarah Hearn, grew up in Johannesburg and moved to the Garden Route in 2015. Her involvement with adventure racing started shortly after she met her partner ‘Tweet’ – (Graham Bird, captain of the Merrell Adventure Addicts). “I do the media coverage for his team. When they are racing in far flung places, I am either talking to people on the ground and writing from my bed at 2am or I’m chasing the team around out on the course struggling to find signal in order to post. As such I have been involved in many of the training camps and discussions and experienced all the preparation and chaos around the events. As they are the most experienced and consistently racing South African team, I have picked up countless tips from the team and individual athletes which I hope to contribute to our Plett Adventure Race Team,” says Sarah.
It’s not just the racing that catches their attention, it’s also the lifestyle. Anyone can start competing in adventure racing. Training is essential and it gives competitors ample opportunity to experience the great outdoors and explore nature and meet exciting and active people.
Taking the edge off
Team member Andrew Damp is notorious for sharing his funny stories, in particular the weird and wonderful ways to keep the sleep monsters away.
“The night monsters have always haunted me, they are hard core and make you feel totally out of control – overwhelming mind games. You know you want to sleep but you just can’t because of these waves of thoughts provoking you, and you can’t get them out of your mind. It’s a game, if you do manage to sleep you wake-up feeling even more exhausted and it usually takes longer to get back on my feet and clear my head. I just choose not to sleep – it keeps the away! No sleep for the wicked, that’s the name of the game in adventure racing,” says Andrew.
Plett as a race hub
The Garden Route has become an iconic destination for adventure racing, and in particular Plett as it has beautiful forests, beach, waterways and trails for the light-footed. The sport has put Plett on the map as an adventurer’s paradise.
“There has been a lot more exposure to the sport through the events in the area, some as big as Expedition Africa in 2016 but also other smaller events locally organised. There are some very good teams from our area which has made dot watching on local as well as international races extremely exciting. There also seems to be a much bigger following of adventure races globally and more races both locally and internationally. In my view, Adventure racing becomes appealing when you already enjoy endurance sport, trail running, mountain biking and exploring, and in our area you can easily get involved in all those disciplines, it’s easy, we have it all on our doorstop and it becomes a lifestyle,” says Petrus.
So all you couch-potatoes – dig out your old treads and hit the dirt!