SUSAN BOWER WAKES AT 3 A.M. AFTER A TWO-HOUR NAP. STILL IN HER
WELL-WORN RACE CLOTHES from the day before, the Truckee resident
contemplates her remoteness in the great, dark outdoors and prepares
to mush onward on the 400-mile course with her three teammates.
This particular day will include miles of mountain biking, more
miles of orienteering and hiking, and possibly repelling down a
steep ravine. This sleep-deprived Truckee resident happens to be
a competitor in the Subaru Primal Quest adventure race.
On another day, Incline Village resident Sue Hughes
is gearing up for the Lake Tahoe Xterra race, which consists of about four hours
of swimming, mountain biking, and trail running. An airline pilot with United,
Hughes successfully competes in the racing circuit in her spare time. Overachiever?
Perhaps. But Hughes is strong, determined, and having the time of her life.
In fact, she recently was selected as one of 20 competitors who will race the
Nevada Passage, a made-for-television adventure race to be held May 19 to 24,
airing in August of this year. It will run teams on various courses from Las
Vegas to a whitewater kayaking finale in Renos Whitewater Park.
An adventure race typically consists of a team of two
to four people navigating miles (from 50 to 500) of grueling terrain and dangerous
waters on everything from mountain bikes and kayaks to on foot, oftentimes through
In the Tahoe Primal Quest, the team averaged 16 hours sleep in eight
days, says Bower, of her team, which includes husband, Scott,
and their three teammates. You just dont sleep. If you
are totally lost in the middle of nowhere, then you can rest for
two hours just to get your head together. Whoever gets to
the finish line first wins. Other, shorter race-varieties pit solo
racers against one another.
Despite the brutal challenges of such a race, more and more people
are taking part in this adrenaline sport and pushing their
bodies to the absolute limit.
We did the Subaru Primal Quest
in 2003 as the qualified Tahoe team, says Reno resident Matt
Anderson of the team that consisted of himself and local friends
Tim and Jessica Ferrar and Bower. That race took us six days
to finish. We did like 500 miles.
How does a team with day jobs manage a six-day race?
Thats your vacation,
he says. You go out and see if you can torture yourself enough
to feel good about having to sit back down at your desk when its
While there is an increase in the number of mere mortals undertaking
an adventure race, there also are professional athletes who make
it their source of income.
My wife and I were amazed.
In a multi-day race like the Primal Quest, the pros can beat you
by days, says Scott Bower. They make their money doing
it and they raise the bar.
Being in close proximity to the Sierra Nevada makes Reno close
to the pulse of adventure racing but The Biggest Little City
also boasts a few of its own events. In addition to being host to
the final leg of the Nevada Passage on May 24, Reno also is home
to the opening event of the Big Blue Adventure Series The
Silver Sage Adventure Race on May 28. The race kicks off from Wingfield
Park in the revived river district and features a unique riverteering
experience on the Truckee River corridor as well as mountain biking
on muscle-burning terrain.
The Silver Sage, first held
three years ago, was the first adventure race I ever did with all
the orienteering, says Anderson. We had to run, navigate,
float down the Truckee River, mountain bike up Hunter Creek Canyon,
and do a scavenger hunt through downtown Reno.
Heading up the hill, the options multiply. The Big Blue Adventure
Series a group of races throughout the state, including the
6- to 12-hour and 24-hour varieties will hold the Big Blue
24-hour Lake Tahoe Adventure Race on Sept. 10 and the Tahoe Big
Blue Adventure Race on Sept. 24. Racers will compete on courses
on the north shore of Lake Tahoe.
Today, the series is supported by
such features as online training assistance and adventure racing
clinics on navigation, training, teammate selection, racing strategies,
nutrition, and gear at local REI stores. In fact, the Reno REI will
host a clinic starting at 7 p.m. on May 26.
Xterra, the granddaddy of adventure
racing, comes to Tahoe Sept. 30 through Oct. 2. This is the fifth
straight year the Nissan Xterra USA Championship race will be held
on Lake Tahoes north shore the race is the culmination
of a series of more than 40 qualifying events across the United
States that award points to the top athletes in Xterras eight
regions. The best of the best are invited to compete at Lake Tahoe
and battle for the title of Xterra National Champion.
The Xterra Nevada, which includes a 750-meter swim,
32k mountain bike (on the Flume and Tahoe Rim trails) and 5k trail run, is located
on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe and comes to the area Oct. 1.
DRIVEN TO RACE
Given the popularity of such grueling endeavors, it
makes one wonder about the psyche of the athletes. What attracts them to it?
Besides the rush of racing, the potential of winning, and simply being outside
doing what you love, some athletes say it is the multi-tasking and team effort
that drives them.
We each have to do any of the disciplines, whatever
it will be, says Bower. That is a big draw to the sport we
are always learning new things like whitewater paddling, mountaineering, and
For those who have a hankering to kick up some dirt out
there on the adventure racing course, but have limited time (or desire) to train
for a 12-hour, 24-hour, or six-day grind, the Big Blue Adventure Series is offering
shorter sprints of a two-hour duration.
There are a lot of people who want to try adventure
racing, but are not ready to be schlepping around for 10 hours, says Todd
Jackson, owner of Seventh Wave Productions, the company that puts on the Big
Blue Adventure Series.
Erinn Morgan also is a glutton for punishment who
enjoys 24-hour mountain bike races. Her work has appeared in Bike magazine,
Muscle & Fitness, and TravelSport.
for local adventure race information.