9 Adventure Race tips For First Timers

Congratulations on signing up to the Spirited Women Adventure Race. The beauty of an adventure race is that it’s not just the race that is fun and rewarding, it is also the build up and the learning which is a big part of your race journey.

Now is the time to start working on your different race skills and have some fun adventures with your team. If you are new to the sport, the following tips will help you in your preparation…

1.Train your weakest discipline.

It’s so easy to head out for a run if you’re a runner or a ride if your a mountain biker, but where you’ll get the biggest gains (and overall team benefit) is if you train in the area you are not so strong at. For a lot of women new to adventure racing this is often technical mountain bike skills. However it can also be technical running skills. Adventure races usually take you off the beaten track and over uneven, lumpy, bumpy, steep, muddy, bushy terrain. It’s surprising how much time your team can lose if someone isn’t confident moving through or over such terrain.

2.Run and ride hills

What many people often neglect is time on and in the hills. Adventure races are never flat! It is important you include at least one run and ride in the hills each week. Better still if you can get onto farm tracks or 4WD tracks this will often be quite specific to what you’ll encounter in a race.

3.Practice navigation constantly and consistently

This is a must if you want to do well and enjoy your race experience! There is no point being the fittest strongest team out there going the wrong way! Navigation is a skill that is built up over a period of time and needs to be constantly worked on. Join your local orienteering club and get to as many of their events as you can. It is also good practice to print out maps (nztopomaps.com) of your local area or where you train and get a feel for running and riding while recognising features. You could also find some local trails in the hills or nearby bush and print out the topographical maps for that area. Take them along with you and try and follow where you are at all times on the map.

4. Practice running, riding and navigation at night

This is often an overlooked skill. You could be starting in the dark or finishing in the dark. Many teams don’t prepare for this as they think they are fast enough to finish in the daylight hours, however you only need a mechanical, an injury or a navigation error to take you into the darker hours (pun intended)!

5. Go on training missions with your team

This is where you learn each others strengths and weaknesses and how you are going to work best together. A good team is one that supports each other, builds each other up and knows where their teammates might struggle and is able to help them through. It’s also more fun than training alone!

6. Buy or make a mapboard and ride with it

Another overlooked aspect of adventure racing for newcomers. This can make a huge difference to getting your bike nav right or ending up down the wrong forestry road at the bottom of a valley and having to climb back out (wasting precious minutes or worst hours)!

It is a simple way to read your map on the go and to be constantly checking off where you are on the map and features you pass.

7. Train with your gear

Having the right gear can definitely enhance your race experience. It’s important that you have trained with your pack loaded with your compulsory gear so you know if and where it might rub or how to adjust on the move as your hydration bladder empties. You want to know that your shoes won’t give you blisters if you are in them for 4-5 hours or that your bike pants don’t chafe if you have to run in them etc. Gurneygoo can help you with many of these chafing issues, but also experiment with different gear and clothing so you don’t get any nasty uncomfortable surprises on race day.

8. Eat while you train

This is a learned skill and can take some time to master. It can also save you a lot of time if you all eat on the move. You don’t want to stop too long in transitions as this wastes precious minutes at the other end of the day. Practice eating while you train and experiment with different foods. You might think that sweet sugary treats will get you through the race, but if you are anything like me you may not be able to stomach anything sweet after about 1hour! I encourage you to eat real food rather than gels to sustain you throughout the day.

9. Attend a nav clinic or skills course

There are some really great training courses specifically geared to up-skilling for adventure racing. Navigation North runs a series of navigation clinics to help you with your map reading and compass skills and Rach (from Nav North) and I have teamed up with Nic Leary (former XC Mtb Champ) to offer an intensive weekend course where we share what we have learnt over our accumulated 25+ years of adventure racing in one condensed weekend and put it all into practice. A great way to fast track your learning.

To find out more on the upcoming courses go to:



Kym is a mum of 3 boys, 5, 8 and 10 yrs, trains and races in multisport and adventure racing events and is super passionate about nutrition and wellness. She is the co-creator and retreat leader at NZ Adventure Retreats and is part of the team that has won the Spirited Women Adventure Race long course for the past 4 years.

Kym along with Rach Smith from Navigation North and Nic Leary will be running a specific Womens Adventure Race Skills Weekend in Kapiti September 7th and 8th, Tauranga November 2nd and 3rd and Hawkes Bay Feb 22nd and 23rd to help with up-skilling in different aspects of the race and helping you become a more confident and competent adventure racer. Contact kym@nzadventureretreats.com