Adventure Racing Combines Sports With the Great Outdoors
Now, she finds her fix through a burgeoning sport that can be done on North Carolina soil: adventure racing.
The sport is a combination of activities such as mountain biking, paddling and running—similar to a triathlon—but it usually covers a variety of terrain such as woods, fields and rivers. The races last at least four hours, and the longest ones can take up to 10 days to finish.
“I call it a triathlon with mud, but it’s much less structured than any other race you see,” Murphy says. “You really design your own course and design how you approach your own checkpoints. It requires a lot of strategizing.”
Murphy first got involved in adventure racing about three years ago. She participates in two or three races every year with a group of fellow adventure racers from around the Triangle area. She says she enjoys the challenge of the various activities and the camaraderie among her teammates.
“I do half marathons and I do mountain bike races, but there is something special about having all these engaged in one race,” she says. “You have to engage your brain quite a lot.”
One of North Carolina’s biggest adventure racing advocates is Murphy’s friend and teammate, Don Childrey. Childrey, who lives in Cary, has been adventure racing for the past six years and is head of the Triangle chapter of the Trailblazers Adventure Racing Club. A former Eagle Scout, Childrey says he was introduced to the sport by a friend and immediately took to it.
“Once I got involved, I found I loved it,” he says. “I think most people try it and they either love it or hate it. I developed a love of the outdoors and this is another excuse to go out and play in the woods.”
About three and a half years ago, he began designing his own adventure race courses. Since then, he’s designed and hosted five races, and has another one planned for September in the Triangle area. He can’t say where, he says, because that’s part of the sport.
“We give everyone points and coordinates and part of the race is how to figure out how to get to those different points,” he says. “The big difference between adventure racing and other sports like triathlons is navigation.”
Childrey says that adventure races almost always consist of mountain biking, running and orienteering, and they often require paddling. The orienteering portion requires teams to find a series of special markers hidden in the woods, and the running and biking parts usually cover at least five miles.
“Anywhere from two to four people stay together through the whole event,” he says. “For me it’s a lot more fun because you are with a group of friends. I’ve done some marathons before and that’s a whole lot of solo suffering.
“Because of the team aspect you end up seeing a much more laid-back group of people. It ends up being like a party atmosphere.”
Like Murphy, Childrey says he enjoys the strategy aspect of adventure racing. The winner isn’t usually the fastest and strongest racer, he says.
Murphy says the sport allows her to capitalize on one of her greatest strengths: her positive attitude.
“I have a strong sense of fun and ability to retain a positive attitude when things get difficult and challenging,” she says. “Adventure racing is really about pushing yourself a little bit harder than the average person. It’s a physical and mental test.”
One of Childrey’s main goals with adventure racing—besides having fun—is to get new people involved in the sport. He says when people finish the “sprint” races—four-hour races—for the first time, they usually say something like, “Has it been four hours already?”
“Time slips by so quickly,” he says. “The pace is a lot less intense than a triathlon. It’s easier than you would think to
go for six hours, but it’s still a good workout.
“I always tell people to go into it with the goal of just finishing the course and having fun and not getting hurt. It’s pretty easy to meet that goal, and you’ll finish and be happy for having done it and there is a great sense of accomplishment.”