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See also the Clinic and Navigation page for more tips on orienteering and general navigation.

  • Plan with the beginning in mind. Which challenge will get the largest crowd at the start? Can we efficiently skip that one and do it at the end of our route? Even more important, is it a challenge with a limited number of stations that could cause lines? A good example is Monroe Community Center’s riddles vs. Bike Polo. Some teams realized that bike polo might have lines due to the number of teams on the courts at one time. MCC did not, plus MCC would allow teams to cue off or work with other teams. Still other teams skipped both of these challenges at the start and hit them at less busy times as they finished their bike leg since they were both on the way back (My design intent/hope was that teams would hit MCC at the start since it could handle lots of teams and bike polo at the end).
  1. Plan with the end in mind. Create a route that ends with CPs and challenges clustered fairly close to the finish. Because challenges take more time, you can skip one more easily at the end. Just grab the CP and skip the challenge if you are running out of time. Some teams ended with the Silhouette Count, knowing it could be a long one (if you didn’t read the artist’s statement card revealing the answer).
  2. Review your route and decisions. Talk with your teammate(s) about what you did well and didn’t do well. Write down and review learnings. How did your pre-race planning go? Did you have the right gear, food, hydration? Did you communicate well with each other? What checkpoints did you struggle with? Can you determine why? How can you get faster on foot, bike and boat?
  3. Constant communication regarding the race instructions, maps and challenges. Always keep scanning these documents to make sure CPs are not missed, instructions are not ignored.
  4. Bike vs. run order. If you think you might be able to get all or most of the checkpoints, consider selecting the most distant section to do first. Many top teams got the bike out of the way first because the run section is close to the finish where you can better maximize your CPs and only need a few minutes to sprint to the finish. Also the wind picked up a lot later in the race (check the forecast which called for this) so the bike became more difficult. Obviously, the drawback is dealing with heavy ArtPrize crowds later in the day so discuss how difficult this might be. Try it one way and then try the other way in the next race.
  5. Training. The top teams are usually putting in quite a few bike and run miles every week for this race and many other races so they always have a race to keep them motivated. It’s easy to get in lots of miles but are they quality miles? Integrate more high intensity intervals, more hill repeats, throwing high-speed bursts into standard pace workouts on bike and foot.
  6. Attend a clinic. If you haven’t been to one of our clinics, that’s another way to get better. Our next one is January 14 in Grand Rapids. RSVP here. Not from the area? Follow along with the online version of the clinic. Check in with MI Adventure Club in the Brighton area. They put on clinics now and then.
  7. Search online for tips. The best for navigation tips may be MI Adventure Club’s videos analyzing route selection from Michigan Adventure Races and other Michigan navigation events. Mark Lattanzi’s website is a good one too.
  8. Practice navigation. Here are the Michigan locations for permanent orienteering courses. We’re also designing a course at Seidman Park in Ada, just east of Grand Rapids. Hopefully we’ll get approval in 2017. Or, create your own “streamer” course using a free app on your smartphone such as Terrain Navigator Pro (search in apps on your phone). Tie a small length of streamer tape to defined points on public land and have your teammates try to find them.
  9. Make your bike faster. You don’t have to buy a high-end cross/gravel bike to get faster. Start with faster, lower tread tires when you do not need the bigger knobs (no technical singletrack, no heavy mud or sand). Here are many more ways.
  10. Buy a map board for your bike handlebars so the map is right in front of you. Here’s a link to my favorite map holder but search online for best pricing and other options. Or make your own. Here’s a photo of one that I would be willing to sell for $20. Used once. Not as good as the other, but $40+ less. Post to the Facebook page if interested. These are especially important for longer and overnight races which we’ll begin to offer next year hopefully so get yours now and practice! 🙂
  11. Create tow systems for your bike, on foot and boat. Recommended on more remote roads rather than ArtPrize bike legs due to heavier traffic. Have the strongest teammate carry more weight (others should still carry hand-held hydration). Search online for ways. Here’s the tow system my wife and I use (she still works hard while the tow is on, but every little bit helps).
  12. Additional Tips


    water features - bullhead lakeWater features. Using water features is a key to becoming a better adventure racer in several ways. 1. Attack point – when your control/checkpoint is far away, look for attack points or obvious features along the way that you can race to quickly rather than try to stay on a bearing which is very difficult over a long distance. A lake or stream may be a clear attack point along the way. 2. Back stop. Water features can also act as back stops – when you are seeking a CP before one but go by it and see the water, you know you’ve gone too far 3. Hand rail – it’s faster to follow a creek or edge of lake than a bearing through the woods. Use water features to guide you and then take a bearing once you get to the end of this feature. 4. Change in elevation. Water always flows downward so you can determine that land is dropping down (e.g. a ridge that could be going up or down) by whether there’s a water feature nearby. If so, likely the land is draining down into it. Here’s a good example from a race I did at Yankee Springs State Rec Area years ago. CP A to CP B would be very difficult to find via a straight line bushwhack. Instead, head for Bullhead Lake with a quick bearing but no need to follow it exactly. The lake acts as a  huge back stop. Once you see it, stay on the ridge above it (which you know will flow down to the lake since it’s a drainage), using it as a handrail to get you closer to CP B (which you know will flow down to the lake). Travel will be much faster up high on the ridge where vegetation is light. Once the lake ends, you are at your attack point. Take a bearing and you now have a very short and easy bushwhack to CP B.

    You can’t get to where you want to go if you don’t know where you are. No other skill is more important in adventure racing as navigation. You may blow by other teams in your canoe or on your bike, but lose all of your advantage with just one misread of the map. In fact, a navigation error is often two or three times more costly than a slow leg in one of the other disciplines. And the most important rule in navigation and orienteering (navigation on a “micro” level with a compass and map) is to always know your current position on the map. If you are the navigator for the team, rely on your teammate(s) to scan for the control marker (flag). You should be matching up terrain all around you to topographic features on the map.

    Strengthen your mind muscles. The longer an adventure race, the more important mental fortitude becomes. When you’ve been lost in the woods for an hour or more in the middle of the night in a heavy rain, it’s easy to throw in the towel. But once you get through an experience like this, your confidence and pain threshold increases and each race gets easier to handle. You start to relish the pain and your ability to overcome it.

    You can improve mental toughness without having to get a lot of races under your belt. One way is to periodically train at a high intensity. Not only will this strengthen you physically, but it will also improve your confidence and help you learn to “push through the pain” as athletes often say. Another method is to develop a mantra – a saying you can repeat over and over, such as “I got this” or “I love hills.” Convince yourself that you DO love hills – for the challenge they give, for the fun descent on the other side, for the way they will separate you from the pack if you climb them faster. Some athletes also incorporate visualization techniques to improve mental – as well as overall – performance.

    Mountain biking

    How can I make my mountain bike faster? Read my post for 6 ways including changing to a low-knob racing tire and adding a tow system when one teammate is much faster than the other.


    Paddling technique.Olympic flat-water kayaking doesn’t exactly get prime time coverage but it’s worth watching to see a proper, powerful stroke. Most novices use an “army” paddle where the elbows bend early and severley and the power of the stroke comes from the arms, quickly leading to fatigue. Instead, power your stroke with your core. Keep your arms and paddle out in front of you and visualize the boat going by your . Check out this video that I often go back to for tips.



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