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Training for the Checkpoint Challenge

Dec 23, 2013 by     13 Comments    Posted under: Uncategorized

Adventure racing is often thought of as an epic, brutal day of suffering, but it doesn’t have to be. This is most true for the rare, but beloved, checkpoint challenge.

AR has traditionally called this division a “sprint” but we felt the name was misleading. Therefore, we call it the Checkpoint Challenge because sprinting is entirely optional but the checkpoint gathering isn’t!

Racers will experience 2-4 hours of kayaking, trekking (at this distance, many do run, but many do not) through fields, up rocks, and on trails, and mountain biking beginner trails (some fire road, but yes, some single track), along with some fun team challenges in pursuit of filling their passcodes with the right punches.

So how fit should you be and how do you get fit to begin with?

First, the skills you need to acquire:

  • Kayaking – if you have never kayaked before, it’s a good idea to rent a tandem kayak with your partner and give it a try before the race; there is absolutely technique involved, but don’t feel like you need to be a champion here – at this level, kayaking is often everyone’s weakness, especially with the provided sit-on top boats. ¬†And, luckily, there’s a great video on ¬†YouTube showing you excellent technique if you’re interested.
  • Mountain biking – this is a must-learn. If you’re comfortable tooling around town or on a road bike for distance, you have that main components down. We do NOT suggest you attempt this race on anything other than a proper mountain bike (fat, knobby tires). Some people go into the race with very low mountain bike skills and complete the course, but you’ll really want to give some single track riding a try, and there are some decent hills on course – you can of course get off and walk up and down them, but it’s nicer if you can enjoy the trails – we put you on fun ones!
  • Trekking – you’ll cover 5-7 miles on foot during the race, and this includes off-trail ascents, a little scrambling, and trails. Get some good hikes in and make sure you challenge yourself. A little skill in climbing up boulders is beneficial, as well, but not necessary.
  • Orienteering skills – the sprint race is designed as an entry into multi-sport adventure racing; the course will be marked and no orienteering is required. Just pay attention to course markings and have a general ability to read maps and you should be fine – we haven’t lost anyone yet in almost a decade of sprint adventure races!
  • Special skills – these are accessible to everyone. Don’t stress this in the least- it’s just a puzzle that’s fun to solve with your partner!

Now to the question of how fit you should be?

  • At a minimum, you should comfortably be able to paddle a mile – some upper body strength is required. If you aren’t able to kayak, any reasonably fit person who fits the rest of our fitness gauges will probably have little to no issue on the kayaks.
  • Biking – be comfortable biking fast for 15 miles on flat terrain at the very least. This is not flat, but you will not need to be fast. You will need to be comfortable.
  • Trekking – get some good five mile hikes in, with an elevation of at least 1000 feet per hike, this can be rolling. It won’t hurt to do a little bouldering outdoors or at your local gym, but not necessary.

If you’ve never put all these disciplines together, that’s okay – on race day, you’ll pull out all the stops. That’s why the range is two to four hours: fit individuals with experience will finish in two, while the slowest individuals will finish in four. How much work you put in prior to race day determines your finish time – but it won’t determine your ability to come out and really have a grand morning adventure with us!

For more specific training programs, visit California Adventure Racing Association’s training schedules!

13 Comments + Add Comment

  • I would like to do this race but would also like to train for it first any recommendation for a coach In Los Angeles ?

  • There are generally not “adventure racing” coaches at all. You might look into clubs in the LA area. California AR Association has training programs on their site:

  • Does anyone know the course?

  • No one knows the course. We give you a map the day of the race.

  • Is there a solo option for the Checkpoint Challenge??

  • No. It is designed to be a partner event. :)

  • Bummer..but Dawn to Dusk you can do solo? THanks!

  • Yup. :) Not a bummer – get someone to do it with you – stuff’s more fun when it’s shared.

  • Let’s talk poison oak. The trekking part says there are off-trail ascents; should I assume that it will be through some poison oak?

  • Hi, will the course run through poison oak?

  • We groom the area you’ll being going through (our motto is: All Out Events – getting poison oak so you don’t have to) – so while you’ll need to be aware of poison oak, you will not be going through it unless you are off our course.

  • Yay! I’m totally in then. Thank you so much for grooming the poison oak; that is pretty awesome of you guys!

  • Not unless you’re off course!

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