19 February 2014

Everyday Adventure Racer Tip #2

Here's the second installment of my "Everyday Adventure Racer" tips series. Hopefully they help you have an enjoyable time in the woods!

Did you know that you can practice a vital adventure racing skill nearly every day? As far as I'm concerned, navigation is THE MOST IMPORTANT ASSET on the adventure race course. Sure, fitness and teamwork are the engine, but only good navigation can steer your team to the finish line. So why would the aspiring adventure racer hand over that job to to a computer? Every time you fire up your car's GPS, or ask Siri for directions, you are missing out on a prime opportunity to practice your navigation skills. You don't have to be in the woods, or using a topo map, to improve your sense of direction.
Team Alpine Shop prepping maps before the 2013 Berryman Adventure.
Instead, spend a couple minutes with the internet mapping program of your choice. Ask it to create a route between Point A and Point B. And then print out the resulting map, or write down the step-by-step directions/cue sheet, or draw your own map, just do something that will help you remember how to get where you're going. And then, time to navigate! And I'm not limiting this to driving, either. I use the Bicycling feature on Google maps all the time to figure out good ways to get around St. Louis on two wheels. I hardly ever take the first route option, but rather edit the route to fit my own experience with St. Louis streets. I have made literally hundreds of little notes to myself with street names of where I need to go - try it yourself!
There are so many of these floating around my apartment.
But you're probably busy, and don't have time to pre-plan all of your trips. That is okay, I am busy too, it happens. You can still get some nav practice with maps on your phone - just don't rely on the "turn by turn" gps feature. Stop your car (safety first!), get your route loaded on your maps app, and then use it like a paper map to get to your destination. Keep your brain in the game, don't let some Australian-accented-robo-chick have all of the fun!
Jeff's glorious map! Made from the Gazetteer.
Screenshot from a little video I made on top of Shirley Ridge, showing my set-up on the Warbird. Map clip, Jeff's map, Garmin, and a bike computer. Yes I really was going 3.2 mph.
Making your own map can save your butt, too. Recently, I went with my Alpine Shop teammates to a gravel non-race near Steeleville, MO. The non-director had posted a .gpx file for everyone to put on their Garmins, which I did, but my wonderful teammate Jeff also made each of us a hard-copy map of the route from the Missouri Gazetteer. Long story short, around mile 25, the roads got so icy that the ride was no longer fun (or safe!) so we decided to make our own way back to the car. This part of Missouri has limited cell coverage so there was no asking the interwebz for directions. If we'd had only the tiny screen of my Garmin, we would have been screwed, but instead we had Jeff's lovely paper map that showed all of the back roads we could use to get back to the car. Along the way we picked up several other riders who didn't have maps or cue sheets and could have gotten really lost in a rather remote part of the state. I was really, really thankful for my teammate's preparedness on that day. Jeff, as usual, you are awesome!
Carrie, not-a-murderer-David, and Jeff figuring out how to get back to the car.
So, bottom line, don't pass up a chance to navigate. GPS and turn-by-turn navigation can be useful tools in an emergency, but if you have an extra minute or two, invest in your own map-making and map-reading skills. It will pay off BIG TIME on the race course. I also recommend going to orienteering meets as much as you can, but this series is about things you can do EVERY DAY. So, happy navving!

NPR agrees! http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/06/05/319098669/the-gps-in-your-head-may-work-a-lot-better-than-that-phone

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