Adventure Racing vs Triathlon

Let me preface this debate by saying that I'm hopelessly biased toward adventure racing. In fact I've never even done a triathlon. Now to be fair to all the die-hard triathletes out there, I'm not totally uninformed. I have watched triathlons and am friends with lots of triathletes (as many adventure racers are triathletes or reformed triathletes) who have given me info on all the ins and outs of triathlon. And let's be frank, triathlon is a pretty simple sport compared to adventure racing so I feel I can draw some conclusions about the differences between the two sports without having any personal experience in actually racing in a triathlon. Anyway, I'll try to be semi-objective and go over the differences between the two sports and why you should do one or the other, depending on your abilities and frame of mind. Put yourself in the position of someone who has to choose between doing a sprint adventure race or a sprint triathlon that are held on the same day...

Why you Should do a Triathlon Instead of an Adventure Race

  • You love swimming more than anything else in the world and it pains you to know that there is usually no swimming in an adventure race.
  • You are a stud athlete and it pains you to know that a lesser athlete with better strategy and skills might beat you in an adventure race whereas you would almost always beat them in a triathlon.
  • You are anti-social and can't possibly imagine racing on a team with other people, and this particular adventure race does not allow solo competitors.
  • You don't have a mountain bike or the means or desire to acquire one.
  • You like to zone out and go on autopilot when racing.
  • You hate getting dirty or riding or running off-road.
  • You can't it stand when things don't go exactly according to the plan.
  • You are unable to read a map, unwilling to learn how, and can't possibly find a teammate who is able to read a map.
  • You are just plain stupid and need course markings at all points in a race to tell you exactly where to go and what to do.

Why you Should do an Adventure Race Instead of a Triathlon

  • You are not a big fan of swimming and you know that most adventure races usually don't have a swimming segment.
  • You enjoy canoeing or kayaking as most adventure races usually have a paddling section.
  • You enjoy mixing your physical exertion with mental exercise.
  • You like to share your outdoor pursuits with other like-minded individuals and are willing to make strong friendships that will last a lifetime.
  • You don't like traveling in a mass of other athletes like a herd of sheep.
  • You enjoy recreation in natural settings and off the pavement.
  • You enjoy adventure and are willing to "embrace the unknown" - that you won't know exactly in what order the race events will be nor exactly how much distance you will have to cover nor even what you will end up doing aside from the standard disciplines.
  • You enjoy working out at a lower level of exertion for a longer period of time which will give you time to reflect on the experience and enjoy the event while it is happening.
  • You are not a stud athlete but you know that you can compete with better athletes in an adventure race if you have superior strategy and skills.
  • You enjoy strategy and problem solving.
  • You enjoy map reading and navigation or are willing to learn these skills through trial and error.
  • You like to see beautiful places that few people ever see because they are off-trail and difficult to get to. Race directors love to find places like this and take you to them.

Some of these may be a bit insulting to triathletes but I don't really care. I call it like I see it. But note that I'm definitely not saying triathletes are stupid, just that if you are stupid you probably should stick to triathlon over adventure racing. If you are a triathlete but find yourself nodding in agreement to any of the above points, then give adventure racing a try! You won't be disappointed.