Updated: Feb 2
2022 was a good year for our team. During the previous decade of slowly struggling to work our way into the upper tier of expedition adventure racing - something shifted. We decisively won two World Series events - Endless Mountains and Expedition Canada. We took second at USARA National Championships and 7th at ARWS World Championships in Paraguay with two separate squads racing on the same weekend. We even found success branching out from our core sport of AR. Dan and Jason won the longest paddling race on the planet (the Yukon 1000) and set a new record - the first in history to paddle that distance in less than 6 days. Chelsey traveled to Italy to compete in the 24 Hour Mtn Bike World Championship, and beat the two time (and reigning) world champion by over an hour.
For the first time in our whole AR career, we finally have a full team roster. It is an amazing feeling to have a full year of races ahead of us and know that we have a strong team to fill all the spots!
While the wins and accomplishments are really amazing, the lessons we have learned are our biggest take aways, and 2022 helped really solidify some things we've "known" for years, but never "actualized" consistently in the expedition racing space.
1) Have a plan
It's been just over a year since our team started a focused training program and the pay offs have been huge. It is an amazing feeling to wake up and have a workout plan that is tailored specifically to our team, our goals, our timeline, and our strengths and weaknesses. Each session has a clear focus, within the larger plan, as well as room for adaptability if an athlete needs more recovery/stress relief etc. Best of all for us, the plan is based on the concept of "Minimum Effective Dosage", which allows us to balance it with all the other facets of our lives (parenthood, careers, race design, etc) and still progress as athletes on about 10 hours training a week.
Want to do the same? Our advice is to first sign up for a race, then make a training plan for it and then do it. If this feels daunting, find yourself a coach who knows adventure racing and your lifestyle. If you need some advice on coaches, send us an email, we coach ourselves and know a dozen or more people who do an amazing job.
2) Trust the Process
Ok, so you got a plan - now what? Follow it. Don't reassess it or second guess each time a workout feels too hard or too easy. If you have a good coach/plan, that is their job. Let them do it. Your job is to do the training, A good coach will adapt the plan slowly to meet your unique physiological profile, as well as factor in external stresses from your life. But ultimately it takes time and consistency to reap the rewards. You will have bad days, plateaus, and peaks.
I think of it like climbing our local training mountain, South Sister. From the trailhead, it meanders through the forest, up and down for quite a while before it starts climbing steeply. If I just expect to "climb the mountain" right away, I might get discouraged (or even think I am on the wrong path). But If I trust my map and do the work, before long I'll be going UP! And with South Sister, there are several long rolling plateau's after that first climb, so you go through that same "trusting" process over and over - but man when you get to that final steep ridge and the summit...all the work was worth it.
At 24 hour World Championships last year I spent two days worrying about the race and how I would perform. I started comparing myself to the other athletes that I saw and wondered if they were better prepared and trained up for it than I was. When my worry got to a debilitating level, I asked for help from my coach and husband, Jason. "Trust your training and trust the process Chelsey." He said. "You have done all the right things for your body and your life style. You belong here, now let's just see what you can do. Instead of worrying about where you are now, let's be curious about it." That night I was able to meditate on this and change my thought pattern. The next morning as I lined up on the start line. "Stay curious, stay open" became one of my many mantras that I used through out the race. It made my time racing way more enjoyable and exciting. Instead of constantly comparing myself to the other riders, I was able to race my own race and trust the work that I had done to get there.
3) Success breeds Success
It's been proven - success breeds success. Failure breeds failure. Ever wonder why certain teams (looking at you New Zealand) seem to always win? Sure they are super talented athletes and experts in teamwork, but there are at least a dozen or more teams that are as strong (or stronger) than them on paper. Simply this - they expect to win. So even when things go wrong they adapt, and keep racing as if they will win. So try to succeed more than you fail - a lot more.
But success does not have to be "winning". You get to define it. And if you define it in a way that leads to success then it becomes the expectation. As I mentioned above we had a great year placement wise. We were at the top or towards the top in every race that we entered. It was not always this way for us. Sometimes just to finish was our goal. But that is the thing - when you start setting realistic and healthy expectations on yourself and your team, then that becomes the goal and the driver for the race.
Before every race we used to set three goals that look something like this: win, be in the top 5 and finish the full course. We know we will succeed at at least one and probably two of these goals. And knowing and believing this is more than half of the battle.
To be clear, failure will still happen - if we are chasing goals it is always a risk. But hey, maybe we just set one of our "definitions of success" as chasing big goals that might be beyond me. Then even those failures can be reframed as success.
4) Recovery is HUGE
We've always known that recovery is a necessary ingredient for success in our sport (and many others!) but we didn't get really serious about it until last year. For the first time in our racing careers we started to get regular acupuncture treatments from Brooke at Aqua Terra Health (who is amazing) and we started using Mission Farms CBD gel and CBD gummies and oil to help with our sleep and inflammation. In addition to this we also have regular check ins with our PT's at ReBound PT. All these things plus taking the time to dial in our water intake and nutrition has helped us immensely. Our bodies do a TON for us, so investing in them and trained professionals in our community has been a game changer for us mentally, physically and emotionally. It is important to find that balance where you are feeling excited for both your off days and your on days! Our advice? Find a good PT and a body worker that you trust. Give yourself a year of consistent visits with them and pay attention to how you feel after 6 months and then after a year.
For a look into what our recovery looks like, check out my post here.
5) Simplify your system
Choices can be super fun and exciting, especially when you are in the right mind set. I love walking into a nice grocery store in a foreign country and having a ton of amazing fruits and other new to me yummy foods to choose from. However, choices can also be overwhelming especially when you are trying to be fast and efficient. For our team, we have cut out all the choices that we possibly can. This is one of the reasons why Four Hour Fuel was born. In transition areas we found that we were taking too much time choosing food, eating, and messing with gear. Four hour fuel takes away these choices, while you do still have to choose the flavor, the factor form is easy and it has everything you need nutrition wise in one water bottle. Now when we roll into a TA, we pick up our pre packed bag of fuel and a few Spring Energy's and we are off. Gear wise, our whole team tries to wear the same kit, use the same light system and wear the same brand of pack as much as possible. This again cuts down on choices which has made our transitions extremely fast, effective and efficient because we no longer have to use brain power to choose between food or gear.