Navigation is the most critical adventure racing (AR) discipline, and is very often completely overlooked until the last minute. Navigation is also the only AR discipline that is a constant throughout the entire race, be it a mountain bike leg, a run or a paddling leg. This skill is almost always left up to one team member, unless you are lucky enough to have two competent navigators in your team. Physically, you can be a super-strong team, but if you going fast in the wrong direction, then you’ll never enjoy AR; and chances are you may never want to do another race… These déjà vu moments will become par for the course as you back-track over the same trail you were on only a few hours previously, and then proceed to have choice words for your navigator… trust me, we’ve all been through this (some a lot more than others!)
“Your mates might think you’re a nerd but just ignore them”
Training for MTB, hiking or paddling is relatively easy, just go for a ride, run or paddle. But how do you go about training for navigation? It’s pretty simple really. Start by getting hold of a 1:50,000 topographical map of the area that you live or train in regularly, as well as a quality high-resolution Google Earth aerial photo. You should know your regular cycling or running route by heart (so why take a map you ask?), but, do you know what the area actually looks like on a Google Map or 1:50,000 topographical map? Do you know where on the map that cool singletrack is that you ride every week? My guess… I bet you don’t! Who of us actually go for a training run or ride with map in hand? Not many.
Your mates might think that you’re a nerd on your next out-ride, but just ignore the comments. They’ll be jealous of your AR achievements someday soon!
This very simple addition to your training is seriously the best way to get to know the various map features and scale, and really become familiar with all sorts of maps. Doing this regularly will without doubt fine-tune your map skills and you’ll become a whole lot more confident with navigation on the move.
So, get some maps, hit the trails with them in hand and your next race is guaranteed to be a lot less confusing – with a much faster finishing time.
Originally published in the November/December 2012 issue.