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An Anthropological Study of the Adventure Racer!

30 November 2010

30 November 2010

An Anthropological Study of the Adventure Racer!

Early in the morning of Saturday, 27 November 2011, highly qualified and skilled people from a reputable sporting manufacturer were ably led by another highly qualified and skilled team of adventure race organisers to the green fields of Glebe Park. Their mission was to tag and release some adventure racers such that they may study their migration patterns and social behaviours. And they were in luck, for they spied a troupe of TriHards exiting the coffee house and roaming the velte. Tagging them was easy; shiny new sporting equipment was set up as bait, and in no time at all a few of the TriHards were lured in, tagged and released back into the world.

The TriHards ready for action
Area51 TriHards, PANDSI TriHards and the award-winning TweeHards!

Now, for those of you interested in the study of adventure racers, the TriHards are not the fastest, or strongest of the adventure racers; they rely on their pack instincts and social abilities for survival. They hide in the relative safety of the larger packs, away from the prying eyes of rich corporate sponsors who may pay them and expect results. No doubt the tags attached to the TriHards would yield much important information to the organisers, and suppliers, about the “middle of the pack” where the majority of adventure racers may be found.

Trihards on a bus
In the belly of the beast!

At the start of the day, the racers all seemed to exhibit a very strong pack mentality; all first covering themselves with bright, yellow bibs to indicate their belonging to this newly-formed adventure racing pack, then covering themselves in some sort of war-paint of a smelly white cream smothered over all of the exposed areas of their bodies. Thus prepared, they all ran like lemmings into the gaping maws of some large, street-dwelling predators! It must have been a huge feast as in no time at all the predators were belching thick clouds of grey-black smoke and they moved off to more remote hunting grounds.

Racers marking their territory
Lucky it wasn’t an electric fence!

The adventure fare, however, did not agree with the buses’ bellies, and after a brief run, they were disgorged on the side of the road in Hawker. Naturally, being on unfamiliar ground, many of the racers immediately began to claim their newfound territory by marking it with their urine. This territorial behaviour was only exhibited by the males; and indeed not by all of them, leading the observers to ponder the ramifications for their product lines, such as compression wear with built in chutes for the ladies...

Tom from AROC
Alpha male, Tom

The roar of a large alpha male silenced all of the racers. He went on, in adventure racing language, to inform the racers of the lay of the land and warn them of various traps and obstacles, such as rocks hidden within long grass, which may take down an unwary or stray racer. Then they were sent on their way, into the wild.

The adventure racer is an odd breed; they disperse into packs of three; to run in many a different direction over all sorts of ground and through long, seed-infested grass, only to gather once more at orange and white boxes. We assume these are some sort of idol or altar of adventure racing. Upon reaching these idols, the racers generally offer a sacrifice, bowing down and letting the idol eat pieces of paper they call their “Control Card”.

And even within these small groups, a hierarchy seemed to be at play. There was the lead racer, who carried what appeared to be sacred tablets of racing: brightly coloured pieces of paper stored in a sealed case for further protection. The lead racer would consult these pieces of paper, and direct the other two. Of the two remaining, it seemed the most junior, fleetest of foot, was entrusted with the sacred Control Card; and as they approached the altar, the runner was sent off to offer the Control Card to the idol. Initially we suspected there was no clear purpose for the third; perhaps he was there to carry another racer should they fall or grow tired. However, we observed later in the race that members could change roles-much as a wrasse may change sex as required-with the control card carrier taking the sacred scrolls, and passing the card onto the third.

TriHards hit the road
TriHards hit the road.

Once many of the hidden grass gods had feasted on much paper, the racers ran out of the fields onto their hunting grounds, where a vast array of steely steeds were located. These odd, wheeled creatures came in many a colour, shape and form; however the racers seemed to have definite preferences, running directly into the herd and up to very specific steeds - which seemed to pack in groups of three to match the racers!

And the mounts didn’t seem to mind the racers at all, passively allowing them to climb on, without so much as a buck or whinny! The racers set off continually kicking these poor creatures, which carried them at an ever-increasing pace into an incredibly unnatural habitat for the adventure racer - normally found in fields, oceans and lakes - suburbia! Three by three, they moved through the same streets that larger, faster, noisier four-wheel creatures roamed in quest of their next meal.

All this stress must have been a tremendous strain on both rider and ride alike; for in but a few minutes the racers had once more gathered about their alpha male, who had found a waterhole in the middle of suburbia! The racers tied their mounts together, and entered what seemed to be a temple to their orange and white gods.

It seemed the deities demanded purification; and all racers had to climb like Aztecs to the top of steep, treacherous staircases. At the very top they bowed once more and offered up their paper for the idol to take a bite; then threw themselves into waterfalls to prove their faith. At the bottom of this harrowing fall, the racers entered a large, clear pool of water where they could cleanse themselves. Each racer had to perform this ritual three times before they were allowed to set forth once more into the world.

The waterslide
Of course it looks like a temple!

Cleansed and cooled, the wily racers set off now away from the roads teeming with the four-wheel predators, and onto more secluded paths populated with pedestrians and the occasional dog out taking their owners for a walk. They were returning to their more natural habitat: bushland. But not just any bushland, mountainous bushland!

Running in the more natural environment
The adventure racers in a more natural habitat.

The racers reached what must have been very sacred ground for them; for at a huge archway they surrendered their steeds to the shade, and set off once into the bush. Though, this time they were not just looking for their idols, they were looking for guidance. Each time they found one of their boxes and offered their paper for sacrifice, the idol would surrender some information; it would tell them where other idols may be found! So the racers crept through the bush, searching for all their fallen idols, not returning to their steeds until all had been found.

Once they had found all the idols in the bush, the racers’ quest continued by riding over the mountain with the finger of the gods. Then they rode down, down, down, slipping and sliding over loose, rocky ground; and then round the back of the lake.

Riding on Black Mountain
View from Black Mountain out to Stromlo.

Once more the racers gathered in numbers, and commenced a new, even more elaborate ritual. First, they stripped off their bright yellow bibs, and their strange backpacks which contained some sort of umbilical cord. So freed, the racer then donned an odd yellow, bulky vest. We can only assume this is some sort of adventure racer equivalent of a hair shirt to obtain penance in some form of self-flagellation. Thus adorned, the racers replaced their bright yellow bibs, and formed once more into teams of three. Each team jumped into huge, yellow logs, and paddled the murky waters feeding more of their idols which had fallen by the lakeside.

McFly climbing the rope
McFly praying in the rope temple.

They landed their logs in Weston Park and ran once more through green fields for more idols before finally entered a large, rope temple which held the fabled idol 30. But this idol was protected by small creatures, which did not wear the yellow bib of the racer. The climb to the top of this temple must have been fraught with danger indeed, as some of the racers offered these smaller creatures another sacrifice, money, such that the little creatures may carry their control card up to the idol trapped in the ropes. But the small creatures were not interested in the brightly coloured pieces of paper, and went on with their own purposes in the temple.

Swimming in Lake Burley Griffin
Do not try this at home!

After all that running and riding, the racers had to be purified once more, and were baptised in the waters of Lake Burley Griffin. They swam and swam across the way and climbed steep, muddy banks to bring them back to dry land, where once more the tired TriHards ran back towards their bikes, which would them take them to a place of higher learning.

The racers then began a quest for knowledge; having to navigate around their surroundings, learning vital information along the way. The TriHards were in a bit of trouble at the first checkpoint, running right past the chair of 15 slats in search of their usual white and orange idols. But soon enough they realised the folly of their ways, and ran quickly around the ANU to find all the answers they sought.

Many of the racers then gathered under the shady trees by Sullivan’s Creek for a spell and the AREA51 TriHards once more caught up with the PANDSI TriHards and we observed the more social aspects of adventure, as the teams exchanged witty banter before heading off once more in their separate directions.

PANDSI TriHards finishing
PANDSI TriHards finishing, five minutes before the AREA51 TriHards!

Racers rode by bike path to the National Museum and then to the Captain Cook memorial where they could learn an important lesson from their forebears. If you’re ever near Rio De Janiero aboard a ship, such as the Endeavour, it’s probably a good time to take on new provisions. But that marked the end of their quest for knowledge; the control card was filled with strange symbols bestowed upon them by their little idols, and answers to the riddles passed down by the Event Organisers. The TriHards qualified, like so many other teams, to run through the hallowed gates of blue; the Red Bull Finish Arch!

AREA51 TriHards Finishing
AREA51 TriHards finishing, 300 seconds after the PANDSIs!

So, in haste they all rode to the place where all the racers would congregate once more; to drink Gu and share stories and knowledge of the day passed. We were even lucky enough to observe part of the adventure racer mating ritual; whereby a male racer from one team offered up food consisting of some form of meat sandwich to the female member of the Area51 TriHards. His efforts must have been successful in wooing said lady, as she then abandoned her team to accompany him to the shade of a tree.

Mating ritual of the adventure racer
Making an offering.

The event organisers held the attention of the tired racers with many shiny things placed on tables. The alpha teams strode up first to take their pick of the prizes, teams following had to prove their worth; either by strutting in what seemed to be colourful underwear, or through further physical exertions, such as pushups!

Physical challenge for a prize
At least he isn’t wearing budgie smugglers.

Then, when the tables were empty, and all the yellow bibs were accounted for, the adventure racers split off once more to return to their regular lives and mix in with the rest of humanity. Their homes, their workplaces, you never know, there may be one walking by you right now...


A big thanks goes out to AROC for once more organising a fantastic event and, of course, for the Waterslide!

Race Stats

Date: 27 November, 2010
Location: Canberra, ACT
Rating: Reasonable Adventure (we washed our gear on the way!)
PANDSI TriHards: Cyborg, D’artagnan and Mr GPS Time: 4:46:03 Place: 30 (male), 42 (overall)
Area51 TriHards: Doc Runaway, Engine and McFly Time: 4:51:25 Place: 10 (mixed), 46 (overall)
TweeHards: Cap’n, Lulu and the Pinkinator Time: 5:19:14 Place: 5 (family), 26 (overall)
Event website: AROC Sport site