Orienteering To Whitewater Swimming… What It Takes To Win 'AR National Champs'

Kyle Peter of Oakland, Calif., is the captain of the best adventure-racing squad in the country, Team Tecnu. This weekend he and teammates Abby Broughton and Jason Popilsky took home the trophy in the United States Adventure Racing National Championships.


Cold shock: Kyle Peter in the thick of it during a river-swim section of the race

The 30-hour, nonstop wilderness race this year took place in the hilly terrain of western Maryland and included biking, orienteering, paddling, and “whitewater swimming” in manmade rapids at a ski resort.

We caught up with Peter in Minneapolis, where he stopped by at the GearJunkie main office on his way through town. —Stephen Regenold

GearJunkie: Congrats on the victory! Looked like quite the race. What was the most difficult part?

Kyle Peter: The whitewater swimming was freezing, and people were getting bashed up. We essentially used our boards as shields. By the end there were knee and elbow pads floating all over the course.

You’ve raced the National Championships for several years, including a win last year and then a few second-place finishes before that. How did it feel to win this year?

Great. This is the end of the season and the goal that a lot of teams have is to win this race. It takes a full year of training, racing, and preparing. I think the victory to me solidifies all the choices I make to train and race throughout the year.


Racers head into the whitewater swim section…

You were out there for more than 29 hours straight without stopping. What were some highs and lows of the race?

It lived up to a national-caliber race, as it was very physical. Not all miles are created equal, I like to say, as some are downhill and sunny, some uphill and through rhododendron bushes. There were a lot of hard miles in this race!

The low for me was in the bushes spending 1.5 hours in the dark, in the middle of the night, in rain, with bikes on our backs, carrying the bikes and bushwhacking and looking for a road on a map that turns out did not exist. We were thinking we gave the race away at that point.


Map from one part of the orienteering course, including checkpoints (red circles)

But then the high was later after being far behind we came out of a long orienteering section and realized we’d made up more than an hour of time and passed a lot of the teams, in fact all but one team we’d passed. That was reassuring.


Kyle Peter at the GearJunkie main office, a United States Adventure Racing National Championship trophy in hand

What was some key gear in this race?

I brought a bilge pump on the canoe section. I call him “Mr. Thirsty.” There was a fierce headwind on the paddle and water was coming into the boat. We were able to keep pumping the water out while moving. This kept our boat faster and lighter.

My Marmot jacket, made of Gore-Tex Paclite, was a lifesaver. I decided to bring this slightly heavier rain jacket instead of the super minimal piece we sometimes use. It was a good decision. The night was cold and wet. I love Paclite and trust it anywhere.

For shoes, I wore the Altra Lone Peak 2.0. They are wide in the toe box. I’ve been having some issues lately with my feet, and with these shoes my feet can swell and still stay happy. These shoes are really good on all terrain except for climbing on rock, where my feet move too much around inside.


Bike equipped for adventure racing

For lights we used the Light & Motion Seca and Stella models. We used them for trekking at night and orienteering. I wouldn’t race without these lights.

What is your training like for AR? How do you train to race for 30 hours straight, or much longer even?

I do all three sports in training, meaning biking, paddling, and trekking or running. I have a boat in the water in Oakland and paddle three days a week.

Overall, I train about 15 to 30 hours a week, depending on the load. One thing I do differently than a lot of racers is spend a ton of time hiking with a heavy pack in the hills.

What’s the next step after winning the National Championship?

We’re heading to Ecuador and the Adventure Racing Worlds! We leave on November 2nd. It’s always been my goal to win this race, win the worlds, so I am super excited to go.

—Follow Kyle Peter and the Tecnu squad on the team’s Facebook page.


Team Tecnu, the 2014 United States Adventure Racing National Champions

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Stephen Regenold is Founder and Editor-In-Chief of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for nearly two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of four small kids, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.

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