Whether you want to just improve from a previous race, or you want to out-perform everyone around you and be remembered in urban racing lure for years to come.
Everyone wants to become an Urban Racing BEAST!
The 2nd installment of our BEAST Series begins with the 3 Key Factors to becoming a BEAST. As we mentioned in our 1st installment, these factors were developed from our years of competitive urban racing with our team "The Hard Corps", as well as the insight we've learned from starting a successful urban racing company:
One of the best ways to improve your chances in a race is to know the city inside and out. It sounds easy enough, but even someone who's lived in the city their entire life has something to learn. Understanding the public transit routes and schedules can be clutch during a race and is often something novice race teams will overlook. Another good way to prepare pre-race is to pick two spots on a map and figure out in your head the best way to get from A to B. One of the biggest time savers during a race is to know exactly where an attraction or an address is located without having to map it, and then knowing the quickest way to get there from wherever you are in the city at that moment.
Race planners love to send teams to things that are not your typical touristy attractions. So study guidebooks or Google something like "unique sites and attractions" for that city, and you're likely to know exactly where that statue of a donkey playing guitar is when your team needs you most.
Get to the city a little before the race so you can purchase a transit pass for each member of your team. Each race company varies and some events are less likely to need public transit, but if you do, having it pre-race can save a lot of time. There's no better feeling then being on a subway and watching the doors close as dozens of other teams fumble with the ticket kiosk on the platform.
Every race company, every city, and every challenge or checkpoint is different. If you go into a race saying "this is our strategy" and you actually stick to that strategy the entire time then you're either some super-genius and I'd like to invite you to join our racing team...or more likely, you're naive and haven't been burned badly enough yet to know better. The key to winning is being able to adapt to what's happening, as it's happening. Even the best teams in the country occasionally find themselves finishing out of the Top 25 if they make a few really bad decisions along the way. That's the beautiful thing about urban racing! It's not like running a 5k and you can't break a 6-minute mile pace so you'll never win. If you make very few mistakes along the way and you adapt well when you do make one then you have a very good chance at being in the top few teams at the end of the day.
Urban Racing often reminds me of another favorite sport of mine. Golf. You could be going up against the strongest and most athletic person you know but if they're hitting shots into the woods and you stay in the fairway the whole day then you'll walk off the 18th green with a much better score.
BE A STUDENT
Teams aren't often great their first race. And if they are then they're likely to tank in one of their next few races and wonder what went wrong. Urban Racing is constantly evolving and so is the competition so in order to keep up with it (or get ahead) you'll need to go back to school.
Many of the best teams in the country have blogs and they often detail each race in glorious turn by turn fashion. Find these blogs and read them regularly, especially if they've competed in a city you're planning on racing in. Figure out what worked well for them, what transit they used, and how they would change their strategy the next time.
The post-race venue is a great opportunity to talk with other teams about their experience. Everyone we've ever met while racing has been really friendly and open to talking about their race if you talk about yours. This will open your mind up to what others are doing and what seems to work well for a majority of teams. This is especially beneficial if the team is local and experienced. They may tell you something like "we don't use the green subway line, it's really slow on Saturdays". Remember what people say or better yet write it in a notebook or on your phone so next time you race you can pull up that info and plan your strategy around it.
Replay the race in your head and figure out where you could have saved time here or there, then discuss it as a team and find ways to improve for your next race.
It's like the saying goes "you need the right tool for the job". Becoming a BEAST at anything not only requires improving your body and mind, but having the best gear for your needs. Unlike some sports where the participants are all wearing similar gear, Urban Racing can vary greatly from the most modern and high-tech running gear, to an over-sized Sponge Bob costume.
Although teams wearing all kinds of outfits have been known to finish at the top of the field, we'll focus on the gear we believe will give you the best chance for success.
"Hard Corps" Gear (aka, an exclusive look into our packs)
Like most teams, the gear our racing team uses has evolved since our first race to now. We began with a few matching green t-shirts and shorts that we got off of the discount rack at K-Mart, some thin black calf-high socks (also K-Mart), maybe a water bottle in hand while running, a smart phone, and a map and pen in our pockets.
A few key things we've upgraded since that first race were:
1. Clothing- our shirts which are now lighter and have some wicking ability. The socks we wear are more padded in the sole and heel to take a pounding on city streets, and are also wicking. Our shoes which are lighter but have thick soles with deep ruts for good traction as you transition from pavement, to grass, to subway car, etc.
2. Smartphone Apps- look for more details on these in an upcoming BEAST installment.
3. Support Team- look for more details on this and a breakdown of advantages vs. disadvantages in an upcoming BEAST installment.
4. Packs- upgrading the way we carry hydration and our supplies has made a huge difference in our performance. Our first few races we each probably had a small backpack (like a day hiking pack) which we filled with water bottles, maps, transit passes, pens, extra clothing, and food. Even the best ones can be bulky, shift back and forth as you're running, and force you to carry lots of cubic square inches of empty space. Large bags can also create an issue when you get to a checkpoint and need to find something quickly such as a pen or a map. There's nothing worse than running up to a turnstile at a subway entrance and suddenly having to dig through everything to find your pass.
Over our racing career thanks to technology and our improved pre-race routine we've been able to reduce our on-the-course load down to a small waist pack (kinda like a cool fanny pack, if that's even possible) and a hydration vest pack. Both kinds of packs move well with your body as you run, don't contain more space than you need, and have lots of quick-access pockets which is critical. Check out this gear review video to help you choose the best hydration pack for you!
Although it varies slightly depending on the race we do, each of our packs typically contain:
-Smartphone and charger (get to the starting venue early and find a table near a plug to get your devices to 100% before you take off)
-Pen and Paper (pencils are tempting because you can erase the mark but it's also harder to see a pencil mark on a map and if the point breaks or you run out of lead you're screwed. Only 1 small folded sheet of paper is probably needed to write down a quick note or address while on the go)
-Map of the city (we now do most of our route plotting on our phones but it doesn't hurt to have someone looking over a small folding map and plotting the checkpoints to give you perspective)
-Cash, ID, and Health Insurance Cards (cash should be small bills so you can buy things quickly such as water, or a transit pass. It's always a good idea to carry your ID and Insurance cards as well in case you need them.)
-Hydration (hydrate a TON the day before the race and you won't need as much during the actual race. Our waist pack only has two bottles, one with all water and one with a 1/2 water 1/2 lemon gatorade combination. If you run the race well you may only be out in the city for 2 hours max. If more water is needed use your small bills to buy a few bottles from a street vendor)
-Transit Pass (if the city has an inexpensive day pass for all transit types it is the best option so that you can jump on and off any public transit along the way. Keep the pass either in your pocket, with nothing else, or in an outer zipped pouch in your pack that's easily accessible. Public transit will not wait for you if you can't find your pass, and that mistake could cost you)
-Energy (our sponsor ENERGYbits created a product that is basically rocketfuel for your blood stream, and is all natural. It's lightweight and compact and gives you the sustained boost you need to kick past the competition. Before discovering the bits, we used to eat bars and gels, which keep you going, but ENERGYbits will make you a BEAST. If you want your own supply you can get 15% off by using the code "XploreRace" on their website)
Coming up in our next BEAST installment we'll reveal some of the top-secret smartphone apps we use in preparing for a race, and the apps we use for out-smarting the competition during the race. We'll also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of having a remote support team while you race. Also look for our list of super foods that will help you feed the BEAST!