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In it to win it: advice for team FEAR racers

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Ahead of the team FEAR Junior Challenge on November 17, Samantha Wong outlines what’s involved and provides some advice for the fearless competitors.

Team FEAR Junior Challenge is an adventure race, designed by adventure racers. It’s  a gruelling multi-sport event — definitely not child’s play — so it’s important to know what to expect going in.

You’re not allowed to see the course beforehand but you can get a good idea of what you’re about to come up against by talking  to friends who’ve completed the challenge before. Be sure to read the course overview and take a look at the 2018 course maps on the Team FEAR website.

There are three courses of varying length and diffi culty – one each for the juniors (under 9, 10 and 11 categories), intermediates (under 12 and 13) and seniors (under 14, 16 and 19). Juniors compete in teams of three, intermediates and seniors in teams of two. Juniors are looking at completing a gruelling 10-kilometre course, while the senior course, at 15 kilometres, is the most demanding.

When making your way around the course, you follow the ribbon markers – yellow (juniors), blue (intermediates) and pink (seniors). Race offi cials wear red tops – remember there are over 300 marshals ready to provide you with guidance and back-up along the way.

Train Hard

Whether you’re in it to win it, or simply hoping to stay the course, you need to train hard in the lead-up to Team FEAR. Course design varies from year to year but in previous years all participants have had to mountain bike, swim, trail run, coasteer and clamber through an assault course. In addition, both intermediates and seniors have been asked to complete a kayak leg, with seniors also tasked with abseiling and, though this was not compulsory, jumping off a boa or pier into the sea.

The first competitors usually cross the finish line in two hours, and everyone (900 last year) is expected to finish within four hours.

All in all, you need to be fit, as well as fearless, to enter Team FEAR, and it’s likely that at least some of the challenges involved are already part of your weekly routine. Do you regularly cycle to and from school? Are you a trail or track runner? Maybe you are in your school’s swim club? Focus your training on aspects of the course that you are less good at, there’s not much point in beating out the competition in the cycle leg, if you’re the last runner to finish.

Another tip? Have a few practice swims in the sea with your clothes on before race day – it’s very different to swimming in a pool in your bathers. You should try a bit of mountain biking in advance too, as it’s not the same as biking on roads.

The kayak section of the course is particularly tough, since it tends to be one of the last legs weary competitors are asked to complete. Have a few practice paddles ahead of the event if you can but don’t panic if this isn’t possible. Lantau Boat Club marshals will be offering advice from their positions on the beach and in the water on race day.

Train hard ahead of the race but remember to pace yourself, you don’t want to be wiped out on the big day. It’s important to stick to a realistic training schedule, and if you’re one of the younger competitors, you may want to ask your parents for advice.

Importantly too, you need to train with your teammates to familiarise  yourself with their strengths and weaknesses. You need to finish the race together and, as the saying goes, a chain is as strong as the weakest link. Find out who will need encouragement during the race and keep them thinking positive.

Get your bike checked

You’ll have to wheel your bike around the course if it fails the Team FEAR safety check on the evening before the race, so make sure it’s in prime condition. You need a proper mountain bike with good tires and an adequate number of gears. It’s vitally important that brakes work and can stop the bike, that the derailleurs (gearing) don’t make the chain jump off, and that there are no other safety shortcomings, for instance loose bottle cages or chain guards.

Note that both Bike Hub and Bike  Energy Lab in DB supply bikes that are speed-specific and tailored for young people, and they will also service bikes.

If you prefer to fit and check your bike at home, there are plenty of YouTube videos you can use as reference. Pay particular attention to the positioning of the handles and seat. When you are seated you should be able to lean slightly forward with your arms straight and your toes should just be able to touch the ground. This means you can push off from the ground for a fast start and extend your legs almost fully as you peddle, allowing you to put more power into every rotation.

Lung Kee Bikes is providing bikes for hire for this year’s race, and delivering them to DB. After the bike check on November 16, all bikes will be waiting for competitors at the relevant part of the course.

Think about what you eat

In the lead-up to the race, you need to focus on your diet to make sure your body is in tip-top condition. It’s important to eat a wide variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, dairy products and grains because a well-balanced diet provides you with the nutrients you need. Everyone has different levels of comfort regarding eating around training, so you need to trial what works best for you. Eating two to four hours before you get out there will allow plenty of time for your food to digest.

Good breakfast options for the morning of the race include pancakes topped with fruit and nuts; porridge or granola with milk or soy milk; eggs and multigrain bread; fruit salad with Greek yogurt; or bagels with cottage cheese. And treat yourself to a fresh fruit or vegetable juice.

The focus should always be on fuelling up properly before a race, but for a tough challenge like Team FEAR, you’ll also need to refuel on the go. Every competitor has to carry 1-litre of water with them, to drink ‘little and often’ throughout the race. Dehydration is the number one reason adventure racers drop out of Team FEAR, so it’s a good idea to bring some carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drinks (Gatorade or Pocari Sweat) too. Nutrient-rich snacks that will boost your energy levels (without taking up too much space in your backpack) include cereal bars, nuts, dried fruit and bananas.

So, don’t be scared! Competing in Team FEAR is a lot of fun, just make sure your team (and your bikes) are ready for the challenge.
Good luck!

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