The Action Man talksNathan Fa’avae talks to The Red Bulletin about what it takes to be an adventure racer
Nathan Fa’avae is a three-time world champion in one of the toughest endurance sports on the planet – adventure racing. A typical adventure race (or expedition race) sees teams of four (usually three men plus one female) traverse hundreds of kilometres. The race is divided into different stages and the disciplines usually include mountain biking, kayaking, hiking and rope courses. Navigation skills are key as is the ability to survive and thrive on as little sleep as possible. Fa’avae, a teak-tough 43-year-old from New Zealand, has captained three teams to world titles in 2005, 2012 and 2014. He shares some of the secrets to his success.
THE RED BULLETIN: What are your top adventure racing tips?
NATHAN FA’AVAE: Firstly get the team right. Adventure Racing is a team sport and it’s critical that teammates bond with each other and can work together. To be successful in this sport you have to put your ego aside for the duration of the race and work together for the greater good of your team. Secondly look after your feet. Feet related issues are probably the biggest single thing that stop teams in their tracks, literally. Good foot care and conditioning is really important. Finally, be sensible about your pacing. When you see some teams sprint off the start line for an event that could take them a week to finish. That’s not logical.
How important is your nutrition?
Where possible we eat normal food – bread rolls, salted nuts, dried fruit, corn chips, rice crackers, olives, fruit, sandwiches and fresh food where possible. Sometime I use sports gels and bars and recently I’ve started eating a lot freeze dried meals because they’re so light to carry and packed with energy and nutrition. I’m not a diet fanatic. When I’m not racing I try to eat a sensible, balanced diet. I eat fresh, natural foods as much as possible. Cereal & fruit for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch stuffed full of salad ingredients and sometimes meat, lots of vegetables for dinners with meat 3-4 times per week. I don’t tend to eat much dairy, I don’t like it much and I go fairly light on carbs compared to a lot of athletes. My one vice is coffee, I drink a lot of coffee.
What are some of the toughest races you’ve competed in?
That’s a tough question because some races where you race with an injury or illness can turn into a huge challenge. That was the case at GODZone in New Zealand earlier this year. I had a cold for most of the race which made it quite miserable. All the races we do are hard purely due to the intensity we race at, but they’re hard in different ways. There’s no such thing as an easy expedition race for a team racing to win but some of the most challenging races I’ve competed in include: Eco Challenge in Fiji in 2002 (the challenging climate, long course and days spent in the jungle made this a beast of a race. It took us seven days to win this race), Southern Traverse in New Zealand in 2005 (lots of vertical up and down on this course hammered the legs and knees and we also had bad weather to contend with) and Raid in France which doubled as the world championships in 2012 (this was a really physical course that required a huge amount of power and energy. The high altitude was another factor to contend with).
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