Journey Racing Lingo: Get within the Know, Race Like a Professional

From plotting UTMs to avoiding the ‘sleepmonsters’ after darkish, journey racing has distinctive nomenclature that’s vital to soak up earlier than you get out onto the course.

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Editor’s word: This text was initially revealed on and has been modified for GearJunkie.

Suppose you’re able to tackle an journey race? You’ll wish to examine up on the terminology of the game first.

Right here at GearJunkie, our employees has a protracted historical past of journey racing, from the Patagonian Expedition Race to Eco-Problem Fiji and extra. And because the official media companion of the United States Journey Racing Affiliation (USARA), we’ve teamed up that can assist you out.

Learn on to study among the most typical phrases and phrases you’ll encounter within the sport of AR.

Fundamental Journey Racing Phrases


You guessed it! Say goodbye to the consolation and ease of trails and roads. Even the shortest journey races have a tendency to incorporate a little bit of off-trail journey. These segments may be purely for the expertise, requiring little greater than a very good angle and primary navigation.

However many journey races (particularly one-day occasions and expeditions) ramp up the navigational problem after they tempt or require groups to journey overland. Such sections may be daunting, they usually typically separate the groups with extra expertise from these with much less. Bushwhacking may be something from wide-open, big-sky, non secular trekking to soul-crushing jungle bashing.

Clue Sheet

Earlier than the race begins, groups are supplied with a set of directions and an in depth clue sheet. The clue sheet describes the exact location of every checkpoint (see under). Rookies and seasoned vets alike continually make the basic blunder of not studying these essential paperwork carefully sufficient. It’s straightforward to overlook vital data, and when this occurs, groups lose invaluable time or face stiff penalties — typically even disqualification.

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Checkpoint flag adventure racing
Checkpoints are positioned across the course. Racers should attain every flag and punch in to show they had been there; (picture/Ann Ilagan)


All discuss with the checkpoints that have to be situated utilizing map-and-compass navigation. Usually, CPs are three-dimensional orienteering flags, however they are often absolutely anything. Race administrators (RDs; see under) normally make it clear earlier than the occasion begins what you need to be in search of.

Typically, checkpoints are everlasting objects like monuments, plaques, or indicators. In such instances, racers are requested to file a quantity, phrase, or phrase. Learn the directions and clue sheet fastidiously earlier than the race, and ensure you hearken to the race director throughout the pre-race assembly. In the event that they don’t inform you what you’re in search of, ask!

Darkish Zone

When a bit of the course is simply too harmful to undertake at the hours of darkness, RDs impose a “darkish zone” and cease groups from continuing. These sections are typically associated to water, particularly paddling sections that embrace whitewater. Some RDs give groups time credit for the stopped time in a darkish zone. Others don’t, although groups stopped in a darkish zone profit from additional relaxation.

Full Course

This time period is extra prevalent in expedition racing, although it may be utilized to any race. Groups ending the “full course” full the complete race course as designed. Up to date expedition programs are typically very troublesome to finish for many groups, and plenty of RDs design “short-course” choices in order that extra groups can end formally.

Persons hand pointing to a spot on a map during a USARA Adventure Race.
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GearJunkie team member using a flashlight in the dark during a USARA Adventure Race.
(Photograph/Ann Ilagen)


Lose your passport if you find yourself abroad, and also you may by no means go house. Lose your passport in an journey race, and also you is likely to be out of the occasion.

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Passports are typically slips of paper or small booklets. Volunteers signal your passport if you arrive at a staffed CP, and racers “punch” their passports at distant CPs, typically utilizing a small stapler with a singular sample matched to that particular CP. Some races additionally depend on digital punching (see under) and dippers in lieu of paper passports.

Passports present proof that you simply discovered CPs and accomplished the course. Maintain your passport protected and dry. Misplaced passports sometimes result in disqualification or different important penalties.

Race Director (RD)

Fairly self-explanatory! At most native occasions, the RD does all of it. They plan logistics, design the course, deal with the communication, and so on. Typically (normally in larger occasions) a number of folks tackle particular roles, dividing up the course design, logistics, and different duties.

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Transitions or Transition Areas (TAs)

These are staffed places alongside the course the place groups change disciplines. In longer races, particularly, groups have entry to group or private gear bins, baggage, and bike containers with gear, meals, and clothes you’ll want for the following part.

Typically RDs present meals, drink, and services at TAs, however typically it’s nothing greater than a motorcycle drop or an empty boat ramp with a fleet of canoes.

A team of Adventure Racers boatwhacking to get to a checkpoint during a USARA race.
(Photograph/Randy Ericksen)

The Subsequent Stage


See “bushwhacking.” Add a motorcycle to the combo. Sure, bushwhacking with a motorcycle.


See “bushwhacking.” Now, add a ship. You learn that proper. This isn’t the commonest self-discipline in journey racing, however it can depart you with among the most vivid recollections of your racing profession if you’re … lucky sufficient to do it.


When a group completes the “full course” (see above), they’ve “cleared” the course. Whereas many groups search to clear the racecourse, few groups with out expertise and a sure, comparatively excessive stage of endurance health can anticipate to clear the common journey racecourse (a minimum of one-day and expedition occasions).

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All races have a time cutoff: the end line. Many have extra embedded time cutoffs. Such cutoffs are sometimes designed at the side of short-course (see under) choices to present all groups a greater probability of finishing the course.

Whereas most RDs permit racers to proceed on a modified brief course in the event that they miss a cutoff, some disqualify groups for lacking these cutoffs and take away them from the occasion.

Deer Path/Goat Path

Whereas not normally a time period utilized by an RD, it’s value storing this one away. Such routes are created by animals and are generally discovered when touring off path.

When you are on the whim of the animal, if these paths lead in your basic course of journey, they’ll make bushwhacking quicker. Simply watch out that you understand the place you’re heading!


Most expedition races, and a few shorter occasions, make the most of satellite tv for pc monitoring throughout their occasions. In these occasions, groups are outfitted with a satellite tv for pc monitoring gadget that’s used for security administration, at first.

As well as, more often than not, RDs share their monitoring maps with viewers at house, permitting spectators to trace their favourite groups as they progress by way of the course. “Dotwatchers” refers to these spectators who observe alongside, monitoring the dots or “breadcrumbs” of groups displayed on the monitoring map, exhibiting viewers at house a given group’s route of journey.

Dotwatching will get intense, with folks throughout the globe becoming a member of dialogue boards to research how the race is unfolding. Many expertise sleep deprivation to match the racers they’re following.

Patagonia Expedition Race - Team YogaSlackers/Bend Racing
(Photograph/Bend Racing Media group: Tyler Brower, Scott Almendinger, and Darren Steinbach)

Digital Punching/E-Punching/Dipping

Some RDs make the most of dearer know-how to trace groups’ progress by way of a course. As an alternative of utilizing a standard orienteering punch and paper passport, RDs use e-punches. An e-punch consists of an digital recording gadget that tracks a group’s arrival — all the way down to the second.

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Groups have a “dipper” that’s used at the side of the field to file the group’s arrival time. The e-punch both replaces or is positioned at the side of a standard marker at every CP.

Linear Course

A linear course is probably the most conventional type of journey race format. Groups are required to go to all TAs and all CPs. Groups failing to go to all of the checkpoints are pulled off the course or are ranked as unofficial.

Throughout these occasions, groups are likely to unfold out considerably, and extra groups don’t end. Some RDs design “brief programs” that also permit groups to complete formally, although these groups are ranked behind anybody ending the “full course.”

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Portaging requires groups to journey with their boats overland throughout a paddling part. Numerous components decide whether or not RDs will embrace portaging in an journey race: dams, shallow water, harmful rapids, personal property, geography requiring groups to journey between water options, strategic choices, and infrequently a sick humorousness.

More often than not, groups merely carry their boats, both as a group or individually. In expedition races, some RDs talk forward of time to let groups know that they may profit from utilizing a portage trolley/portage wheels. Sustained portaging is just not widespread in shorter occasions.


Most journey races, from sprints to expeditions, begin with some form of brief occasion that’s designed to unfold the groups out. These phases may be something: a relay run; an orienteering loop; a mini, multistage journey race inside an extended race.

In a brief race, a separator is often anyplace from a couple of minutes to half an hour in length. In expedition races, a separator is likely to be a number of miles of operating, or it might final for a number of hours.

Some RDs wait to offer groups with their maps and different course data till after the prologue, and others hand racers their maps and ask them to plan their route on the clock, reworking the prologue right into a psychological and strategic problem. You get the purpose; prologues may be absolutely anything.

Two team members hands pointing to a spot on the map during a USARA Adventure Race.
(Photograph/Ann Ilagen)


A reentrant is an orienteering time period that most likely most frequently confuses new racers. Merriam-Webster defines it as “an indentation in a landform.”

Heather Williams, of the orienteering world, defines a reentrant within the following method:

A reentrant seems on the map as a U or V form within the contour traces, pointing again right into a hillside moderately than protruding of the hill (as would a spur). So a reentrant is a small valley, the middle of which might gather water and funnel it downhill (if it had been raining arduous).

These “valleys,” or depressions, may be dry, otherwise you may discover a stream of some type in a reentrant.


A rogaine is a category of occasion related to orienteering. These occasions have a central begin/end and dozens of CPs. Racers/groups have a predetermined period of time to seek out as many checkpoints as potential.

Usually, rogaine RDs set extra CPs than may be discovered by any group, which forces groups to strategize and resolve which CPs to skip. Journey racing RDs typically depend on this method to course design, making some and even all CPs optionally available.

Journey races are sometimes designed as a “modified rogaine” (see under) or a “linear course” (see above).

Modified Rogaine

Many journey races require groups to journey from TA to TA. Typically, there are necessary CPs alongside the best way. When there are additionally optionally available CPs, the course is described as a “modified rogaine” and therefore combines parts of rogaines with linear course design.

The profit to those programs is that they’re extra accessible to all ranges of racers. Extra-experienced, quicker, and extra expert groups sometimes attempt to “clear” the course. Much less-experienced racers can nonetheless take part and end formally, specializing in the necessary factors and including optionally available factors relying on their strengths and weaknesses.

Modified rogaines and rogaine-style programs are designed to maintain all racers out all through the occasion — or near it.

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See “prologue.”

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Quick Course

RDs are likely to design “short-course” choices at most expedition races — and plenty of one-day occasions — to accommodate groups unable to finish the complete course. Totally different than “rogaine”-style or “modified rogaine”-style occasions, groups are nonetheless required to seek out all of the CPs they’re tasked to seek out.

Usually, groups are given time cutoffs. In the event that they fail to make a time cutoff, they are going to be re-routed, bypassing a part of the course and its corresponding CPs. As soon as again on the official course, groups then should discover all of the remaining CPs to be ranked as official finishers (except they’re short-coursed greater than as soon as, which is feasible). They are going to be ranked behind all “full-course” groups, nevertheless, no matter whether or not they end forward of or behind such groups in accordance with time.

These design choices make journey racing extra accessible and permit extra groups to compete and end occasions formally.


Sleepmonsters come out at night time, normally 2-3 nights into an expedition race. As a result of journey racing is a nonstop occasion that welcomes and infrequently necessitates important sleep deprivation, the human mind begins to play video games with exhausted racers.

In brief, hallucinations usually are not unusual, although most racers solely expertise this phenomenon in multiday racing. Ask any seasoned expedition racer, and you may be regaled with tales of castles within the woods, buffets of mouth-watering meals on a lonely moor, or terrifying encounters with animals that definitely don’t exist.

Sleepmonsters usually are not essentially monsters, however they by no means are actual, even when two teammates see them on the similar time. This does occur!

Patagonia Expedition Race - Team YogaSlackers/Bend Racing
(Photograph/Bend Racing Media group: Tyler Brower, Scott Almendinger, and Darren Steinbach)

Supported vs. Unsupported

Usually, expedition races are described as “supported” or “unsupported.” Many years in the past, many expedition races had been supported occasions, however most multiday races at present are sometimes unsupported.

Supported occasions require groups to offer their very own assist crew. These assist crews are liable for shifting a group’s gear and should help their groups in TAs. Supported occasions add extra parts of technique, because the assist crew can affect how the group performs and makes TAs “simpler” for the racers.

In an unsupported occasion, groups usually are not allowed this exterior help. The RDs transport groups’ tools for them. Unsupported occasions require groups to be extra self-sufficient in addition to significantly lower bills, as groups don’t have to lease automobiles or assist their crews financially.

Common Transverse Mercator (UTM)

It’s a little bit of a mouthful, so everybody calls them UTMs. In brief, the UTM system is a coordinate grid system discovered on some topographic maps; it’s a substitute for longitude and latitude.

Sometimes, an RD will ask racers to plot CPs by offering them with numerical UTM coordinates. Groups should use a small mapping instrument with UTM measurements to plot the factors. This provides a unique form of navigational mapping ability.

Being adept at UTM plotting additionally permits groups to offer an RD with coordinates in case of an emergency. This ability is turning into much less widespread, and most RDs now pre-plot their maps for racers.

The Wrapup

For now, this could offer you a very good reference level for the widespread language used to elucidate journey racing. After all, there’s a lot extra to study. Endurance athletes have their very own slang and lingo, and also you’ll slowly choose it up.

For additional perception into the language of AR, try this terrific, and hilarious, dialogue thread on the Journey Racing Dialogue Fb Group.

This text is sponsored by Toyota. Discover out extra in regards to the 2022 Toyota Tundra on-line.

A team arriving to their canoes for the paddling portion of their Adventure Race at USARA Nationals in 2021.
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