GPHXO Adventure Race
General Event Description

(This page provides a general description of the Greater Phoenix Orienteering Club's Adventure Races. The information here is general and may or may not apply to any specific event. Please see the individual event webpage for details of your specific event.)

The Greater Phoenix Orienteering Club offers a number of adventure races throughout the orienteering season. Each adventure race is comprised of multiple disciplines including UTM plotting, mountain bike navigation, orienteering on foot, short mystery events, etc. The adventure races include a mandatory pre-race briefing, a mass start (for some races), multiple transitions, and a finish at 1:00 pm or later. While the format of each race may vary, the general concept for all races is the same. Teams of 1 to 4 individuals visit as many controls as possible in the given time limit. At times, we will offer two course lengths - a long course for our more advanced adventure racers and a short course to give those new to the sport an opportunity to experience all race disciplines. Awards are presented to the top three finishing teams.

Race Schedule

All races will include the following schedule:
  • Transition Area Opens

    The start and finish lines are located at a transition area. Participants arrive at the transition area before the race to organize items they will use during the event. The transition area usually opens an hour before the race start. .

  • Mandatory Pre-Race Meeting.

    All individuals are required to attend this meeting. The briefing will include special instructions, information about dangerous conditions, etc.

  • Mass Start

    The race begins with a mass start. In other words, all teams will depart the start line at the same time. Don't worry, we'll add some challenges early on to make sure you aren't walking over the top of each other during the entire race.

  • 1:00 pm (or later) : Race Finish

    The adventure race finishes at 1:00 pm or later. The official finish time will be announced in race advertising and before the start of the race. Teams arriving after the scheduled finish time will receive substantial penalties to their race results. Teams arriving 30 minutes or more after the scheduled finish time are considered DNF (Did Not Finish).


The format of each adventure race will vary. Races may include the following disciplines:
  • UTM Plotting

    One or more of the legs of the adventure race could include UTM plotting. Participants are given a blank map of the area and a list of UTM coordinates. They first plot the UTM coordinates on the map, then visit the locations as part of the given leg of the race.

    The scale used for the UTM plotting varies. Typical scales are 1:10000, 1:15000, and 1:20000. During the race, UTM plotting is typically done with the help of a plotting tool. One useful tool is the Adventure Racing Corner Tool by MapTools (available at and

    You can find an interesting tutorial that describes plotting UTM coordinates here.

  • Mountain Bike Navigation

    Participants are either given a blank map for UTM plotting or a map with pre-printed controls. They navigate to the various locations using a combination of mountain bike and foot travel. The biking section can include travel on single-track trails, gravel/rock roads, dedicated bike paths, on-street bike lanes, or regular city streets. Please note that the mountain bike navigation, while mainly a biking activity, also involves searching for control locations off the bike. The AR courses are not designed so controls can be visited simply by following a road or a trail to a location. The mountain bike navigation still requires navigation and will require some travel on foot. Participants should keep this in mind when selecting shoes for this section of the race.

  • Orienteering on Foot

    The AR races typically include two sections of orienteering on foot. One section requires participants to visit a group of mandatory controls. In this section, all teams are required to visit each of the controls to be considered official finishers of the race. The navigation in this section is usually not difficult.

    The races usually also include an open navigation section where participants visit as many controls as possible in the time remaining in the race. Those that arrive earlier at this section of the race have more time to search for controls and therefore more time to collect points. The number of controls participants are able to find during the open portion of the race usually determines the result of the race.

  • Mystery Events

    For those who have previously participated in adventure races, you know that most races include mystery events. The mystery events can include such varied challenges as blindfold navigation, card memory games, sudoku, etc. While the mystery events are often interesting and entertaining, the Greater Phoenix Orienteering Club is an orienteering club and focuses on navigation sports. Our adventure races may include one or more mystery events that are mainly sarcastic and less of an actual challenge.

  • Long and Short Courses

    Participants may be given an option to decrease the distance on one of the legs. A short-course option could give a team the possibility to avoid a long or difficult leg. At one point during the race, participants could have an option to either 1) continue with the long course or 2) take the short-course option. The short-course teams will have the same amount of time to complete the race. For races with a short-course option, we will have two separate finish categories for long-course and short-course finishers.

Recommended and Mandatory Gear

Competing in an adventure race can take some preparation. The following lists mandatory and recommended gear for individual participants and for teams.
  • Mandatory Gear Per Person
    • Any combination of hydration bags, water bottles, etc. with a capacity to hold three liters of liquid.
    • Whistle.
    • Compass.
    • Knife (metal).
    • Bike helmet. (Bike leg(s) only)
    • Spare bike tube. (Bike leg(s) only)
    • Personal Floatation Device (PFD, water leg(s) only)
  • Mandatory Gear Per Team
    • First Aid kit.
    • Bike repair kit. (Bike leg(s) only)
      Includes items to repair tires and tools for minor repairs and adjustments.
    • Bike pump or inflation kit. (Bike leg(s) only)
    • UTM Plotter (Not required if UTM plotting is not part of the race)
    • At least two pens and/or pencils for plotting points.
  • Recommended Gear
    • Waterproof map case.
    • Your choice of food.
      You'll be racing for 5+ hours. We strongly suggest you bring some type of fuel.
    • Cell phone.
      For emergencies only. The cell phone must be off during the race.
    • Sunblock.


    Scoring for Individual Races:

  • Mandatory Controls

    The races usually include one or more sections of "mandatory" controls. The mandatory controls are ones that every team must visit during the race. Please note that if for some reason you are unable to visit one or more of the mandatory controls, you can still finish the race, but you will automatically be classified after teams that have visited all of the mandatory controls. Final results will categorize teams that visit all mandatory controls over teams that may have skipped one or more of the mandatory controls because of distance or navigation difficulties.

  • Open Controls

    The adventure races may include one or more sections of "open" controls. During an open section of the race, teams visit as many controls as they can in the remaining time.

  • Results

    Typical race results are determined based on the number of controls that teams are able to visit during the race. Teams that visit all mandatory controls are automatically classified above teams that have skipped one or more of the mandatory controls. In case of a tie in the total number of controls visited, standings are determined based on the time each team takes to visit the controls.

  • Long and Short Course Results

    Separate results are kept for the long and short courses. If during the race a team decides to take the short-course option, they are automatically classified in the short-course results. While it is still possible for short-course teams to visit more controls than teams choosing the long-course option, the finish categories for the two race options are separate.

  • Penalties

    Penalties are applied for a number of infractions during the race. The penalties could be time-based or control-based. For time based penalties, the penalty will apply both to the amount of time a team is allowed to remain on the course and to the time used in tie-breakers. For example, for a race that is scheduled to end at 1:00 pm, a team that is assessed a 30-minute time penalty must complete the course by 12:30 pm. In addition, if the team is tied in number of controls with another team that has not been penalized, 30-minutes is added to the penalized team's time. For control-based penalties, the number of controls visited by a team is reduced by one or more controls. Some examples include:

    • Travel in areas marked as off-limits.
      This will incur a 30-minute time penalty.
      Example: An area of private property is marked off-limits. Travel in this area will incur a 30-minute time penalty.
    • Travel outside areas/routes marked as mandatory.
      This will incur a 30-minute time penalty.
      Example: An on-street bike lane is marked as a mandatory route. Travel outside this route will result in a 30-minute time penalty.
    • Arrival after the race-finish deadline.
      One control is subtracted for every 5 minutes late, DNF if over 30 minutes.
      Example: For teams arriving after the finish time, one control is subtracted for each 5 minutes a team arrives after the announced deadline. Teams arriving over 30 minutes past the race deadline will be marked as DNF.
    • Failure of teammates to remain with 100 meters of each other.
      This will incur a 30-minute time penalty.
      Example: One teammate remains at a trail junction to wait while another teammate travels 500 meters to visit a control. This will result in a 30-minute time penalty.


  • Teams for the AR races are comprised of one to four individuals.
  • The following categories apply to the AR races:
    • Male (all team members are male)
    • Mixed (any mix of male and female team members)
    • Female (all team members are female)

  • Teams will only appear in the standings for one category. In other words, if a mixed team has accumulated points that place it at the top of the open category, they will not also appear in the mixed category.


  • Awards will be presented to the top three overall finishers. We may also provide separate awards in each category if the number of participants is enough to warrant a larger award pool.