Gretchen Roufs' portraitWhen Terry Ross tells people he is an adventure racer, they either say, “You’re crazy,” or “Sign me up.” It was the same way for Terry, regional manager in Connellsville, Pa., for Toledo, Ohio-based Betco Corp., who was inspired to join the sport by his brother.

Adventure racing involves two or more racing disciplines, such as biking, running, paddling, swimming, climbing and orienteering (navigating unfamiliar terrain using a map and compass).

“The best way I can describe adventure racing is that it’s sort of like an off-road triathlon,” says Terry. “You are almost always are in the wilderness, running on trails and sometimes through streams, mountain biking and orienteering. You might be in the middle of nowhere, and part of the race is to navigate from point to point in what is usually unfamiliar territory. You have to keep thinking about time and strategy.”

The races Terry enters are for teams of two. He used to race with his brother, but after riding a bike through six inches of snow, Terry had to find a new teammate.

“Trying to ride a bike through snow was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” he says. “We had no idea what to expect. My brother ran in boots while I ran in tennis shoes. I was fine, but my brother was exhausted. That was the first race we ran together. I got hooked, but he didn’t.”

Each race is unique. One winter race combined four miles of running with skeet shooting followed by tubing down a hill and a 10-kilometer run in the snow. The final event was a 10-mile mountain bike race on ice and snow, starting at 6 p.m., just before total darkness.

Terry has also participated in races requiring a rock climb, a high ropes course, a two-mile kayak up a river, a target shoot with paintball guns, and a three-mile run down a ski slope. There was even one race in which the racers had to travel by bicycle through a stream in chin-high water, carrying their bikes over their heads.

But the most interesting race involved a skinny, 15-foot long box that was only a foot tall.

“We had to go through the box with our arms tied, clip off the ties, and then we went back through the box with our bikes,” Terry explains. “To get our bikes through this box, we had to take them apart, and put them together on the other side. Then, we rode our bikes in the bicycle racing part of the competition, rode back to the box, took the bikes apart, and dragged them through the box again, in pieces.”

Adventure racing requires some interesting supplies. Terry’s racing backpack contains space blankets, energy shots, two liters of water, a light on his bike, a light on his helmet, a waterproof pack to keep his map dry and a pen.

More important than carrying the right supplies, racers have to be in great physical condition.

“You have to be in shape — you can’t just think you’re going to go out and enjoy the woods. There is a big difference between wanting to adventure race, and actually doing it.”

Gretchen Roufs, an 18-year janitorial supply industry veteran, owns a marketing and public relations company in San Antonio. To suggest someone you think should be featured in “Freetime,” contact her at