Prior to the race, each participant is strongly encouraged to consult with his or her own doctor about any potential physical or medical limitations.
As the mountain biking event lasts 3 days and goes through some very difficult trails where the participant may have to push their bike or even carry it on their shoulders for several metres, it is important for each participant to recognize their potential physical and mental stress which may evolve from participation in this race. Adequate physical and mental conditioning prior to the race is therefore essential. If you have not been able to prepare properly, it is best to not attempt the race. This forest is deep and not just mostly untouched but also largely undiscovered.
Everyone should understand that participating in such an event is at the participant's own risk.
The Impossible Race POLO MTB is designed to become one of the most physically challenging events in the world. Why? Because it's within our DNA! This is what we do. Please keep in mind at all times that The Impossible Race is not only a biking event, it is an adventure. Although The Impossible Race management is experienced in adventure racing and the race has experienced medical personnel at various points along the course, owing to the remote location of the race, it may take time for medical assistance to reach the participant. The medical staff will be there to help the participants at the starting line, the finish line as well as selected aid stations. However, the participants must understand their own limitations. The best advice we can give you is to listen to your body and the alarming symptoms it's sending you.
Please also understand that rescue, medical decisions and actions may have to be taken on your behalf under extreme time constraints and under adverse circumstances. It is hereby clarified that the race management will never be responsible for any expenses incurred by you as a result of such decisions and that you shall have to reimburse The Impossible Race, any sum spent appurtenant to such decisions. We will make the best efforts to give assistance at all times but ultimately and primarily you are in charge, and you are solely responsible for creating your own crisis. Be careful, be responsible, and do not exceed your own abilities and limitations. In the event that a participant requires emergency evacuation, the participant assumes all financial obligations connected with this service. All participants must have an insurance policy in order to be liable to registration.
Some of the main risks of The Impossible Race, but certainly not all of them, are listed here.
These should be understood, eventually discussed with your personal doctor and remembered by all participants, families, before and during the event.
- Mountain biking is fun but it is also legit to consider it an adventure sport or an extreme sport. No drugs of any kind should be taken before, during or immediately after the race! Many drugs can increase the risk of heat stroke. A partial list of problem drugs includes amphetamines, tranquilizers, and diuretics. Just be very careful with this matter because to this date there is little scientific knowledge about drug reactions with the stress of racing long distances during an adventure race.
- A good way to avoid over-dramatizing the risks is to be fully aware of them and to understand the immediate and emergency response to apply in case of an emergency. Please note that death can result from several of the risk conditions detailed below or from other aspects of participation in The Impossible Race. Although medical and other personnel will assist you when possible, remember that you are ultimately responsible for your own well-being on the trail and on the road.
- Only you will know how your body and mind feel at any given time. Monitor yourself during the entire race, and prepare yourself to drop out at the nearest check-point if you find it just isn't your day. As you continue past each medical checkpoint, be aware of the distance to the next one, realizing that getting rescue vehicles into these areas can be difficult, if not impossible. Remember and get inspired by the fact that every year, several of the elite participants of some of the most hardcore adventure race have dropped out in some years but have come back to win in others. It's OK to DNF because your life is more important than an adventure race.
Cases of renal shutdown (known technically as acute kidney injury or AKI) have been often reported in ultra endurance events and have sometimes caused the death of the participant, possibly weeks after the event (Ironman France in Nice saw one of such case in 2011). Appropriate training and adequate hydration are key to prevention of renal shutdown. While usually reversible in healthy people, renal shutdown may cause permanent impairment of kidney function. It is indeed crucial to continue hydrating for several days following the race or until the urine is light yellow and of normal frequency.
As its name suggests, it is a heat-related disorder. It is caused by environmental or metabolic heat load which can quickly become a serious medical emergency. In addition to the generation of heat from metabolism, environmental heat stress can be significant during your race. Heat stroke can cause death, kidney failure and brain damage. It is the third leading cause of death in athletes behind cardiac disorders and head/neck trauma while falling or tripping over an obstacle. Your muscles produce tremendous amounts of heat when running. The faster the pace, the more heat is produced. Evaporation is the most important heat dissipation mechanism in warm environments. High humidity limits sweat evaporation and therefore, heat loss during exercise. Each liter of effective evaporated sweat removes about 550-600 Kcl from the body. When heat production exceeds the body's heat loss, body temperature rises. Heat stroke occurs when thermoregulatory natural body mechanisms fail to compensate for elevations in the body's core temperature. Heat stroke represents thermoregulatory failure, with core temperature elevated to 40°C or higher - reduction or cessation of sweating, rapid pulse, rapid respiration, hypotension but also unsteady gait, confusion, reduced consciousness, convulsion and, finally, coma. It is important that participants be aware of heat stroke symptoms. These include but are not limited to: nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, faintness, irritability, lassitude, confusion, weakness, and rapid heart rate. Impending heat stroke may be preceded by a decrease in sweating and the appearance of goose bumps on the skin, especially over the chest. Heat stroke may progress from minimal symptoms to complete collapse in a very short period of time. The heat stroke is more frequent with high temperature in high humidity, but hyperthermia can occur even on cool day.
Consequently, the risk of heat related illness is greater when participants may be inadequately prepared in terms of training and have not acquired natural acclimatization to the heat of the location the event takes place. A light-colored shirt and ventilated cap, particularly if kept wet at all time, can help. Acclimatization to heat requires approximately two weeks. We recommend regular training 90 minutes in over 30°C heat for at least two weeks prior to the race. Dehydration and exhaustion (about 70% of treated problems during endurance events) that can lead to a heat stroke are reportedly much higher in longer distances but it can also occur on short distance events, when athletes bike at higher speed, higher percentage of their VO2 max and when their rate of metabolic heat production is at its highest. A heat stroke is a serious incident and it is associated with high mortality rate if treatment is delayed.
Risks associated with low blood sodium
Low blood sodium concentrations in the blood (hyponatremia) in long distance endurance events have been associated with severe illness requiring hospitalization. Generally, those individuals have been over hydrating with water only. The best way to avoid developing symptomatic hyponatremia is to not over hydrate. The best way to not over hydrate is to be properly trained and knowing yourself. There is no evidence that consuming additional sodium or using electrolyte-containing drinks rather than water is preventative of exercise-induced hyponatremia. Signs and symptoms of hyponatremia may include bloating, nausea, vomiting, headache, confusion, lack of coordination, dizziness and fatigue. If left untreated, hyponatremia may progress to seizures, pulmonary and cerebral edema, coma and death. If symptoms develop, one needs to assess whether they are due to over hydrating. If you know that you have been drinking a lot (and we mean a lot), then stop fluid intake until you remove excess fluid through urination. If severe symptoms are present, this is a medical emergency where you should be transported to a hospital. Because of the remoteness of the race, be aware that this may not be possible immediately.
Injuries resulting from fatigue and falls
One of the biggest dangers you will encounter in this type of multi-stage event is fatigue. Fatigue, combined with the effects of dehydration, hypothermia, hyperthermia, hyponatremia, hypoglycemia, sleep deprivation and other debilitating conditions can produce disorientation and irrationality. It's a common problem adventure racers share in the difficult events they participate around the world. Appropriate long distance training and racing experience which both help to know yourself are key to prevent unbearable fatigue and dramatic consequences such as loss of focus and falling. Falling is indeed an ever-present danger when you cycle, with potentially serious consequences. First things first: wear your helmet with the chin strap securely fastened - at all times. Some of our route is narrow, uneven, rutted, with logs, rocks, tree trunks and vines scattered on the ground. If you feel dizzy, disoriented or confused, do not risk falling. Stop, get off the bike, sit or lie down on the route until you recover or are rescued. An unconscious participant even a few feet off the route could be difficult to find until it is too late. A few minutes gained in your final cycling timing are not worth risking a serious injury.
Rhabdomyolysis and overuse injuries
It has been found that some degree of muscle cell death in the legs occurs from participation in long distance adventure race but the probability of meeting such problem is reduced by the fact that the mountain bike riders will be able to rest a full-night in between stages. The recovery can take several months. This seems to be a bigger problem in participants who have exerted themselves beyond their level of training. Medical analysis of blood samples taken from some adventures races in the USA endurance participants shows that this occurs to some degree in all participants. To prevent it, you must train accordingly and not try to bike a distance you have not been seriously preparing for. In the same manner, innumerable overuse injuries can occur, especially in the knee and the ankle. Sprains and fractures can easily occur on our rough trails.
Difficulty in gaining access to or locating injured participants
Many portions of the mountain biking trails are remote and inaccessible by motor vehicles. Accordingly, in spite of the many layers of safety precautions instituted by race management (including mobile phone communications, foot and biked patrols, mounted search, rescue dedicated personnel and medical personnel at many checkpoints), there is absolutely no assurance that aid or rescue assistance will arrive in time to give you effective assistance should you become sick, incapacitated or injured. In many of the most renowned international adventure races in the world ambulances and other emergency vehicles are commonly experiencing difficulties in gaining access over remote roads jammed with crew vehicles, and other delays have resulted.
Although race management endeavors to mark the course and will make sure all GPS waypoints are installed properly into each Impossible Race participants, it is definitely possible to lose the trail. If you believe at any time that you may not be on the correct trail, do not attempt to find your way cross-country. If you are unsure of your route, backtrack to where you last saw a recognizable trail marker and wait for other participants. If you are unable to find your way back, stay where you are! Wandering randomly will likely take you farther from the trail and reduce your chances of being found. If you do become injured, exhausted or ill, same: stay on the trail. You will be found there either by another participant, a safety patrol who monitors the progress of participants during the event or at last by the sweep team. If you are assisted by individuals who are not associated with race management and you elect to leave the trail, you MUST notify the official at the nearest checkpoint of your decision to withdraw and surrender your official wristband and pull-tag.
Note: This information has been compiled from some of the best and most recognized adventure race events in the world, including but not limited to, The Adventure Racing World Series (ARWS), the official site of governing body of adventure racing in the US and also a few Ironman triathlons.