September 2010

Thoughts on AR

I read a blog from a friend of mine, editor Stephen Regenold, about the future of adventure racing.  In it he outlines 15 ideas to improve the sport and increase participation (read it here).  Although i don't necessarily agree with all of his thoughts, it did get me thinking about what, as a race director, i think is important.  I thought i'd share some of my thoughts.

To begin with I'll address the points Stephen brings up in his letter -

Me vetting the course for the END-AR 2010
  1. The name is fine.  Maybe a better name exists, but who cares.  If you do a good race and like it you'll keep coming back, whatever it's called.
  2. I'm indifferent on allowing GPS, though because it's a race, consistency is of course important.  There's lots of comments on Stephen's post about this - i agree with many of the folks responding that map and compass navigation is a skill that is far more useful in 'real world' adventuring than GPS use, and as such think that an AR director that pushes teams to learn the skill is preparing them for 'real adventure'. 
  3. An absolute must.  All ENDracing's courses are thoroughly vetted by myself as race director and also other members of the ENDracing team.
  4. Yes, simplify the race as much as possible, but keep in mind that the whole concept is fairly arbitrary.  If rules and complexity add to the fun for a particular race, then by all means, keep them there, after all, fun is one of the reasons people are racing in the first place (though maybe it's type II or III fun....)
  5. ENDracing has started including UTM plotting in some of our races because it's an important skill required for many longer races, and we like to think that our races will prepare teams for these events.  Otherwise I'd be happy to omit them - and try to design a race course where plotting is only necessary for optional CP's.
  6. We already do this, but it's out of necessity and to keep race costs as low as we can, not necessarily for any philosophical reason.  I do feel that at upper level races, having the same boats for everyone is a nice idea, but then it does drive the cost up substantially.
  7. I agree. Somehow we managed to offer a spot of whitewater even up here in Grand Forks, ND.  
  8. Our maps are good, I promise.  This also has to do with vetting the course - i.e. having a third party run the entire course using the actual maps pre-race and making any necessary changes.
  9. Agree. 
  10. Agree.
  11. Agree.  Absolutely crucial.  Good volunteers will make or break a race.  Lack of them will ruin even a spectacular course.
  12. Racing as a mixed gender team presents unique challenges, and as such i think that the coed category should remain in place.  If you didn't have the coed rule, i think that competitive teams would be less inclined to try to find a female to race with and the entire sport would have a different feel.  It's cool in AR (my opinion) that the elite teams have that multi-gender dynamic.  Team-work is a huge part of AR.  The trials and tribulations of AR are a great crucible in which to learn good relationship skills anyway - so think of it as an opportunity, not a requirement!
  13. Ropes.  I agree that i like it when a ropes section has a purpose.  In our races in this flat state that's often accomplished simply by putting a CP 40 feet up a tree where a climb is.  When possible, though, having the climb or rappel, etc part of the 'flow' of the course is ideal.  I don't like ascending though - it goes against my philosophy on the sport.  More later.
  14. Done
  15. Whatever.  Just do a race and you'll figure it out.
We start 'em early here at ENDracing
For me adventure racing is about, well, adventure.  I spent many years adventuring before ever racing - so i'm all about pushing participants to learn and experience the things that were part and parcel to my experiences out in the wilds of the world before being a race director.  Climbing, paddling, navigating, pain and suffering (the good kind.  And yes, there IS a good kind).  On a real 'adventure' - there is an ethic of self reliance and teamwork that i think should be reflected in a good race.  Risk (as i mentioned in a past post) is part of it.  If you want a completely controlled experience, then don't do one of my races.  For a particular event i figure i've got a set amount of time (depending on race length) to give the participants a chance to work on certain skills in an unpracticed way (no prior knowledge of a particular climb, challenge, etc) and to put them out of their comfort zone.  It's the ability to adapt and thrive in this situation that is what adventure is all about.  I look at it this way - I want to set a course that I (with my  vast experience, and yes, it is really vast, though not as vast as for some) would want to do and find challenging.  That i would enjoy.  I also try to set a course that the me of 18 years ago - a 17 year old science geek who was just discovering a small sliver of the strange creature that i have become - would be able to, in some form, complete (or at least have fun trying).  So if you have at least that sliver of unexplained "something" which makes you want to know - need to know - just what you're capable of when you're tired, hungry, cold, wet, and lost, then you'll probably like our races.  
AR is awesome.  After all, if you can keep going despite all of that suffering just to find a bunch of orange flags some crazy guy hung up arbitrarily in the middle of the woods - think of what you can do when something really important is on the line.  Gaining this knowledge (or reminding myself of it) is a big part of why I race.  And a desire to give this knowledge to others (or remind them of it), as corny as it sounds, is a big part of why i direct races.  

Email list

See over there to the right?  Yep, right there is where you can join our email list!  Of course if you wait too long (say after i write another post) you'll be thoroughly confused, because this post will have moved waaayyyy down. No worries though - the link will always be there - right next to the most recent post.



Post Duluth inspired thoughts

I'm back from my first race in three years, and am so glad i got a chance to be out there racing again.  Jason and Gayle of Wild AR are awesome folks and super passionate about the sport.  They put together a very tough bike heavy course (perfect training for nationals!) that challenged teams both physically and mentally.  I got to see some of the new friends i'd made after END-AR - Jason and Megan Mrozek and Mike and Julia of team little sumpthin sumpthin - and be there for my wife's first (only?!) 24 hour race and relive all the ups and downs that go with it.  It was a great weekend.

Tammy wearing sunglasses at night (Numa's of course) during one of the 'highs'
As we drove back and i was able to reflect on the experience, i've realized a few key things about my own beliefs as a race director that have largely been in place but can now be better articulated, so i thought i'd try to do so.  
To be fair, i'm coming into this role as a race director from perhaps a somewhat unique perspective.  There are alot of race directors that probably are also racers, and many who have more races under their belt than i do.  But i'd wager that there aren't very many who are both racers AND adventurers.  My belief is that a good race (one that i'd be happy spending my money on) needs to strike a healthy balance between the two (racing and adventuring).  True adventure is often in short supply at adventure races.  While this is understandable (insurance requirements, state regulations, etc), it is also regrettable (in my opinion).  But i feel the challenge isn't insurmountable - and i've done several races that i felt really proved this point.  Mainstream life these days is almost devoid of risk.  If adventure racing also mitigates this entirely then how are they really anything but some sort of modified triathlon, or what in New Zealand is called a multi-sport race.      There is a reason purists in the sport hold the Patagonia race in such high esteem - teams are expected to navigate untracked wilderness for 100+ kilometers through some of the most inhospitable country in the world without hope of a speedy rescue should things go wrong (the 2009 epic endured by Team Calleva even makes wikipedia!). 
Now if you're psyched on the END-AR race series, don't get too worried - we're only aiming to put on the hardest race in ND, not the world - so we won't be expecting you to risk life and limb - but we also won't be (nor have we in the past) eliminating risk.  If you did the fall 2010 race you already have a flavor of this (optional point R16 was in the crook of a tree 15 feet above the river - no safety ropes provided; teams were permitted, though not encouraged, to run the rapids in the river and some of them capsized in the attempt) - if you're just checking out the website - have a look at some of the videos from the race to get an idea.
I talk alot about the benefits of suffering and how AR is a method of providing these benefits.  But it's really more than this.  I want my races to serve up adventure based suffering - not just the suffering that inevitably accompanies any monstrous physical feat (like say running a marathon).  So it's really not just suffering that i'm selling - it's suffering with a heaping side of uncertainty and seasoned with a bit of risk.  If this sounds as tasty to you as it does to me, i look forward to seeing you (again) next year.  
Andy and the rest of the ENDracing team.

ENDracing goes to Duluth

I'm heading to Duluth as the fourth person on team "Finding Ourselves Lost" - comprised of Pat White, Jim Grijalva, and Tammy Magness.  This is the team that came in second in the coed category (behind SDK) at END-AR two weeks ago (where their name was GMW).  Since SDK wasn't able to attend the 24 hour race which starts this friday, they graciously rolled the free entry to GMW.  In a moment of strange post race bliss Tammy actually decided to do the 24 hour race with Pat and Jim (who'd long wanted to do a 24) despite having already paid for a yoga workshop up in Winnipeg over the same weekend.  More surprisingly, she said that she wanted me to do the race too, even though we've long suspected that we would make terrible race partners.  It'll be interesting for sure!



Everyone's happy!

Email from happy sponsors!

Just wanted to thank those racers who have been showing love to our sponsors!  As you can see from the above email, it's really a win-win..... happy sponsors means more and better prizes which means we can give away way more stuff than we should be able to given the price of the race, which means racers get to be happy for two reasons, which means they spread the word about the race and future races fill up which means all the hard work of the race directors and volunteers is enjoyed by more people which of course makes the sponsors happy as well.

If you haven't contacted sponsors yet, don't think it's too late.... there really is no timeline on these things.  These companies are hand-picked by ENDracing and Yogaslackers because we like them, their business practices, and we actually use their products, which is why we promote them.

Cheers everyone!

ENDracing team.

Mt. Haga video

This comes courtesy of Brian Huschle - the dedicated water safety volunteer that watched all the fun from his canoe in the Red River.  Thanks Brian!

END-AR 2010 is in the books!

Jason from SDK (overall and 3 person Coed winners) sums it all up.  Photo by Caylan Van Larson

What a great race everyone!  Results are now posted (thanks for your patience) and photos have been circulating on facebook since hours after the race but are now starting to be linked on this site.  We'll continue to add photo albums as we get the links to them, and movies as Jason finishes the editing (the first should be posted tonight, and two more are planned).  We'd love to hear your thoughts about the race - what you loved and what you didn't.  In addition, we welcome race reports from any and all teams (which we'll add links too, with permission, or possibly post them as individual blog entries) and again encourage everyone to show their support for our amazing sponsors.  We had a great time putting this on and felt a tremendous amount of community support all the way from the city administration level right down to the most wonderful, dedicated, and capable volunteers we could ever imagine finding anywhere. Thanks again everyone who came out to challenge themselves up here in the far north prairie - particularly those teams that drove hours and hours to take a chance on a new little race in the middle of adventure racing nowhere (not for long though!).  And as for the local teams..... who knew there were so many bad asses right here in the red river valley?!

Cheers everyone!
ENDracing team

Preview - Looking Forward!

Here's a quick preview of the upcoming END-AR.  No big spoilers - but we hope everyone is getting excited for this Saturday!  Don't forget to show up Friday night for the check-in and clinic (4-7PM @ Northern Heights Rock Gym, if you can). 

Some more reminders:

Gear you may be forgetting:

  • Hand paddles for the packraft - more details in the packrafting post (below)
  • Eye protection - there's some brushy and bushwhacky sections (as expected) - bring some shades or hardware-store goggles if you hate sunglasses to keep the sticks, twigs, mud, and teammate's blood out of your eyes.
  • Sun & Bug protection - you won't know you need it until you wish you had it.  Nothing worse than finishing last and sunburned (and bugbitten).

Course and Rule Update:

  • Teams are allowed a small carry-on size bag full of food, clothing, (etc) that will be placed at a transition area about halfway through.  This bag is neither mandatory nor necessary but may be nice for teams looking for ways to slow down in transition areas. 

Notes from the course

Jason here -

First off, I am envious.  Andy has set a phenomenal and challenging course - with elements that are very much outside the scope of "normal" adventure races.  Daniel and I ran the whole course yesterday and are pleased to say that it is possible for fast, smart, strong teams to clear the course within the 10 hr time limit.

A few suggestions based on yesterday:

  1. Everyone take a metal spoon.  Seriously.  Use it to quickly scrape off "death star balls" when they stick to every part of your body.  
  2. Everyone take a permanent marker/pen, and keep it dry.  If it gets wet, it is hard to write down the checkpoint words.  
  3. long pants, long sleeves and bug spray (unless you like mosquito bites).  Thin baselayers (tights, armwarmers, tight shirts - these are all easy for bugs to bite through.  Looser fitting pants or shirt will provide better bug protection.  Tights however are more durable for bushwhacking - so make your own call.  
More tonight....