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.
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.