Thoughts on AR

I read a blog from a friend of mine, GearJunkie.com 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.  
Cheers,
Andy

Comments

Scott's picture
Submitted by Scott (not verified) on Thu, 09/30/2010 - 23:12

A couple comments...
First, I honestly don't care if GPS is allowed in a race. The truth is, an experienced map and compass navigator will ALWAYS beat someone who is trying to nav with a GPS simply because they are not going to be as aware of their surroundings. A navigator knows what terrain is faster and slower. A GPS knows roads and a direct bearing. A navigator can last the whole race, a GPS has batteries that die, and they aren't necessarily waterproof. The only time a GPS is useful is if you are really truly lost, but by that time, you have lost the race to the navigator. I also believe UTM's are important, and very useful. When you learn how to use them, it is more than just plotting points. It is also useful to quickly estimate distances, which can help you in ALL disciplines. They are not difficult to learn or plot.

Next thing is the Co-ed teams. I am strongly in favor of the co-ed being the elite category. They are typically the best teams, and the best teams typically have the best people, regardless if they are male or female. I can honestly say the AR females I know compare with, or are stronger than most males, especially when it comes to endurance sports. As I've read and experienced, it is more often the male that causes a team to drop out, not the female. But with that said, I think it is also important the RD allows other combinations as well, especially to draw in the new people. I speak from experience when I say it is often very difficult to find teammates, male or female.

I also fully agree with the mystery of AR. I don't want races to be the same. That is my favorite part is that they are all different, you don't know what to expect. I love it when every competitor is faced with the same challenge, and the team that can face that challenge, deal with, and overcome that challenge the quickest should be rewarded. I usually rank the fun of a race by how difficult the mental part is. If the race is won by the team that is simply the strongest and fastest, without any ability to beat them by wits, then in my opinion, it was not a well planned race.

I do have to say that the END-AR was a very good race, and had a lot of good nav, difficult challenges, and a strong element of cleverness to maximize the challenges of the local area. I have raced many races around the country, and I really felt it was a top notch race.

scott
bushwhacker
(wastin' time)

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