Quality assurance - defining what's important

I don't know why, but i'm fascinated by looking at other races and seeing how they do things compared to how ENDracing does them.  Most notably, i'm interested in what other race directors choose to place importance on.  I've got some of my own ideas as to what is important, but figured since i'm really most interested in serving the racing community, i'd get some feedback.

One of my ideas is that the tougher the race, the less the trappings matter.  Personally at least anyway, when i enter a race that is likely to destroy me, i don't care as much if things look pretty, signage is professional, if i get lots of chintzy swag (although it is fun to have stuff to take back to my kids after a race!).  I don't care if the race director spent 20 dollars on each checkpoint marker or made them himself  out of zip ties and nylon scraps (anyone remember those home-made CP markers ENDracing started out with?  or the stakes and red plastic plates that served as mile markers for END-WET?), as long as they are in the right place.  I don't care if the map is professionally done by some company in Utah - it just has to be accurate and let me, barring mistakes, get to where i'm going.  What I do care about is what i'm getting during the race itself - it needs to be well planned, well organized, and well run.  The volunteers need to know what they are doing.  The course needs to be well thought out so that it needn't be radically altered on the fly during the race itself, except in extreme circumstances. 

And sure, prizes and free stuff (especially nice stuff like the 12+ ibex pieces, ergon grips, saddles, and packs, GJ technical jackets, and packraft we've got for END-SPAR) is cool too - but is also secondary to the race experience itself.  I've never thought a race wasn't worth what i paid for it when i was brutally challenged in a thoughtful way, and things were fair.  But when that doesn't happen, i better make out like a bandit to not feel cheated by the event.

My aim, therefore, in putting on particularly the tougher events of the ENDracing line-up is to focus first on the race course itself (and requisite logistics), then on the hospitality (good food and a warm fire/showers, etc at the finish line), then on prizes/gear that is actually good stuff (things i'd eat, wear, or buy myself) to give away, and finally (last and least), the swankyness and branding of race pariphenalia (signs, markers, banners etc, etc).  Because after all, that stuff is expensive!  And at the end of the day, IMHO anyway, it doesn't add much to the participant experience.  In fact, if i've done my job well racers shouldn't have any energy or ability to really notice these details anyway, confronted as they are challenges that make up the real reason (i hope) they signed up for the race in the first place.

Introducing team Yogaslackers/ENDracing

At the end of the year in 2012, after END-TOMBED to be precise, my brother Jason (captain of the Yogaslackers Adventure racing team) came up to me and said - "Man, you've got a lot of talented racers up here! You guys should put together a squad to race nationally and see how it goes!"  He then offered to help get the team off the ground by connecting them with some Yogaslackers sponsors.  It was left to me to try and figure out who to ask on the team.  I approached a number of racers (most of whom were ENDracing veterans) and quickly had a skeleton crew of racers ready to committ to a number of big races throughout 2013.  Things came together somewhat hastily and lots of fantastic and strong racers from both Canada and the USA aren't represented - there were simply too many people to choose from and too few spots available. The deciding conditions on who was selected were ultimately my personal experiences with the racers and/or their very recent (still vivid in my memory) race performances, their history racing together as team-mates, and their willingness to committ nearly $2000 in race entry fees and travel costs (about half up front) towards a team that was little more than a 'good idea' at the time.  [Ok, so one of them is also the love of my life, which may have garnered her a bit of advantage in the selection process - although she's also a damned good racer.] 

The 2013 team is comprised of myself, Grant Mehring, Michelle Annandale, Cory McFarlane, Tim Wintoniw, Tammy Magness, and Alanna Butler.  The team will be competing in adventure racing events (though the members may also compete in individual events as they choose) throughout the year with a focus on a regional (the First Basis series) and national series (the North American Adventure Racing Series).  The current schedule includes at least six races, with the longest being the 3.5 day Cowboy Tough expedition race in Wyoming, slated for mid July. Also on the schedule are both ENDracing adventure races.

I will not race on the team, for obvious reasons, at either of the ENDracing events.  While we had initially discussed not having the Yogaslackers/ENDracing team race at an ENDracing event because it might 'look bad', we figured we could just be transparent and explain things.  Both events are part of the NAARS series - the 24 hour one being a regional championship.  The team would have little hope in competing as part of the series without entering these events.  The squad are great folks who are passionate about racing just like all the other racers that will be there and they won't have any special advantages not possessed by other experienced teams that have done ENDracing events before.  We're not trying to make anyone feel bad - you know, a 'hey these guys are worth of the ENDracing name and everyone else isn't' - sort of thing.  Bottom line is that there are lots of talented teams that are racing our events these days, and lots of talented people on all the teams.  And truth be told, as a the race director, I probably want YS/ER to get their ass handed to them at the events I direct our even more than with the other teams (:

If things go well, we'll try to keep the team going in future years and will expand as necessary, replacing racers that move on or adding more racers as possible, so stay tuned.  And if you're interested in being on the team, feel free to send an email.  Keep in mind though that the team committments include doing lots of races (mostly at personal expense) and training hard in an effort to be nationally competitive.  We don't really care if we win or not, but the drive to push hard and suffer immeasurably for the sake of the team should at the very least seem extremely gratifying to members, right guys? . 

Bottom line is that I love all our racers, and appreciate what each brings to this crazy adventure/endurance racing community of ours - from the folks we've chosen to represent the ENDracing name in regional/national races to the folks that work their butts of just to finish, period, to the folks that DNF after flirting with hypothermia in a desolate cornfield.  Whereever you end up or whether you finish at all, it all tastes good because it's all grand adventure, and I look forward to many more helpings both with the team and all of you. 


ENDracing (Andy)

Final Results and parting thoughts on END-SURE

Dan Salyers, around the half way point

I'm going to keep this brief - my eyes are still bugging out on me, wincing and shivering at the bright glare from the computer screen, afraid that there is more pain coming.  For those that don't know, I (Andy) was laid up yesterday with late-onset snow blindness, unable to open my eyes for more than 12 hours. Lessons learned. But i've been able to manage short stints today and thanks to the Pecks, the final results and stats on what will possibly live in infamy as the hardest of a long line of hard END-SURE races (yet to come) can be found here.  Thanks again to all the competitors, volunteers, and sponsors.  As a physicist by training I am comfortable with the idea of paradoxes and have found yet another one as a race director - the vibe, volunteer crew, and atmosphere at every race somehow is always the best I could possibly imagine.  It seems that the bar is set so high at each event that it won't possibly be met the next time, and yet it always is.  Awesome.  And speaking of awesome - I'll let Dan Salyers - the last racer to complete the course (he was still racing while most folks were sleeping I suspect) sum it up in an email he wrote me yesterday -

"Awesome is often an overused word these days, but everything about this event and undertaking was exactly that and then some. The feeling of accomplishment and camaraderie amongst racers and especially volunteers and organizers, well phenomenal.

Don’t know if you are aware, but after coming in after 1 am, Grant and Jenna put me up in their house with a hot shower and warm bed. Above and beyond and I am forever grateful not only for their putting together such an opportunity as the race, but their hospitality as well.

The damage is overall minor and … overall. Early frostbite to finger tips and one blackened toenail. Back held up wonderfully and knees, well they will survive. Took about 10 Ibus on the trail and then it didn’t matter, just a way of life."

Thanks for that Dan.  And what a way of life it is. 

and END-SURE delivers....

The first inaugural Extreme North Dakota Sandhills Ultra Run Experience is over.  And truth be told, it will probably be a quite a few years before we have another one like this.  It was, well, brutal.  While the first half of the course was 'runnable' (if you call doing the old man shuffle at 5 mph - 8 kph running) and offered better than expected trail conditions, the last 13+ miles more than made up for it.  Snow depths in this section ranged from 6-24 inches and the conditions were such that running more than a few steps at a time was nearly impossible.  Out of the 32 solo runners that braved the nasty driving conditions during the friday storm to make it to the race, only 19 finished, with the biggest number of withdrawls happening at remote CP 3, 6.5 miles from the end of the race.  Racers arrived at the checkpoint in various stages of suffering - early stages of hypothermia, extreme exhaustion, and lots of concern about frostbitten toes.  Congrats to all the racers whether you finished or not - it was a huge undertaking under cold and difficult circumstances.  

And a big thank you to the fantastic volunteers that pulled it off - Rachel U (going above and beyond at CP 1), Carmen Peck and family (lead volunteer and CP 2), Ted and Beek (providing warmth and humor at remote CP 3), Jim Larson (shuttle driver), Jenna Mehring (Finish Line and shuttle), Mason Mehring (food), Alex and Cole Mehring (snowmobile, course setting, lots of other stuff), Greg Ames (snowmobile), Wes Peck (photos), and Grant Mehring for taking over director duties and keeping his calm until the end, and letting me actually run one.  

Preliminary results  follow (pieced together from Twitter updates).  Times to CP's for all racers will be available in final results, but here are the finishers -  

  1. Alain Foidart  (8 hrs 26 minutes)
  2. Craig Desjarlais (??)
  3. Ryan Wagner (8 hrs 42 min)
  4. Andy Magness (8 hrs 42 min)
  5. "original Steve" - Relay (??)
  6. Caleb Kobilansky (10 hrs)
  7. Chad B (10 hrs 10 min)
  8. Dallas Sigurdur (10 hrs 16 min)
  9. Joel Vettel (10 hrs, 50 min)
  10. Dale Nesbitt (11 hrs 18 min)
  11. Dan Tracy (11 hrs, 25 min)
  12. Dave Simmons (11 hrs 33 min)
  13. Craig Isakson (11 hrs, 46 min)
  14. Tammy Magness (12 hrs, 7 min)
  15. Joel Larson (12 hrs, 10 min)
  16. Alison Kelly (12 hrs 30 min)
  17. Jason Braunberger (12 hrs 46 min)
  18. Melissa Eibner (14 hrs 44 min)
  19. William Murtha (14 hrs 44 min)
  20. Dan Salyers (15 hrs 20 min)

END-SURE Looks to Bring on the Suffering

Graphic thanks to Alain Foidart

ENDracing's foray into ultra-running is shaping up to be an unexpectedly challenging event.  Event creators Andy Magness and Grant Mehring ran the trail last spring and while they immediately recognized it's potential in terms of providing a great venue for a 50K trail run, they never imagined it would end up as difficult as it is looking to be.  The trail is buried under feet of snow, there is the  possibility of gates being frozen shut, and high temperatures are expected to be only 20 degrees fahrenheight.