Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Ridiculous Compilation of Videos From Untamed New England

In July of 2009 Team Cogeyed AR ventured to New Hampshire to compete in Untamed New England, a three day expedition adventure race. Our race was a great success! We finished 5th in the open division and 14th overall. Of the 44 teams who participated, only 23 were able to finish as it was quite a challenge. Most importantly, we had an amazing time! From all of our training and preparation, to the drive to New England all the way to the start line it was all a lot of fun.

I had forgotten that we'd taken quite a bit of video on the trip before the race. We didn't get any video footage during the race as our backpacks were already too heavy to carry a camera too! Recently I found the old SD card with the videos on it and I know that quite a few people will want to see some of these gems. However, I do feel it necessary to offer the following disclaimer: I am a dangerous, self indulgent fool with a camera. While some may get a laugh out of these videos, others might conclude that I've suffered one too many head injuries while others still might find them to be a waste of time. I sincerely hope that most of you find them funny! Do enjoy.

This was early in the drive when my company first abandoned me on their way to dreamland. That 'thing' in the back is Madmartigan, our Irish Wolfhound. He stayed in Fredericton while we continued on.

We camped somewhere in the USA that night after meeting with Team Natural Selection Adventure Racing. I don't remember where we stayed, nor am I sure I ever knew. It did rain all night and we woke up bitterly cold. Team Cogeyed AR is diligent with our conditioning so we proceeded with our typical morning calisthenics. Nick (seen on the far left) from NSAR tried to keep up, but he wasn't ready for such an intense workout.

Here I'm seen supervising Shawn's final exercises.

Shortly after our morning routine we hit the old iron road again. Guess what? Everyone fell asleep on me again. I seized the opportunity for more video footage, and even added some lip-syncing for your viewing pleasure.

Here we're seen in our room at The Balsams, which served as race HQ. We were making the final preparations on our gear. Each of us were allowed on gear bin weighing no more than 30 lbs, and a team paddling bag of 40 lbs. This was difficult! In this video we also speculate that the delicious granola that Erica made may have contributed to some unpleasant, yet hilarious, gaseous omissions.

As I became more at one with the camera my creativity became contagious. Erica joined in on this foolishness.

Things got a little out of hand in this one! Unfortunately... maybe fortunately... YouYube's video quality damping took away some of the detail. They are some nice legs though! And @1:00? Well... I told you I was dangerous with a camera. And I was only drinking a bit!

These next two videos are of us driving up the hill from the hotel to the golf course. We were practically hovering on our seat we were so excited! R. Kelly's Ignition Remix was our theme song for the race. We sang it whenever we were starting to feel the pull of fatigue or frustration and it immediately cheered us up. Strangely, Shawn sang it all the time without knowing a single word!

Okay, last one I promise! I had really hoped to take some time editing this one, and maybe someday I will. Please use your imagination a bit and imagine it's at 1/4 speed with Rush's Tom Sawyer playing for a soundtrack. Now picture title boards fading in "O9Man... The SST... and The E-Rukkus... star... in... UNTAMED NEW ENGLAND 2009"

It is a great slow walk, I must add those edits sometime.

Hope you enjoyed them, we enjoyed making them. My sincere apologies if you want your time back!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Atypical Adventure Racing Challenges and their Promotional Effect

Typical adventure races consist of trekking, cycling, paddling and rope courses though other disciplines frequently are incorporated. Often race directors include unusual challenges and many adventure racing advocates are of the impression that they will attract new racers to our perpetually struggling sport. Though these inclusions can in fact do adventure racing well by creating excitement, it's unfortunate that many ideas don't do justice to our sport and can subsequently damage the race and future attendance at said race. The atypical challenges that I'm referring to are those that don't necessarily directly reward speed, conditioning or adventurous skill. The popularity of the reality television shows Survivor and The Amazing Race do indeed compel a race director to consider some of their challenges or similar challenges for their race(s.) However, it's important for the race director to realize that Survivor replaced Eco-Challenge for Mark Burnett because it was significantly more popular with viewers. While fans of Survivor and The Amazing Race may try an adventure race, we want to attract those who were interested in Eco-Challenge, even though the former outnumber the latter a hundred-thousand-fold.

Consider first that adventure racing is a horrible spectator sport; that is, there aren't any spectators. Further, participants rarely, if ever, know what they will be doing at a particular adventure race. Thus, unless there is significant media coverage of the race, no one is going to hear / know about these quirky challenges unless one of the participants informs them. When hearing the tale of an adventure race, if the most attractive portion of the recap is this quirky challenge, then the person considering adventure racing is likely better suited to make their audition tape for a reality show.

One of the elements of adventure racing that I love is that you never do the same thing twice. Even though ten races might have the same four typical disciplines, each race would be considerably different. However, I do appreciate the unusual. The idea of adventure racing suggests that most of us do appreciate the unusual to some degree. Including some reality show type challenges can work very well at an adventure race if the challenge is delivered properly. In planning an atypical challenge the race director needs to recognize that once the race starts, everything that the racers are required to do will effect their placing. Adventure races are long, some very long and in excess of several days. It's easy to forget that every second counts! Still, even a fraction of a second is all it takes to decide a winner. If an unusual challenge is going to be implemented into a race then it's paramount that the challenge doesn't contradict the nature of a race.

Natural Selection Adventure Racing host an 8 hour race, Who's Your Daddy, every year in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. One of the most heralded parts of the race is a tire pull. Racers are required to drag a large tire for 1000 m, and in addition to the race winners, perhaps the equally coveted titles of 'Daddy' / 'Mommy' are awarded to the male / female with the fastest tire pull time.

The first two people in the video are myself and my teammate for the race Kelly Murray. Neither of us were that fast at the tire pull, but we did finish second overall!

What makes the tire pull acceptable is that the fastest and strongest racers are rewarded; it's a challenge that's very much within the image of a race. What makes the tire pull a success is that it has a huge macho factor. People train to be the 'Daddy' / 'Mommy' and they talk smack about who is going to succeed! People make a specific effort to attend the race in order to be the 'Daddy' / 'Mommy.' It's a challenge that generates enthusiasm and is a fine example of an atypical challenge that will do adventure racing well with respect to increasing our numbers.

An example of a poor challenge would be if racers were required to complete a Rubix's Cube. This type of challenge does not reward the fastest, strongest, fittest or the most adventurously skilled. Though there may be some reward for logic or general knowledge, it's not a direct correlation to who would presumably be the best adventure racer. A Rubix's Cube challenge might generate some laughs from the more light hearted participants, but the likelihood of it frustrating a veteran adventure racer is more probable. When you've discouraged a regular adventure racer, said racer is less likely to attend / hype the event or other events from the race director, thus the sport may suffer from the poor choice of a challenge.

Creativity does have it's place in adventure racing, but not at the cost of the race.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

GPS and Adventure Racing Revisited

My original blog entry 'Why the GPS Hate' generated much discussion, not only in the comments but also on Facebook and *gasp* in real life! I've since realized that I didn't communicate my position as well as I would have liked.

Allow me to make it perfectly clear that any race director should put together their race(s) in their own image so as to create whatever challenge they see fit. That means if Mr. / Mrs. Race Director wants to make a GPS and compass prohibited items, then by all means! Lets just hope the stars are visible through the clouds! Although I am an advocate of the GPS, I'm more of an advocate of living the experience that the race director has in mind.

I see a GPS as a tool, no different in essence than a compass. Give either one to a rookie navigator and they are still a rookie navigator. Both require learning, practice and experience. Arguably, a GPS requires more effort to learn since basic compass knowledge is required anyway. The usefulness of the GPS at an adventure race is directly proportional to the amount of effort that the navigator has put into learning the device. The people who will truly benefit by using a GPS are those who have developed significant skill.

Interestingly, those opposing my position keep coming back to the situation where you will always know where you are, and how advantageous that is. I think I might need ANOTHER blog on that issue alone as it's quite an animal on its own.

My goal with 'Why the GPS Hate' was to dispel the myth of the GPS being an instant savior to struggling navigators by explaining my theory that the GPS won't help anyone who doesn't put in significant work with the tool.

Keep on navigating.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Why the GPS Hate?

The GPS is on prohibited gear lists at virtually every adventure race around the world. Why? In the near future, race directors are going to have to reconsider their position on the tool. Just recently I participated in Race the Phantom in Dalhousie, NB and as usual, a cell phone was on the required gear list. There was a small problem with that... I have an iPhone, so does one of my teammates, and the other has a Blackberry. Both the Blackberry and the iPhone have GPS capabilities. Expecting us to beg, borrow or steal another cell phone for an adventure race is a bit much! Fortunately the race directors were reasonable and took our word on that we wouldn't use them.

My iPhone is a more powerful computer than the one I used at my first job... and I'm not that old! It's GPS functions are also significantly more capable than my Garmin eTrex Legend. Cell phone technology is advancing faster than Jodi Isenor and Mark Campbell and soon every cell phone will be a GPS and thus an illegal item on adventure races.

But even if there wasn't the minor inconvenience of finding a stone-age cell phone to race with, the GPS should still be allowed on adventure races. What are we afraid of? Triathletes with handhelds coming and winning all of our races? It's not likely to happen. Case and point: go to a GPS for beginners and see how the 'navigators' do. Or save yourself the trouble and take my word for it, they don't do well.

It's my theory that a truly skilled navigator won't have any significant advantage with a GPS, admittedly with the exception of pacing distances. With novice navigators, it's been my experience that the GPS is more of a nuisance than anything! Racers waste too much precious time trying to figure out how to use the things! With the intermediate navigator, for every advantage the GPS delivers, there are just as many disadvantages. I have hosted many races in Woolastook Park, NB and I have allowed GPS units for them. I thoroughly enjoy hearing about racers running through the park with map and compass in their pocket relying only on the GPS when all of a sudden their handheld unit starts asking them to find a satellite or three... which is a difficult feat on the side of some of those shear slopes! Then they pull out their maps to find a labyrinth of trails that will take them a while to solve.

I appreciate that on orienteering intensive courses the GPS may be somewhat of a deus ex machina. What I would suggest is to eliminate coordinates from the map so that hands on mapping skills will still be employed to determine a course of action, rather than punching numbers into a device.

So what do you say adventure racers? I say free the GPS!